Easy to set up and break down
Wide shade footprint
Doesn’t include tarp poles
No storage pockets
Not ideal for heavy rain season
Whether relaxing at the beach or camping in the forest, creating a sun-free spot can be a necessary luxury. Those who plan on a seaside day may want something beyond a beach umbrella, and a tarp canopy can offer some supplemental shade. My husband and I recently tested the 9-foot Kelty Noah’s Tarp (which is also available in 12-, 16-, and 20-foot options).
In order to properly assess the canopy right out of the box, we set it up in our backyard, where we had plenty of ways to secure the tarp ropes. Throughout the process, we kept in mind how it might fare at the beach, taking into account the sand, wind, and other variables. Read on to see if this is a canopy you’ll want to bring to your next outdoor adventure, whether it’s at the beach or elsewhere.
Setup and Breakdown Process: Easy for solo beachgoers and backpackers
This product doesn’t include foldable aluminum staff poles ($30 MSRP each)—a necessary accessory if you’re heading to the beach or another area where trees and other tall objects aren’t nearby for securing the tarp.
It took me no more than 10 minutes to set up the tarp as a two-sided tent on my own—making it ideal for solo trips, especially backpacking.
However, the tarp does come with sturdy stainless steel stakes for securing the corners to the ground. The tarp can be pitched several ways with or without free-standing staff poles, such as an open-air A-frame tent with two of the corners secured to the ground, a lean-to with the bottom two corners secured to the ground and the top two attached to staff poles or another secure support, a canopy with all four corners secured above to poles or other anchors, and a flying diamond. Both methods are very straightforward, and it took me no more than 10 minutes to set up the tarp as a two-sided tent on my own—making it ideal for solo trips, especially backpacking.
My husband and I found it was easiest to lay the tarp on the ground to determine our ideal placement before tying the guylines to a nearby tree and the roof of our kids’ playground set. The cords were effortless to knot and tighten securely, and it was easy to drive the stakes through the steel corner rings with the help of a camping mallet. Light winds can make it slightly more difficult to pitch the tarp, but not if you position yourself in such a way that you can use the draft to your advantage.
The breakdown was also uncomplicated. There are built-in pockets with hook-and-loop closures, which can be used for folding the four guylines away when not in use (or to store the excess rope when the canopy is set up). We loved that the tarp easily folds back into the rectangular roll-top carry bag.
Performance: Shade for a party of five or more
The 9-foot tarp offers 81 square feet of coverage and can shelter up to six people. It kept us well-shaded and cool in the approximately 90-degree summer heat in our Los Angeles backyard, and we imagine this would work just as well in a beach environment. We wouldn’t recommend leaving it up for more than an entire day, as prolonged exposure to the sun and its UV rays will damage the material. According to the tarp’s user manual, “UV light is one of the most damaging of all the elements. When exposed to prolonged and extensive sunlight most fabrics will fade, lose strength, and eventually break down. Try to minimize exposing your tent to the sun. Store it during the day or pitch it in shady areas.”
We sprayed the tarp lightly with our backyard hose and found that the inside stayed dry with no leaks at all.
The polyester tarp may feel thin, but it’s coated and durable enough to withstand your average bumps and pokes, as our clumsy toddlers can attest. It’s not ideal for extreme elements (unless you’re an outdoorsy thrill-seeker, it’s unlikely that you would be outside in those conditions anyway), but we can imagine it holding up well in the rain as the seams are taped to prevent leakage. We sprayed the tarp lightly with our backyard hose and found that the inside stayed dry with no leaks at all.
If you’re looking to buy this as a fully free-standing canopy, consider that you’ll need to spend an additional $120 for the poles.
One thing to note is that there aren’t any interior storage pockets, and it’s only available in one color (green), but this may not be a deal-breaker for those who are attracted to the tarp’s minimalist design (especially backpackers).
Price: Consider add-ons before buying
For $80, you’re getting a 9-foot tarp that doesn’t come with the foldable aluminum staff poles; those are sold separately for $30 MSRP each. If you’re looking to buy this as a fully free-standing canopy, consider that you’ll need to spend an additional $120 for the poles.
Competition: Worth looking around for deals
REI is an equally trusted outdoor brand that offers a similar product, REI Co-Op Camp Tarp 12 at about the same price point ($70 MSRP) but in a 12-foot size (144 square feet of coverage) and a white/ivory color. This might be a better option for those who need more shade or prefer a neutral color. Keep in mind, though, that the poles are sold separately with this product, too.
If you’re a frequent outdoor adventurer looking for a sun canopy that works well for the beach and beyond, the Kelty Noah’s Tarp in the 9-foot option is an ideal choice. It has a wide coverage area, is easy to set up and break down, and its polyester material is durable and can withstand moderate weather—just note that you’ll need to shell out some extra cash for the staff poles (which aren’t included) if you plan on setting it up as a free-standing shade.
- Product Name Noah’s Tarp Sun Shelter
- Product Brand Kelty
- MPN 4082021609
- Price $79.95
- Weight 2.7 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 10 x 9 x 3 in.
- Color Green
- Material 68D polyester, 800 mm
- Coverage area 81 square feet