The summer is nearly over, and I am not emotionally prepared to start thinking about back to school or cooler weather yet. So here is a roundup of the gear that has been getting me and my family through the summer and preparing us for the dog days in both style and function.
I have tried nearly every type of sun shade for the beach possible, and I thought it was a sisyphean endeavor. The Shibumi Shade changed all that. A single extendable aluminum pole and a sheet of light yet UPF30 ripstop polyester with a four-minute setup offers you wind-powered sun cover for yourself, your gear, and five others — or a bunch of napping kids after a long morning. Plus, it breaks down into a carrying case the size and weight of a rolled-up beach towel. All it needs is 2 mph of wind (which is an incredibly common ocean breeze) and you’re set for the day.
To buy: $250, shibumishade.com
Speaking of beach towels, on the whole I find them frustrating. They pill, take forever to dry, and get so heavy by the end of a day on the sand. Enter a Turkish Towel, which you can find at Huckberry, which is light, quick-drying, and comfortable. A set of four of these takes up less space in the bag than one of the traditional bulky ones, and the designs are less “’80s freebie beer towel” and more “cool local textile I picked up on vacation in the Mediterranean.”
To buy: $17 (originally $42), huckberry.com
Yeti Trailhead Chair
I generally find beach chairs either too low or too flimsy, and carrying them is an exercise in balance and tensile strength. This is why the Yeti Trailhead Chair is a game changer. It folds into its own carrying case and sets up as quickly as any other chair, but it’s actually sturdy and comfortable on the beach, at the campsite, or next to the fire pit. In a pinch, any of Yeti’s amazing Tundra hard coolers also make incredible seating, if you don’t mind standing up to share the drinks occasionally.
To buy: $300, yeti.com
Similarly, I have a love-hate with beach bags. I like my stuff organized but easy to clean after the sand gets in. It needs to be big enough to take the towels, water bottles, extra clothes, and keep the phones and Kindles safe, but not be too heavy itself. I started to see Bogg Bags around and now swear by them. The rubber material is tough and rigid but comfortable to carry and lightweight. They repel sand and water with a quick brush-off and even have a waterproof insert for your tech and important items. Parenting tip: get one for your stuff and another for beach toys, kids love the bag as much as what goes in it.
To buy: $90, boggbag.com
Big River Dry Bags & RUX Collapsible Tote
For the wetter days on the water in a kayak or when the waves get rough, it’s nice to have a dry bag ready for a change of clothes and the electronics. The Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bags are tough and waterproof, but easy to carry or strap to your boat or back. I also use them for packing up the car, where I pair it with the extremely useful and equally rugged RUX Collapsible Tote. This thing has all the benefits of a cardboard box with 10 times the sturdiness and lifespan, and it collapses down to keep in the car for further runs to the beach or grocery store.
To buy: $28, seatosummit.com & $265, huckberry.com
RTIC River Tube
There are plenty of cheap but interesting inflatables for the pool, from pizza slices to unicorns to even a pug face. But the classics are classics for a reason, and the humble innertube got a major upgrade from RTIC with their Tough River Tube. It features PVC plastic and a woven cover which keep it protected in nature or in the backyard, and a backrest and cup holder add comfort to the toughness. It also features rope anchors to let you link to other floaters and recreate a lazy river no matter the body of water.
To buy: $90, rticoutdoors.com
Tupelo Zephyr Flyer Tree Swing
My kids begged me for a tire swing this summer (they must have seen one on an episode of Bluey), but I remembered a wasp nest forming in the one at our playground growing up and knew there had to be a better option. Tupelo Goods makes sturdy and aesthetically pleasing takes on the classics, from wagons to outdoor furniture to cornhole, and sure enough they make an incredible tree swing as well, the Zephyr Flyer. It’s easy to install, safety certified, and treads the visual line between modern and vintage so your front yard looks idyllic.
To buy: $165, tupelogoods.com
PK 300AF Grill & Smoker
I have preached the gospel of the kettle grill before, but I am here to tell you that there is a new go-to outdoor cooking vessel in my life: the PK 300AF. Building on both the 70-year history of the PK grill and the lauded legacy of pitmaster Aaron Franklin, the PK300AF is the epitome of versatility as it is both a grill and smoker, with superior heat retention and tightly controlled air flow for both direct and indirect cooking. It adds a retro feel to your setup and allows you to go from smoking brisket low and slow to searing steaks on high heat with less charcoal than any other grill out there.
To buy: $750 (originally $800), pkgrills.com
Breeo X Series Smokeless Fire Pit
Fire pits are all the rage now, and the Breeo X Series is not only one of the most high-end, but it’s also the pioneer in smokeless fires, so you get the most comfortable and easy-to-maintain blaze all night. Whether you get it free-standing or build it into your outdoor stone setup, it’s the best-looking pit on the block. And with a plethora of cooking attachments, including a kettle and hook for stews, a searplate griddle for chops, and a fully adjustable grill, you can make a meal for all those revelers of your open, no-smoke flame from the summer through the fall. Don’t forget to pick up a Pit Command multi-tool stoker as well, to move those logs around safely for the perfect slow burn.
To buy: $599, brio.co
Ten Thousand Lightweight Shirt
This summer I made a promise to myself to counteract all the tequila and grilled meat with lots of outdoor activity. Unfortunately, that means lots of sweat, which is why the Ten Thousand Lightweight shirt has been my go-to for hikes, runs, and yoga. Paired with their Set shorts, which are waterproof and gym-ready, I can end the workout with a jump in the ocean or pool and be dry to drive home in just a few minutes.
To buy: $54, tenthousand.cc