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The Best Beach Bags and Totes for a Day in the Sun (and Sand)

Your usual backpack won't cut it along the coastline.

three beach tote bags

Summertime calls for a trip to the beach (or at least the pool or lake). But you can never go unprepared. (See below for a full list of what to bring.) Once you’ve gathered all your beach goods together, it’s time to put it all in a bag. For that, you need a beach bag.

What Is a Beach Bag?

Beach bags come in all manner of styles, but the best ones are durable, have enough space to hold your personal effects plus your seaside accouterments. These aren’t exactly your everyday tote bags, but they could function as your daily driver. Whether your speed is an all-natural approach with a burly canvas bag, a high-tech tote with sophisticated water-repellant coatings and a grip of zips, daisy chains and pockets or a bottomless bucket you can stuff with ice and cans of beer, there’s a tote out there begging you to go to the beach.

What to Put in Your Beach Bag

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    Best Overall Beach Bag
    Herschel Alexander Insulated Zip Tote

    It's almost as if the designers at Herschel crafted their Alexander tote specifically for the beach. (They did.) It's insulated to keep cool drinks cold and leakproof to keep wet bathing suits or melting ice from pouring out of the bottom. Plus, there are three exterior pockets, reinforced handles and a zip-top closure. This iteration comes in an assortment of colors, but plain black is always a safe bet.

    Best Upgrade Beach Bag
    Graf Lantz Boat Bag

    After a long hiatus, Graf Lantz's Boat Bag returns. But it isn't just the same old bag it was before. The brand's reinvented it, replacing different parts and improving the construction where needed. For example, although it doesn't look it, the merino wool bag is indeed water resistant, making it equally appropriate on shore as it is on the deck of an actual boat. But for folks who'd rather use it every day, too, there's a 13 inch laptop sleeve, a phone pocket and a zipper to close the thing up. The handles are leather, too, and so is the bottom.

    Best Affordable Beach Bag
    L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

    It’s hard to talk about tote bags without mentioning the legendary Boat and Tote from L.L. Bean. Originally made to haul loads of ice, these make for a perfect tote for hot beach layouts. You’re usually limited to just two picks in the triangle of price, style and quality. Somehow, the Bean’s managed to get all three points. They’re affordable, they look great, and they last a long, long time. They come in a variety of sizes and colorways, each of which looks better with age.

    Yeti 35 Carryall

    If your beach essentials include beer, beer and more beer — or maybe a stash of seltzers — then this is the bag for you. Yeti's lined tote doubles as a cooler. (Even though the brand explicitly says this bag is not a cooler, I've filled it with cans and poured ice overtop. It isn't insulated, so the ice will surely melt, but the cans stay cold for quite a while.) It can also carry plenty of other dirty or wet items: a sandy wetsuit, soaked swim trunks, a sunscreen-covered T-shirt or messy snacks. It's a versatile, very light bag with plenty of room inside.

    Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote

    Patagonia’s Black Hole bags are seriously tough. I’ve used a Black Hole duffle to carry well over 100 pounds of equipment, so this bag can definitely hold your sunscreen and beach towels. It’s made of 14 ounce 900-denier recycled polyester ripstop fabric that’s coated with a weather-resistant TPU-film laminate and DWR and includes an external zip pocket as well as daisy chains for any add-ons you might have. If the massive 61L size is more than you need, they also make a more reasonable 25L version, too.

    Noah Mesh Beach Bag

    A mesh bag is always a smart choice, because the sand can flow right out of it, and, if it fills with water, it's easy to pour out. But Noah's Mesh Beach Bag is more than just a throwaway. It's well-structured, comes with comfortable straps and a drawstring closure. Plus, there's a zippered pocket inside for valuables — so they don't get lost in the sand.

    J.Crew Seaport Tote

    Although most — myself included — would advise against taking a standard canvas tote to the beach, especially one this expensive, I've found J.Crew's Seaport Tote to be plenty practical. Its myriad pockets offer compartmentalized storage for essentials and extras alike, and it comes in a few beach-friendly colors.

    Battenwear Mesh Tote

    This mesh bag is a lot smaller than Noah's, and it's way less structured, but that's okay. You shouldn't overpack for the beach. And, honestly, this is just the right size for your essentials — and your essentials only. The mesh helps sand and water pass right through, while the double strap ensemble lets you carry it over your shoulder or across your body.

    Pacific Tote Company The Catalina Tote

    Each of the Pacific Tote Company's bags are made in California using durable #8 Duck Canvas. But they aren't your usual colors. Instead of plain ecru, the brand uses bright hues like magenta, orange, green and teal, often together, too — like with The Catalina (seen here).

    Resails Rope Tote

    How beachy can one bag get? Resails’ Original Recycled Sail Tote bag plays up the nautical theme, upcycling vintage sailcloth to make its one-of-a-kind bags. Sailcloth is a great option for bags because it’s lightweight and super strong. To make matters even more durable, Resails also lines its bags with oxford nylon for extra protection and water-resistance.

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