When Miss Q was five months old last summer and I was riddled with guilt about putting sunscreen on her one very sunny day, I sent Big B out the following weekend to buy a beach umbrella.
With a copy of the Canadian Tire flyer in-hand, and two circled umbrella options (one for $19 and one for $59.99), I did something very rare: I handed choice to my husband. I suggested that he look at the quality and functionality and decide if the more expensive one was really three times as good as the other. After all, I had two children under two; I was exhausted and I’d just put sunscreen on my baby before the well-known six-month rule. I didn’t really care what he came home with.
He chose the Sport-Brella. And once we got it set up, it was clear that the little thumbnail image in the flyer just didn’t do it justice.
The Sport-Brella is like a half-tent, with good ventilation and protection from the elements without making you feel like you’re missing out on the beach.
It folds up easily, and comes with a carry-case that I am able to manage while carrying Miss Q in the ERGO and holding The K Man’s hand as we wade through the sand. (Big B leads the way with our wagon, stacked far too high with coolers, a diaper bag, beach towels, a huge beach mat and sand toys galore).
It comes with tie-down pegs that help keep the sides flush with the bottom of whatever surface you’re on: grass or sand. These also come in a carry case. A fabric one – not a plastic one.
If you’re just pitching the Sport-Brella and not tying it down, it only takes three seconds to set up. It’s basically an eight foot-wide umbrella.
It’s got a UPF rating – I got slightly confused here because the flyer said that it’s SPF 125, but right on the Sport-Brella, near the logo, it reads “MAXIMUM 50 UPF.” Either way, I figured, win-win. But I get a bit crazed when I don’t understand something so here’s the deal: “SPF” is Sun Protection Factor, which causes that tell-tale red skin; “UPF” is Ultraviolet Protection Factor – the amount of ultraviolet radiation that a fabric blocks. All you really need to know is that this umbrella will protect your little one’s buttery soft skin from more than 99.5 per cent of UVA and UVB rays.
It’s big enough that I can stretch from end to end lying down, and there’s still room for our stuff (I’m about 5’7″). Just today at the Cobourg beach, Miss Q and I had a nap in the shade between vigorous beach-play and lunch. It was glorious.
It’s pretty versatile – you can stick it into the sand on an angle, creating a wind barrier, or you can stick it in straight up and down for overhead cover. So if it was raining or you wanted complete shade, this is a great option.
The pole (which slides in and out telescopically) can be a pain if it’s retracted with too much wet sand in it. Just today, it took about 10 minutes to get it un-stuck.
The tie-downs could be longer; as is, they work great in grass and wet sand. Dry sand? Not so much. It’s more challenging to get the angle just right to get it tied down just so. And I’m a “just-so” kinda gal.
The price; not that I’m averse to spending $60 ($80 when not on sale) on the Sport-Brella – it really is worth every penny. But it’s the price discrepancy that’s irritating. If it’s $80 full price and on sale for $60 at most places, how the heck can Costco sell it this year for $45? Does its volume really support such a huge gap? This is clearly not a product issue. I’m just venting because I could have saved 15 bucks if I’d shopped around.
It would be nice if there was a roll-out “floor” option. I like the beach under my towel and the sand in my toes, but I saw someone with a Sport-Brella-esque beach umbrella today with an optional floor and felt a twinge of jealousy. Just say the only spot left is on a gross section of sand…you could just roll out your fancy floor.