Growing up, my family absolutely loved the beach, whereas I mostly associated it with lugging a lot of gear and eating sand-filled sandwiches. Now that I have my own kids, and I see how much they enjoy collecting seashells, digging for creatures, and splashing in the waves, I’ve gained slightly more appreciation for going down the shore (I’m from New Jersey, obviously). We still schlep all of the standards: chairs, coolers, umbrellas, and so on, but it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Goody Ouchless Braided Hair Elastics
Why is it that something that costs just pennies is the most crucial item to bring? Having a hot mess on the back of your neck is infuriating when it’s 100 °F. I always have several hair ties in my bag because my kids inevitably need one as well.
Ice-filled water bottle
Takeya Actives Insulated Water Bottle with Spout Lid (22 ounce)
I carry two double-walled tumblers to the beach: one filled with water and one filled with ice. That way I can access clean cubes whenever I need them instead of some loose ice that’s knocking around a dirty cooler. This water bottle (or better yet, the 40- or 64-ounce version) has a wide mouth so you can fill it to the brim with cubes, and it will keep its contents cold for hours.
For more options, see our water bottle guide.
Fieldcrest Casual Solid Washcloth (12X12″)
If your beach is anything like mine, an ice cream truck driven by a teacher working their summer job rolls up every 30 minutes, and the kids beg for treats. With fresh water at a premium, I soak a washcloth at home and put it in a zip-top bag, making a reusable wipe that gets rid of seawater and melted ice cream stickiness. You can use water-based wipes for this as well.
For more options, see our towel guide.
Arc’teryx Sinsola Hat
I used to be partial to visors so I could top-knot my hair and keep it off my neck, but after one-too-many hairline burns and the resulting dandruff-like flaking, I now grab whatever hat is around to protect my precious scalp.
For more options, see our favorite sun hats.
Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch
It’s ironic that this lanyard, which comes with a locking top to protect your phone from sand and salt, has “cool” in the name, because I feel decidedly uncool when I wear it. But that doesn’t matter, since it helps keep my $1,000 electronics damage-free.
For more gear our staff loves, take a look at our favorite things to bring to the beach.
This article was edited by Christine Ryan and Ben Frumin.