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The Cool Cabanas brand is popping up all along the east coast of Australia where I commonly travel. These beach canopies caught my eye when I figured out that the smart little shoulder bag people were carrying around opened up into such a substantial shelter. So I bought one to test out, and I share my Cool Cabanas review here.
The Cool Cabanas beach/sun shelter was clearly mixed up in a lab – it’s a wonderful cross-pollination of beach umbrella and tent, and is one of my favourite beach canopies. The unique design extends the shade capability of a regular beach umbrella, while still only requiring one person to carry and set it up. Since the arrival of Cool Cabanas on Australian beaches in 2015, their patented design has undergone several upgrades to arrive at their flagship product today. New print designs are continually being brought out, which means you will have plenty of opportunity to express your personality on the beach.
Is it for you?
This is a great shelter for any beach goer, but in particular for young families looking for a simple, lightweight and durable way of keeping out of the sun. I took my kids along on the day of testing, and it was perfect If you’re not a fan of tying ropes and complicated tent origami, then the simple but solid Cool Cabanas could be your saviour. It sells at a reasonable price point, so it’s not out of the reach for most people. It’s a very breezy and open, so it’s very airy on those hot days, however I wouldn’t choose this shelter if you wanted something to protect you from the elements. Keep in mind the canopy height is a touch on the low side, and those taller than most will likely have to stoop to get under.
Where to buy
When your Cool Cabanas delivery lands on your doorstep, you’ll find it comes with the canopy/umbrella, sand spike insert pole, and tent pegs; all stored nicely in its own attractive shoulder bag. You don’t really need anything else to get up and running here. However, the provided tent pegs are your classic smooth metal peg, and won’t perform well in the sand. If you are expecting more than a breeze you could bolster your support by investing in some specific sand pegs. If you want to extend your usage to the sporting field/park you’ll need to get the grass kit which is sold separately through Cool Cabanas directly.
Specs and features
The Cool Cabana is an umbrella that always dreamed of being a pop up canopy when it grew up. I bought the latest model of Cool Cabanas at the time of writing, the Series 5. Where a regular beach umbrella’s canopy is circular in shape, the Cool Cabanas outline is expanded by the dangling sand pockets to create square sides. The extended shade profile really allows you to stretch out underneath.
The Cool Cabanas comes in two sizes: medium (6’6″x6’6″ ft) and large (8’x8′ ft), and both pack down to a bag roughly 1m long, and weighing about 12.5 Pounds. I bought the large size with a peak height of 5.9 ft (180 cm), which tapers down to 5ft (155cm) at the canopy edge. As a guy measuring 6ft it would have been nice to have just a little more headroom – it’s kind of annoying because it’s so close to being perfect (for me) that a few more cm would have improved my experience greatly.
It has storage pockets high up on the dangley-bits (yes that’s my technical name for them) facing inside. These are great for keeping things like sunglasses, phones, key etc. from getting lost/damaged in the sand.
You can sit underneath assured that the canopy material has been tested and rated to UPF 50+ UV protection.
Tips and tricks
It took me around 5 mins to set this up the very first time on the beach (I didn’t help myself by researching beforehand!), but it’s even quicker once you get the hang of it. I’ve laid the steps out below, or you can also skip down to the video I made at the end.
Push the spiked pole into the ground, and slide the second pole into it. Repeatedly raise and smash the inner pole downward to drive the spike into the ground until it meets the marker. This step is key, as it provides the rock solid purchase that will mean it won’t go anywhere.
Then take the bunched up canopy and insert into the metal uprights. Now pull the four arms out, one by one until fully extended.
Fill the four dangling pockets with sand, and you’re done!
Now to pack it down just do the steps in reverse.
TIP! When you have collapsed the umbrella to pack it back into the bag, slide one of the sand pockets over the top of the umbrella, kind of like its own hat (see photo below). This makes sliding it end-first back into the carry bag much easier.
I created a video to show you how easy the Cool Cabanas is to setup.
This is a great shelter if you’re looking to keep things open and breezy. If you are looking to have the ability to shelter from wind or have some privacy (perhaps your beach is windy most days), have a look at something like the East Hills instant shader.
The Cool Cabanas beach canopy really combines the ease of setting up a beach umbrella, with more of the shade coverage of a pop up/instant up canopy. I struggled to find faults with this shelter, although I would love to tweak the height slightly (not everyone would share this issue). I really loved the portability of the Cool Cabanas, which is especially important if you have a large distance to walk to get to the beach, or need your arms to help (fend off) the kids.