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Beach Bag 101 – A Survey Of Common Practices

August 17, 2012

For the avid beach-goer, the selection of things that goes into your beach bag is a science, honed by many summers of experience, many holidays of frantically searching for THE PERFECT SUNSCREEN that you forgot to pack, & many afternoons lying on a beach thinking, “I wish I’d brought my book”.

Clearly, there are personal style questions at stake here.  Are you a beach blanket person, or just a beach towel?  Sarong or coverup? Books or iPod?  With so many options, and so many ways to “beach”, we’re considering this a survey course.  Below we offer three beach bag combo suggestions – each tailored to a different way we like to spend a beach day.  Take our hard earned, paid-for-with-sunburn wisdom and make sure the you never hit the beach unprepared!

The Standard Beach Day

Beach Bag #1This is our most common beach experience… head out in the morning (not too early for us, usually, more like 10:30 or 11am), pack some snacks, some water, a book, sunscreen.  Pretty basic stuff right?  Here are our essentials:

Beach bag:  We went with a small to medium sized canvas duffle, zip top with an outside pocket.  It’s big enough to toss everything in with no problem, but not big enough to lose a small child in (you know the bags we’re talking about).

Towel:  When it comes to towels on a day like this, we like to do it right.  The bigger, the better, and it must be plush.  Who wants to lounge around on a thin, yucky towel?  Also, we have  a partiality for bright colors… The better to see you near, when your friends show up.

Extras: Sunglasses are a must, clearly.  We prefer polarized lenses, but anything is better than nothing when it comes to protecting your eyes.  As far as sunscreen goes, lately we’ve really be loving Beyond Coastal’s Natural Clear Sunscreen, SPF 30.  It’s zinc based, but goes on clear, so there’s no worrying about the ever so chic chalky look.  Bonus: it’s reef safe & biodegradable, so it won’t harm the delicate ecosystems here in the VI.  Another important feature of the beach bag: a book or e-reader, or alternately headphones and a music source (iPod, your phone, a Walkman… whatever).  It’s the beach, bring whatever you need to veg out.  Ladies, we always think a sarong is a great addition to a beach bag as well – versatile for post-beach happy hour!  Most importantly, bring water!  It’s hot out there, stay hydrated… and stay green by opting for a reusable water bottle, instead of plastic (Ours here is from USVI Tourism).

Beaching By Boat (Or Yacht, Depending)

Some days you just get luckier than others, and in our world those days are generally connoted by boat trips.  Around here, said boat usually drops you on a beach somewhere you’re forced to drink cocktails and beer and sit in the sun too long (see #caribbeanproblems) – truly brutal.  For many reasons, packing a beach bag for a day of beaching AND boating is a highly specific endeavor.  Again, our essentials:

Beach bag: In this case it’s more like a beach basket than a bag.  There are lots of useful and activity appropriate bags we could have chosen, but we’re fond of this because it’s easy to load and unload – just toss in your food, beverages, captain’s hat, etc… and you’re ready to go!  At the end of the day, if you’ve eaten/drunk/lost everything in it, the bag is collapsible and easy to store.

Towel:  In this instance we like to go with a full size, microfiber shammy towel.  These are great because they’re highly absorbent, don’t take up much space, and double as a sarong in a pinch (honestly, what more could you ask of a towel?).  Our favorite right now is made by McNett.

To Wear:  When you’re spending an entire day in the sun, on the water no less, appropriate clothing is key.  In the morning you’ll be all about soaking up those rays, but by afternoon we predict you’ll be a little crispy, unless you’re vigilant about reapplying sunscreen.  For those, like us, who get a little lax after a few beers, we suggest UPF protective clothing.  We opted for a long-sleeved, hooded pullover for ladies by Under Armour , UPF 50, and a long-sleeved button down fishing shirt by Hook & Tackle,  UPF 35+.  Regular fabric is only about UPF 4, so it’s important to find something that will really protect you in the event of over exposure.  Also available in the market now are UPF protective hats, as well as pants.

Extras:  We can’t stress enough, sunscreen is so important.  We frequently take our aforementioned Beyond Coastal favorite on boat trips, but another great combo is to start with a base of SPF 50 or higher lotion, and then reapply regularly with an SPF 30+ sport spray.  The two step application system will help you avoid that splatter pattern burn/tan that sprays can sometimes induce.  In an effort to keep our ecological footprint as small as possible, we try to always bring reusable cups – our favorites are these tumblers from our neighbors The Friends of the VI National Park!  We also recommend: back up sunglasses in case you lose your primary pair, eyewear retainers to keep the glasses from getting lost in the first place, and an underwater camera with a camera float, so you never miss a fun photo op.

“Beach” As A Verb: The Active Beach Bag

The key difference between this bag and the previous bags is mostly the gear.  We opt for a mesh gear bag with a shoulder strap (this one’s from ScubaMax) – it’s easy to toss your snorkel gear, towel, water bottle, and sunscreen in this roomy bag.  Conveniently it also has a drain in the reinforced bottom, so you won’t be hiking back out with extra water weight!

To Wear:  For your feet we recommend a shoe or Teva type sandal that you can wear in the water and also hike in.  Here we show a ladies’ technical hiking/water shoe by Speedo, that looks like a running shoe.  Super comfortable to hike in, with or without a sock, depending on the terrain.  Lightweight, UPF protective clothing is likewise recommended.  Another must: Hats!  Something with a brim that goes all around, either straw/woven or a lightweight UPF protective sun hat.

Extras: This is a big one for any hiking beach day – bug spray!  So important – you’ll definitely kick yourself on that late afternoon hike home if you forgot it.  We also like to take an active sunscreen stick (shown from Beyond Coastal) for quick reapplication enroute.  For snorkeling, it’s also a good idea to remember anti-fog spray or gel (shown from McNett).  Again here we recommend a waterproof camera with a camera float, to capture memorable underwater moments (shown, Kodak disposable underwater camera).

No matter what you bring with you, a day at the beach is always awesome, but it sure can be helpful to have the right stuff along for the ride!  Did we leave anything out that’s on your “must have in beach bag” list?  We’d love to hear what you consider essential!

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