Wishing you could have a tennis court, but your backyard simply cannot fit one? You can always go for the next best thing: table tennis! For a fraction of the space, you can begin practicing a sport that is popular, more complex than it looks like, and the most important thing: fun!
The Best Outdoor Table Tennis Table: Reviewed
Odds are, you know this discipline by a more widely used moniker: ping-pong; it is also known (though perhaps not as commonly) whiff-whaff. However you or I may call it, table tennis is still its official name, with its very own International Federation and set of official rules, or ‘laws’. Despite what some of us may think, it is quite popular—even more than basketball, by some counts—, with close to 1 billion fans worldwide. This massive popularity becomes easier to understand as we look at this sport’s inherent benefits:
Compact. 30′ x 15′ is all the space you need to play, and that’s already taking into account where the table will be. More space does mean more mobility; for regular tournaments, the ITTF requires a space of no less than 14m x 7m (about 46′ x 23′).
Safe. The only thing that will be flying between one side of the table and the other is a small, lightweight ball made of plastic, propelled back and forth by a paddle hardly bigger than your palm. There is no contact between players. Thus, risk of injury is extremely slow.
Easy to learn, hard to master. The basics are easy to grasp—stand on one side of the table and bounce the ball back at your opponent with a paddle—, but there is more depth once you dedicate yourself to it. Aside from having to stay mobile to intercept and strike the ball your opponent sends at you, there are intricacies from the way you grip the paddle to how you hit the ball that make this game ideal for improving reflexes and hand-eye coordination—and to get some workout done, of course.
As with any serious sport, table tennis has very specific requirements to be played. Here’s what you need, per the ITTF’s 2021 Handbook:
Table: It should be 2.74m x 1.525, and the surface should lie 76cm from the floor, divided at the middle by a net, 15.25cm in height, running parallel to the end sides of the table.
Ball: 2.7g in weight, 40mm in diameter, it should be made in plastic. Color should be white or orange, and matte.
Paddle: The ITTF stipulates that ‘[T]he racket may be of any size, shape or weight but the blade shall be flat and rigid’. There are other stipulations, such as material, side of the surfaces, and so on. The blade of an average table tennis paddle is usually round and not much bigger than the palm of your hand.
Inside vs Outside Play
Although table tennis is traditionally played indoors, there is no reason not to play it outdoors as well. There is, however, one caveat: given how the sport is usually played, a run-of-the-mill table will quickly deteriorate if left outside—and no reasonable person should settle for hauling the table out into the yard to play, and then back into the house when the match ends. This is why, for this review, we will be focusing on tables that can be left out in the cold (and hot, and rainy, you get the idea), without suffering for it.
Good Tables For Your Backyard
Due to their unique construction, many of these won’t have the bounce required by ITTF regulations, which may make them ill suited for professional matches. Everyone will still have a blast while playing, though, and isn’t that the whole point?
1. JOOLA NOVA Rally Outdoor Table
There is nothing wrong with a casual player preferring professional grade equipment, and if that is your case, this might be a good fit for you, as this brand has been the official provider for dozens of top tennis table events around the world over the course of its nearly 70 years of history. The table meets ITTF regulations in width, length and height, and the legs can be adjusted individually.
It’s definitely built for use outdoors, as the surface is made in aluminum plastic composite, and the undercarriage is powder coated to prevent rusting. That said, the table can still be stored away with little effort, as it can be folded in to make it more compact for storing and easy to carry around. Furthermore, it is also possible to fold one of the halves up to provide for a bouncing surface for practicing alone.
- Can also be used for solo practice with minimal adjustment.
- Height can be adjusted to account for uneven surfaces.
- Per multiple customer reports, it is not exactly rare for the table to arrive damaged.
- Net included is considered subpar; clamps are not solid enough to keep it firmly in place.
2. Butterfly Centrefold 25 Table
Not long ago, we mentioned that outdoors tables would not have a proper bounce due to how they are built, compared to indoors units. This one, however, departs from general custom in two ways: one, its surface is made in wood, not the far more common plastic; and two, it’s a full inch thick (25mm, to be more specific, hence the “25” in the name), instead of the 6mm featured by many others. This translates to a bounce that is, per several customer reports, strikingly better than with several other models.
The table is designed to meet ITTF standards in width, length, (adjustable) height, and net, to the point that it comes with official approval for professional matches. This sort of quality and adherence to standard, however, do not come cheap, as this table is priced well above average.
- Surface made with optimal bounce in mind.
- Officially approved for professional tournaments.
- Fully assembled right out of the box.
- Backed by a 5-year warranty.
- Too expensive to be a good fit for players who simply wish to have a good time in the backyard.
3. GoSports Mid-Size Table Tennis Game Set
If all you want is to play and don’t terribly mind that the table’s dimensions are a little off, then this might be all you need—literally. While a great many tables include the net and nothing else, this one comes as a full set, complete with 2 paddles (one black, one red), 4 balls, and a bag for keeping these smaller items together when put away.
The table itself is not without its potential drawbacks, as it is only ¾ the size of a regulation table, cannot be configured for solo practice, has no wheels and the legs cannot be adjusted. However, these shortcomings are unlikely to be a detriment: per reported experiences, the table’s size is no issue while playing, even in terms of height; and the table is so light (as it’s made in aluminum) that moving it from A to B is fairly easy. What’s more, it can be folded when not in use, and the handle at one of the sides further simplifies carrying it around.
- One of the most affordable tables out there.
- No need to find the rest of the equipment elsewhere, as this ships with everything required to start playing right away.
- Can only be used on perfectly even surfaces.
- Not appropriate for serious training.
- Due to how light it is, it can topple over easily.
4. HearthSong Pick-Up-And-Go Ping-Pong Table
If you’re hesitating to buy a table because only the young ones want to play and that makes a regulation table too much, then this might be a suitable solution, as this table is the right size for kids between 6 and 15 years—without falling too short of ITTF standards. It’s easy to move around, as it weighs just shy of 30lbs, and it can also be folded so it can be taken along for barbecues or camping trips; this also means that, should the weather take a turn for the worse, the table can be easily brought inside so playing can continue without a hitch. Package also includes 2 (aptly colored) paddles and 3 balls.
- A solid choice for gifting or for providing entertainment at parties.
- Play can begin straightaway, as everything required for a match comes in the box.
- Needs little adult intervention, as the table is light enough for kids to move around themselves.
- Very limited audience; the average adult might find it nigh impossible to partake.
5. JOOLA Berkshire Outdoor Multi Use Table
Got too many tables out there already? Then you might want to take a closer look at this one, with the potential to become the place to be whenever you are in your backyard—no matter what the plan is. As could be expected from a brand that has provided for many professional events, this one is up to code in terms of width, length and height, which gives it the right dimensions to seat 10 to 12 people for a conference or for dinner. The transformation is simple: the main thing that defines use is whether the metal net is in place, or not.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more durable table, as it is made in—yes, you’re reading right—concrete, with a finish made to appear like wood grain polished oak, to help with looks.
- One table, many uses, which might help recover a fair amount of space in the backyard.
- Compatible cover available separately from the same manufacturer.
- Remarkably expensive; investment might be hard to justify given its lack of features for tennis table specifically.
- Must be assembled at or near the spot where it will be sitting, as it weighs around 400lbs.
Best Match: GoSports Mid-Size Table Tennis Game Set
Most of us will be looking to have a good time, with not so much focus on stringent tournament regulations. Under those circumstances, this table delivers more than adequately, as it does not stray too far from the handbook in terms of size, and it comes with everything we could need to begin playing as soon as the table is standing in the backyard. It’s not without its drawbacks—most notably, it will require a fairly level surface, as its legs are not adjustable—, but it remains a solid, affordable choice that can also be taken anywhere you need with little to no hassle. After all, the outdoors is not just our backyard; there’s lots of fun to be had at camping trips too!
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