Note: The original intent of this article was to talk about outfitting your cooler for easier, more effective, outdoor use. Soon after I started working on it however, it blossomed into a full blown gear guide for a day at the beach with some “Father’s Day Gift Guide” undertones. So, I would add that the “Cooler Rig” listed below works exceedingly well almost anywhere you want to take it. Most recently, it was a hit down at the river on a lazy Sunday full of IPA, rainbow trout, and grilling. This rig is designed for you to choose your own adventure, for sure!
In the summer, there’s probably nothing as soul-satiating as a day at the beach. To be able to just let go for a little while and escape to the sounds of the waves with some fruity drinks is really quite magical. But a day at the beach can turn into a real chore depending on how much stuff you bring, how long you plan on staying, and who’s coming with you. Historically speaking, my family likes to descend upon the sand early in the morning and set up shop until sunset. You would think we’re moving in permanently with all of the stuff we bring. But I assure you, over the years we’ve found multiple function for all of it, including the cooler. That being said, the following is a collection of things that are tried and true and exist to make your day at the beach fun and relaxing.
PART ONE: THE COOLER RIG
At the core of any successful beach experience is the cooler. They come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to keep our food and drink fresh and cold on location. But the right cooler can be so much more than a mobile refrigeration unit – it can also be the ultimate gear hauler that makes your load in and load out smooth and easy.
The Cooler: Yeti Tundra 75
Since the cooler is the most crucial item that you bring with you, you might as well consider investing in one that you can count on to be rugged, resist the intrusion of sand, and last for years to come. I’ve recommended the Yeti Tundra 75 in the past for long term woodland excursions, and am recommending it again based on its durability, ability to keep its contents cold without question, and overall size, which is large enough to serve everyone in your party with ease.
Wheels: CanCrewser CanCommander
Adjustable to work with coolers from 25 quarts to 150 quarts, the CanCommander is a rugged platform on wheels that allows you to maneuver your cooler over a variety of terrains with ease. Height adjustable and featuring eight, ten-inch wheels, the CanCommander can pick up serious speed on pavement and is a breeze to tug across a sandy beach. It may seem like overkill, but once you use one you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done so earlier.
A note on set up: The CanCommander is pretty complex out of the box and may seem a bit involved to set up – but it really isn’t. However, I would recommend building it and adjusting it to fit your cooler at home – that way, when you set out to use it you can have a tool-free, easy experience.
Bungee Cords (Rope, Seaweed, Willpower…)
The lid of the Yeti Tundra 75 is a vast platform meant for you to stack stuff on top of it. With the aid of a couple of bungee cords, and the CanCommander, you can lash all of your gear down to make a singular trip from the family wagon to the beach. Think smart, not hard – no one wants to spend half a day at the beach hauling stuff to and fro.
PART TWO: HOME BASE
Just like a campsite, your spot on the sand is your palace – even if you’re just renting it for the day. It’s a place where you get to rest and relax, so you definitely want to make it your own. Most folks are fine with nailing down the perfect spot and throwing their towel down, but if you’re planning on hanging around for a while you might want to dig a little deeper into your gear closet.
Shelter: Sport-Brella Super-Brella
With the ability to provide shelter from the sun for two adults and two kids, the Sport-Brella Super-Brella is the innovative, SPF coated upgrade to the “beach umbrella.” Easy to set up, even on a windy day, the Sport-Brella stakes into the sand and opens like any other umbrella but has the added benefit of walls going across the back and sides of it. Need more shade? Check out the Sport-Brella XXL.
Power: Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel & Venture 30 Recharger
With all of that sun available to you, make sure it doesn’t go to waste by capturing it with the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel and storing it in their Venture 30 Recharger.
The Nomad 7 Plus is the first lightweight, weatherproof smart solar panel which not only allows you to charge your smartphone and the Venture 30, but also has a built-in Solar Intensity Indicator to let you know when you’re pulling in optimal sun rays, and an Auto Restart feature that stops charged your devices when they’re fully charged.
If you need to charge another phone or larger items like tablets and cameras, couple the Nomad 7 Plus with the Venture 30 Recharger. Waterproof and durable, the Venture 30 Recharger allows you to charge electronics in and out of the sun after collecting power from the sun with the panel.
Refreshment: GSI Vortex Blender
Jimmy Buffet might have been on to something when he boasted about being “wasting away again in Margaritaville” – a tale of enjoying some icy beverages on the beach. But in order to achieve a drink of that stature you usually need to run a high-horsepower blender. Unfortunately, doing something like that is like mowing your lawn before 8am on a Saturday: Uncool. Fortunately, GSI has you covered with their hand-crank, Vortex blender. A little bit of effort is worth it for all of that refreshment. We just leave ours in the cooler. You never know when the need for a fruity drink might arise.
Entertainment: Red Fox ROVER Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker with Suction Mount
Music on the beach isn’t about everyone around you, it’s about you – which makes the 3-watt output on the Red Fox ROVER Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker more than enough. Beyond supplying the soundtrack to your day, the ROVER has the ability to take and make phone calls and can last up to 14 hours on a single charge. The included suction cup mount allows you to stick this sucker on the side of your cooler and drift away like Dobie Gray!
PART THREE: MAINTAINING THE SHRINE
You can hide from the sun and lather yourself up in high octane SPF all day, but the reality of it is that a day at the beach usually means you’re leaving with a sun tan or a sun burn – and it’s usually the later. Knowing that, there a couple of essential items you can employ to lessen the blow and make your crispy transition more tolerable.
Julbo Coast Sunglasses
I won’t try to tell you that the Julbo Coast Sunglasses will let you see clear to the bottom of the ocean, but their Category 3 Polarized lenses will get you close enough while providing plenty of crisp clarity. More importantly, they’ll protect your eyes from the constant bombardment of sun which is par for the course at the beach. Additionally, they’re lightweight and durable so you can wear them all day – in and out of the water. They pair well with a sunburn and look great on you when you’re sucking down boat drinks!
Fjallraven High Coast Hoodie
The Fjallraven High Coast Hoodie is a cotton/poly blended warm fuzzy for when those sunburn chills set in or just when the wind picks up. Moisture-wicking and fast-drying, the High Coast Hoodie is the perfect piece of clothing at the beach and après beach while catching a bite to eat before heading home and lathering yourself in aloe.
BONUS: THE FISHERMAN
I’ve never been the type of person to relax, so lying around on the beach all day isn’t really my cup of tea – but I do enjoy my time out there, generally on the waves with the kids riding boogie boards and throwing Frisbees. Another thing I really enjoy doing is fishing and crabbing – which requires its own particular set of gear in order to do. Now, I won’t go as far as to recommend a rod and reel here – that’s not my area of expertise, but I do think I’ve nailed down a couple of bits and pieces you’ll enjoy.
Carolina CoolerWorks Premium Spinning Rod Holder
Designed to work with a variety of specific cooler makes and models, The Carolina CoolerWorks Premium Spinning Rod Holder is designed to carry two spinning rods mounted to the side of a cooler. Made from black powder-coated aluminum and featuring a PVC liner to cushion the rods, the benefit of this particular rod holder is that it doesn’t require any drilling to mount. If that doesn’t excite you, head over to Carolina CoolerWorks’ website and check out their cooler mountable Fighting Chair Rod Gimbal. These folks mean business. Imagine fighting a Marlin while sitting on top of a cooler?
Fishpond Blue River Chest / Lumbar Pack
The Fishpond Blue River Chest / Lumbar pack was designed for fly fishing, but I have found that it works great in all fishing environments. Not only does it provide ample storage with easy access, but the zip-down fly bench which acts as a front pocket is key for tying sinkers and jigs with ease. What’s more, you can wear it on your waist or on your chest to keep it out of the salt and surf.
So there you have it – a complete gear guide for your next day at the beach. What’s nice about this particular guide is that most of this stuff will suit you well in almost any environment that involves you sitting in the sun for prolonged periods – with or without water. Think about what that cooler rig and those Julbo shades could do for you at a music festival this summer. You could be sitting pretty. Do you know how many grilled cheese sandwiches, goo balls, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ales you can hold in a Yeti Tundra 75? That ROVER speaker wouldn’t be such a bad add-on for business either – do a little marketing with the sounds of Cornell 77? You’d be advertising love for free. You get the picture.