How to Pack for Every Beach Trip This Summer
Best Stuff is GQ’s destination for finding the perfect version of whatever you need, like the only 9 things you need to remember before a day of doing absolutely nothing on the beach.
When 90+ degree heat and high levels of humidity combine forces to create an extra-hellish stretch of summer where everything feels swampy, there's no better relief than a day trip to the beach. And if you're within driving/hiking/mass-transit distance of a stretch of sea and sand, here's a major pro tip: Keep a pre-packed beach bag at the ready, so you can grab it and head out the door without scrambling to find some sunscreen. After all, there's nothing better than just getting your towel down and soaking up some rays (but don't soak up too much!). Here's our guide on how to pack to ensure every weekend beach trip is just what it should be: relaxing AF.
1. A Haul-All Tote Bag (That Doesn’t Look Like Everyone Else’s)
Nail this part and you're halfway to a perfect beach day: Get a big-ass bag and toss all your stuff in it. The extra-large Lands' End canvas tote has multiple interior pockets, plus one outer one, and is made from no-fuss canvas. If it gets wet or dirty, no big deal. You can get your initials embroidered on it, so no neighboring folding-chair dwellers will mistake it for theirs. To maximize your bag's space, roll your towel instead of folding it, use one pocket for small things like sunglasses and sunscreen, and the other for magazines and books. Then you still have more room in the bottom for other stuff—like everything below.
Pity the fool who brings his $200+ designer sunglasses to the beach. When they are inevitably lost or ruined, he'll only have himself to blame. Which is why you should bring a pair of capital-C Crap frames to your oceanside adventures. Crap Eyewear specializes in just that—fun, affordable styles that are good-looking enough to be seen in proudly in public, but cheap enough not to cry over once they wash out to sea.
If sunglasses are a place to save, your towel is where you should splurge—and hard. It's the one item that will upgrade your entire beach haul, like a phoenix-embroidered satin bomber jacket that you'd wear with a T-shirt and jeans. And there's no better beach-style flex than a towel from luxury Italian label Missoni. Featuring the brand's iconic zigzag design, the towel is a mashup of colors that are eye-catching without going overboard. And make no mistake, this is a solid purchase. It's made from top-quality cotton and comes in a generous 39" x 70" size. It's as cozy to lie on all day as it is absorbent when you need to dry off after a dip in the ocean.
4. Low-Key Sandals (That You Can Also Wear Off the Beach)
Boat shoes are dead, and while flip-flops are fine, they're not going to win you any style points in 2017. The stylish off-duty footwear of choice right now is the minimalist, effortless slide sandal. Pack a pair in your beach bag so that you can avoid that painful hot-sand dance on your way out to the water's edge, and also so you'll have something stylish to wear should you go out after your day baking in the sun.
Cut beautifully to hit above the knee—but not too high—and tricked out with side slant pockets, a back patch pocket, an elastic waistband with ties, distinctive side stripes, and Thom Browne's signature grosgrain tab, these shorts are subtle yet distinctive and can be worn in the water and out to eat afterwards.
Because "no shirt, no service" is still a thing, we suggest packing both a T-shirt and a button-up. Jungmaven's perfectly slouchy hemp tees (laid-back beachwear if ever there were any) are so lightweight, you'll barely know you're wearing anything; they are the perfect thing to put under your head when you're laying down all afternoon. Which is why we'd suggest also packing a button-up shirt that won't just upgrade your look when you're leaving—especially if you're not heading home—but will also keep you from having to put back on the tee you've been sweating in all afternoon.
If you do one damn thing at the beach, please make sure it's that you slather your skin in SPF. At this point, you know you have to, even if you really want that golden glow. But listen, it's your skin we're talking about, and when you look wrinkly and old at 36, there's no turning back the clock. And yes, we're serious about the 50 SPF we're recommending here: Trust us, you'll still get tan.
Once you know how to pack well, you need to know how to pack smart. And for a trip to the beach, that means packing a Ziploc bag. Why? There's nothing worse than the wrong move that puts a heap of sand on your towel, your food, and, worst of all, your phone. So to keep yourself from having to pick grains of sand out of your iPhone's speakers with a toothbrush, put it in a quart-size plastic bag (where, yes, you can still use its touch screen) with your wallet, keys, and anything else you wouldn't want winding up encased in crusty sand.