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Sun Ninja Beach Tent Review

Reviewed.com logo Reviewed.com 6/21/2022 Sam Gardner
— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

A friend’s Sun Ninja beach tent left me so intrigued during a recent beach trip that I had to order one when I got home, just to try it out for myself. Imagine a praying mantis doing a yoga pose.

I’ve had a chance to use my own one a few times since—both at the beach and in the backyard—and while I hesitate to declare it the perfect tent, it always draws questions from curious passersby.

What is the Sun Ninja beach tent?

The Sun Ninja is a lightweight, elastic spandex sun shade that offers UPF 50 sun protection and pops up pretty much anywhere in three straightforward steps. You can either use it with two or four lightweight aluminum stability poles.

Constructing the four-person pop-up shade (which measures 7 feet x 7.5 feet and weighs 7.2 pounds) is easy enough and is doable solo—although it’s definitely helpful to have a second set of hands to assist.

To set it up, stretch the fabric out flat on the ground, then fill each of the four corner pouches with sand. (Don’t be shy; the instructions say to pack each corner to the point of overflow, and it truly makes a difference.)

No sand? No problem. The Sun Ninja beach tent also comes with four metal pegs for use on grass or other solid surfaces, along with four collapsible aluminum poles that measure 5 feet 5 inches high when extended.

Once the corners are weighted or tied down, the user can stand either two or four stability poles up underneath the fabric depending on the preferred setup, creating instant shade for you and your small crew.

The beach canopy kit also includes small, adjustable bungee cords for securing the fabric around the ball at the top of each pole, as well as a plastic scoop for sand and a carry bag that’s smaller than that of a standard camping chair.

The Sun Ninja also comes in an eight-person model (10 feet x 10 feet and 7.4 pounds, with four 6-foot, 6-inch poles) for $159.95, and a 10-foot by 9-foot nylon blanket is available for $29.90.

What we like

This beach canopy is easy to carry (and use)

It’s impressive just how portable this shade structure is, especially compared to the pop-up canopy I used before. That tent, Coleman’s Light and Fast model, still weighed more than 30 pounds, making it somewhat unwieldy and difficult to carry along with additional gear.

This is not an issue with the Sun Ninja, which I can toss over a shoulder, wear across my chest or even strap to a child, leaving my hands free to tote additional stuff.

Setting up the Sun Ninja is also simple and works as described. I wouldn’t call it easier to set up than my traditional Coleman canopy, but it’s also no more challenging.

And, in the case of the Sun Ninja, breaking things down is an absolute breeze. Just remove the stability poles from underneath the fabric, dump out the sand from each corner sand pocket, and you’re packed up in a matter of seconds.

Building and striking the tent is simple enough that an older kid could do it if necessary (my 4-year-old loves helping me fill up the sand), but I’ve found that a full-sized shovel helps things move faster on the front end than the included plastic scoop.

It’s incredibly versatile

One benefit of the Sun Ninja is the ability to switch between the two- and four-pole configuration as needed, with the latter creating a rectangular “tabletop” design, while the former leaves the user with an angled sun shelter that is perfect for a pair of chairs—particularly when the sun is to your back, as it is all afternoon where I typically beach on Florida’s east coast.

To that end, most of my Sun Ninja use has come on the sand, but I have used the metal stakes on the grass on a couple of occasions with no notable issues. (I also once used pre-filled sandbags as a weight on top of each corner sand pocket as a test, and that worked just fine as well.)

The use cases really do vary, and regardless of the surface, the Sun Ninja works as advertised.

It’s UPF-rated and stays cool in the shade

It’s always a good idea to protect your skin when you’re out in the sun, but like an increasing number of modern pop-up beach tents and canopies, the Sun Ninja offers its own built-in skin protection thanks to a UPF rating of 50.

Even on a hot summer day in Florida, it feels comfortable under the fabric, and there’s comfort in knowing that my family and I aren’t unwittingly baking away while the little ones play in the shade.

What we don't like

It’s water-resistant but not rainproof

At one point during our most recent beach trip, my family and I waited out a passing shower under the Sun Ninja, and while it certainly kept us drier than no coverage at all, we still got a little wet.

The Sun Ninja website describes the fabric as “water-resistant” but whereas a traditional canopy offers full overhead protection from the rain, the Sun Ninja is somewhat permeable and is ultimately best for shade and UV protection, not shelter.

The “large” shade is too small – so go XL instead

The first time I saw a Sun Ninja, at my friend’s beach site, it was the 10-foot x 10-foot model. When I purchased my own I went with the smaller size, thinking the “eight-person” tent was more than I really needed.

However, the more modest shade (which still reads “large” on the tag of my model) feels a bit cramped, even with just four people—and that’s before you factor in coolers, chairs, beach toys or other extras.

In hindsight, I wish I’d gotten the larger model for my family, as the extra square footage offers a significantly more comfortable experience and more flexibility for the group to grow if needed.

However, for a pair, the seven-footer is likely adequate—though it’s also worth noting that the shorter poles on the smaller shade make standing upright under the tent impossible for anyone over 5-foot-6.

You need more ground space than you think, even with the smaller tent

This is most relevant when you find yourself setting up the Sun Ninja in an area that’s already crowded, but it’s good to be aware that the tent takes up much more space on the ground than the amount of shade it supplies due to the design of the sail itself.

Each sand-filled pouch stretches several feet beyond the nearest pole to create the tension needed to keep things standing, and it can be tough to eyeball exactly how much room you need to properly erect the shade.

Should you buy the Sun Ninja?

Yes—it’s a fantastic alternative to a traditional pop-up canopy.

The Sun Ninja is portable and simple to use, and its lightweight design is, truly, a game changer – especially at the beach, on a hike or anywhere else where an on-the-go canopy might come in handy.

It works in a variety of configurations to fit your needs—it can even be fixed to a house, a vehicle and other solid structures—and it’s even easier to break down after a long day of outdoor fun than it is to set up.

Simply put: If you’ve ever lugged a heavy tent from the car to the shore and hated every second of it, the Sun Ninja needs to be on your wishlist.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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