There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Product on Trial
Brandon Carte, beach lover who unfortunately burns very easily
An Ideal Gift for Yourself or a Beach-Going Loved One
Folks, sunburn is no joke and if you're not regularly applying and re-applying your sunscreen, you should be!
Burns caused by UVB rays can lead to skin cancer and a side effect of UVA ray exposure is photoaging —which gives you wrinkles and sunspots.
This raises the question: Is there more we all can be doing to protect ourselves from the sun's harmful rays?
Before going on a family beach trip, I contemplated buying one of those huge beach umbrellas so that I could take the sun in small doses, but I really didn't want to lug it around or travel with it. They have long poles that are typically 2 inches thick so they're awkward to carry — especially if you're zig-zagging through a crowded beach.
Luckily the algorithm worked its magic and I saw this vacation photo on my boss' IG.
I was immediately intrigued by the beach tent. In case you hadn't seen the Neso beach tent either, they're designed to be simple and convenient. Rather than a bulky umbrella or metal structure with stakes, these tents consist of a canopy with attached sandbags and two collapsible poles.
I knew I had to try out the Neso for myself. Since eight family members would be going on the trip, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test out both the Neso tent and the slightly similar Shibumi Shade that I immediately started getting ads for after starting to research beach tents.
How the Beach Tents Compare
The Neso Beach tent comes in three sizes: a $100 7' x 7' model that fits three, a slightly larger 9' x 9' "Grande" model for roughly $30 more that accommodates around four people, or a massive 11' x 11'x variant for $175 that fits more than five people.
I tested the mid-sized model. Set up is a breeze: face the wind, lay the tent flat, fill the bags with sand from the beach, and then pull them apart to form an "X" shape, ensuring the fabric is tight. Finally, extend the poles and position them right in the fabric approximately a foot away from the corners.
The Neso's tarp is lightweight, but durable and made from a unique nylon and lycra stretch fiber blend that provides UPF 50+ sun protection. It blocks 98% of the sun’s rays and easily withstands the wind (video).
The Shibumi comes in just two sizes, and you can set it up in about 3 minutes (the Neso took me twice as long). I tested the $190 Shibumi Mini which can accommodate two people. The larger-sized variant fits four beach chairs, but it costs a rather steep $270.
It has three parts: a long arc of aluminum tubing that's a bit like a tent pole, parachute fabric, and an anchor that you fill up with sand which conveniently doubles as its carrying case. You connect the poles together, thread them through the canopy like you would a curtain, bend it in a U-shape, jam it into the sand, and fill the attached bag with sand to anchor everything down. Shibumi includes some elastic straps to prevent the nylon fabric from shifting, too.
The Mini provides 75 square feet of coverage. As long as the wind is blowing, the fabric floats above you to provide shade. After I set up the Shibumi, I was shocked at how well it worked and was immediately cooler when I sat underneath it.
Which One Should You Get?
If you’re torn about which sun shade to gift or buy, you really can't go wrong with either. Overall, the Neso Grande catered to my individual needs more than the Shibumi.
Even though the Neso Grande is about four times as heavy as the Shibumi Shade (7.5 pounds vs. 2 pounds), the extra heft wasn't too terrible for me since I typically bring a small wagon to the beach for a cooler.
Both models are extremely compact when they're folded up, and they come with small carrying cases. If you have to walk a long distance to the beach, the Shibumi may be the better buy since it's lighter and folds up in just a 20" x 4" bag. However, if you prioritize stability and need to shade more people, the Neso Grande may be the better option for you.
"The Neso was light enough to carry for an hour on the ferry, and filling up the sand bags was super easy, the tent stayed up in the wind, and provided the shade I needed," said Erica Murphy Senior Director, SEO & Content at Best Products.
Another perk to the Neso Grande is that its water-wesistant and handles harsher winds. During my tests the Neso Grande was able to withstand gusts of wind up to 25 miles per hour, but the Shibumi isn't suited for winds greater than 20 miles per hour.
It's also worth mentioning that when the Shibumi blows in the wind it sounds a lot like a flag on a windy day. Some people may find it loud and annoying, but I got used to it quickly. I actually liked that the sound drowned out the shrill screams from my nieces and nephews playing nearby so I could read my book.
If you’re in the market for or hoping to gift a beach tent that’s built to last, I can't sing enough praises about the Neso. It's extremely lightweight, it's quick and easy enough to set up even if you don't have an extra set of hands, and it provides plenty of sun coverage for my loved ones and me.
Whether you're in a large family, or just need some shade for you and your partner, Neso sells multiple-sized tents to cover families of all sizes. If you really want to pack light, the competing Shibumi Shade or the smaller Shibumi Shade Mini are lighter and easier to set up, but they are a lot more expensive.
I can promise you two things, though:
- You won't be disappointed with the quality and versatility of either.
- Every time you go to the beach there will be at least one person who walks by and ask you about your tent!
Brandon Carte has been covering technology at BestProducts.com since 2017, where he's been writing about the latest gadgets, appliances, and scouring the internet for the products that make life easier. His reporting has been featured on , Good Housekeeping and USA Today. When he's not researching washing machines or testing robot vacuums, you can find him at concerts, swimming laps, or at the movies. He thinks smartphones are too big, prefers MP3s to Spotify, and misses his iPhone’s headphone jack.