Will a Beach Tent Protect Against Sunburn?

Ian Clough | Affiliate | 4 July 2021

You’ll see them dotted around your local beach to help protect small children from the dangerous rays of the sun, but do beach tents prevent sunburn?

The unfortunate answer is no, beach tents do not fully prevent sunburn.

If the tent is thin enough that you can see the sunlight through it, then anyone inside the tent could slowly burn if they are in it for too long.

beach tent

This includes tents that have been made with UV-protecting fabric.  Even with UV fabric, this type of material will break down over time and become less resistant.

Understand more about UVA and UVB below.

Let’s talk UVA and UVB

95% of all of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun which gets absorbed by the Earth is UVA.  This type of light is present all year round, even in the winter months.

UVA can cause things like wrinkling of the skin, aging, and long-term skin damage; this type of light you will not be able to see but will definitely feel its effects.

UVB on the other hand is the one that causes your skin to go red and burns you…  UVB has a shorter wavelength in comparison to UVA and varies depending on the time of the year.

The majority of UVB does not penetrate most materials within our world it can still cause skin damage when reflecting off certain surfaces.

UPF Rating

Ultraviolet protection factor or UPF is the rating given to textiles to let you know how much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can potentially reach your skin.

The ASTM or American Society for Testing and Materials sets this particular standard.

Here is a helpful table so you can see what these ratings are and how much of the UV they may be blocking:

Protection UPF Rating Blocked % of UV Radiation
Excellent 40 to 50+ 97-98
Very Good 25 to 39 96-97
Good 15 to 24 93-96

But what does this mean?

Well, a fabric with a UPF rating of 40 is going to allow 1/40th of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation through the material and potentially to your skin.

The rating takes into account both the amount of UVA and UVB which the material will let in.

Shopping for the best UPF tent options

There aren’t many tent options available that will protect you from 100% of UV radiation.  So, currently, you couldn’t sit out in a tent all day without being burnt.

It would still be wise to make sure anyone inside the tent wears sunscreen to help further protect them from the sun.

Manufacturers are taking steps to increase the amount of UPF materials in their tents, so hopefully, in the future, there will be much better options for beach tents.

At the very least you now understand what UVA and UVB as well as how the UPF scoring works, so you can have a much easier time when picking your next beach tent.