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Get ready for summer with these PEOPLE Tested top picks
If your neighborhood smells like barbecue every weekend and there are kids riding bikes up and down the street, it’s because summer is officially here! All your favorite summertime activities — grilling, camping, gardening, swimming, going to the beach — will soon be underway, so now’s the time to take stock of your summer gear and decide if you need to invest in new outdoor products for the season.
In preparation for summer, we’ve spent hundreds of hours testing over 300 different summer outdoor products. (Seriously, we spent 150 hours just testing camping tents!) Over the last year, the People Tested team has gotten hands-on with the best grills, patio umbrellas, garden hoses, beach canopies, and more, all so you can find the absolute best products to make your summer great. So if your grill has seen better days or your family tent is sporting holes, we’ve got you covered.
The following are the best summer outdoor products that People Tested.
Best Gas Grill: Monument Grills Stainless 4-Burner Propane Gas Grill
The flame is very responsive to the dials, from high all the way down to low heat.
It left defined grill marks on all types of foods — from burgers to fish — and cooked everything evenly.
The grill is easy to ignite and responds well to temperature adjustments, making it well-suited for grillers of all skill levels.
There are cold spots towards the front of the grill and hot spots toward the back, so you'll need to adjust your food accordingly.
No backyard is complete without a spot to grill burgers and hot dogs, and the best gas grill we tested this year was the Monument Grills 4-Burner Gas Grill, which offers 723 square inches of cooking space across two racks and a maximum heat output of 60,000 BTU. It even has a handy side burner that you can use to prep sauce or boil veggies for your meal. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option in terms of all-around performance, ease of use, and value, which is why we recommend this grill for both novice grillers and pitmasters alike.
During testing, we used this grill to cook a wide range of foods, including burgers, onions, steak, and fish. We were impressed at how easy it was to set up and start the grill, and every time we used it, the grill responded beautifully to temperature adjustments, making it a breeze to control the heat. The porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates left nice char marks on the food and minimized sticking, but we did find a few cold spots toward the front of the grates. Out of the 13 gas grills we tested, the Monument grill is a top-performing model at a reasonable price, and we think it would make a worthwhile addition to any patio.
Price at time of publish: $459
Dimensions: 19 x 54 x 46 inches | Weight: 118 pounds | Cooking Area: 723 square inches | Burners: 4, plus a side burner | Maximum BTU: 60,000 | Fuel: Propane
Best Portable Charcoal Grill: Everdure Cube Portable Charcoal Grill
This grill is easier than most to carry thanks to its large handles, light weight, and locking lid.
While on the small side, the grates can still hold two burgers, corn cobs, and brats with enough room for everything to cook properly.
The grill doesn’t need a full chimney of charcoal thanks to its small size.
Because you can’t use the lid while cooking, it can be challenging to regulate the grill temperature.
As you head out camping or to the beach this summer, the Everdure CUBE is one of the best portable charcoal grills to bring along on your adventures. It has a cute compact design that you can take virtually anywhere — it only weighs 15 pounds! — and we absolutely love that it includes a food storage tray and cutting board that double as a lid for easy transport.
The CUBE grill offers 115 square inches of cooking space, and we found that you can comfortably fit enough food for two people on it. (If you’re cooking for the whole family, this grill may not be big enough for your needs.) Because it’s so compact, we didn’t even have to use a full chimney of charcoal to reach cooking temps of over 600 degrees, but keep in mind that you can’t use the lid while cooking, so it can be a bit tricky to regulate the temperature. Still, it did a great job cooking all types of food, including burgers, corn, and brats, and we’d recommend it to anyone who loves to grill on the go.
Price at time of publish: $169
Dimensions: 16.7 x 13.7 x 9.1 inches | Weight: 15.43 pounds | Cooking Area: 115 square inches
Best Portable Fire Pit: Inno Stage Portable Smokeless Fire Pit
The fire pit creates a clean and controlled flame with no smoke, ash, or sparks.
It’s easy to set up and pack away, as there are only two pieces, along with a carrying case.
The sleek, modern design looks more expensive than it is.
The grill can only be used with wood pellets, which is slightly inconvenient if you’re camping.
No matter where the summer takes you — a campground, tailgate, beach party, or just your backyard — you’ll be able to enjoy a smoke-free fire with the INNO Stage Fire Pit. We tested 26 portable fire pits, and this was the best portable fire pit by far; the smokeless fireplace has a sleek modern appearance but is much more affordable than other models. We loved that it’s quick and easy to set up and pack away, as there are only two pieces, and it comes with a handy carrying case that’s perfect for summer adventures.
If you’re wondering if this fire pit is truly smokeless, the answer is yes! During use, the flame was clean and controlled, producing no smoke, ash, or sparks. It’s ideal for warming up on chilly nights or making s’mores, but we don’t love that it’s only supposed to be used with wood pellets, especially if you’re going somewhere where firewood is plentiful.
Price at time of publish: $79.95
Dimensions: 7 x 15 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 16 lbs. | Material: Metal | Finish type: Painted | Shape: Round | Fuel type: Wood | Assembly required: No
Best Adirondack Chair: Polywood Modern Adirondack Chair
The angles of the chair provide lumbar support, and overall, it’s comfortable on your body, even without cushions.
Spills like BBQ sauce and even sticky marshmallow goop are easy to clean off the Polywood material.
The material holds up well, even when left out in the elements for long periods of time.
We had to watch an assembly video to figure out how the chair went together.
The chair can’t be adjusted in any way.
The best Adirondack chairs will turn your backyard into the perfect summer lounge area, and our favorite option out of the 23 Adirondack chairs we tested is this model from Polywood. It comes in 14 colors and has a sleek modern silhouette, and the chair is crafted from the brand’s signature Polywood material, which is recycled high-density polyethylene (a type of durable plastic). We loved that this chair is comfortable to sit in, even without cushions, as it holds your body at a comfortable angle, and its arms are wide enough to rest your drink without worrying about spilling.
This chair also held up wonderfully to different stress tests. We smeared barbecue sauce and marshmallow goop on it, and the spills came off easily with just a little soap and water. It didn’t crack or tip over when weight was dropped in it, and we even left it outdoors in the rain and snow for several months. Even after all that, the chair looks as good as new — unlike other options that age quickly when exposed to the elements.
Price at time of publish: $249
Material: Polywood | Water-Resistant: Yes | Foldable: No | Adjustable: No | Available Colors: 14
Best Patio Umbrella: EliteShade 3-Tier Market Umbrella
The umbrella’s crank is smooth and easy to operate, even with one hand.
The canopy fabric is thick, and it doesn’t let any sun through on hot days.
The material doesn’t let water pass through and dries within 10 to 15 minutes after getting wet.
The tilting mechanism uses a push button — it’s not automatic like other umbrellas in this price tier.
Don’t let the sun keep you indoors this summer! The EliteShade Sun umbrella is the best patio umbrella we’ve tested, and it will provide cooling shade, even on the hottest days. It comes in both 9- and 11-foot sizes, and we found that it’s easy to set up (it took less than a minute) and even easier to operate. The crank turns smoothly to open and close the canopy, and it can even be done with one hand, so you don’t have to put down your drink.
We were pleasantly cool while sitting under this umbrella, as the thick fabric doesn’t let any sunlight pass through. The material is even waterproof, so it will protect you from passing showers, and dirt and gunk washes off easily. The 9-foot canopy proved to be big enough to shade a table and five chairs, and the push-button tilt is easy to operate — though we will note that other umbrellas at this price point have an automatic tilt, which is more convenient if you’re petite. Still, out of the 28 patio umbrellas we tested, this was our favorite.
Price at time of publish: $229.95
Canopy Size: 9 or 11 feet | Height: 8.8 feet | Opening Mechanism: Crank | Canopy Material: Solution-dyed acrylic | Frame Material: Alloy steel | Base: Not included
Best Pool Cleaner: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
The robot effectively removed dirt and larger debris like leaves from the pool thanks to its improved tracking.
It easily climbed the walls of an older in-ground pool, even though the corner angles were sharp.
The cleaner is lightweight, and pretty much anyone will be able to lift it in and out of the water.
Despite its high price, this model doesn’t have Bluetooth or any smart features.
This summer, you can hang out in the sun while the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus takes care of cleaning your pool for you. It’s the best pool cleaner we’ve tested, truly making pool maintenance a hands-off task. All you have to do is turn on the robot and put it into your in-ground pool, and we found that it does a great job sucking up debris of all sizes, including everything from dirt and pollen to rogue leaves.
This robotic pool cleaner has better tracking abilities than other automatic models we’ve tested, and it had no problems climbing up the sides of our testing pool, even though the walls connect to the floor at a sharp 90-degree angle. Plus, it worked faster than the other 34 pool cleaners we tested, and it’s lightweight enough that almost anyone can lift it in and out of the water.
The only downside we could find is that this unit doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity or any smart features, which you may find in other models at the price point. This means you do have to start the robot manually each time and can’t put it on an automatic schedule.
Price at time of publish: $919 with coupon (orig. $969)
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 10 inches | Weight: 19 lbs. | Pool size: Up to 50 ft | Filter: Twin cartridges | Cleaning time: 2 hours | Smart features: No
Best (Less Expensive) Pool Cleaner: Aiper Seagull SE Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner
The robot efficiently picks up dirt, pollen, and small debris from the floor of the pool.
The cleaner operates almost silently — so much so we often forgot it was there.
The cordless design is extremely easy to use, and you don’t have to worry about it getting stuck or tangled.
The robot sometimes struggled to pick up larger clumps of debris.
This model isn’t able to climb the walls of the pool.
If you want hands-free cleaning without paying an arm and a leg, the AIPER Seagull SE is one of the best robotic pool cleaners we tested, and it’s surprisingly affordable, too. We put this cordless vacuum to the test in a 40-by-18-foot in-ground pool, and we were impressed with its ability to navigate around the floor on its own. It was able to pick up around 90 percent of the dirt, pollen, and small debris from the floor, but it did get stuck on larger clumps on leaves.
Some robotic cleaners can be confusing to program, but the AIPER Seagull couldn’t be easier to operate. You simply turn it on and lower it into the pool, and it will clean for up to 90 minutes. It’s extremely quiet as it works, and we sometimes even forgot it was there. When you need to pull the robot out, it’s easy to do using the included hook, and the filter is easy to remove and rinse off after each cleaning. Just keep in mind that this budget-friendly option is only designed to clean the floors of your pool — it isn’t able to climb walls or scrub the waterline.
Price at time of publish: $199.99 with coupon (orig. $299.99)
Dimensions: 17.13 x 13.74 x 7.8 inches | Weight: 10.58 pounds | Pool size: Up to 40 x 20 feet | Filter: Removable tray | Cleaning time: 90 minutes | Smart features: No
Best Garden Hose: Flexzilla Garden Hose
Silicone caps on each end are easy to grip, making it easy to attach the hose to a spigot.
The hose straightened out nicely when unpackaged and didn’t kink during testing.
The texture of the hose makes it easy to grip and move around.
While it is light when empty, the hose is significantly heavier when filled with water.
One of the best garden hoses we tested was the Flexzilla, which is sturdy and flexible to make summertime gardening easier. This hose is made from a flexible hybrid polymer, and the bright green design is available in several lengths, from as short as 3 feet all the way up to 100 feet. When we tested it, the hose straightened out easily after being unpackaged, and it didn’t kink at all throughout the course of our tests.
The hose itself is easy to grip, so we had no problem pulling it around the yard, and we also like that there are silicone caps on each end — they provided a great grip that made it easy to attach the hose to a faucet. While the hose is fairly lightweight, it gets significantly heavier when it’s filled with water, but overall, it’s a sturdy, flexible option for watering your lawn or garden this summer, and out of the 29 garden hoses we tested, this one definitely stood out.
Price at time of publish: $39.99 (50-foot)
Lengths: Up to 100 feet | Size: ⅝ inch | Weight: 8 pounds for 50 feet | Material: Flexible hybrid polymer | Couplings: Metal with O-ring | Max Pressure: 150 PSI
Best Flip Flops for Women: Sanuk Yoga Mat Flip Flops
Made from yoga mat material, these flip flops offer cloud-like cushioning and comfort.
The shoes are so light that it feels like you’re barefoot.
The soles of the flip flops offer great traction, even on wet flooring.
Because they’re extremely cushioned, the sandals aren’t ideal for all-day wear.
There are so many options for summer shoes, but the best flip flops for women have to be the Sanuk Yoga Mat Flip Flops — our hands-down favorite during testing (and we tested 36 options!). Just as its name suggests, these shoes are made from yoga mat material, and they’re super comfortable, providing ample cushioning and just the right amount of support for walking around your home or traversing the beach.
These flip flops are so lightweight that you might as well be barefoot, and they provide the perfect amount of traction, even on wet floors. The lining of the straps is smooth and didn’t cause any blisters during testing, and they’re easy to slip on and off your feet throughout the day. There isn’t much that we didn’t like about these flip flops — the only downside we could find is that they’re not the best for all-day wear, but that holds true for most flip flops.
Price at time of publish: $34.95
Colors: 8 | Sizes: 5-11 | Materials: Synthetic yoga mat, faux leather straps
Best Flip Flops for Men: Adidas Comfort Flip Flops
The soles are comfortable on your feet thanks to a slight dip at the toes and supportive heel-bed.
They’re comfortable to wear right out of the box — no break-in period needed.
The flip flops are lightweight enough for everyday wear.
Not everyone will like the sporty design, which features the classic adidas stripe.
Don’t worry, guys — we’ve tested the best flip flops for men, too. Our top pick is the Adidas Men’s Comfort Flip Flop, which proved to be comfortable and durable from the very first use. These shoes have a slightly contoured sole with a subtle arch and dip at the toes, and we thought they provided just the right level of support for everyday wear. Plus, they were comfortable right out of the box, and they didn’t cause any blisters or require a break-in period.
The Adidas flip flops were easy to put on and take off, and the lightweight design isn’t cumbersome to walk around in. We also loved that there’s a tread on the bottom of the shoes for improved traction. The shoes impressed us all around, and the only thing that you might not love is that they have a very distinct, sporty design with the brand’s signature stripes — while we thought it looked nice, it might not be for everyone.
Price at time of publish: $30
Colors: 7 | Sizes: 5-13 (whole sizes) | Materials: Synthetic, polyurethane, EVA
Best Beach Canopy: SUN NINJA Pop Up Beach Tent
We were able to set up the canopy in less than five minutes thanks to the included sand scoop.
The canopy provides great sun protection while still allowing the breeze to pass through.
When packed up into its carrying case, it’s compact enough to fit in a beach tote.
It can be tricky to get all the sand out of the pouches when packing up the canopy.
The canopy is only available in shades of blue.
You’ll be able to keep cool at the beach or park with the Sun Ninja Beach Tent — the best beach canopy out of the 19 we tried out this year. It comes in either 7- or 10-foot options, and the design is fairly simple, featuring four lightweight poles and a spandex canopy that provides UPF 50+ sun protection. It only took us five minutes to set up the tent, and we thought it was a nice touch that the brand provides a little scoop for shoveling sand into the corner pockets of the canopy.
While this tent blocks out the sun, its unique design lets the breeze through, helping to cool you down on hot summer days and preventing the canopy from blowing away. The whole thing folds up into its carrying case, which is small enough to fit in a beach tote, but we did find that it can be hard to get all the sand out of the pockets when packing up the tent, which may lead to sand in your car or home.
Price at time of publish: $159.95
Size: 7 x 7.5 feet (assembled) | Material: Spandex | Weight: 9.7 lbs
Best Sunscreen: Hawaiian Tropic Everyday Active Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Despite its thick consistency, the lotion absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a film on your skin.
The sunscreen didn’t transfer onto clothing once it dried.
The formula is water/sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it well-suited for summertime activities.
The formula may be too thick to use on your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Of all the best sunscreens we’ve tried out (51 and counting), the Hawaiian Tropic Everyday Active Sunscreen is our top pick for all your summer activities. The sport formula is water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, which means it won’t drip if you go swimming or are sweating while mowing the lawn, and it provides SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays.
When we tested it, we found that the lotion absorbs into your skin quickly, and it doesn’t leave a noticeable film like other products. This sport sunscreen is ideal for the beach, hiking, or even doing yardwork, and it won’t transfer onto your clothes. It has a slightly tropical scent that most people will enjoy, and it’s also budget-friendly, so you can stock up for summer.
Price at time of publish: $13.99
Size: 8 fl. oz. | Type: Chemical | Form: Lotion | SPF Rating: 50 | Water/Sweat Resistance: 80 minutes
Best Ice Cream Maker: Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker
Ice cream is ready in a matter of minutes — much faster than most electric models.
The ice cream had one of the creamiest textures of all the products tested.
The compact design is much easier to store than most at-home ice cream makers.
Ice cream may get overly thick if you let it sit in the bowl for too long.
The bowl’s ½-cup capacity can only make one or two servings at a time.
Many people consider ice cream to be the unofficial dessert of summer, and you can make your own right at home with the Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker. Right away, you’ll notice this isn’t like most at-home ice cream makers, which are generally electric. Instead, it’s a handy fast-freeze bowl that works quickly and is so much easier to store. During testing, we were able to make two servings of delicious, creamy ice cream in less than two minutes! (By comparison, most electric units take 20+ minutes to churn.)
While you do have to “churn” the ice cream manually using the two included spatulas, it was quick and easy to do (and kid-friendly, too). The resulting treat was one of the creamiest ice creams we made, and we love that it came together so quickly (and we can't say the same for the other 19 we tested). The ice cream can get a little too hard if you let the base sit in the bowl for too long, but it will soften up again once you scoop it into your dish.
Price at time of publish: $54.99
Dimensions: 11.375 x 11.375 x 2.125 inches | Weight: 4.88 pounds | Type: Fast freeze | Capacity: ½ cup | Cleaning: Hand wash
Best Walk-Behind Lawn Mower: Honda HRN216VKA 21-Inch Gas Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
The mower is powerful enough to handle thick weeds and even damp grass
The mulching setting works extremely well, even when grass is wet.
For every use, iit only took one pull to get the motor started.
While marketed as variable speed, the self-propelled design only goes slowly or really fast.
The latch for the collection bag often gets clogged with clippings.
It will be easier than ever to keep your yard looking neat and tidy with the Honda HRN Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. The best walk-behind lawn mower we’ve tested, it has a 21-inch cutting deck and powerful 166cc motor, and while gas-powered mowers can be intimidating to use, we found that this model is consistently easy to start, only ever needing one pull to get the engine going.
We tested this mower in a variety of conditions, and it delivered a clean, even cut, powering through thick patches and damp grass with no problem. It can be set up to bag, mulch, or rear discharge clippings, and the mulching setting impressed us, cutting up wet grass into fine pieces that will help to feed the lawn. Our only major complaint is that the self-propelled design doesn’t offer a wide range of speeds — it tends to go from slow to fast with very few options in between, which isn’t ideal if you want to mow at a nice middle-of-the-road pace. Having said that, it's summer, so go ahead and slow down while you're doing yardwork (and don't forget to hydrate).
Price at time of publish: $549
Power Source: Gas | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 74.75 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Rear discharge, bag, mulch
Best 4-Person Tent: Coleman Sundome Tent
The tent is easy and intuitive to assemble, and it fits back into the case without a struggle.
The center of the tent is high enough that most people will be able to stand comfortably.
The assembly instructions are stitched into the carrying bag, ensuring they never get lost.
While marketed as a six-person tent, we think it could only fit four people comfortably.
You can explore the great outdoors with your family this summer in the Coleman Sundome Camping Tent, which is one of the best tents we tested this year. We say this with confidence because we spent over 150 hours testing 18 camping tents across the country this spring.
While the Coleman tent is marketed as a six-person tent, we think it’s most suitable for four people — six would definitely be a squeeze. Still, this tent was extremely spacious, providing plenty of room for a queen-size mattress and all our camping gear. We also loved that it’s 6 feet tall, allowing most people to stand up comfortably inside.
Some tents require an engineering degree to assemble, so we were happy to find that this model is straightforward and intuitive to put together. It can easily be done by one person, and the instructions are actually stitched into the carrying case to prevent you from losing them. The tent doesn’t require a footprint, and it also did a good job blocking the wind and keeping us warm overnight. All that, and it’s budget-friendly, too!
Price at time of publish: $99 (orig. $129.99)
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 6 feet | Shape: Dome | Recommended Capacity: 6 people | Doors: 1 | Windows: 2
Things to Consider Before Buying Summer Outdoor Gear
Ease of Use
The last thing you want to be doing on a beautiful summer day is reading an instruction manual to figure out how to turn on your pool cleaner or set up your camping tent. We’ve found that the best summer outdoor gear is easy and intuitive to use, allowing you to set it up quickly and get back to having fun.
It’s frustrating when you buy a piece of equipment for your summertime activities, only to have it break after one season. To keep this from happening, you’ll want to look for products that are made from high-quality materials and designed with durability in mind.
The POLYWOOD Modern Adirondack Chair is a great example of this. The chair is every bit as stylish as a traditional wood model, but it’s crafted from a durable plastic that won’t fade in the sun or crack if left out in the rain, which means you’ll be able to use it for years to come.
Everyone has different budgets for their summer gear, and at the end of the day, it’s all about getting the best bang for your buck. Sure, it’s nice if you can find a product for cheap, but it’s often worth spending a little extra for a model that’s both user-friendly and durable — that way, you won’t end up purchasing a new one next summer.
How We Tested Summer Outdoor Gear
Over the last year, we spent hundreds of hours testing over 300 outdoor products to ensure you can buy the very best summer gear for your home and family. To find the best of the best, we tested the following:
13 gas grills
14 charcoal grills
36 flips flops
26 portable fire pits
23 Adirondack chairs
28 patio umbrellas
35 pool cleaners
29 garden hoses
9 walk-behind lawn mowers
19 beach canopies
20 ice cream makers
In each product category, we researched and tested top-rated models at a wide range of price points. Some products were PR samples and some were purchased at full price, but testers had no knowledge of either until testing was complete.
We put every product through its paces in our labs (we grilled over 500 hamburgers) or at the homes of our testers (so many backyard pools are now sparkling clean!), and we used each product in a variety of tests to figure out its strengths, weaknesses, and potential deal breakers. Using all that data, we scored each product and put together our recommendations based on their overall performance and value.
When to Buy
If you’re in the market for summer gear, shopping earlier is almost always a better option. Many retailers will have good deals on outdoor products for Memorial Day, but after that, prices will be consistently high as summer kicks into full swing. If you miss out on Memorial Day, the next big sale holiday is generally Amazon Prime Day, which generally takes place in July.
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Camryn Rabideau is a product tester with more than six years of experience, and she’s tested a wide range of outdoor products in her career, including lawn mowers, grills, patio umbrellas, and more. While compiling this list, she relied on firsthand insights from the People Tested team, who spent hundreds of hours using all the products listed.
What Is People Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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Read the original article on People.