This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter pop-up sun shade on a sandy beach during the testing and review process.

L.L.Bean Sunbuster Pop-Up Sun Shelter Review

- Beach-tested -

Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.

The L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter is a pop-up sun shade that’s perfect for the beach. Of all the sunshades we’ve used and tested over the years, the most indispensable beach shades have been shades with designs similar to the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter. It’s that good. In fact, it’s one of the best beach shelters for 2022.

To get us a closer look, L.L.Bean sent Man Makes Fire review unit. After taking the Sunbuster to the beach for in-the-sand testing, this is what we learned:

Sunbuster Folding Shelter Review

The L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter has a cool design: It has long legs with hinges in the middle that allow it to fold up. And when extended, the hinges lock out to provide support for the shade. The top portion of the sun shade provides the framework for the fabric body.

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter set up on a sunny beach.
The L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter sets up quickly to provide shade on sunny beaches.

A hub system, not unlike the principles of tension found in umbrellas, locks the poles in place. If you pull a rope in the middle of the hub and push up on the bottom of the hub, it all snaps into place.

What you get is a free-standing sun shelter that goes up fast.

Check out the setup video at L.L.Bean to see the hub design in action.

 

Beach-Ready Design

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter sandy anchor pockets.
If you fill the three anchor pockets with sand, the L.L.Bean Sunbuster is surprisingly sturdy in moderate wind.

The L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter has benefits specifically designed for the beach. For instance, the sides and rear of the pop-up sun shelter have large pockets that you can fill with sand. These help hold the shelter down in the wind.

If you need additional support for windy days, L.L.Bean includes pre-attached guylines to the poles, along with a bag of stakes. We usually stake a few corners down but rarely bother with the guylines.

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter interior when setup on a beach during the review period.
The Sunbuster has three large mesh windows and shades that you can keep up for shade or drop down for airflow.

One great feature of the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter is the inclusion of three windows. If you unlatch the interior fabric window from the wall, you get a mesh window that lets wind pass through. Depending on the orientation of the sun, you can keep the windows up for shade. We usually end up dropping a window or two simply to let wind pass through.

If you don’t drop a window, direct wind can fill the shelter like a parachute. We’ve never had one blow away, but the point remains: The L.L.Bean Sunbuster includes features that help you deal with wind.

Your Own Little Beach Zone

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster pop-up sunshade set up on a beach with an inflatable standup paddle board in the foreground.
When the beach isn’t packed with people, you can sprawl. When space is tight, the Sunbuster turns into a pleasant hangout.

The Sunbuster has a handy mesh stash pocket in the roof. It’s a good place to stow your phone, keys or sunglasses while you’re out playing in the water.

Of course, we sometimes stow such things in our outdoor tote bags or soft-sided coolers. Generally we place totes inside the Sunbuster to protect them from the sun, add weight to the floor for wind gusts, and keep our stuff more contained to our area.

And this brings up another Sunbuster benefit: The L.L.Bean Sunbuster creates a mini zone of almost privacy when you’re on a crowded beach. People who walk behind you don’t kick up sand all over your beach towel or blankets. And if they’re walking past you, the shape of the Sunbuster flows traffic around where you might be sun bathing.

 

Great for Kids

We particularly appreciate the Sunbuster design because it creates a good spot for kids to eat. They can get out of the sun and eat on the fabric floor, which helps keep the sand just a bit more manageable.

You also get a tent-like design — but you won’t overheat due to the open front and window options.

Meanwhile, the front floor can be pulled up and toggled to the top to create a private tent-like spot where you can change clothes.

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter with the front pulled up to create a privacy tent.
The extended sunshade floor pulls up to create a private space to change clothes.

Last of all, when you’re at the beach with kids, the L.L.Bean Sunbuster sets up near instantly, which means you can get started inflating water toys like iSUPs, inflatable docks, or river tubes.

If your kids have a tendency to drop goggles, life jackets and towels everywhere, a sun shade helps keep they focused on the general location where all that beach gear should end up.

Key Specifications:

Dimensions: 7’11” x 4’11”
Peak Height: 4’6″
Weight: 7 lb. 6 oz.
Packed Dimensions: 43″ x 8″

Shop the Sunbuster at L.L.Bean now and get FREE Shipping!

Competitive Alternatives & Options

The folding hub design of the L.L.Bean Sunbuster isn’t unique to L.L.Bean: L.L.Bean likely licensed it from Lightspeed or Lightspeed is manufacturing a version for L.L.Bean specifically. You can see the Lightspeed logo on the fabric of the tent near the L.L.Bean logo. This is a common practice in the outdoor industry when it comes to working with big brands who appreciate particular designs they want to bring to their loyal customers. Most importantly, you should know that this L.L.Bean version is not a knockoff. (So if you’re an L.L.Bean fan, there isn’t a reason to stray.) However, if you’re interested in the Sunbuster, these alternative options might also be right for you:

Lightspeed Outdoors Quick Cabana Beach Tent Sun Shelter — As expected, the Lightspeed Outdoors Quick Cabana Beach Tent Sun Shelter has a design very similar to the L.L.Bean Sunbuster. Instead of a top stash pocket, you get a sidewall mesh stash pocket. While the Cabana has three windows, they are smaller than the Sunbuster windows and they roll up instead of down. We prefer the toggle-up design of the Sunbuster windows because they open faster (you don’t have to roll up the window shade fabric if you don’t want to).

Coleman Skyshade Sun Shelter — The Coleman Skyshade series of beach shades has a similar structure to the Sunbuster, but it doesn’t have the ultra-fast instant-up pole system. Instead, the Skyshade uses sectioned tent-like poles to create the frame. The key benefit is increased durability and packability. The main drawback is the increased time it takes to set up the shelter.

Sport-Bella Premiere Adjustable Umbrella — The Sport-Bella Premiere Adjustable Umbrella pairs a traditional beach umbrella shape with extra side panel material to let you use it resting against the ground, if desired. Two zippered windows let air pass through to help in windy conditions.

Eureka! Tagalong Shelter — If you want a sun shade shelter that’s extra durable and versatile, consider the Eureka! Tagalong Shelter. It’s bigger than the L.L.Bean Sunbuster but it packs down smaller and weighs about the same. You set it up more like a tent, but it doesn’t have a floor. For stability, Eureka! includes guylines, stakes, and sand anchors. With a peak height of 75 inches, the biggest benefit is that you can easily sit underneath it on a beach chair or camp chair.

Last of all, if you’re actually looking for a screen tent that can keep the bugs out, check out our guide to the best screen tents here.

The Bottom Line

The L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter is our favorite pop-up sun shade for the beach for 2022. We are big fans of the size, portability, and instant-up deployment. The Sunbuster provides multi-directional shade and handles wind well. Better yet, its structure creates a small nook of beach-front privacy to keep your gear contained, shaded, and your mind free to enjoy the outdoors. Very highly recommended.

Get the Gear:

L.L.Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter
Benefits
Super fast setup
Excellent multi-directional shade coverage
Great stability features for windy days
Drawbacks
Instant-up design can be confusing the first time you use it
4.8

 

Disclosure: Reviews and Gear Links:

In addition to Man Makes Fire buying gear for reviews and guides, gear manufacturers occasionally ship review units to Man Makes Fire. If we like it, we spend some quality time with the gear and review it, noting if it was provided to Man Makes Fire. After the review, we return it, give it away, or work on longer-term review follow-ups when applicable to reader interest.

We do not accept any gear in exchange for coverage. If we do not truly appreciate the gear, we don't write about it at all -- bad gear will fade into obscurity on its own if everyone ignores it. In addition, we focus on gear from reputable companies, reputable brands, and reputable retailers we trust.

The gear links on Man Makes Fire are focused on what we are willing to recommend to our own family and friends. Many of our specific gear links connect to industry-standard affiliate advertising programs. When you buy something using the retail links in our guides and reviews, we may earn a small affiliate commission that helps pay for our work.

Basically, we deliver the advice and insight you need, you get the gear you want, and then everyone wins. Pretty straightforward.

Complete Site Details & Disclosures Here