Not nearly as popular as a parasol, a simple shade sail can offer versatility where a conventional garden brolly cannot – so it’s worth asking yourself if you’re missing a trick when it comes to your patio set-up.
One obvious advantage of a sail over a parasol is that it hangs unobtrusively over an outdoor dining table, leaving your tabletop free and your sightline uninterrupted by a pole. Another is that you can easily cover smaller areas of your garden or terrace: make sure the kids stay safe from the sun while you bask in it, or create a cool shaded area in the corner of the patio complete with a Mediterranean-inspired bistro set.
A shade sail is typically triangular, square, or rectangle in shape, with a huge range of sizes to choose from, further adding to its reputation for being a versatile number. It’s important to look for products with water-resistance, weather-proof qualities, and a high UV rating, but the fabric’s breathability is also a factor. With a shade sail overhead you want to feel protected from the sun’s damaging rays, but not shrouded and gloomy.
Most sails come with reliably sturdy stainless steel fittings and are easy to hang. This is one way to transform your patio space in an instant. Be sure to angle yours slightly for drainage, as you don’t want a well of rain water gathering in the middle.
We tried and tested a range of shade sails in various shapes, sizes and colours on our patio space, looking for quality of materials, durability, ease of use – and of course, aesthetics.
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The best shade sales for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Kookaburra 3.6m triangle green waterproof woven shade sail: £45.99, Primrose.co.uk
- Best for a decorative touch – Dakota Fields cortney 4m x 2m shade sail: £85.99, Wayfair.co.uk
- Best for durability – Dakota Fields johnone 3m x 4m rectangular shade sail: £131.99, Wayfair.co.uk
- Best bespoke coverage – Covers & All custom shade sail, rectangle: £44.71, Coversandall.co.uk
- Best vibrant pop of colour – Laxellent sun shade sail, triangle, 3m lime green: £31.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best value for money – Greenbay sun shade sail, rectangle, sand: £25.99, Manomano.co.uk
- Best for Mediterranean warmth – VidaXL sun shade sail: £57.99, Vidaxl.co.uk
- Best quick fix – La Redoute interieurs rectangular shade sail: £42.25, Laredoute.co.uk
Kookaburra 3.6m triangle green waterproof woven shade sail
If it’s maximum UV protection you’re after, Kookaburra’s shade sails claim to be practically impenetrable by sunlight with a 50+ UPF rating. Thanks to an ultra-tight weave there won’t be any damaging rays getting through this high density polyester fabric. In a striking equilateral triangle, this one actually looks like a boat sail, adding a cool contemporary nautical look to the patio, but it comes in rectangle and square configurations, too. Strong and sturdy, waterproof and weatherproof – yet breathable – and in a range of vibrant hues, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Dakota Fields cortney 4m x 2m shade sail
Best: For a decorative touch
We loved this fan-shaped shade sail (try saying that after a Pimm’s on the patio) for its attractive form. Pretty and practical in equal measure, the cortney sail comes in either cream or grey and can be mounted vertically to an outside wall, or used horizontally on the terrace or balcony to provide vital respite from the rays. While this one’s on the smaller side, it’s all about versatility. The sail, made from a UV and weather-resistant polyester fabric, easily collapses when it’s not in use.
Dakota Fields Johnone 3m x 4m rectangular shade sail
Best: For durability
This is a no-frills rectangular shade sail that scores high on functionality. It’s on the pricier side but its quality is immediately obvious. In anthracite or green, the sail is made from a tough polyester fabric that boasts a double polyurethane coating, meaning it’s reliably water repellent. But it’s also permeable, allowing for constant air circulation. Handily, this one can be machine washed and comes with strong stainless steel fittings, while it’s also sturdy in the breeze. Cover a large rectangular outdoor dining table and you won’t need to worry about the weather.
Covers & All custom shade sail, rectangle
Best: Bespoke coverage
This is a company that understands our needs when it comes to throwing shade on our unique patio space. Custom made to order, you can enter your required dimensions on the site and ensure you get exactly the right coverage you want – down to the inch. In three neutral and nature-inspired shades – green, grey and beige – the inconspicuous sail boasts a 400 denier knitted fabric that’s suited to all weather conditions, while it is also sun-proof and breathable. Remember to order your hardware and accessories separately.
Laxellent sun shade sail, triangle, 3m lime green
Best: Vibrant colour pop
While some shade sails come in subtle hues designed to blend in with nature’s palette, others do the opposite. In lime green, this is a contemporary shock of colour that stands out for all the right reasons. Offering great value and versatility, this one comes in a range of shapes, sizes and colours, allowing you to create the perfect shaded spot, whether that’s over a larger formal seating area or the corner of the terrace where your sun lounger sits. What we loved most about this coated polyester sail is that it successfully blocks out sunlight yet brings a cheery block of colour, brightening up the patio, whatever the weather.
Greenbay sun shade sail, rectangle, sand
Best: Value for money
Starting at just £25.99, Greenbay’s offering proves irresistible if you want a purse-friendly way to transform your outside space in an instant. The simple rectangular canopy is made from a high quality, coated polyester fabric that boasts 98 per cent UV protection. It’s also easy to install with durable and high grade stainless steel buckles. This one’s lightweight but more than does the job if you want to keep cool on sunny days, while the largest size reaches an impressive 5m – ideal if you’re blessed with an outdoor pool or a sprawling patio seating set-up you want to cover.
VidaXL sun shade sail, Oxford fabric square, 3.6m x 3.6m, terracotta
Best: For Mediterranean warmth
This brand’s outdoor offering has a reputation for high quality and amongst the practical products such as hose pipes, planters and parasols, you’ll find a range of smart contemporary shade sails. Mid-priced, the Oxford fabric sail comes in various square and rectangular configurations and a small range of colours. We loved the terracotta for a warm Mediterranean vibe. Strong and sturdy, the canopy boasts both UV and mould proof properties, while its water-resistance means it’ll easily cope with the odd summer shower.
La Redoute interieurs rectangular shade sail
Best: Quick fix
If you’d rather not faff around with attaching hefty brackets to your brickwork, La Redoute’s shade sail is ideal. Held up with four discreet strings at each corner, it’s simply tied to an existing structure like a fence post or a branch. Naturally chic and minimalist, this one comes in beige, taupe or charcoal and boasts waterproof properties as well as all-important UV protection. Limited to just one size, it’s not the most versatile product but it does offer ample coverage.
The verdict: Shade sails
We loved Kookaburra’s woven shade sail for its striking shape. The equilateral triangle recalls a real boat sail, awarding the patio a cool, nautical look. But beyond the aesthetics, this one proved highly durable and easy to hang. We were also impressed with Covers & All’s custom shade sail offering, which allows for a bespoke product to suit your outside space perfectly.
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