Introduction: Easy Portable Beach Shelter

About: I'm an inventor / maker / designer based in Portland, OR. My background is in residential architecture, film set design, animatronics, media arts, exhibit design, and electronics. I use digital design and fabr…

Umbrellas fly away, and folding shelters are expensive and so tall that you have to keep moving your chair to chase the shade all day. I made this beach shelter in about an hour with 50 bucks, and it worked like a charm. This design has the added bonus of fitting in a backpack (with the poles sticking out of the top).

Step 1: Tools & Materials



  • 1" PVC Pipe: 4 pieces at 36", 4 pieces at 24".
  • 1" PVC Male Adaptor: 8 of these are needed in total, 1 for each tent pole segment.
  • 1" PVC Female-Female Coupling: 4 are needed, 1 for each tent pole.
  • 1" PVC End Cap: 8 are needed, 1 for each end of each assembled tent pole.
  • 10-24 1 1/2" Machine Bolts: These serve as the peg at the top of each tent pole that the tarp grommets attach to.
  • 10-24 Hex Nuts: 1 is needed for each bolt.
  • # 10 Washers: 2 are needed for each bolt.
  • Paracord: 100 ft. Something with high visibility is a good idea.
  • Tarp: I used an 8X10 heavy duty one with a silver side- I put this side up to reflect the sunlight. The 8X10 worked well, but I would imagine as the tarp gets bigger, the tent stakes will need to get bigger / longer. With more surface area, the force of the wind catching the tarp is substantial.
  • Tent Stakes: I used the MSR Cyclone model because it works well in rocks and sand. There are certainly cheaper tent stakes that work in sand, but this is by far the most important part. Cheap tent stakes that don't scoop the sand will just pull out.

Step 2: Assembly

  1. Drill a hole through the center of four of the PVC end caps. Insert a bolt with a nut on each side of the hole, and tighten down a nut for a firm fit.
  2. Use a rubber mallet to hammer the end caps with the bolts onto the ends of two of the 36" pipes, and two of the 24" pipes.
  3. Hammer on the male adaptor to the other ends of the pipes with the end caps (the ones with bolts in them).
  4. Hammer the four end caps without bolts into the ends of the remaining four pipes (two 36" pipes, and two 24" pipes).
  5. Hammer the remaining four male adaptors into the open ends of the pipes with the plain end caps.

The couplings are used to connect the pipes so that the whole set can be easily packed up. When assembled, there are two 6' tall poles, and two 4' tall poles. Having the back of the shelter lower to the ground makes for more shade.

I drilled holes through the tops of each pipe segment and tied a piece of paracord through the holes. These are used for tying down the shelter. I only ended up using the upper most loops, but I figured if it was really windy, I could tie off the middle of the poles with more tent stakes.

Step 3: Layout

Layout is pretty simple, but it's a lot easier with two or more people.

  1. Spread out the tarp in the location you want.
  2. Pull a length of paracord tight across the top, lining up the corners of the tarp. This is important because it ensures that the tension across the tarp will be aligned with the tie downs and tent stakes.
  3. After pulling the rope so that the ends of the rope are about 7' from the corners, hammer in the tent stakes at an angle tilting away from the tarp.

Step 4: Setup

I suppose it could be possible to set up this shelter alone, but I can't imagine how. Be sure to have friends and family close at hand.

  1. Place a long pole at the front corner of the shelter (the end you want to look at) and a short pole at the opposite back corner.
  2. Put the grommets through the bolts at the corners, and pull the tarp tight to get the right placement for the poles.
  3. With one person holding a pole, tie down the top of the pole through the paracord loop. I used a trucker's hitch, but you could also use guying rings or other fancy camping accessories to get the cord tight.
  4. Repeat step 3 for each pole. This will require some degree of moving around and adjusting each one until the shelter feels sturdy.
  5. Wing nuts would have been a great idea to top off the bolts and keep the tarp from flying off in the wind, but I forgot to buy any so I tied a small loop around the bolt and tied it back to the guy line.

Step 5: Keep Cool

This worked really well! It was a breezy day on the Russian River with some respectable gusts of wind, and the shelter stayed up all day like a boss.

If I were to do it again, I think I would make my own super-long tent stakes if only for my own piece of mind.