Post Summary: All the lake essentials you’ll need, including what to wear, things to bring to the lake, the best gear for the lake, and fun activities for a memorable day out on the water.
Lake life. Lake Days. Lake living. Does your blood pressure instantly drop just thinking about it?
Admittedly, I was late to the lake life scene and happily spent summer chasing every breezy saltwater aquamarine beach in the world. Now that we live 365 days a year next to the largest lake in Idaho…I get why everyone wants to wear cheesy shirts that proclaim their love for “lake life.” Did I say cheesy? I meant exceptionally cool.
Whether you’ll be lounging lakeside on a beach or partying up on a boat, I’m sharing what I think are absolute lake day essentials and a few extras that are fun things to bring to the lake but you can skip if you’re short on space.
Use these recommendations to make your own customized lake packing list.
*This Lake Essentials post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you! We only recommend products and services we truly think are helpful.
PACKING LIST FOR LAKE TRIP
Here’s a quick checklist of what to bring to a lake.
- Bathing Suits
- Water Shoes
- Cover Up
- Dry Clothing
- Wet Bag
- Quick Dry Towels
- Bug Spray
- Lake Food
- Water Bottle
- Water Jug
- Can Insulator
- Bottle Opener
- Tote Bag
- First Aid Kit
- Life Jacket
- Waterproof Bag
- Phone Charger
- Beach Chairs
- Beach Tent
- Beach Umbrella
- Beach Blanket
- Inflatable Kayak
- Inflatable Paddle Board
- Books/ Magazines/Audible Books
- “Lake Life” T-Shirt
LAKE ESSENTIALS: THINGS TO TAKE TO THE LAKE
Now, let’s break it down further and go through the essential lake items and our recommendations and tips for our favorite products.
Pack a bathing suit, or two, or three for your lake vacation. I like the brand Cupshe for their affordable bathing suits that range from a size XS-4X. This is the first bathing suit I bought from them off Amazon, and I love it. It’s inexpensive and has lasted for many swim seasons. At first, I would buy off of Amazon, so I could easily return it if it didn’t fit right, but now I prefer to buy direct from them so I can see their entire line of bathing suits.
I also LOVE the bathing suits from TA3. They’re expensive, there’s no way around it. But the hype around it is real. Check them out for yourself and you’ll see why they are amazing for all different body types.
QUICK DRY SHIRT
A quick dry shirt is a great option for men and women who need sun protection on their chest and back. My husband is a redhead and wears this UPF 50+ sun shirt to protect his Norweigan (super white) skin. It’s great because he can wear it in the water and wear it as a shirt. Also, the hoodie means he can protect his neck and head. The less sunblock you have to wear, the better!
For women, I like the Yoga Women’s Hoodie since it can be a cover-up out of the water and it can be worn in the water if you need full body sun protection at all times. It also has a cuter fit and design, making it ideal for someone who wants something stylish feeling.
Kind of obvious, but get yourself some sunblock to protect your skin. While you’re at it, get a sunblock that’s safe for the water and all the animals and plant life calling the lake home. I like Blue Lizard sunscreen because it’s fragrance-free, reef-safe, and paraben-free. It goes on white but blends in with a good rub.
A list of lake day essentials has to include your favorite pair of sunglasses. Warby Parker is the place to go for high-quality sunglasses. I like that they’ll send you (for free) five pairs of sunglasses to try out. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Amazon has a wide variety of hip-looking sunglasses. You can browse through their selection here.
Whether you’re going baseball bat, bucket hat, visor, or straw hat, you’ll want something to protect your face while enjoying the views. While I love the look of a straw hat, I’ve learned that the best sun hats fold for easy packability and have a string so they won’t blow away. I love my packable sun hat from Sunday Afternoons.
Lakes tend to have rocky bottoms, so bring a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from rocky edges and hot sand. You can go with conventional water shoes, but we prefer to wear the Jefferson shoes from Native. They are most popular as children’s shoes, but they offer them in adult sizes, and they’re amazing!
I love them because I can wear them as my everyday shoe and then wear them straight into the water. Anything that reduces the amount of stuff I have to bring is a big benefit! You can see adult Jefferson shoes HERE and kids Jefferson shoes HERE. You can also buy them off of Amazon, but I find they don’t have as many color choices, and I’m always a little unsure if I’m getting the real thing.
A pair of flip-flops or sandals for when you’re lounging around on the boat or walking around town.
Lakes can be breezy places, so bring a cover-up or hoodie for when you need a little extra warmth.
Time at the lake typically means swimming and getting wet. Dry clothes (and underwear!) will be much more comfortable when you’re done swimming and want to lounge around comfortably.
While you’re at it, bring a reusable wet bag to put all your wet clothing in. I like the cute patterns from Bumkins. While a plastic bag can be used, a reusable one will cut down on single-use plastic. Plus, I like that they can easily be thrown into the washing machine when you’re done.
QUICK DRY TOWELS
I’m a big fan of using thin quick dry towels when we’re spending a day at the lake. You can go for a Turkish towel like this or a microfiber quick-dry towel. I like them both because they dry quickly, are lightweight, fold up small, and don’t hold on to the sand. They are very thin, so don’t expect them to feel like a thick terry cloth bath towel. That’s the point of it though – it’s the perfect travel towel!
Lakes tend to be near wooded forest areas, so when the temperatures rise, and ALL the bugs come out, you’ll want some DEET-free bug spray like this to keep the biting creatures away. I also like this bug bite soother in case you’re like me and prone to mosquito bites.
If you’re going to the lake for a day, you’ll need a small cooler with enough food and drinks for everyone. We use the RTIC Soft Cooler for day trips because it’s leakproof, easy to haul around, and….it can float in the water! Perfect for tubing days. When we need to lug a lot of food and drinks, we use the RTIC Ultra Light Cooler. The thing is a beast and is guaranteed to keep your food and drinks ice cold. It’s a great all-around cooler for camping, fishing, and days on the lake.
Stock up on snacks and treats for your day out. Salty snacks and cold fruit are always good choices when looking for what food to take to the lake. You can check out our post about the best road trip food for more inspiration.
Make sure to bring an insulated water bottle with cold water. We stick to Hydroflask because we love their color choices, and we like that our drinks can stay ice cold or piping hot for 24 hours. You can compare prices and colors for Hydroflask on Amazon or Hydro Flask.
If there’s a large group of people, you might want to pack an insulated large water jug like this 2-gallon jug from Stanley so you can continually refill on water.
Is there anything worse than a lukewarm beer on a 90-degree day? Skip the koozie, and get yourself a Yeti Rambler to insulate and keep your beer or any canned beverage refreshingly cold all day long.
Yeah, you don’t want to be on the boat and realize you don’t have a bottle opener for your wine or beer. Pack a bottle opener!
A bag for packing up all your lake essentials is another must-do. Any bag will work, but sometimes it’s nice to use a see-through mesh bag to pack up all your belongings. A mesh bag like this is an excellent option because it has multiple compartments for storing things, and its mesh design allows you to quickly shake off the sand at the end of the day.
If you want something that isn’t see-through and is a little more stylish, I love the boat vibes of this waterproof, blue, and white striped day bag.
FIRST AID KIT
A first aid kit is standard when doing any outdoor travel. You can make your own first-aid kit with bandaids, Tylenol, Aspirin, gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, instant cold packs, gloves, and medical tape. You can also opt to buy a first aid kit that’s put together for you.
If you’re renting a boat, there will most likely be life jackets for everyone. Always double-check, though! If you’ll be kayaking, canoeing, or bringing your own boat, make sure to have enough life jackets.
A waterproof bag that can come with you on your kayak or can be worn around your neck is perfect for holding valuables like your wallet and phone. We use Earth-Pak bags, and it’s always kept everything dry. I also like that it comes with a waterproof phone case.
Make sure you have a power bank to charge your phone. We use a power bank like this but also like to use our solar charger. We like that it’s durable and has a waterproof shell, making it perfect for a lake day.
When jotting down a list of things to take to the lake, don’t forget comfy beach chairs if you’ll be hanging out lakeside. We use our camping chairs since they’re portable, lightweight, and waterproof. If you’re wanting something lower to the ground, these lightweight camping/beach chairs are highly rated on Amazon.
While getting roasted by the sun was fun when I was 18, now I’m looking for shade whenever I can get it. I like the UPF 50+ pop-up tent from Easthills Outdoors. When choosing a tent, make sure to get one that easily pops open, so you don’t have to spend 30 minutes putting your beach tent together.
If you have a large family, you might want an extra-large pop-up tent like this so everyone can enjoy some shade.
If you want something smaller than a beach tent, you can’t go wrong with a big beach umbrella. We like the Sport-Brella because it has vented sides and side flaps for extra protection. Check here for reviews and prices.
I tend to use my beach towel as my blanket, but sometimes it’s nice to have a dedicated beach blanket that’s the drop-off zone for all your lake essentials. You can go old school and bring a sheet from home, but I prefer a sand-proof, waterproof blanket like this that comes with stakes or weighted sides.
A fun day at the lake needs to include tubes for floating on the water. Every time I go to the lake, I marvel at all the different types of floaties out there. Do you want an oversized flamingo, Pegasus, or seashell float? A full lounger that you can lay in all day? Or a classic round tube? Then there are the deluxe floaties that are like a giant party float in the water. Whatever you do, don’t forget your pump!
The perfect lake toy for hanging out with your friends and family is an inflatable dock from Aqua Lily. It’s perfect for road trip travel since it comes in a packable bag with a pump. The dock is spacious! It can fit up to seven adults. We always put it out for the day and everyone has a blast.
INFLATABLE WATER TOYS
Bring an inflatable paddleboard or inflatable kayak if you want to explore on the water. I know…an inflatable stand-up paddleboard doesn’t sound very reliable. But they are amazing and a great option for saving space! You can just throw it in the car, rather than have to tie a kayak to the roof of your car. I like the retro feel of the Restrospec paddleboards, and I also like that it comes with a pump. Another good option is the FunWater Paddleboard.
When thinking about what to bring to a lake, don’t forget about a selection of fun games to play in or near the water. You can go the classic route and bring a water frisbee and water paddle boards or you can try new games like Bottle Bash.
If you’re looking to laze at the lake and have no interest in running around chasing a ball (my people!!), don’t forget to pack a book or download an Audible.
LAKE LIFE T-SHIRT
While you’re at it, embrace the cheese factor and wear a shirt proclaiming your love of all things lake life.
Pack up your lake essentials, and have a great day out on the water!
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