This article is a part of the Ogunquit in September Guide I am writing, for the model aeronautically-inclined. Obviously, those who enjoy flying radio-controlled planes at a beach will find this article useful. But I am also certain that any modern man or woman planning a trip to the beach will not want to miss this one.
I know it, because I’ve spent countless nights before the trip googling for the best beach equipment to bring, to no avail. If you are looking for novel contraptions that solve known problems with ancient beach equipment technology, you will not be happy with what you find online today. Even Google isn’t smart enough to weed out hastily-assembled, so called “top ten beach equipment” websites that simply scout Amazon for highest-ranking sales. YouTube is full of computer-generated videos with screenshots stole from above-mentioned “top ten beach equipment” websites. And most search engines nowadays only want to show you online shops, because… that’s how they make money.
This leaves old fashioned research work as the only option. I read and combed through tons of user reviews, and wrote notes. The trip proved that I did find the right beach equipment to buy. I don’t monetize my blog. I have no skin in the game. You can trust that when I talk about a product and link to a page, it’s simply because I personally like the product.
Ancient Beach Equipment to Avoid
You will find that most people lug around steel-frame beach chairs. These things have existed since time immemorial, and they aren’t really all that comfortable to sit on, for extended periods of time. Vendors continue to add bells and whistles to this fossil technology. You’ll find drink holders, embedded ice coolers and attached canopies. These, as far as I can see, only make life more difficult for beachgoers who must carry these heavy chairs on their back, or drag them across sand.
The Tommy Bahama All Terrain Beach Cart gets all the rave online. It appears that Costco sold and continues to sell a version of this that is quite a good value. I watched a great number of people push these beach carts around on their way to the beach, only to find themselves struggling with the cart on the sand. These carts are upright, and honestly don’t hold much within their fragile mesh. Mostly people hang lots of large items on the outside, making the cart unstable and unwieldy, in practice.
Another item to avoid is the traditional symbol of a beach vacation, the beach umbrella. While it looks good for picture taking, it is quite impractical. The wind blows them each and every way. You need to get a sand anchor like this to make them stand upright and not be toppled or blown away. Even then, you’ll still not be shaded properly – to wit, look at where the shade is, in the beautiful picture of a beach umbrella below. That’s right. You can’t find it in the picture.
Let’s start with how you carry all of your equipment, on firm ground as well as on sandy beaches. The truth is, more than half of what you want to bring to the beach are large enough that no reasonably-sized upright carts can fit them inside. Sometimes you want to lug around a baby or two. Babies don’t enjoy being caged inside upright carts. You may have a surfboard or a boogie board. These won’t fit. You brought those fossil steel chairs I told you not to bring? They won’t fit either.
So, vendors have now started to adapt those low-profile and flat-bottomed garden carts for the beach. These now sport large wheels to avoid getting stuck in sand. Almost all of them are collapsible. They have extremely low center of gravity, so they are very stable. You can fit pretty much everything in it, once you unfold one.
I bought the Ollieroo Folding Beach Wagon. It collapses into a surprisingly small footprint, for transportation by car. There will be more on that later in this article. It has very large wheels designed for the beach, and its long handle is ergonomic and works quite well on wet sand. I won’t lie to you. It will still be a struggle, if you try to drag this wagon across dry sand. Almost nothing works well on dry sand – you’ll probably need a sleigh. Please send me inventor’s royalty fees if you start making and selling beach sleighs after reading this article.
I chose this wagon, and not other similar products, because this one appeared to be better designed. The folding mechanism of the front wheels looked clever when I researched it, and indeed proved to be a space-saver. Other wagons either had front wheels fixed in the middle, thus making the wagon unstable, or did not fold into a compact block for storage. The long handle turned out to work better than short handles on the sand. The handle also folded down and locked in place, serving as an extra leg, when you stand or store the folded wagon upright. To collapse the wagon, you pull on the handle in the middle, and you are done. It is unfortunate that the video from Ollieroo below doesn’t show this one-step folding process. Check out videos from other sellers to see how the wagon collapses.
The equirectangular panorama shown below features this lone wagon on the Ogunquit Beach at low tide, before other beachgoers came and trampled all over the pristine wet sand. The view is deceiving. This beach is large, but not as expansive as the equirectangular image would make you believe. Click on the image to see what the beach actually looks like, interactively on Google Street View. Click here to see a larger version of the equirectangular picture in 2D.
After researching old-style beach chairs and fancy beach loungers, I ended up buying what looked like simple folding pads. If one doesn’t scrutinize pictures carefully, one may even take them for yoga mats. The truth is, most beach chairs and lounges with steel frames and legs cause discomfort when your body presses against the steel through thin fabrics. You are on a beach. The sand is more accommodating than steel. It makes sense to forgo steel legs, and simply sit on a pad that rests on the sand. All you need is a light steel frame behind thick padding, to prop up your back.
Above picture shows the Pacific Breeze Beach Lounger doing double duty as a runway for my sailplane. Pacific Breeze’s own product page is light on information, compared to the Amazon page with lots of user reviews. But if you must look at the manufacture’s own page, here it is. These pads are large and comfortable. They fold into a compact mass and fit perfectly in the beach wagon. They are very light, even thought they come with strong steel back support. The steel support is cleverly surrounded by folded pads, such that if you carry the lounge on the back as a backpack, it still feels comfortable.
The following video shows my UMX Radian flying on the beach. Recall that this is a part of my guide on Ogunquit for the model aeronautically-inclined. The beach wagon makes an appearance in the clip. And the beach lounger is used both as a runway for landing, and as an arrester device.
Shelter from the Sun
Ditch the beach umbrella, and get a tent. But obviously not the type you set up at campgrounds, but those designed specifically for the beach. Apparently the Easy Up Beach Tent from Pacific Breeze was a runaway hit. But I found their largest tent, appropriately named Sand & Surf Beach Shelter, even more useful for our trip. It is huge and airy. You set it up by simply propping the middle up, and you take it down in one single opposite move as well. Its lightweight fiberglass frame unfolds and folds without a hitch.
I flew a giant parafoil octopus kite, and tied it to the handle of the beach wagon. The picture above is the culmination of everything I’ve written so far. The wagon. The landing pad – I mean, the lounger pad. The airy tent. And even a human figure for size comparison.
The video below from the shelter manufacturer is quite informative. I can confirm that setting the tent up truly is as easy as the video shows. The tent has built-in, waterproof instruction fabric permanently attached to it, so you don’t actually fumble to find this video on your phone at the beach.
I must confess that folding it back did take a while longer than it should have, but only because I was anal about getting rid of all sand grains as I tried to get the tent down and back into the carrying bag. In hindsight, I should have swept sand away before I collapsed the tent, and not the other way around. And, having sand caught in folds was probably not something worth worrying about.
An Amazon user review mentioned bringing one-gallon zip lock bags – the kind you use in your kitchen. Fill them up with sand, and put them in the 8 sandpockets built into the tent. This was so much easier than trying to fill these pockets with sand. When taking down the tent, simply remove bags instead of trying to empty these pockets of sand.
At some point that afternoon, I had three kites flying at the same time. From left to right: Giant 3D parafoil Octopus Kite, WindnSun 74″ 3D Macaw Kite, and WindnSun 76″ 3D Dragon Kite. The macaw and the dragon were tied to their own beach volleyball poles, in two separate courts further down the beach.
I missed the annual kite festival at the beach by just a few days. I was the only one flying kites that day. Sigh. Here is someone’s picture of the 2011 event on TripAdvisor, shown below with html code the site provides. I can’t find a single picture from the 2017 event. Perhaps it is no longer as festive as it was.
Personal Shading Device
I also bought a special, personal shading device, in the form of a misshaped photo studio umbrella, with orientable poles and a clamp. There is really only one manufacturer selling this, and both the manufacturer and the product suffer from terrible names. Despite ridiculous names, this thing really works. Check out Versa-Brella by Sport-Brella.
I didn’t end up using it at the beach. Well, the beach shelter I mentioned earlier made it a moot point. I was going to clamp it to a kayak, as I presumably cruised up and down in style, on the tidal Ogunquit River. However, no kayak rental store in this town had direct access to water. The only guy renting kayaks by the river wouldn’t let me keep the kayak for the whole week, at my own suite with its own water access.
I fancied that we would carry this lightweight contraption everywhere in town, so when we sat on an outdoor table, enjoying an afternoon meal, I could deploy this personal shading device, instead of having to serve as human sun shade for my wife all the time.
But that was too much trouble. We never did carry that umbrella, nor clamp it down on a restaurant table, during the entire trip. What I did use it for was to supplement existing shading, to provide specific coverage for glaring spots that made the enjoyment of my vacation difficult. The following picture illustrates the railing post that would have been under the sun, reflecting blinding light onto my eyes as I attempted to have a quiet afternoon meal, had I not installed the Versa-Brella at the right place and at the right height.
Finally, a man could drink his beer in peace, without having to deal with blinding lights.
I also use it back home, at our flying field, to supplement non-ideal shading provided by our big onsite umbrellas. When the sun moves to the west in the afternoon, our work benches are no longer covered by these umbrellas. Again, Versa-Brella fixes this problem for the anal-retentive.
Packing Beach Equipment
One key issue I looked into during my research of beach equipment centered around how compact they folded and how light they were. We would have to pack everything into our car which is a cross between a compact car and a hatchback. I didn’t like leaving heavy luggage in the backseat – it would be extremely dangerous in the case of an accident. I was able to pack the beach wagon, beach tent, and everything else of significant weight into the trunk.
Here is a clearer view showing how the two biggest items, the wagon and the tent, fit in the trunk.
Lightweight items unfortunately overflew into the backseat. The lounger pads were hard to fit in the trunk given the amount of luggage in it. The micro planes weighted near nothing. The following picture also shows the head of the giant dragon kite I mentioned earlier. I couldn’t be bothered to disassemble it.
Well. That’s it, folks. Remember that this is a part of the Ogunquit in September Guide I am writing, for the model aeronautically-inclined. The next article in the series is Tidal Suites at the Norseman Resort. More articles will come out, when I get to them. Stay tuned.