A beach umbrella is an oversized umbrella used for providing shade and protection from the sun. Usually a beach umbrella is from six to nine feet wide (two to three meters) and folds up smaller for easy transport in the car or your beach bag. Beach umbrellas should be considered a necessity for spending any length of time outside to avoid getting a painful and potentially dangerous sunburn.
You can get a beach umbrella in may different patterns and colors. Some are brightly colored with fun shapes or floral patterns, and some are plainer and appear more like picnic table umbrellas. You can find slightly smaller beach umbrellas for kids, which often feature popular characters from movies or television shows. Some larger umbrellas are capable of unfolding into a small beach cabana, which provides privacy should you need to change into or out of a swimsuit.
A beach umbrella will usually come in some type of durable fabric, including vinyl, canvas, thick polyester or synthetic thatch. Newer beach umbrellas will occasionally specify a sun protection rating (SPF) and are specially manufactured to better protect from the sun's harmful rays. The umbrella will also come with a heavy base and is usually fixed onto a sturdy rust-resistant metal or fiberglass pole. Sometimes, a beach umbrella can tilt, providing more protection from the sun and wind. Smaller beach umbrellas are often able to clip right on to your chair.
If you are buying a beach umbrella, you may also want to purchase some lightweight beach chairs, a blanket, and a beach cart to carry everything in. Beach carts are also able to transport a cooler and any beach toys you may bring for your kids. You should always bring sunscreen -- it should be applied regularly, especially if you or your children are in and out of the water or are sweating. Even under a beach umbrella, you should always apply sunblock to prevent skin cancer.
Beach umbrellas do not necessarily need to be used only at the beach. These oversized umbrellas make great shade for an outdoor picnic or a tailgating party. If you are attending an outdoor concert or another outdoor event where you will be sitting on the grass, a beach umbrella can protect you from the sun and wind there too.
Beach umbrellas are usually fairly inexpensive, depending on the size. They may range in price from $20 US Dollars (USD) to $75 USD. They can be found in most larger discount stores and sporting goods stores in the spring and summer months, and online all year long.