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a photo of an assortment of totes, insulated coolers, and backpacks grouped together by the beach. These were the items we tested for our review of the best beach bags.

These were the best bags we found to get your gear safely to and from the beach. Photo: DH


The Inertia

Days at the beach are one of life’s great pleasures. But if you’re going to spend more time than a surf session or a quick dip in the ocean, chances are you’ll want a few accessories and simple pleasures to enhance the stay. A capable beach bag is an easy way to load up and access the gear you need while on the sand. But as we learned for this test, much variety exists in the market for an item whose sole purpose is to haul a bunch of items from point A to point Beach. Are you carrying refreshments you hope to keep cold? Any chance you’ve got a paperback that you’d want not to mingle with your wet wetsuit? Point being: everyone has different practical considerations when shopping for a beach bag.

For this review we cast an especially wide net to define a beach bag. After plenty of field testing on and around Southern California beaches, we give you our list of the best beach bags for 2023. For more information on what makes a great beach bag, check out our Buyer’s Guide. If you’d like to see how our top picks match up against each other, check out our Comparison Table.

The Best Beach Bags of 2023

Best Overall Beach Bag: Cotopaxi Allpa 60L Gear Hauler Tote
Best Heavy Duty Beach Tote: YETI Camino Carryall
Best “Waterproof” Tote: Finisterre Drift 35L
Best Bag for Keeping Out Sand: Kavu Alder Lake Tote
Best Cooler Tote: Hydroflask 26L Day Escape Tote
Best Small Beach Tote: Rux Waterproof Bag
Best Minimalist Beach Backpack: Kavu Beach Rope Backpack
Best Bag for Wet/Dry Separation: Ripcurl Surf Series 50L Burrito Pack


Best Overall

Cotopaxi Allpa 60L Gear Hauler Tote ($110)

a product shot against a white background of the cotopaxi allpa 60l gear hauler. It won our pick for the best overall beach bag.

Carry Options: Two (handheld, shoulder)
Closure: Cinch, does not fully close
Self-Standing: No
Capacity: 60L
Pros: Unstructured, large opening, inner compartments.
Cons: Material on the bottom of the bag isn’t waterproof.

With an extra large, 60L capacity that feels bottomless, we found ourselves returning to the Allpa for those family beach days where there’s no way to get around having to carry an overwhelming amount of stuff (shout out to all the parents of young kids out there). Cotopaxi’s Allpa Gear Hauler Tote easily gobbled up four regular size towels, a small soft cooler, and other essentials. And two inner cinch straps helped keep everything contained. Interior stash pockets were perfect for keeping wallet, keys, and other smaller items separated from bigger items in the main compartment.

What we loved about the Allpa, too, was that unlike other totes the outer straps are the perfect length for shoulder carry and the rectangular opening made it easy to open up and grab the exact contents you need without digging through the bag. The two sturdy side grab handles have daisy chains that also allow for clipping anything you may want to the outside — in our case a small bluetooth speaker that comes with us on beach days. The only drawbacks of the Allpa are that its flexible construction means it doesn’t stand on its own when empty for easy loading and the construction is durable but not waterproof, so don’t expect it to keep your belongings dry if things get wet.

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Best Heavy Duty Option

YETI Camino Carryall 35L ($150)

a product shot of the yeti camino carryall beach bag against a white background. This was our pick for the best heavy duty beach bag.

Carry Options: Two (handheld, or shoulder)
Closure: Hook closure, does not fully close
Self-Standing: Yes
Capacity: 20, 35, and 50L options
Pros: Structured, indestructible, long sturdy handles, can be hosed out.
Cons: Bulky, not many inner compartments.

YETI’s Camino line of carryall totes has received much praise over the years for good reason. Made with a proprietary waterproof, puncture-resistant shell material that YETI calls ThickSkin, the totes keep water out from all sides (except the top opening, obvs), stand on their own for easy loading, and can easily be hosed out after use. This ultra durable construction also made the Caminos we tested the heaviest bags in each category when empty. But for those looking for a do anything beach bag that’s also perfectly at home at the crag, campsite, or pool deck, the extra weight is likely worth it. All sizes feature deployable dividers that nicely keep gear organized as well as two zippered pockets to keep smaller items handy.

To call the 50L Camino, YETI’s largest, a bag feels like a gross understatement. Boat feels more appropriate. Nominally, the 50L Camino has about 10L less capacity than the Allpa, but in practical use the capacity felt extremely similar between the two. Honestly, because it’s so stiff and sturdy, looking at them both you’d swear the Camino was bigger. The feel was so heavy duty, in fact, that for outings where it wasn’t packed to capacity it almost felt like too much bag. For this reason, between YETI’s 50L and 35L option, we’d say that the 35L is a bit more versatile with everyday use in mind. 

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Best “Waterproof” Tote

Finisterre Drift 35L

a product shot of the finisterre drift 35l tote, which won our pick for the best waterproof tote.

Carry Options: Two (handheld, or shoulder)
Closure: Cinch, does not fully close
Self-Standing: Yes
Capacity: 35L
Pros: Sturdy, waterproof construction without being overly bulky and heavy duty, can be hosed out.
Cons: Tall and deep can mean digging to find gear, not many inner compartments.

With a deeply engrained environmental ethos combined with an understanding of the specific needs of surfers, and European sensibilities, Finisterre continues to impress us with its product offerings, and the Drift 35L Waterproof Tote is no different. Made with a 100-percent recycled 600D polyester, the Drift is easily one of the most environmentally friendly bags on our list. Welded seams, the likes of which you’d see in more premium wetsuits, are also a nice touch for added durability. To call any tote waterproof is a bit misleading as the top does not seal shut and could easily let water in. Still, the benefits of having a bag that keeps water out from the bottom and sides, which the Drift does well, makes it ideal for the beach.

The waterproof material also means the inside can be rinsed out, making for easy cleaning. We loved that the Drift had two sets of handles for either handheld or shoulder carrying, and inner cinch strap to keep contents locked in. While the Drift is more flexible than the YETI Caminos we tested and not as heavy or bulky feeling, it was still sturdy enough to self-stand, which made for easy loading and fewer instances of tipping over. In a pinch, you could also totally change out of your wetsuit into the bag, which is pretty handy.

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Best Bag For Sand Removal

Kavu Alder Lake Tote ($55)

a product shot of the kavu alder lake tote against a white background. this was a pick for our best beach bags review.
Carry Options: Two (handheld, or shoulder)
Closure: None
Self-Standing: No
Capacity: 40L
Pros: Sand easily escapes, tons of pockets, lighter than air.
Cons: Contents can get sandy, not the largest.

For how heavily romanticized the idea of relaxing in the sand may be, what pop culture references fail to fully explain is how sand has a nasty habit of stubbornly invading every nook and cranny. Enter Kavu’s Alder Lake Tote, which stole our heart for its ability to leave sand granules behind due to its mesh fabric construction. With a handful of outer pockets that easily fit essentials like a water bottle, or sunscreen, and a generous main section that could fit a towel and a book, we found the Alder was the perfect size for the average person’s day at the beach.

The quick-dry material also easily handled wet towels and wet wetsuits. The Alder did feel small, however, for a full family’s worth of towels and gear. Because every pocket was made of the mesh material that is designed to let sand easily sift out, electronics like phones and fancy keys were vulnerable to getting sandy when tossing the bag around.

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Best Cooler Tote

Hydroflask 26 L Day Escape Tote ($180)

a product shot against a white background of the hydro flask 26l day escape insulated tote. It won our pick for the best insulated beach tote.

Carry Options: Three (handheld, over the shoulder, or cross-body)
Closure: Waterproof zipper
Self-Standing: Yes
Capacity: 26L
Pros: Multiple comfortable carry options, works as cooler or dedicated tote.
Cons: Narrow, heavy on its own.

A hot beach day and a coldie go together like peanut butter and jelly – but the logistics of making that happen often mean managing a cumbersome cooler separate from all other beach essentials to make it a reality. An insulated cooler bag that doubles as a beach tote, like Hydroflask’s Day Escape Tote, simplifies matters. Stick ice packs and items you want to keep cold at the bottom, and throw a towel, sunscreen, dry snacks, and other essentials at the top for a perfect do-it-all option.

Obviously, the Day Escape truly shines as a dedicated soft cooler (with a 42-can capacity! What?) and is extremely well engineered with sturdy handheld straps and a shoulder strap with a plush pad that made for comfortable carrying when fully weighted. But, we found the Day Escape also worked nicely as a stand-alone tote for gear, too.

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Best Small Beach Tote

Rux Waterproof Bag ($80) a product shot of the rux 25l waterproof tote against a white background. it was our pick for the best small beach bag.

Carry Options: Two (handheld, shoulder strap)
Closure: Rolltop
Self-Standing: Yes
Capacity: 25L
Pros: Multiple carry options, deployable roll top protects contents, size ideal for everyday use.
Cons: Few color options.

Rux is a Canadian company that’s recently made waves for its flagship 70L gear hauler that’s unlike anything out there. That’s why when we got wind of the 25L Waterproof tote, our ears perked up. On the surface, the Waterproof Bag looks like your average tote. But with bulletproof construction and a deployable roll top waterproof closure that easily stows away when not in use, the Rux quickly became one of our faves for its durability and versatility. At 25L, the Rux wasn’t the most spacious we tested – but we found it was the perfect size for an everyday carry in all kinds of situations.

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Best Minimalist Beach Bag

Kavu Beach Rope Backpack ($70)

a product shot against a white background of the kavu beach rope bag. it is blue with a single shoulder strap. it was our pick for the best minimalist beach bag.

Carry Options: One (backpack)
Closure: Zipper pockets
Self-Standing: N/A
Capacity: 10L
Pros: Multiple compartments, comfortable to wear, buckle makes for easy on and off.
Cons: Contents can get sandy.

With 10L of capacity, Kavu’s Beach Rope Backpack is perfect for those who enjoy traveling with the bare minimum (think phone, water bottle, and a book) to sandy environs. Made of the same polyester mesh as the brand’s Alder Lake tote, sand easily sifts out of the many compartments and pockets the bag has to offer while a hidden interior pocket in the padded back of the bag stashes a phone to keep it safe from sand. The sling pack style made for comfortable carrying either on the back or across the body on the front without feeling bulky or like it was sliding around.

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Best Bag for Wet/Dry Separation

Ripcurl Surf Series 50L Burrito Pack ($70)

a product shot against a white background of the rip curl surf series 50l burrito pack for our review of the best beach bags.

Carry Options: One (backpack)
Closure: Zipper compartment and cinch closure
Self-Standing: N/A
Capacity: 50L
Pros: Dedicated wetsuit/cooler compartment, stylish.
Cons: Can be awkward to carry depending on contents.

A great test of the ultimate beach-day bag is whether you could successfully stash a paperback and a wet wetsuit without resulting in a pulpy mess. Lots of bags do wet or dry well, but few are able to handle wet and dry with aplomb. Ripcurl’s Surf series 50L Burrito Pack was the only bag we tested that fit the bill. Featuring an insulated cooler pocket that doubles as wetsuit storage and an upper compartment with mesh paneling for breathability and to ditch sand, Ripcurl’s Burrito pack was clearly designed with the needs of surfers top of mind.

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The Best of the Rest

BOTE Highwater Backpack ($250)A photo of the BOTE highwater backpack against a white background for our review of the best beach bags

Carry Options: One (backpack)
Closure: Waterproof zipper
Self-Standing: N/A
Capacity: 28L
Pros: Highly engineered, interior dividers and pockets.
Cons: Pricey.

For those who prefer to commute to their favorite secluded beach via paddleboard or kayak, BOTE’s Highwater Backpack offers the ultimate in durability and waterproofing. While the price point is one of the highest on our list ($250 at time of writing), and the bells and whistles may be more than an average beachgoer needs for a typical day, the Highwater is adventure ready and fully submersible for days you find yourself on and off the water.

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Icemule R-Jaunt 20L ($170)

A photo of the Icemule R-jaunt cooler backpack against a white background for our review of the best beach bags.

Carry Options: One (backpack)
Closure: Rolltop
Self-Standing: N/A
Capacity: 20L
Pros: Sturdy design, comfortable to carry.
Cons: Not many pockets for additional essentials.

While there are seemingly endless options of insulated cooler bags out there, we like to think of Ice Mule’s backpack-style R-Jaunt as the all-terrain answer to bulky cooler bags and totes that are either carried over the shoulder or slap your thigh when strapped across the body. We found that when fully loaded, the Icemule was comfortable to carry and kept our hands free for walking or performing other tasks. And the small but mighty 20-liter capacity kept drinks cold for hours. An air valve allows you to pump air for extra insulation when needed and release for storage when not in use, which worked like a dream. On top of that, it’s made from recycled and biodegradable materials, meaning it’s a great decision for Mother Nature, as well.

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Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote 61L ($119)

a photo of the patagonia black hole gear hauler tote for our review of the best beach bags

Carry Options: One (handheld)
Closure: 2 cinch straps
Self-Standing: No
Capacity: 61L
Pros: Bottomless capacity, indestructible.
Cons: Shoulder straps were a bit short for over the shoulder carrying.

With a name like Black Hole, you’d expect to be able to shove an endless amount of gear into the void that is this bag and wonder where it all went. Capacity wise, Patagonia’s Black Hole definitely lived up to its namesake. We loved the large opening that made it easy to find contents and the super sturdy polyester ripstop fabric that’s built to last a lifetime. One of the major downsides of this bag, though, is we found the straps felt very short for over-the-shoulder carrying making it impractical to carry over the shoulder when fully loaded.

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Topo Designs Mountain Gear Bag ($197) a photo of the topo designs mountain gear bag against a white background for our review of the best beach bags

Carry Options: Two (handheld and shoulder strap)
Closure: Zippered top closure
Self-Standing: No
Capacity: 48L
Pros: Ideal size, endless pockets, stylish color options.
Cons: Luggage style felt overkill for the beach.

With ample outer pockets, a generous compartment with stash pockets to keep inner cargo organized, and a top zip closure that unfurls to easily access inner contents, the Mountain Gear Bag from Topo Designs definitely earned high marks in testing as an extremely capable and stylish carryall. If there was a single complaint, it was that the bag almost felt too nice and too much like luggage for an average beach day.

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REI Co-Op Pack-Away 45 Tote ($80) a photo of the rei co op pack away tote against a white background, for our review of the best beach bags

Carry Options: Three (handheld, over-the-shoulder, shoulder strap)
Closure: Deployable top cover with drawstring and compression strap
Self-Standing: Yes
Capacity: 45L
Pros: Reasonable price point, deployable cover protects contents.
Cons: Not exactly stylish.

Like the bag from Topo Designs, REI’s Pack-Away Tote did feel and look more like something you’d bring on an airplane or pack for an overnight trip than something you’d bring to the beach. That said, with a deployable top cover with a drawstring closure, the Pack-Away Tote was one of the few larger totes that had the ability to close to keep sand out. We loved the two side pockets that easily fit larger water bottles, and the longer handheld straps and optional shoulder strap that made it easy to carry either by hand, over the shoulder, or across the body.

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a photo of the kavu alder lake tote at the beach for our review of the best beach bags

Stuff goes in, sand falls out. The Kavu Alder Lake Tote was our pick for those who want as little sand as possible inside the bag. Photo: DH

Comparison Table

Model Price Capacity Closure Self-Standing Best For
Cotopaxi Allpa 60L Gear Hauler Tote $110 60L Cinch/Buckle No Best Overall Beach Bag
YETI Camino Carryall $150 35L Hook Yes Best Heavy-Duty Beach Tote
Finisterre Drift 35L $200 35L Cinch Yes Best Waterproof Tote
Kavu Alder Lake Tote $55 40L None No Best Bag For Sand Removal
Hydroflask 26L Day Escape Tote $180 26L Waterproof zipper Yes Best Cooler Tote
Rux Waterproof Bag $80 25L Rolltop Yes Best Small Beach Tote
Kavu Beach Rope Backpack $70 10L Zipper pockets N/A Best Minimalist Beach Backpack
Ripcurl Surf Series 50L Burrito Pack $70 50L Zipper and cinch N/A Best Bag for Wet/Dry Separation
BOTE Highwater Backpack $250 28L Waterproof Zipper N/A Best of the Rest
Icemule R-Jaunt $170 20L Rolltop N/A Best of the Rest
Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote $119 61L Cinch straps No Best of the Rest
Topo Designs Mountain Gear Bag $197 48L Zippered top closure No Best of the Rest
REI Co-Op Pack Away Tote $80 45L Drawstring and compression strap Yes Best of the Rest

How We Tested The Best Beach Bags

To put the best beach bags to the test, our first stop, of course, was the beach. Specifically North Orange County, California, beaches known for having abundant long stretches of fine sand that, while part of their charm, can feel like trudging across the Sahara when trying to park it for the day just above the tide line.

We also took the bags on a camping excursion in the Eastern Sierra to see how they fared in summer mountain environs – which surprisingly had a lot of overlap to the general needs of a beach day, just with different contents. To get a feel for each bag’s capacity, we shoved all sorts of beach essentials including towels, blankets, sunscreen, water bottles, snacks, and other provisions inside. We tested each bag’s ability to organize contents with internal pockets, whether bags were able to close completely to keep out sand and dust (and water, in some cases), and did our best to test each bag at full capacity to see how it felt when carrying fully weighted.

a photo of beach contents in the cotopaxi allpa gear hauler 60L tote

This was just the top layer, with towels underneath – but the Cotopaxi Allpa 60L gear hauler had plenty of room for kid’s beach toys, water bottle, swim fins, camera, and more, and can be cinched up to transport. Photo: Steve Andrews

What Is Important When Buying A Beach Bag?

Shoot down to your local and ask 100 people what makes the perfect beach bag and you’re likely to get 100 different answers. That’s because the ideal bag depends primarily on two essential questions that need answering: 1) What you plan to carry; and 2) How much you plan to carry. Once you’ve gotten these figured out, additional elements like materials and construction come into play. Here are the key considerations for choosing your perfect beach bag as we see them:

Contents

First things first, what do you plan to carry? Towels and a cell phone? A six pack you’d like to keep cold for several hours? All of the above? Thinking through your typical beach day cargo is essential when trying to narrow down the ideal bag because you’ll need to ask yourself what you want the bag to be able to do. Do you want to keep sand out of your car or home at all costs? Consider one of the mesh material options above. Will your day be ruined without cold drinks? Prioritize an insulated bag. Once you narrow down what you’ll be carrying most of the time, you can move on to the next question: how much?

Capacity

Unlike less tangible considerations such as style, the capacity of a bag is a simple math problem. Still, as we quickly realized in our test, while liters may be the industry standard when defining a bag’s size and capacity, that measurement alone doesn’t do a great job to explain how the volume is distributed – whether height, width, length, etc. Plus, who knows the literage for everyday items like an average beach towel off the top of their head? To put things in layman’s terms, we found that bags in the 50-60L range could do about four beach towels comfortably, occasionally with room to spare. Forty-liter bags could handle two similarly sized towels well, with some extra room, and 25L or less could maybe handle a single towel and a few other items.

a split screen view of the Icemule r-jaunt and kavu rope bag for our review of the best beach bags.

The Icemule R-Jaunt makes a great waterproof/floating backpack cooler, while the Kavu Beach Rope Backpack helps keep sand at the beach. Different strokes for different folks. Photo: Dylan Heyden

Construction

Thinking through the contents you plan to carry and the capacity lends itself to thinking about the ideal construction of a go-to beach bag. Obviously a bag full of towels will weigh less than a bag full of aluminum cans, and more weight would require more durably constructed straps and seams to ensure the bag lasts. The tradeoff of a sturdier bag is the increased bulk. For example, if we were to fill a bag to capacity with rocks every day, YETI’s Camino might be our pick because its straps felt bulletproof. But, if we’re packing a pair of trunks, a few towels, a water bottle, and some sunscreen, we might go with Kavu’s Alder Lake Tote due to how light it is.

Waterproofing is a further consideration. Will the bag keep water out? Can it be hosed out? These features may come at a premium, but if the bag lasts the equivalent of 10 lesser bags’ lives, it may be worth it in the end.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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