Pack a Great Beach Bag

Home   /   Pack a Great Beach Bag

A day out at the beach is a relaxing proposition, but it's easy to forget one key thing – sunscreen, water, lotion – that can end up ruining everything and maybe forcing an early retreat. Use this guide to ensure you've got at least all the basics covered before you venture out.

1) Sunscreen

Perhaps the most important item, a good sunscreen of at least SPF 30 should be packed. Be careful to examine the sunscreen labeling closely to ensure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. An unmarked bottle will generally only protect against UVB. Look specfically for products that contain avobenzone, zinc oxide and mexoryl. Check the expiration date also – sunscreen is required by the FDA to retain it's potency for at least three years, so if there is no expiration date you may want to ask a store clerk if they know how long the bottles have been on the shelves. Chapstick or lip balm should also be considered, as well as an aloe vera gel (available at most any drugstore or supermarket) for application in the event of burns. Be aware also that UV rays penetrate even on cloudy and overcast days.

2) Sunglasses

Sunglasses are a good idea to protect the eyes, which are as sensitive to UV rays and damage as the skin is. In the United States, check the rating to ensure they are up to the ANSI standard. Glasses labeled "special purpose" or "UV 400" are claimed by the manufacturers to block out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.

3) Baseball cap, or wide brimmed hat

Needless to say a baseball cap needs to be worn forwards to offer any protection. Any sort of wide-brimmed floppy hat is also helpful and they can usually be folded and packed easily. I've had good luck finding such hats at military surplus stores, where I got my current one for $2.

4) Beach Towel

Old bedsheets often make for an excellent inexpensive beach towel. Any towel that fits your body is good, retail discount stores often have something on sale for as little as $2 or $3 (I got my beach towel in spring at a Long's Drugstore on clearance for $1). If you're going swimming you might consider a shammy, which usually come in their own little plastic tube, for drying off.

5) Water

Don't forget to grab some adequate drinking water as the beach may not have facilities. You can just grab a plastic bottle at the store, but one of the things I like to bring is a Bota Bag (also sold as Spanish wineskin) which when full doubles effectively as a pillow.

6) Extra clothes

It's good to have some light protective clothes on hand in case you get burned or things cool off suddenly, or if you're going home late after the sun sets. "Breakaway" workout pants (also called athletic pants or track pants) are a nice lightweight choice along with perhaps a long-sleeved t-shirt and/or a windbreaker. Just remember that cotton doesn't offer particularly good sun protection.

7) Snacks/food

Should go without saying, but a lot of beaches are remote and don't necessarily have facilities nearby to get food and drinks, so be sure to check ahead if you're out all day and prepare accordingly

8) A good book!

Patronize your local library and check something out, use this opportunity to improve your mind a bit while you enjoy the weather!

9) Sandals or flipflops

So you don't get sand all in your shoes yet have some protection from sharp stones, shells, discarded heroin needles, medical waste, etc.

10) Folding/telescoping beach chair

Not a necessity, but something interesting to consider is a folding or telescoping beach chair. Many of these are small and light and now strap on like a backpack for easy carrying. I've seen these commonly at sporting goods stores, drugstores and retail stores in the spring and summertime.