It gets really hard as children get older to think of good presents to buy them. I’m all for not spending lots of money, and generally bigger gifts that older children like, thankfully last a few years. The latest one has been classed as the best present yet by N (and me). The outdoor table tennis table.
I would prefer to spend around £100 maximum for a birthday or Christmas gift, but N has been quite lucky to have more spent on him due to things he’s needed at that time – a new bike, or laptop (the OH’s purchase without discussion. I didn’t agree with at the time, but then Covid arrived and I was relieved he had a laptop to use for remote learning). Because his birthday’s in January, if he’s getting an expensive gift for Christmas, then it’s generally a joint Christmas and birthday gift and he’ll only get something small for his birthday.
But the year just gone I was stumped. There wasn’t anything he needed, no upgrade, no requests other than an adult size tennis racquet which we ended up getting a really good deal from his tennis coach.
We do like to play sports and N will give most things a go. But I wanted to get something that he could play alone, or with us or his friends when they come round. I’d been debating for about 6 months and decided that maybe we should get an outdoor table tennis table.
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The OH was ambivalent about getting one, so I took that as a yes. After all, the whole family will use it.
Then it was onto the ping pong table research.
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Questions to answer before you buy an outdoor table tennis table
Do you have the space around the table? I knew we wouldn’t have the playing room for indoors although a table would fit in our backroom, but outside our patio was plenty big enough. You need a metre either side, and 2 metres behind each end, so allow for 6.74 x 3.5 metres.
Will you need to move it around, or will it be static? Therefore do you need to be able to fold it and roll it away.
What’s your budget? You don’t need to spend lots on a table to get one that’s suitable for playing with a family. The thicker the surface the better quality and longer lasting, but many tables have long guarantees anyway.
Do you have a flat surface to stand the table on? Our patio is fine, we have gravel too which at a push we could use. Most outdoor tables have adjustable legs to allow for slightly uneven ground. But you want as flat as possible.
Do you want to be able to practice alone? If so, opt for a half half table that will fold up, so you can practice against the upright side in playback format.
Set up. Do you want to spend up to 90 minutes building or want one that’s a faster set up? Some retailers will deliver the table and build it on delivery for extra cost.
My choice of outdoor table tennis table – Butterfly rollaway
When I first started researching, I had my heart set on a Cornilleau table, as they seemed to be coming out top on reviews. Good for longevity, quality of surface, and options on thickness of surface according to budget. I’d decided on a lower to mid range but it was coming in (even around Black Friday sales) at just around £500. Even with cashback, having to add on the cost of a cover, delivery and potentially building it, was adding on too much..
My other issue was set up. Most table tennis tables require quite a bit of set up time. With it being a gift I was struggling on delivery dates, keeping it hidden, and then having it built. I could pay around £80 to get it built – this required a covered area if it was raining, and given it was going to be a winter delivery, and we didn’t have a covered area, I could see it raining and me having to try and build it myself.
At the last minute I found a really good deal on Butterfly table tennis tables. An all in package which included a cover, bats and some balls. Quick research done, and it was a nobrainer, mainly because with these tables, they were saying 15 minute set up as they’re ready built.
Delivery proved to be a bit painful, as they request 2 dates when you order. I ended up being offered a different day, but as it was effectively flat packed it was fine to keep stored in the utility room until Christmas. In the end it was delivered at 7am (yawn!) by 2 men with a van from Birmingham.
Butterfly 4000 Rollaway table tennis table review
So far the table has been a great purchase.
The set up of the table was really easy. I had my brother around to help so he did most of it alone. It really was simple. We just needed to attach the wheels, and it really did only table about 15 minutes. The hardest bit was working out how the lock and unlock worked, and having one person to hold up one half of the table so the other could fix on the wheels.
I had worried that it would be too heavy for one person to move about. But because it comes in two halves, even N at 10 years old could move it around and put it up and down.
To move it from upright to playing, you wheel the table halves into position, then pull out the leg until it stops. Then pull the lock out and the table will fold fully down and clip into the clasp on the underside. You can lock the wheels in position, or adjust the table legs as needed. The second half pushes opposite. You do need it matching heights in the middle otherwise the net won’t clip on over the middle of the 2 halves.
The net is easy to add – just add the clips on either side and slot the net ends onto the poles. The string each side slots over and there’s a piece of plastic you can clip into a slot to hold the net taut if it isn’t already. N finds it harder to put the second side of the net in, so sometimes he can’t be bothered to add the net that came with it, and just uses a retractable net* we have for any tables. Fast and effective.
To fold the table up, unclip the net, and lift up the table until upright. We tend to store it against the side of the house with the halves facing each other, wheels locked.
It doesn’t take up much space when folded upright. Storage dimensions are 5’ 7” high x 5’ 5” wide x 2’ 2” deep (169 x 165 x 65cm).
The cover we have seems quite durable, although it’s open at the bottom which means the wind does get into it, making it quite noisy. I’m debating seeing if we can get some oversized luggage style straps to wrap vertically around it, in the hope of preventing it billowing and escaping in high winds.
They do advise not storing upright in high winds. Ours was still upright in the storms earlier in the year, the cover eventually blew off, which I rescued. Unfortunately it was too windy for me to move the table on my own and noone was around to help. So it ended up falling. Luckily it’s only got one minor scratch and it hasn’t been an issue when playing. But now if it gets windy, I just put the table down on its side so at least it can’t fall over and get damaged. I’d recommend storing it somewhere inside if you live in an exposed around like us and have no garage or shed to store it in when storms are coming in.
The Butterfly table is really easy to move around. At just under 80kg in total weight, I thought it would be hard to move, but the wheels are good, and it’s easy to manoevre. Gravel is pretty impossible to wheel it on though, so you’d need to lift each side in turn to move it around on such a surface.
We’ve found the table lots of fun. I had imagined I’d be outside in my lunchtimes playing and practising but that’s not really happened. But when the weather’s good, we go out after tea to play.
N’s planning to have friends over to play in school holidays, and have sports sessions. With football goal, bikes and now the outdoor table tennis table, he’ll have a great time.
I love how sociable it is. Anyone can pick up a bat and give it a go. I’m imagining nice summer evenings with drinks and maybe a bbq with friends.
Pros – Butterfly 4000 rollaway outdoor table tennis table
- The fast set up – it really was ready to go, just slotting in the wheels. That compares to many other tables saying they could be an hour+ set up.
- 4mm melamine table surface, suitable for family use.
- Anti glare surface, making it easy to use even in strong sunlight
- Consistent bounce surface
- Ability to play alone using half upright as a playback surface
- 10 year table top surface guarantee
- Net and posts included
- Large 7” double wheels making it easy to move around
- Double locking system to lock the legs and wheels in place.
- Adjustable legs for uneven ground.
- Choice of colours for the table surface.
- (Package offers available dependent on retailer – which can include a cover, bats and balls)
- You do need quite a bit of space for a table tennis table
- Covers can billow around being a bit noisy in the wind – some covers are better quality than others. Ours seems quite strong compared with others I’ve seen.
- You might need outdoor balls* – these are slightly adapted to be better for playing outdoors, but can be more pricy. They don’t feel any different to us non-professionals, but give us a bit more confidence that they’re less likely to go flying off with the wind.
- The British wind. We’re quite exposed where we live, so it is mostly a summer sport. But we’ve already got in quite a bit of play so we’re hopefully going further into spring and summer, we’ll get a lot more play.
Overall, if you’ve got the space, it’s a great present idea (for all the family). It’s worth spending on, and there’s a variety of options from cheaper to the professional expensive tables.
I bought our table from Table Tennis 365, but you can buy outdoor table tennis tables from Amazon*, Decathlon, Home Leisure Direct, or various other retailers. When doing price comparisons don’t forget to check delivery costs as they can really add up.
This article looks at other recommended outdoor table tennis tables.
Is your garden full of sports equipment? What other tables do you recommend?