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Heading to the beach is the quintessential summer pastime. For some of us, dipping our toes in the ocean is a near-daily occurrence. For others, a beach excursion is the big summer trip they plan a long time for. Once you’re there, though, you may wish you had a few items that would make the experience even better. Maybe a cap for your open can of soda, a wagon that can wheel everything to that perfect spot on the beach, or something that helps you brush sand off your legs and bags.
If you’re prepping for the beach and want to have the best experience, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the necessities that Wirecutter staffers won’t hit the beach without.
Water Rover Dog Bowl and Bottle ($18 at the time of publication)
My favorite thing to bring to the beach is Missy, my shih tzu. If she’s at the beach, her Water Rover Dog Bowl and Bottle set is there too.
The minute she hits the sand, she goes wild, running up and down the beach and digging around until she’s exhausted and thirsty. The Water Rover set is compact enough to carry with me, along with her leash and poop bags. And it clips onto my belt when I need both hands free to stop Missy from snooping in other people’s beach bags.
I bought this at a street fair thinking I’d just leave it under the car seat so I’d always have some water for her, but we use it every day now. It’s a lot more convenient than using a separate water bottle and collapsible bowl, especially because you can just tip the Water Rover back to pour any unslurped water into the bottle again.
—Brent Butterworth, senior staff writer
Miasun Convertible Sun Shade Tent ($140 at the time of publication)
I love the ocean and beach days, but my freckled, fair skin cannot stand a lot of direct sunlight. I need a reliable, sizable source of shade, which is why I love this convertible sun tent.
This sun shade adjusts to a few configurations of various heights and widths to accommodate different needs, whether that’s one person lying on the sand, a few people gathered under a higher tent, or a full-configuration setting for bigger groups. The Miasun tent comes in a handful of fun patterns, too, and it’s easy to set up and take down. And I like that there’s less wrestling needed to embed the umbrella pole deep enough in the sand. The support poles on the sun tent aren’t as cumbersome or tall as on some other models, and the pegs anchoring the tent fabric easily sink into and hold in the sand. Packing up is a quick job that takes minutes. The entire tent fits into a case that can be slung over your shoulder.
—Alex Vaughn, product manager
Huckberry Mediterranean Turkish Towel ($23 at the time of publication)
My parents lived in Turkey when I was born, so my mom always had a bunch of Turkish towels on hand for our beach days. The Huckberry version is hand-loomed in Turkey, and it’s just as lightweight and beautiful as the ones from my youth. The Huckberry Turkish towels dry really quickly, and they’re very durable since they’re made of long-staple cotton. And because they’re so light and come in such lovely colors, you can wrap one around you like a sarong if you head to a beachside bar or restaurant. Turkish towels also fold down into little bundles, so it’s easy to tuck a few into a beach bag.
—Holly Gallo, copy editor
Otterbox Elevation 10 Tumbler ($20 at the time of publication)
My husband and I got two of these insulated tumblers for a camping trip, but we’ve found they’re also perfect for bringing tea to the beach. The double-layer interior keeps our tea at a piping-hot temperature—so much so that I tend to add a touch of cold water to reach my perfect heat level. My husband prefers his tea at a “this could burn you” level, so he especially enjoys these mugs. We love these for our morning beach walks or for late afternoons and evenings spent on the sand, watching the sun go down.
—Nena Farrell, updates writer
Quiksilver Men’s Solid Streak Long Sleeve Rash Guard ($40 at the time of publication)
As someone with very fair skin and a general aversion to sitting in the heat for extended periods of time, I’ve struggled with preventing sunburn and staying cool when taking the family to the beach. And because I live in Florida, these are problems I have to find really good solutions for.
Since I discovered long-sleeve rash guards, I’ve been able to enjoy trips to the beach. I don’t have to mess with reapplication of sunscreen. And once the rash guard is wet, it keeps me cool for long periods—not only because it keeps moisture close to my skin but also because I can feel even the faintest breeze. Wearing a rash guard has transformed my time at the beach, extending my enjoyment beyond just reading in the shade and constantly nursing an insulated thermos of ice water. I can actually build sand castles and go for long walks now!
—Erik Erickson, director of platform engineering
Jokari Can Caps ($8 for a four-pack at the time of publication)
I use a Jokari Can Cap every time I’m enjoying a beer or a soda outside. This item may seem so insignificant that it wouldn’t be worth spending a few bucks on, but I’ve found these can covers to be incredibly practical. Not only do they keep bugs and debris out of your drink, but they also protect the rim from collecting sand. The cover clips on the top of a standard-size can, and it has a small tab that lifts up when you want to take a sip of your beverage. The color coatings on the tabs can also help you and your friends distinguish whose drink is whose. And people—including me—who always use a napkin to clean off any germs from the rim before sipping can rest assured that their lips are touching a clean surface they recognize.
—Haley Perry, updates writer
Corkcicle Unicorn Magic Canteen ($40 for a 25-ounce tumbler at the time of publication)
The Corkcicle didn’t win high praise for insulation in our guide to the best tumblers, but I’ve got no complaints with the sleek canteen collection. A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a 25-ounce model in a shimmery color called Unicorn Magic. I love that it’s thin enough to slide easily into a beach bag without taking up much room, and it can hold a full bottle of wine (minus a pesky 0.4 ounces). The Corkcicle keeps premixed cocktails—or any other drink—ice-cold all day. And though I can’t call this an official Wirecutter test, I once discovered stray ice cubes still clunking around inside after I’d left this tumbler on the floor of a hot car for a few days.
—Joshua Lyon, editor
Mac Sports Collapsible Folding Outdoor Utility Wagon ($120 at the time of publication)
When we visit our family in California, we always try to sneak in at least a few trips to the beach. In the past, that usually meant my husband and I had to be strategic about throwing beach chairs over our shoulders and toting bags stuffed indiscriminately with towels, sunscreen, sand toys, and snacks while scurrying across the hot sand to stake out a spot. (Don’t ask how we responded if any of our three young children asked us to carry them too.)
Once we settled into a spot, we’d stay for hours. Yes, we love the surf and sand. We also dreaded packing everything up and reversing our beach “commute.” Last summer, we finally got wise and bought a collapsible folding wagon, and, let me tell you, beach trips have never been sweeter. Nothing compares to the relaxation I feel when loading all our doodads into the wagon and sauntering down the walkway with a peaceful toddler on my hip.
Fair warning, this Mac Sports wagon does get a little stuck in the sand, especially when it’s loaded up. Had we paid more attention, we probably would have bought the Mac Sports Heavy Duty version, which Wirecutter recommends specifically for sandy terrain due to its larger wheels. Even so, we love our Mac Sports wagon, and the little bit of lugging and tugging we have to do on the sand has never made us miss life without a wagon.
—Marilyn Ong, supervising editor
GRRRLS Beach Towel ($80 at the time of publication)
I’m obsessed with my new beach towel, designed by artist and musician Seth Bogart (some content is NSFW). The GRRRLS Beach Towel is covered with illustrations of album covers from post punk/new wave icons like Grace Jones and Pylon, collaged together like the cover of every zine I half-ass started as a teenager. At $80, this thing is absurdly expensive for a utilitarian item, but it weighs almost 2 pounds and is softer, thicker, and more absorbent than any towel I’ve ever owned. Plus, I don’t mind spending extra to support queer-owned small businesses. The first time I used it to stake out a lounge chair at a pool party, I got three different compliments on it—exactly the kind of conversation-starter I need when standing around half-naked in front of a bunch of strangers.
—Joshua Lyon, editor
Johnson’s Baby Powder ($4 for 9 ounces at the time of publication)
Instead of stopping at the rinse station when you’re leaving the beach, dry off with a towel, and take some baby powder to your legs and feet so the leftover sand brushes away. But first make sure to towel-dry as much as you can or you might create a paste (video). The baby powder removes the remaining moisture that causes sand to stick to your skin. Plus, this old lifeguard trick works for more than just your body—apply baby powder to your vinyl beach items (beachballs, swim caps, etc.) for the same effect.
—Lauren Dragan, senior staff writer
Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Phone Case ($10 at the time of publication)
Sand, salt, and water are probably three of the worst things for your phone, but I can’t possibly leave mine at home. I tried using a zip-top bag, but it just wasn’t cutting it. Instead, I now pack a lanyard phone pouch, similar to the kind people use at water parks. I still have to take my phone out of the zippered plastic pouch to snap a photo. But because the lanyard hangs around my neck, I won’t drop it, and my phone can return to the safety of the pouch after I get my shot.
—Annemarie Conte, deputy editor
It's Chill Week at Wirecutter! Read more about ways to cool down and get the most out of summer.
Nena Farrell was an updates writer covering smart speakers, wireless TV headphones, tabletop radios, and digital photo frames, among other things. She was previously an associate editor at Sunset, and is currently a writer and reviewer at Wired.
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Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).
© 2023 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company
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