Outdoor table tennis table purchasing advice: How to choose the right product
- What You Need to Know
- Unlike indoor models, outdoor table tennis tables are not sensitive to strong sunlight.
- Many models are foldable and equipped with wheels. They can be easily stowed away.
- If you fold up one half of the table (playback position), you can also practice alone.
- Outdoor table tennis tables are heavyweights, usually weighing between 45 and 100 kilograms.
From outdoor to indoor and back again
Table tennis was invented as an indoor alternative to tennis. Despite the changeable English weather, English tennis players did not want to give up their favourite sport altogether. 150 years later, the indoor option is increasingly taking place outdoors. But indoor table tennis tables are not suitable for outdoor use. This is because they are not weatherproof. Even UV rays can make them unusable. The alternative: outdoor table tennis tables.
Table tennis is very popular in Germany, both as a leisure activity and as a competitive sport. You can often find sturdy concrete table tennis tables with metal nets in parks and playgrounds. These are ideal for public use: they can withstand any weather and even survive vandalism. But for private use, such outdoor tables are not the best choice. Once they are set up, they can only be removed with great effort. Moreover, their playing characteristics are not optimal.
For this reason” does not quite fit. Suggestion: “Mobile outdoor table tennis tables are more practical for your own garden. Depending on the model, these are suitable both for casual recreational play and for practice for club members or even professionals.
The round robin mode
A particularly popular game variant is the round robin – also called “Chinese” in some regions. Several players run around the table and have to pass the ball back when it is their turn. Those who fail to do so are eliminated. This game mode is so popular that round table tennis tables can also be found in some places.
Anatomy of an outdoor table tennis table
Outdoor table tennis tables come in different sizes. However, it is recommended to look for a table top that has the dimensions specified by the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation). This means that you are already used to the standard size if, for example, you play in a club or compete in official competitions. The specified measurements are as follows: 274.0 centimetres long, 152.5 centimetres wide and 76.0 centimetres.
The plate itself is usually blue or green and there is a stretched net in the middle. The surface is matt so that players are not blinded by reflections. Each of the two sides of the table is again separated into two halves by a vertical white line. This is mainly important for the serve, where the ball has to be hit diagonally into the opposite quarter. Outdoor table tennis tables are made either of the synthetic resin melamine or of aluminium composite. These two materials are weather-resistant and have the desired playing characteristics.
The net that separates the table top in the middle is stretched on two posts with clamps. The specified height is 15 centimetres. At a load of 100 grams, the net must not yield by more than one centimetre. The upper side of the net is provided with a white stripe to make it clearly visible during fast play. The net must not be hit when serving.
The underframe of an outdoor table tennis table is usually made of metal. Its shape and thickness depend largely on whether the table is foldable or not. A foldable table usually has four thin legs at the edges and four more in the middle with wheels to make transport easier. The bases of non-folding models can vary greatly, for example from four thin legs to a tree-trunk-like solid base.
Castors are only present on folding outdoor models. When the table is folded, it can be transported smoothly on the four castors. These can roll in any direction, which is good for manoeuvrability when space is limited. The castors usually have a diameter of 12.5 centimetres. The legs at the corners of such tables lose contact with the floor when the top is folded up, unlike the middle legs. They are not equipped with castors so that the table does not shift or even roll away during play.
Is folding better?
Foldable models can be stored easily even if there is little storage space. The castors make transport easier, so that even one person can move the table alone. The biggest advantage of foldable models is that you don’t need a training partner to practise thanks to the playback function. You can simply fold up one side and play alone. The ball then bounces against the folded-up half of the table just behind the net. This way, you can train your reflexes as well as predominantly your defensive play. However, the boards of foldable models are often not as thick as those of professional models and do not allow the ball to bounce as high. In addition, they are not exactly cheap.
It all depends on the material
The material influences both the playing behaviour and the weather resistance and robustness of the outdoor table tennis table. Concrete is the most durable. In second place are boards made of melamine. Aluminium composite boards are the least durable. Only the outer layer is made of aluminium. Inside is a glued wood panel that can swell and warp if the aluminium layer is damaged and allows moisture to penetrate. Even outdoor table tennis boards need to be protected from extreme weather.
An aluminium composite board is about 22 millimetres thick. It has good playing characteristics. The material is lighter and cheaper than melamine resin. However, the maintenance requirement is somewhat higher. For example, the surface should be oiled in winter to withstand extreme conditions. Although the material is suitable for outdoor use, it does not withstand impacts and storms as well as melamine resin.
- Good playing characteristics
- Needs care
- More sensitive than melamine resin
Melamine resin is considered by many to be the better material for outdoor table tennis tops. Nowadays they are much more popular and easier to find than aluminium composite boards. Melamine resin coatings are usually five to seven millimetres thick. The material is particularly weatherproof and impact-resistant. It is also extremely easy to clean and has the best outdoor play properties. However, melamine boards are more expensive and heavier than aluminium composite boards.
- Very good playing properties
- Extremely weather-resistant
- Impact resistant
- Easy to clean
Tips for setting up
After delivery, you must first assemble the board. For this, there should at least be printed instructions included in the delivery. Ideally, there should be a video where you can see every step. The initial assembly often takes about one to two hours. However, once the table tennis table is in place, it usually does not need to be disassembled again.
You should set up the outdoor table in a place where there is no wind. The table tennis ball is light as a feather. Even a weak breeze can affect its trajectory so much that you can hardly control it.
It is also important to make sure that the floor is level. A sloping table makes the game more difficult for one of the players.
It is best to find a shady spot. On the one hand, your skin will be grateful, and on the other hand, you will avoid blinding the players.
Make sure that the floor is not slippery. Table tennis involves abrupt movements with rapid changes of direction. A slippery floor such as wet grass can cause injury if you slip or sprain your ankle.
Last but not least, you need plenty of space to move laterally and backwards. In defensive play, for example, players often stand far away from the edge of the table and, if necessary, lunge strongly backwards or sideways. A clearance of about three metres to the back and two metres to the side is optimal. If this is not possible, at least two metres to the rear and one metre to the side should be free. However, it is best if you have more than 30 square metres of space.
Other buying criteria
In addition to the surface and foldability, you should also pay attention to other aspects such as safety or certain equipment features. Depending on the area of use, the class of the table tennis table is also important.
Table tennis tables are divided into classes from A to D according to the European standard EN 14468-1. A is the best class. Such tables are used by professionals in competitions. Class D table tennis tables are more suitable for recreational athletes. The decisive factor for the classification is the ball bounce height, i.e. how high the ball bounces when it falls from a height of 30 centimetres. However, the ball does not always bounce exactly the same height. The difference between individual measurements of the ball rebound height also plays a role in the evaluation. Class A models deliver more consistent results than models in lower classes.
|Class||Range||Ball rebound||Deviation of rebound measurement|
|A||Competitive sport||23 – 26 cm||Up to 5 millimetres|
|B||Club sport||23 – 26 cm||Up to 7 millimetres|
|C||Recreational||21 cm||Up to 10 millimetres|
|D||Recreational||18 cm||Not specified|
Castors and feet
Of course, you can use an outdoor table tennis table not only outdoors. It can also be used in the garage or in halls. However, you should pay attention to the castors and feet of the table. If the castors are not smooth enough or the feet are not coated with rubber, you could scratch the floor.
Thickness and weight
Depending on the coating of the surface, outdoor table tennis boards can have different thicknesses. Boards made of aluminium composite are usually thicker than those made of melamine. About 35 to 50 millimetres are common.
The weight of the table tennis table is significantly influenced by its thickness. The base frame also contributes to the overall weight. Outdoor table tennis tables usually weigh between 45 and 100 kilograms.
Whether more weight is better or worse depends largely on the user and his or her needs. A heavy table is more stable. It does not slip as easily when subjected to strong impacts, as can happen during play. On the other hand, a heavy board is not so easy to transport. If you play often and store your board after each game, you should look for a lighter model to make it easier to transport. However, if the board is in a fixed place and is rarely moved, it can weigh a little more.
Above all, an outdoor table tennis table must be safe. Children in particular are often careless, so the construction of the table tennis table should leave as little room as possible for injuries. A useful feature is the corner protection. It prevents players from injuring themselves if they bump into the edges.
An anti-tip device ensures that none of the table sides fall on your head when folded up.
The base should also be stable. Children as well as adults sometimes literally throw themselves onto the tabletop in their zeal to play, for example to get a ball very close to the net. The table should be able to withstand this load.
Last but not least, the side guard ensures that users – especially children – do not get caught between the two table tops and get stuck there.
From Ping Pong to Beer Pong
Outdoor table tennis tables are not only suitable for playing table tennis. Because of the good ball bounce, the tables are also very suitable for Beer Pong – the drinking game modified from table tennis. Ball and table are already included if you have a table tennis table. All you have to do is remove the net and set up plastic cups filled with beer. Two teams must now throw the table tennis ball into the opposing cups. If the ball lands in a cup, the latter must be drunk. The team that hits all the opposing cups first wins.
A net should always be included. If necessary, a table tennis bat set with balls is also available with the outdoor table. This is practical for beginners, but more experienced players are best off configuring their bats themselves so that their characteristics suit their playing style.
What is not always included, but can be quite useful, is a cover. For longer periods of storage, this ensures that your board remains protected. A cover is especially important for outdoor storage.
Some models also have holders for table tennis bats and balls. This way, you have everything you need to play at hand.
Care and maintenance tips
The only outdoor tabletops that are completely weatherproof are concrete tabletops that are placed in a park, for example. Whether melamine resin or aluminium composite, every table tennis table needs a little care if it is to maintain good condition for a long time.
It is best to store table tennis tables in a sheltered place when it is snowing or raining. Especially if the surface has deep scratches, moisture and frost could damage your top. In winter, you can also oil the table, especially if it is made of wood.
Table tennis tables are very easy to clean. A damp cloth with a little washing-up liquid is all you need. This will get the surface clean, even if the table is sticky and smelly after a round of beer pong.