16 must-haves for your Memorial Day beach weekend getaway

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  • Memorial Day is nearly here, and for hoards of us, that means a long-awaited beach weekend.
  • That also means it might be time to toss out the ratty old towels, congealed sunscreens, and leaky coolers.
  • Here are some of our favorite tried-and-true products to bring to the beach on Memorial Day weekend.

It's 2019, and before you head out for this year's inaugural beach weekend to celebrate our service members, let's get a few things straight: Chemical-based sunscreens aren't just killing the reefs, they could even be hurting you, so it might be time to switch to mineral-based ones.

Then there are umbrellas, which aren't just cumbersome; they blow away and hurt people (they are also notoriously flimsy and prone to breaking), so maybe it's time to switch to a more portable tent-like beach shelter.

There are also plenty of good sunglasses you can bring to the beach and not worry about losing, so leave the Persols at home and grab a pair of these (they even float in water).

And sure, there's a lot of fuss about Yeti coolers, and they are great, but they're kinda heavy, and you don't need all that insulation for a day at the beach. Try something a little more carry-friendly like AO Coolers' vinyl series for your sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.

You'll have to take this one for what it's worth, but similar to Dave Barry and his endless hunt for the perfect breakfast beer, I am on an eternal endeavor to discover the ultimate beach blanket, and I really think I've found it this time.

Lastly, aren't there enough forsaken plastics in our oceans yet? How about some biodegradable beach toys for the kids?

Read on for 16 of our favorite beach-day essentials:

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Floating sunglasses

Floating sunglasses
Rheos floating sunglasses, available at Amazon, $55 (various models)

If you're anything like me, you've lost a pair or three of sunglasses at the beach. Leave your fancy shades at home and grab a pair that floats. Polarized, shatterproof, and hydrophobically finished, these glasses are the ones to take along on a (light) ocean dip.

A stealthy beer bottle coozie

A stealthy beer bottle coozie
BottleKeeper Stainless Steel Bottle Holder and Insulator, available at Amazon, $39.98

Not that we condone it, but no one will have a clue you're not drinking water (if you are, in fact, not drinking water), and you'll also be able to cap off your brew and take a dip (or stash it when beach patrol shows up), and it won't be warm or flat when you return.

A clean, mineral-based sunscreen

A clean, mineral-based sunscreen
All Good Organic Sunscreen Butter, available at Amazon, two 1-ounce tins for $20.99

Here at Insider Picks, several of us have been searching far and wide for the best, most easily-applicable, and least harmful sunscreen we can find. This year, All Good is our favorite: It goes on smoothly and evenly, and leaves a minimal white caste that's gone in an hour or so, in our experience. We haven't tried their new tinted version yet, but if you do want a tinted option, check out Raw Elements' Face and Body (which comes in a bigger tin and works well for us, but spreads more thinly).

A portable outdoor chair

A portable outdoor chair
Oniva Picnic Time Fusion Outdoor Folding Chair, available at Amazon, $85.99

One major problem we all encounter with beach chairs is that we have to carry them. A four-way folding chair eliminates some of the problem with a shoulder strap, but the ONIVA Fusion backpack chair has backpack straps that fully free your hands to carry the mountain of other gear you've foolishly, unnecessarily lugged out to the beach — if you're anything like me, that is.

If not, then you can easily manage to fit just about everything you need for a day at the beach into this all-in-one chair because it comes equipped with a side table, cooler, and pockets galore.

An affordable, carry-friendly cooler with supreme ice retention

An affordable, carry-friendly cooler with supreme ice retention
AO Coolers in various sizes, available at Amazon, $57.49-$99.95 (12-can to 48-can)

AO Coolers foregoes a lot of fluff for the sake of cost and what counts, which is what's on the inside. In this case, that includes a heavy-duty, abrasion-resistant liner and some high-density foam. The zipper isn't watertight, so don't go turning this cooler upside-down, but it will keep everything cold for a day and then some, in my experience.

A biodegradable (and disposable) cooler

A biodegradable (and disposable) cooler
Igloo Recool 16-Quart Cooler, available at Target, $7.99

If you're traveling or on the go and don't have a cooler at hand, it's time to give up the Styrofoam kind from the grocery store. They're not all that great for the environment, but then is there really anything to like about them? They make that horrible screech every time they scratch up against something, and they're so delicate and flimsy that they usually break on their initial outing. Igloo's new solution, the Recool, doesn't only hold up better; it's biodegradable. I also purposefully let a bag of ice melt inside of one and left it for five days and it didn't leak. For under $10, you'll get a lot of mileage out of it, and if you're leaving it behind at the end of the trip, well, it's no more skin off of your nose than the old styrofoam stuff (though it might be a weight off your conscience).

A watertight backpack cooler for a more involved excursion

A watertight backpack cooler for a more involved excursion
Hydro Flask Soft Cooler Packs, available at Hydro Flask in 15-Liter and 22-Liter sizes, $206.91-$224.95

If you're camping or hiking this Memorial Day weekend, you might consider a backpack cooler. We like Hydro Flask's. It's small, lightweight, and loaded with external pockets for odds and ends, so if you pack thriftily and lightly, this could be the only bag you'll need to bring along.

An eco-friendly, disposable coconut-charcoal grill

An eco-friendly, disposable coconut-charcoal grill
CasusGrill, available at The Grommet, $14.95

If you're planning to do some impromptu beach grilling this summer, consider CasusGrill. It's not only 100% biodegradable, but it is also a blast to cook on. The whole thing tidily assembles in seconds, and in a single-digit matter of minutes, you can throw just about anything you want onto it. You'll also get an endless string of compliments from jealous passersby.

A silky-soft brushed cotton beach blanket for dusk

A silky-soft brushed cotton beach blanket for dusk
Faherty Adirondack and Sherpa Blankets, available at Faherty, $128-$168

This isn't the piece you lay in the sand and spill salsa upon. It is, however, the blanket you'll want to wrap yourself in to watch the sunset with a glass of wine or sing kumbaya by the fire. As you like.

Mayde Turkish towels

Mayde Turkish towels
Mayde towels, available at Urban Outfitters, $79

Ideal for lounging and drying, this is your all-around beach towel that's lightweight, so it's easy to pack and carry. I've tried most of the line out, and each and every one is my new favorite peshtemal towel.

A secure changing towel

A secure changing towel
Rumpl Shammy Towel, available at Amazon, $59

Yes, enough with the towels already, I know. But three is a magical number, and if you'll be changing on the beach, this third and final suggestion, which comes complete with securing buttons, might just save you some major embarrassment.

A lightweight, easy-assembly beach tent

A lightweight, easy-assembly beach tent
Pacific Breeze Easy Setup Beach Tent, available at Amazon, $69.99

Umbrellas are often heavy, unwieldy nuisances, especially in a stiff breeze. If you want something a little more manageable, a beach tent might be the way to go. Despite being slightly more complex to assemble, they're lightweight, much more packable, and tend to provide better shade and a degree of privacy, which we can all appreciate (especially on Memorial Day weekend).

A sand play set for your Rugrats, made from recycled plastic

A sand play set for your Rugrats, made from recycled plastic
Green Toys Sand Play Set, available at Amazon, $21.55

The Green Toys Sand Play Set is small and doesn't come with a whole lot, but it probably has the best chance of lasting a season out of any plastic beach toy set we could find, and these are, after all, the essentials.

Really, apart from maybe a Kindle, what else does a child or an adult really need for entertainment at the beach? Made from BPA-free recycled plastics, the kit includes a bucket with a sturdy rope handle that won't break, a shovel, a rake, and a sand castle mold, which is all it takes to build the beach fortress of your wildest dreams.

Hats to keep you from getting burned

Hats to keep you from getting burned
Sunday Afternoons hats, available at Amazon, starting at $15.16

Lightweight, crushable, and moisture-wicking, Sunday Afternoons has hats in all styles from the urban-chic Havana to the all-out Adventure Hat (which the brand itself suggests you not be caught dead wearing in the city), Sunday Afternoons covers all the style bases.

An affordable and well-organized beach cart

An affordable and well-organized beach cart
Rio Brands Deluxe Wonder Wheeler, available at Amazon, $75.99

By now, you might be thinking you need a little help carrying things. Rio Brands' Deluxe Wonder Wheeler is a good, affordable option for most people, but if you're doing any heavy toting (e.g., surf fishing gear, metal detector, etc.), the Wheeleez Heavy Duty Beach Cart is the more rugged (if expensive) pick that won't let you down.

A restorative, after-sun skin tonic

A restorative, after-sun skin tonic
Make Succulent Skin Gel, available at Need Supply Co., $25

And after all that sun, how about a little tonic? This gel from Make is made with aloe vera, prickly pear, chamomile, calendula, and comfrey, and it's our favorite after-sun skincare treatment.

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