Beach towels and beach read? Check. Plenty of ice-cold bevvies? Yep. An array of SPF options (plus UPF-50 long-sleeve tees, just in case)? Oh yeah. There’s just one thing missing: The best bag, tote, or pack to haul all of these essentials (and plenty of “just-becauses,” too) from Point A to Point Beach.
In many ways, your stuff-hauler is the unspoken hero of any day in the sand. “Beach bags are essential to a day at the beach because they provide a way to transport, protect, and organize all of your necessary beach gear,” says Kristin Billings, a travel advisor specializing in beach vacations and Disney destinations. “A great bag can make your day easier and more organized, so you can have more fun at the shore.”
So no matter what you put in the bag (and we have lots of helpful suggestions) and regardless of where you’re going (Snorkeling off Catalina Island, perhaps? Or sun-worshipping on Maui’s Kāʻanapali Beach?), make sure you have the right vessel.
Considerations for choosing your perfect beach bag
Of course, the ideal beach bag for parents juggling plastic sand toys and eight hours’ worth of juice boxes is going to be far different than the best tote for a resort traveler who’s only hauling a snazzy pair of sunglasses and a good magazine (after all, the swim-up bar is just a sand mound-away).
Keep these tips in mind as you begin your personal search for “the one”:
- Size matters. When in doubt, go bigger, says Abbey Hester, who co-founded beach-side event company, The VB Picnic Co., with her twin sister Hayley. “It stinks to invest in a bag,” she adds, “and then go to actually pack it the day-of and realize you can’t fit all of your beach goods.”
- Organization prevents frustration. Whether you choose a larger bag with built-in pockets or use smaller receptacles to keep valuables separate from snacks, you’ll save a lot of hassle and avoid arguments (“I told you to put the keys somewhere safe!”) by staying organized.
- Durability is key. Don’t be the person who yard-sales halfway between the car and their spot in the sand. Or the one who turns buying a new beach bag into an annual Memorial Day tradition. Look for options ready to withstand the sun, saltwater, and sand—even if it means spending a little more money upfront.
- Consider the bag’s cleaning potential. Machine-washable? Ready to be hosed off? Mesh or straw to let sand slide through? Pick a bag you can clean to your own immaculate (or good-enough) standards.
- Match aesthetics to your personality and situation. The Hester sisters prefer neutral-colored bags because they accent the taupes and earth tones of a beach setting. Laura McGee, owner of Fort Myers-based boutique Ives Curated Gifts, on the other hand, looks for “bright and sunny” shades. Beyond color, Billings recommends considering the occasion. “Do you just need something for super casual, family days at a beach?” she asks. “Or are you looking for an accessory to compliment your resort wear?”
Ready to find your perfect beach bag? Here are our top nine picks.
Allpa 60L Gear Hauler Tote - Del Día by Cotopaxi
Best overall beach bag
- Buy now: $90, cotopaxi.com
- Pros: Space for everything (and a small kitchen sink), heavy-duty durability, made with repurposed materials, easy to spot even on a busy beach
- Cons: None really, though you might get tired of fielding compliments
Our travel experts agree that when it comes to beach bags, bigger is better. “It needs to be oversized, so you never have to leave the beach once you get there,” says Hayley Hester. “You need to be able to fit your entire life inside of it.”
At 60 liters (in other words, big enough for a toddler to curl up inside its semi-structured walls), Cotopaxi’s Allpa Gear Hauler definitely fits the “go big or go home” bill. But that’s not all this mega beach bag has going for it.
With longer tote handles, shorter side-grip handles, and snatch handles on the sides, users can carry this hauler in a multitude of ways. A ballistic nylon (Read: uber durable), water-resistant exterior laughs in the face of errant splashes, while a bevy of pockets (one on the outside, five on the inside, including the central compartment) keep you organized. Need to batten down the hatches for an especially long cross-beach trek? No problem, thanks to the two top compression straps.
And then there are the colors. We’ve sung the praises of Cotopaxi’s Del Día initiative before—repurposed fabrics mean one-of-a-kind products sewn in fair labor-certified factories—but when it comes to simplifying the process of distinguishing your beach site from all the rest, a king-sized, rainbow-hued beach bag is certainly an asset. On top of all that, the brand backs its products with a lifetime warranty and donates one percent of its revenue (through the Cotopaxi Foundation) to nonprofit partners helping to fight extreme poverty.
Camp Tough Tote Bag by Mountain Hardwear
Best beach bag for organization
- Buy now: $75, mountainhardwear.com; backcountry.com
- Pros: Lots of pockets, made using recycled materials, comes in neutral tones
- Cons: Exterior pockets mean what you packed is on display
If Marie Kondo ponied up for her perfect beach bag, we’re confident Mountain Hardwear’s Camp Tough Tote Bag would be her pick. Featuring six pockets that circumnavigate a central abyss, this tote bag’s organization-forward design ensures beach days remain care-free rather than stress-full. “You have to have multiple compartments so you can stay somewhat organized within the bag,” Hayley Hester says. Otherwise, your belongings get “all jumbled up on top of each other and become a huge mess. You want to know where to go for all of your items.”
Available in two neutral color ways (Hunter Green and a beige dubbed “Scout”), the Camp Tough Tote is constructed with 1,200-denier, abrasion-resistant, fully recycled polyester by a brand committed to making the world a better place through non-profit partnerships (including its most recent venture with Leave No Trace) and sustainable practices.
Black Hole MLC Cube by Patagonia
Best beach bag organizer
- Buy now: $65, patagonia.com; backcountry.com
- Pros: Made from recycled materials by a certified B Corporation, water-resistant, versatile
- Cons: Expensive (for a packing cube)
If your bag doesn’t come with pockets—or perhaps it does but you want even more—it’s worth investing in a smaller container, McGee advises. “Maybe one pouch is for all your wet stuff like the suits at the end of the day; a second pouch is for headsets, phone, and SPF lip gloss; and then another pouch could be for snacks,” she says. “It just makes your day easy if you have separate bags for each.”
Billings agrees, noting, “I really like a smaller interior bag that can hold your keys and sunscreen and smaller items–maybe a little waterproof bag with a zipper.”
Certainly, a gallon food storage bag—or heck, a plastic film grocery sack—could serve this purpose in a pinch; however, while the price is right for those options, their durability likely won’t cut muster, and as single-use items, they’re not sustainable choices.
Instead, check out the options from Patagonia, a certified B Corporation and founding member of 1% for the Planet that distributes all funds not reinvested in the business to initiatives that help fight the climate crisis. All of its Black Hole packing cubes are made from burly, weather-resistant, fully recycled fabric that’s Fair Trade-certified sewn. We’re partial to the new-this-spring MLC (that stands for Maximum Legal Carry-on) because of its two-part design: a compressible, roll-top upper compartment and separate, zippered base. The Goldilocks-approved size is just right no matter how you use it: big enough as a stand-alone beach bag or small enough to toss into the gullet of a larger tote. Consider yourself a minimalist? The 3-liter Black Hole Cube will hold your wallet, keys, and phone (but not much else).
Sandy Tote by Clare V.
Best stylish beach bag
- Buy now: $145, clarev.com
- Pros: Double-take-worthy style, sand easily filters out
- Cons: Sand easily gets in
“My top recommendation for a beach bag is to choose something that allows the sand to filter through, so it doesn’t collect at the bottom of the bag,” Billings says. “That might be a straw bag or a mesh bag that can fit a good amount of stuff.”
If you share Billings’ aversion to taking the beach back home—and most of us do—then the Sandy Tote from female-founded fashion brand Clare V. may well be your holey grail. Designed specifically for days lounging along the coast, the Sandy’s loose weave construction effortlessly filters out stray sand particles with just a few easy shakes. We also love how the braided, cotton rope construction provides a stylish twist on the typical tote silhouette.
Measuring 16 inches wide and 12 inches high, this chic sack can easily hold your book, sunglasses, and even a towel, but you might want a bigger option if you’re stocking up for an all-day beach outing. You’ll also want to store items that shouldn’t get wet or sandy in a separate, smaller bag.
Beverage Bucket by Sea Bags
Best beach bag to carry a six-pack
- Buy now: $75, seabags.com
- Pros: Made from repurposed sailcloth, handmade, more than 20 designs to choose from
- Cons: Single-purpose design
Trips to the beach often yield lasting memories: A question popped at sunset that left only one knee sandy; your child’s first splash in the ocean; a wish-you-could-forget-it sunburn. In a way, your beach bag facilitates this memory-making process. Invest in one from Sea Bags, and your handmade tote will bring along a deck log’s-worth of history all its own.
Each of the brand’s products is made from sailcloth that formerly propelled a vessel along the waterfront of Portland, Maine. Most of these sails end up in a landfill when they get too tattered and worn to fulfill their purpose; Sea Bags ensures that at least some get a second life. To date, the woman-founded business has repurposed roughly 1.5 million pounds of sailcloth into duffels, diaper bags, and a variety of home decor items and accessories.
Candice Thiele, the top salesperson at Ives Curated Gifts in Fort Myers, Florida, says she loves how products from Sea Bags are both durable and easy to clean. Plus, “they’re vintage,” she says. “They’ve been places.”
Sea Bags’ 96-ounce Beverage Bucket features a half-dozen interior pockets perfectly sized to hold your six-pack of choice. (Just remember: Most beaches don’t allow glass bottles.) Then simply fill up the central pocket with ice, use the trendy hemp rope handles to carry your thirst-quenchers to the beach site, and enjoy. A grommet on the bag’s bottom lets the ice-turned-water drain out. Spill a little soda on the bag? No worries. The Beverage Bucket is machine-washable.
The Virginia Beach Tote by North End Bag Company
Best multipurpose beach bag
- Buy now: $185, northendbagcompany.com
- Pros: Versatile, timeless styling, hand-made, water-resistant
- Cons: Expensive
Plan on flying to your beach destination? Billings advises looking for a versatile beach bag that can serve double-duty as both a seaside companion and trusty carry-on. Lovingly hand-crafted in a shop just four blocks from the Virginia Beach oceanfront, North End Bag Company’s signature Virginia Beach Tote is one great option. It pairs a handsome, water-resistant, waxed canvas exterior with leather straps to create an aesthetic that’s rugged enough for everyday use but refined and ready for first class. The sleek slip pockets ringing the exterior could house flip flops or plane snacks, while inside, additional compartments offer storage for goggles or electronics.
The Hester sisters are huge fans of this tote in particular—and not just because it shares a name with their favorite beach destination. “They’re handmade bags, so obviously they’re going to be a little pricier, but they last years,” Abbey Hester says. “You’ll be able to use it summer after summer.”
The Packable Backpack by Away
Best compressible beach bag
- Buy now: $75, awaytravel.com
- Pros: Hands-free carry option, lightweight, compressible
- Cons: Material wrinkles easily
At first glance, Away’s Packable Backpack looks like any other lightweight backpack—albeit one made entirely of recycled, water-resistant nylon. Wide, lightly padded shoulder straps ensure even heavy loads carry comfortably, while a top handle provides grab-and-go functionality. Its size and durability impressed one verified buyer who raved, “It’s much larger than expected and was really easy to get in and out of (which was frequently the case handing out sunscreen, phones, and everything else my family needed). Love the color, style, and material. I’ll be buying more for holiday presents.”
But wait—with a crease here and a squish there, voilà! Your hands-free beach bag becomes roughly the size of a tofu block (or for you carnivores, a sizable filet mignon). In true Houdini fashion, the Packable Backpack stuffs into a small zip pouch for easy, out-of-sight transport. It’s also a bag from a brag-worthy brand. A female-founded business, Away is a member of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association and partners with travel-focused nonprofits like Global Glimpse, as well as Foster Love (formerly Together We Rise), which provides assistance to those in and involved with the foster care community.
Alder Lake Tote by Kavu
Best mesh beach bag
- Buy now: $55, kavu.com; rei.com
- Pros: Sand easily slides out, family-owned and operated business
- Cons: Not made from sustainable materials
It seems only fitting that fun-focused outdoor brand Kavu—whose name draws inspiration from the aviation acronym “clear above, visibility unlimited”—would offer a sun-and-sand-ready stuff-hauler. Enter the all-new Alder Lake Tote. Loaded with storage spots (five pockets outside, plus a hanging zip pocket and another slip pocket inside, not to mention the large, central compartment), this see-through beach bag lets sand organically slide out through its mesh exterior. Plus, if one of the littles drips mint chip on the bag, simply hose it off when you return home.
While Kavu overall has sustainability initiatives in place—the brand works with some bluesign-approved suppliers and sources some earth-friendly fabrics—the Alder Lake Tote specifically doesn’t highlight them other than in its hang tag (made from recycled paper and printed with vegetable dyes) and the biodegradable bag the tote ships in.
R-Jaunt 20L Cooler by Icemule
Best insulated beach bag
- Buy now: $170, icemulecoolers.com; rei.com
- Pros: Impressive insulation, hands-free carry option, made of recycled ocean waste
- Cons: Minimal storage compartments
Hot days call for cold beverages. And if there’s nary a tiki hut in sight, then it’s up to you to bring the party—and by party, we mean Icemule’s all-new R-Jaunt 20L, which is made using recycled rPET ocean waste nylon and fully recycled plastic components. Fully waterproof and boasting dual foam and air insulation, this sizable beach bag (it’s available in 15-liter and 9-liter versions too, though they aren’t made from recycled materials) promises more than 24 hours of ice retention.
Inside, you’ll find a single, cavernous hole ready to store up to 15 standard, 12-ounce cans (plus ice), while outside, a single external zip pocket can store credit cards or earbuds away from the wetness. Best of all, the Jaunt’s backpack-style carrying system (complete with padded shoulder straps) means your hands are free to hold your kiddo’s hand or to flag your buddies over to the party site.