Bose speakers, Sperry boat shoes, and a waterproof phone case are just some of our must-haves.
I was six years old when my parents bought their first boat, a 1992 Crownline. I remember sneaking into the garage, tiptoeing my way across the waterproof seats to explore the secret compartments and cubbies (i.e., reading nooks) while no one was around. After our maiden voyage, we were all hooked, and spent every holiday or day off on the lake. My mom and dad slalomed, my sister kneeboarded, and I tried to see how much air I could get jumping the wakes on our neon tube, all while the sun warmed our lake adventures and a waterproof speaker offered the soundtrack for what would become some of my fondest childhood memories.
Simple trial and error quickly made us pros at packing our bags for the lake, with everything from emergency equipment to little items we forgot we needed until we were out on the water. It was only a 10-minute drive to the boat ramp from our house in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, but once we were far from the shore, we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed … and everything we wanted.
There was the time our boat’s engine overflooded, and my dad’s emergency rope came in handy for towing us back to the shore on the wake of a fellow boater. Or the time our shade canopy kept coming loose, so we zip-tied the rungs together so we could stay out until the sun went down. We even began a tradition of picking up sandwiches on the way to the lake and storing them in a cooler for a makeshift anchored lunch, only to find out the cooler came in handy for storing fish we didn’t expect to catch later in the day. Every item we brought had purpose.
Even today, after I’ve gotten married and my parents have moved, I still visit them on the lakes of Utah to spend summers tubing, fishing, and munching sandwiches from their boat. Although I’ve swapped tubing for surfing off the boat’s wake, nothing in my lake bag has changed since those early days living the lake life in Texas. They may provide the life jackets and toys, but here’s what I always bring.
ProCase Floating Waterproof Phone Pouch
No space is safe for a phone on the boat, unless it’s in a waterproof bag. I used Ziploc bags before I came across this floating version, and now I put my phone in this bag before I even reach the dock. The dual-sided clear material is touch-friendly, so you can take pictures or scroll TikTok while offshore.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Portable Speaker
Sure, many newer boats have incredible sound systems built in, but I always bring a portable speaker to save us from using the battery while it’s not necessary. We prop this waterproof Bluetooth speaker on the stern and hop in for a serenaded swim in the afternoon. It claims it can even float, but, thankfully, we’ve never had to test out that capability.
To buy: amazon.com, $149
Coho Cooler Bag
This soft cooler was a Costco impulse purchase years ago, but it has become my favorite lake cooler for so many more reasons than its perfect boat-trip size. It is 100-percent leakproof, which comes in handy for those times when a large Tupperware of sliced watermelon spills inside or while bringing home a half dozen lake trout in the cab of your car … and I’m speaking from experience.
To buy: amazon.com, $100
Sperry Women’s Float Slide Flat Sandal
I have lost many shoes to many lakes in my life, which is why I loved finding this slip-on pair from Sperry that floats. The low back of this shoe just barely hugs my heel, but it’s enough for it to stay in place while I’m walking (meaning no flopping or flipping). It also has great grip for walking on wet surfaces, but again, they had me at “float.”
To buy: amazon.com, $24
Cupshe Women V-Neck One-Piece Swimsuit
If you’re planning to sit on the boat all day and never get in the water, by all means wear a bikini. However, if, like me, you hope to immerse yourself in the experience, go with a one-piece. Trust me, it just takes one time getting up on skis and finding out that your swim bottoms didn’t make it up with you to realize why a one-piece is the superior boat choice.
To buy: amazon.com, $34
Hotouch Oversized Button-down Shirt
There are so many options for cover-ups out there, but I love this oversized button down because I can wear it by itself or tie the ends together so I wear it with shorts. It’s lightweight and breezy enough for hot days, but it also feels great to slip back into after being in the water. It’s also machine-washable, which is a requirement for any boat gear of mine now.
To buy: amazon.com, $30
Laguna Beach Textile Co. Beach Towel
In my experience, the worst feeling is a too-small, too-thin towel once getting out from the water and into a boat. This oversized towel (70 inches by 35 inches) wraps around the body with ease, and it is absorbent enough to still offer some dry warmth even after a solid toweling off post-swim.
To buy: amazon.com, $44
Sea Bags Recycled Sail Cloth Bucket Bag
This bag was made for a boat … and also made from parts of a boat. Constructed with cloth from recycled sails, these bags can handle a little lake water. I like the bucket style version of this bag since it tucks nicely into any open spaces on the boat (specifically beneath the co-pilot seat!), but they also make larger totes that are great for storing towels for a larger crew.
To buy: amazon.com, $60
Blue Lizard Water Resistant Mineral Sunscreen
This water-resistant Australian sunscreen brand is my go-to anytime I’m near the water. It’s free from things fish and reefs don’t like (i.e., chemicals, oxybenzone, octinoxate, etc.) and free from stuff my skin doesn’t like either (i.e., parabens and fragrances). I typically reapply this SPF 50 every 80 minutes when I’m in and out of the water, but I stretch that time longer if I’m the one driving the boat.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Bajio Sunglasses, Soldado
I discovered Bajio Sunglasses on a fishing trip out in Florida, when I was the only one not sporting a pair and the only one who didn’t land a big catch. I’m not saying the glasses affecting fishing luck, but I am saying I went out and got myself a pair right away. Bajio glasses are polarized and block 95 percent of blue light, making visibility on the water super clear. I wear my Soldados daily, on and off the boat, and catch as many compliments on my rose gold frames on land as I do fish while on the boat. Bonus: their warranty and repairs program for their lenses is verygenerous.
To buy: amazon.com, $199
Well-Strong Waterproof First Aid Kit
Any first-aid kit is better than none, but this waterproof kit was designed for being on a boat, and even comes in a roll-top dry bag, which my family has even repurposed for transporting ice. It includes everything you’d need for minor injuries and scrapes (think: waterproof bandages, tweezers, etc.), but it even has an emergency whistle and compass.
To buy: amazon.com, $24
UV Protected Zip Ties
I’ve amazed myself with how many times I’ve put these 12-inch plastic ties to use while on a boat. They’re great for quick fixes like securing floppy canopies, but they really come in handy during windy days or at high speeds when you can “lock” loose items, like a floppy beach bag, in place so they won’t blow away.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Whether you own your boat or are renting it for the afternoon, I can’t recommend these towels enough. Boat windshields get splashed on constantly, and, let me tell you, water spots do nothing for visibility. A quick wipe with these cloths and you can see clearly once again. We use these for wiping the boat down once it’s back on the trailer, because, again, #waterspots.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Better Boat Nylon Marine Rope
Most boaters will already have a few of these water-resistant ropes on hand for pulling tubers or skiers, but our family always came prepared with at least one extra just for emergencies. We’ve used this rope for towing other stranded boats or for tying up to shore during a summer storm.
To buy: amazon.com, $36
Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Bottle
If you value a cold beverage on a hot day, this insulated water bottle is for you. It can keep your drink cold for up to 24 hours and it won’t leak … even if you leave it upside down in your beach bag for 12 of those hours, which I’ve done. It comes in three sizes too (18 ounces, 21 ounces, and 24 ounces), so plan your liquid consumption accordingly.
To buy: amazon.com, $21
Toadfish Non-Tipping Can Cooler
To this day, the phrase “Everyone, hold on to your drinks,” conjures up high speeds and summer evenings on the boat. Those boat cupholders? Useless against half-full cans of soda. This can cooler changed the game for me though. Not only does its rubber base stick to any non-porous surface in a way that won’t let it tip, tilt, or spill, but it also keeps drinks icy cold.
To buy: amazon.com, $40
Moonsix Classic Fedora
I’ve worn this Panama-style fedora on boats around the world. It’s shaded me on boats in Thailand, Vietnam, and Monaco, but does the trick just as well on Lake Lewisville. It’s also machine-washable, which comes in handy more times than you’d imagine for a boat hat.
To buy: amazon.com, $24
Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
My whole family started bringing headlamps with us while boating after we returned to the boat dock after sunset one too many times. My dad, who is a retired Delta pilot, always packs it. This headlamp is splash resistant, has three white light settings, and features a red light that can act as a strobe to signal location.
To buy: amazon.com, $79
Conair Salon Results Round Brush
Maybe this brush is in my bag because my mom is a hairdresser and she always brought one with her, or maybe it’s because this is the single most-used item in my bag next to sunscreen. Lake tangles are no joke, and it can either feel like a luxury or a necessity to have a brush onboard … but either way you should have one.
To buy: amazon.com, $4
Kitsch Spiral Hair Ties
This is another must-have hair accessory you might not think of until you get out there and don’t have it. I grew up boating with two other women, and there were never enough hair ties on the boat. I quickly learned that someone will always need one, and it’s best to toss a few extra in the boat bag. These waterproof ones don’t cut off circulation when worn around the wrist and can double as bungees for securing keys or sunglasses in a pinch.
To buy: amazon.com, $7
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