A Day at the Beach - 7 Key Items to Bring to Make it a Good One!

A Day at the Beach and What to Bring

A day at the beach!  For some, the thought conjures up wonderful memories of building sandcastles with family and friends, surfing waves or enjoying the scenic view and wonderful breezes so many coastlines offer.  For others, images of times chilling in beach chairs (maybe under an umbrella or beach tent) with your friends and family enjoying your favorite “boat drink” come to mind.  Some people may prefer to explore the shoreline for shells or simply take in the beauty the “big man upstairs” has provided for us and relax in the sand and some may simply want to “soak up some rays”.  Everyone has their favorite aspects of a day spent in the sand. 

While most of us have fond memories of days at the beach and look forward to more in our lifetime, a day at the beach can also remind us of the “little sufferings” that sometimes accompany the luxury such as sand in your picnic lunch, chaffing from your swimsuit when walking back, sunburn, a lugging all that gear to and from.  I am sure we all have at least one story of a good beach day gone wrong.  I certainly have a few as a child and as a parent but in the end, it always seems to be worth the extra effort and certainly classifies as The Good Stuff! 

Below is the Good Stuff Guide on what we recommend bringing to get the most out of your next “Day at the Beach” experience and reduce any of the frustrations that can sometimes happen. 

Tips From the (not so tough) Trenches

If you frequent the beach regularly or have learned the hard way, some of these tips will be elementary but others may find a nugget or two that could help reduce stress on what is supposed to be a fun and relaxing adventure. 

Tip #1:  If you can, go to the beach early in the AM and claim your spot with your cover (i.e., tent or umbrella) and a few chairs.  This allows you pick a suitable piece of real estate and alleviates the stress of trying to find one when the crowd shows.  Often, if you wait, you’ll be adding to your walk from your beach access point as well.  We realize this isn’t always an option if your accommodations are far from the beach but it’s worth the effort if you can.  PS, when you do this, be sure to check the tides (NOAA has a good resource here) so you aren’t setting your chairs down in low tide only to have them swept away when high tide comes before you get on the beach. 

Tip #2:  Apply sunscreen before you hit the sand.  Seems simple enough but man it makes a difference.  Nothing is more unsettling and uncomfortable than having part sand, part sun screen rubbed on when you are likely sweating!  Put it on in a nice, cool indoor location and ideally allow 30 minutes to let it soak it (which is often recommended by manufacturers).  Not only is it more pleasant but it’s one less thing to worry about once you pick your spot on the beach. 

Tip #3: Have a beach bag(s) ready to go well in advance of leaving for the beach.  One suggestion is to gather your sunscreen, hats, reading materials, towels, etc. the night before and pack them in your go to bag.  When you are trying to corral a group of kids or even friends and everyone is scrambling to pack a cooler, find their flip-flops and get some sunscreen on, you don’t want to walk out forgetting some essentials.

A few items to be sure to include in this bag are a) a few trash bags, b) a smaller plastic bag in case you have wet clothes or towels you want to bring home, c) a plastic sandwich bag to protect your cell phone (works great and much cheaper than a cover assuming you aren’t going swimming with it!!), d) a towel per person – no one really wants to share a towel at the beach!!

Specialty Beach Items to bring

While there are some obvious items you’ll need to enjoy a day at the beach in Good Stuff Unlimited fashion, we wanted to provide our thoughts on what key items we pack based upon years of experience and observation of those wiser than us.  We hope you’ll find at least one or two ideas that are novel to your approach. 

1) An Easy to Manage Beach Cart. Regardless of whether you are toting a small number of items below for just you or for a small army, having a go-to beach cart with wheels that WORK IN SAND is a must.  We recommend carts that can carry at least a heavy packed cooler and some chairs but is light enough on its own not to be a burden.  Below are a few of our picks for hauling a lot of stuff: 

Image Image Image
Product Mac Sports - Heavy Duty Collapsible Cart Timber Ridge - Folding Wagon YAXuan - Utility Pull Wagon
Basic Features - Heavy duty frame
- Large plastic wheels to go over sane
- Cup holders
- Folds for easy carry & storage
- 4.5 ft storage space
- Semi-closed design allows for items of different shapes
- Cup holders
- Front wheels can rotate 360 degrees
- Detachable awning
- Easy to operate: adjustable handle in the center
- Front wheels can rotate 360 degrees
- Road tire reinforcement
Size - 22 lbs empty; folds to 10" thick - 24 lbs empty; folds to 30x16x8 inches - 22 lbs empty; folds to 75x50x20CM
Capacity 150 lbs 150 lbs 150 lbs

2) Back Pack Chairs.
There are simply too many well made backpack chairs to resort to old-school, heavy folding beach chairs that risk snapping off a finger to carry.  Here are some of our recommended backpack chairs that receive high praise:

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Product Tommy Bahama 5-Position Folding Backpack Beach Chair RIO Beach 4-Position Backpack Folding Beach Chair Rio Gear Original Steel Backpack Chair
Basic Features - Easily adjusts to 5 seating positions

- Lay flat option
- Pinch free seat adjustments
- Mesh & Zip pockets for extra storage
- Cup/Drink holder with bottle opener
- Easily adjusts to 4 seating positions
- Pinch free seat adjustments
- Large storage pouch and cup holder
- Frame constructed of durable, rust-free aluminum
- Easily adjusts to 4 seating positions
- Pinch free seat adjustments
- Large storage pouch and cup holder
- Frame constructed of durable, rust-free aluminum & wood
Carry Weight - 7 lbs - 8 lbs - 11 lbs
Weight Capacity - 240 lbs - 240 lbs - 250 lbs

3) Shade!
Whether it’s an easy to “pop up” canopy/tent or a sturdy umbrella, if you are like me, you’ll need some respite from the sun for part of or, in my case, all of the day.  Having a reliable source of shade can increase your time on the beach and give you a nice place to also take a mid-day beach siesta!!  Below are a few of our suggestions:

Image Image Image
Product Tommy Bahama 7-Foot Beach Umbrella with Wind Vent Red Suricata Family Beach Sunshade E-Z UP Ambassador Instant Shelter Canopy
Basic Features - Easily set-up and anchor; integrated sand/turf anchor (includes sand screw to bury pole)
- Wind vent for extra resistance
- Carry bag included
- Easily set-up; comes with securing anchors, sand bags and shovel
- Lightweight, sturdy aluminum poles
- High wind resistance
- Carry bag included
- Plenty of headroom from 4.3’ to 9.6’
- Portable with sturdy TRAX roller bag
- East set up and breakdown
- 2 height settings
Shade Area Coverage for two Coverage for six 100 square feet
Carry Weight 6 lbs 9 lbs 35 lbs

4) Sun Protection.
As I’ve mentioned in previous Good Stuff Guides, my focus on ensuring we have proper protection from the sun has certainly intensified over the years.  Once you are on a first name basis with your Dermatologist, you begin to play it smart when it comes to shielding your skin from the sun.  Below are our stand by basics for the right hat and sun screen. 

  • Shelta Hats- Different from other "floppy hats", these hats are not only attractive but feature a firm brim that won't flop in to your field of vision and adjustable to a snug fit that won't fly off when the wind is kicking.
  • Long sleeve "sun shirt" - two brands we love are Free Fly and Naviskin. Both are super light weight, dry very quickly and "breath" so I don't end up sweating profusely.  Another brand with sun shirts that are highly rated on Amazon is Vapor Apparel.
  • High SPF sunscreen - I have grown to like Sun Bum Spray which goes on feeling dry and smells better than most other spray brands.  Other brands that are often included in the bag are Coppertone and Neutrogena.

5) A Portable Cooler.
The key with a good beach cooler in our view is to find the right ratio of cooling power to weight.  While we love Yeti’s original hard coolers, they can be tough to carry on a long walk, full, in the dead of summer heat to the beach.  So, we’ve identified a few lighter, more portable options that do a wonderful job of keeping bevy and snacks cold.  Below are a few of our choices.
Image Image Image
Product YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag YETI Hopper M30 Portable Soft Cooler
Basic Features - Part cooler, part backpack - easy to carry
- DryHide tough, high density fabric
- ColdCell Insulation: superior cooling technology
HydroLock Zipper: waterproof / leakproof
- 100% leak proof, puncture-resistant, and has an antimicrobial liner
- No leak zipper
- No sweat material
- Keeps ice for 5 days
- Hydroshield Closure: Uses magnets to create an leak-resistant shield.
- Wide opening makes it easy to get in and out.
- ColdCell Insulation: superior cooling technology
- Leakproof liner
Storage Pockets No Yes Yes
Can Capacity 20 with ice 30 with ice 20 with ice

    6) Beach Tote Bag.
    As much as I don’t want to admit it to my wife, having the right bag for the event is a game changer.  In other words, she’s been right all these years.  Man, that was hard!  Having the right beach tote bag for the perfect beach day is a great example of how this applies.  You’ll want to have a bag that is durable, won’t easily damage from being wet or exposed to sun, salt air and wind.  And, you’ll want it to have some internal compartments or pockets to organize your large and small items apart.  Options range from heavy-duty totes with multiple features (See Yeti and RTIC) or “old school” canvas totes which is a durable, functional and less expensive alternative.  Below are some of the beach tote bags we’d recommend:

    Image Image Image
    Product YETI Camino Carryall 35 RTIC Large Beach Bag DALIX Premium 24 oz. Cotton Canvas Shopping Tote Bag
    Basic Features - Multi-functional: waterproof; easy to haul gear and clean
    - Durable, puncture proof skin
    - Lightweight, easy to carry with crossbar handle or shoulder straps
    - HitchPoint Grid: easily attach items with carabiners
    - Zippered top
    - Heavy Duty Construction: constructed from puncture resistant, heavy duty vinyl with welded seams
    - Soft carry handles
    - StayDry material makes easy cleaning
    - Zippered top
    - 12" Drop Handles, Zippered Top Closure, Two tone Colors
    - 100% cotton canvas material
    -Zippered top
    Storage Pockets - Inside: One - Inside: One Outside: One
    Size 14.8 L" x 18.2" H X 9.8” W 18.25" L x 15.9" H X 10” W 23" L x 14" H x 7" W

    7) Beach Games & Sand Tools.
    I try and read while at the beach but often find myself very antsy and in need of some activity.  Having a readily available outlet for that extra energy in the form of a fun group beach game and / or proper sand castle tools can do just the trick.  Below are some suggestions that will please kids and adults alike when the time is right for a little extra beach day fun.

    CoolSand Advanced Building Sand Molds & Tools Kit – 37 pieces of professional sand castle engineering fun!

    Spikeball – A game the manufacturer says what happens “if volleyball and four square had a baby” – a 2 vs 2 game where you spike the ball in to a bouncy net for return service and rally and have 3 hits within your team to return it.  Travels easy and can be set up in a hot second! 

    Bulzibucket – This game consists of tossing a hacky sack (for those of you older enough to remember when those came out) into a series of three stacked buckets.  The smaller bucket on top scores the highest while the largest on the bottom scores the least.  We liken it to the beach version of Skee Ball.  Very fun and simple – especially when you don’t want to break a sweat. 

    Kan Jam - Relatively new to the scene, this portable disc game combines some elements of frisbee golf, cornhole and basketball.   In teams of two people, take turns throwing or deflecting the disc across the yard, beach, or park at your opponents' goal - 21 points wins, or go pro and slot the disc for an instant victory. 

    Himal Collapsible Portable Corn Hole – An extremely portable and easy to set up take on the classic game.  A must! 

    A good lightweight bocce set – While you can certainly bring your standard set to the beach, that extra weight can add to your load and without a flat, hardpacked area of sand, you won’t get any roll.  We suggest finding a good set geared more for any shoreline environment. 

    Kadima – Don’t forget this classic paddle ball game.  Easy to carry and you can create a myriad of games – no net needed!

    Finally, don't forget the tunes so having a good portable speaker that's waterproof and can handle a little sand is key.  A few good options include:

      • The JBL Flip - The Flip 5 is waterproof, sturdy build and provides terrific sound quality.  
      • Ultimate Ears - These speakers, especially the compact Wonderboom 2, get great reviews from users.  

    We hope this Good Stuff Guide will provide you a few ideas you hadn’t thought about that will either reduce the stress of packing, set up and break down and will add a few more smiles to your day at the beach. 

    You can also learn more about each of the products above by clicking here.

    If you have additional ideas on what we should add to this guide or suggestions for other post ideas in the spirit of The Good Stuff Unlimited, please let us know.  Until next time, here's to finding time for your Good Stuff!

    Dave @ TGSU

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