The sun, the sand, the surf—there’s nothing quite like a day at the beach! The shore is truly one of our favorite places to relax. Of course, there’s nothing relaxing about taking multiple trips from your car to your spot in the sand, lugging bulky beach equipment, or fighting with tricky latches to get your gear set up. We’re minimalists at heart, and we know that more stuff doesn’t make for a better time.

Here’s our beach day must-haves list, pared down to just the essentials with a focus on unwinding.

Sun Protection

Sun protection is first on our packing list, because for a day spent in the sun, protecting your skin should always be number one. Your options for sunscreen are virtually unlimited, but we recommend looking for the words “broad spectrum” (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and “reef safe” (meaning it’s free of chemicals that harm coral reefs).

Your sun protection stash should also include lip balm with SPF, a pair of good-quality sunglasses, and a visor or sun hat. Not much of a hat person? No problem—check out the next section for an alternative.

A Comfortable Chair

We love having our toes in the sand, but the rest of the body? That’s a different story. Whether you like to recline, rock, or sit upright, a comfortable beach chair is essential for relaxing on the beach. And if you choose wisely, you can axe a few bulky, freestanding items from your packing list—namely, the blanket, cupholders, and umbrella or shade tent. That’s because some of our favorite beach chairs have a built-in UPF50+ sun canopy, which is both adjustable and collapsible, plus beverage holders to keep hydration at your fingertips.

On the SunShade Recliner™, another fave feature is the reclining mesh backrest that keeps you cool and comfortable. With built-in backpack straps on the included carrying bag, this 10.1-lb. chair is easy to carry right to the shore (especially since you can ditch the umbrella!)

The GCI Waterside SunShade Recliner™ makes any day a perfect beach day

For those who prefer to rock their way to relaxation, try the Pod Rocker™ with SunShade Beach Chair. A mesh sling-style seat cradles your body while keeping you cool, and the gentle swaying motion combined with the sun canopy transform the beach into your personal oasis (no matter how crowded it is).

No sun glare, no problems in the GCI Waterside Pod Rocker™ with SunShade Beach Chair.

Towel

Even if you have no plans to swim, a beach towel is sure to come in handy. To keep your gear manageable, look for lightweight microfiber towels, which take up much less room, dry quickly, and repel sand.

Bags, Bags, Bags

Even with the most minimalist packing list, your pockets alone won’t carry all of your beach gear. Invest in a tote bag built for the beach—look for a strong, durable fabric (bonus points if it’s washable!) or for a mesh bag which can filter out sand. You’ll also need pockets with zippers or snaps to keep your valuables from getting lost.

To keep your phone safe from waves, splashes, and spills, you may also want to pick up a waterproof phone case—but to keep things simple, a Ziplock bag can also do the job.

And don’t forget trash bags! It’s imperative to carry out what you carry in for the protection of local wildlife, and those extra bags will also come in handy for wet swimsuits and dirty towels.

Life’s a beach in the GCI Waterside Sun Recliner

A Well-Stocked Cooler

The right cooler for your trip will depend on how many people you’re packing for, but in any case, you’ll want something lightweight, with the ability to stay cold the entire day. Load it up with frozen ice packs (which keep things neater than bagged or loose ice) and your choice of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. Fruits and veggies are a great choice as they can help you stay hydrated, but salty snacks like chips and pretzels are supremely satisfying on the beach—try to strike a balance!

If your cooler has an exterior pocket, this is the perfect place to stash napkins, silverware, and a bottle of hand sanitizer.


What else should be on your list? Whatever will help you relax and enjoy the day, whether that’s a good book, a frisbee, a kite, or a portable speaker.