10 Essential Things To Pack For a Day at the Lake!

10 essentials to pack for a day at the lake (or the beach!)Even though Summer is technically almost over, in Texas we can count on at least another month of 90+ weather and (probably) no rain days. That means there’s still plenty of time and reason to head out to some body of water on the weekend and get in it! As a seasoned lake-day-planner I have some tips for you on things to bring to make your lake day fun instead of dumb.


Although you probably won’t drink much of this while you’re actually IN the water (especially since you’ll probably be drinking beer), you will most definitely be craving some icy-cold water on the long, tired, hot ride home (especially if you spent all day drinking beer). So fill up those water bottles with water AND ice.

You don’t have to just bring plain old water, though. Canned, flavored sparkling water is one of my favorite things to take because it’s hydrating and also serves as a pretty good substitute for beer when you need a break. If you bring plastic bottles of water, just pack them in a cooler with ice; don’t freeze them ahead of time. Freezing plastic bottles releases more harmful Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the water, which is something we should all avoid. Best choice, just fill a few insulated water bottles and add ice.


Perhaps the most important part of a successful lake day, my favorite snacks to pack include salty chips (electrolytes!), homemade salsa, pre-cut fruit like pineapple and melons (refreshing!), and celery sticks with peanut butter in em (still totally edible even if you drop one in the water!). French onion dip or hummus are great with crackers or vegetables. Try chipotle hummus if you like it spicy.

For actual sustenance, which you will want badly around hour 5 at the lake, bring shredded barbecue chicken in a tupperware container with chopped onion and pickles, and a loaf of bread. Forget about heating it up and think about it like a barbecue-chicken salad. No meat? No problem! Pimento cheese sandwiches are one of the greatest gifts to mankind ever and my version is the best (says me).

No need to worry about bringing napkins since snacky-fingers can be rinsed off in the water!


Duh. Bring sunscreen. Put it on 30 minutes to an hour before you get in the sun (BEFORE you start sweating or get wet). Reapply after swimming and toweling-off. Take it from me: Avoid skin cancer. Choose a zinc-based sunscreen without oxybenzone or octinoxate and the water creatures will thank you, too.


Sometimes people think they want to get “exercise” at the lake by “swimming” but let me tell you, that stops being fun after about 20 minutes. Sure, it’s great to do a little freestylin’ or breast-strokin’ so you can feel like you’re doing something healthy on the weekend, but lake day means lake DAY. Do you really want to tread water for 8 hours? No. You don’t. Stop trying to be tough and just bring a tube or a noodle or at least some GD water wings.


Necessary to keep drinks cold! Nothing like a cold drink in the hot sun. I prefer the foldable style of koozie because they take up way less space in your bag and in my experience last longer than those old-style solid foam koozies. BTW there seems to be no consensus on how to spell “koozie”; I’ve seen it as “cozie”, “coozie”, “coozy”, and “cosy”. But make no mistake, the proper pronunciation is “KOO-zee” and the best place to buy the tackiest ones is at the gas station on the way to the lake.

Cooler with lots of ice

The best way to pack a cooler for optimum chilling is to put the drinks in first, then the ice, then all the snacks that must be kept cold. There’s a few basic styles available: wheelie ones, carry ones, and collapsible ones. Which one is best? Here’s how to buy a cooler.

Number One:
Where are you going with it? Wheelie ones are great for dragging across parking lots, boardwalks, and pool surrounds. They suck when you have to carry them down stairs or treacherous rocky areas. If you’re going somewhere a bicycle can’t go, you’ll be better off and more comfortable getting a smallish, carrying cooler. Smallish so that it won’t be ridiculously heavy when it’s filled with ice and stuff.

Number Two:
Where are you going to store it? If you have a garage or even a big closet, then storage probably isn’t an issue and you could go for either a wheelie one or a carry one. If you have a tiny apartment you may want to go collapsible so it’s not taking up valuable space when it’s not full o’ fun.

Number Three:
How many people are you? Get an appropriately sized cooler. They are sized by how many quarts they hold. If you’re typically just packing for yourself and a friend, a 16 quart cooler is big enough. For a family of 4 or so, a 30-40 quart size will do well. If you’ve got a whole posse to feed, get more like a 50 quart or two smaller ones.

Number Four:
Do you like to sit? Get one that makes a good seat.


It’s bright out there on the water. Do yourself a solid and bring some UV-blocking sunglasses that you didn’t pay a lot of money for and protect your eyes so you don’t go blind in old age. Remember to take them off before you dive in or they will end up sleeping with the fishes. There’s a decent chance they will somehow end up there anyway, and that’s why I never take my favorite pair to the lake.


Bring a nice, softy to dry off with and a crappier one to sit on or use to wipe up grape soda.

Extra clothes

You’ll thank me when you have a nice dry set of comfy clothes in the car waiting for you once you’re ready to go. Chances are good that the clothes you wore to the lake will get wet and there’s nothing worse than having to ride home in wet clothes. Your car seat gets moist and your skin starts to itch. Plus, if you decide to stop and get barbecue on the way home (great idea, BTW) you won’t be feeling like a cold, wet rat while you munch your ribs and potato salad.

But please don’t make your extra clothes be denim cut-offs. They look cute but there is nothing worse than trying squeeze tight denim over damp skin. Just bring something soft and easy to get in to, like a muumuu (or a toga if you are a dude).

Trash bag

Don’t be a dick. Clean up after yourself. This includes cigarette butts, too, asshole. And throw your empty cans back in the cooler so someone can take them home and recycle them.

Other things you may want to consider:

First Aid Kit: One time my friend was crouching down behind some bushes to pee before we left the lake and she lost her balance and fell backwards and got cactus thorns in her booty. Good thing we had a first aid kit with tweezers on hand!

Beer: Duh. I mean, what’s Lake Day without beer? This should have been number one, but who am I to assume everyone likes beer like I do? Preferred beers for Lake Day fit these requirements: IN A CAN (this is serious; don’t take glass to the lake. Someone will drop one and there will be broken glass everywhere. Not fun or cool.); Light (basically, I want my Lake Beer to taste like water, since I always end up with about half lake-water in my beer anyway.); COLD (they need to be ice-fucking-cold. That’s why you need a cooler and a koozie). If you really want to WOW people, cut up some limes into wedges and bring them along, too.

Books or games: Sometimes you just want to relax and read in the shade by the lake or beach. Other times you might want to play a game, if you’re a gaming type. Good games for the lake are those with few playing pieces and simple rules such as Dominoes, Uno, and Checkers.

TP: This might be gross but one time we were at the lake and my friend had to go “number 2”. There are no potties at the lake. Good thing I had some napkins in my glove box!

And that wraps it up for what to take to the lake! Or the beach! Or the pool! Have a super fun time on your Labor Day Weekend and be safe and don’t drink and drive and do wear sunscreen!


  1. Don B on August 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Make a knitting friend (or most likely, you already have one) and have them knit you a coozie (she likes to think of it as a cozy Koozie). Then they can make is specific for your favorite beer can sizes.

    • Hilah on August 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

      Oh I love that idea, Don!

      Any knitters out there reading this? 😉

  2. Great Stone Face on August 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    My Dad would cut up melons in chunks and put them in big Dixie cups covered in wrap. He’d stick them in the cooler with forks and napkins. Very refreshing @ the beach.

    • Hilah on August 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      Mmm, that sounds VERY lovely! I’m going to cut up a watermelon right now and pretend I am at the beach.

  3. Randy on August 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I’m bookmarking this page for next spring by which time I will have lost my very un-hot pear-shaped body.

    • Hilah on August 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      And also by which time I will have a houseboat with a water slide attached to the roof and a kegerator in the cabin.

  4. Rickey Bailey on June 2, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Great list! #10 really had me laughing.

    • Hilah on June 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks, Rickey! 😀

  5. Wendy on September 1, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Thank you for the great tips, I had pretty much in the list except for an extra towel,clean clothes and trash bags. and TP is a most!!!!

    • Hilah on September 1, 2013 at 11:32 am

      Awesome! Glad to be of help, Wendy. Have fun!

  6. Elle on May 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the snack tips, I’m making this BBQ chicken tonight! And LMAO at “GD water wings” and “Ice-fucking-cold” hahahah! thanks for the smile tonight. Happy Summertime! 🙂

    • Hilah on May 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Yay!! So happy this was useful and/or entertaining for you, Elle! Happy Summer!

  7. Renee Adams on June 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for being hilarious while giving out useful advise!!

  8. Daniel on August 16, 2017 at 6:44 am

    A hammock is life! cheap ones available on Amazon or Wal-Mart. I also learned to bring a gallon of tap water to wash sand off the feet before getting back in the car.

    • Hilah on August 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Great tips, Daniel!

  9. Becca Holton on August 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    This was so helpful for double checking I’ve got everything ready for my next trip. My husband wants to go out and spend a day at this lake a friend told him about. I’m glad that you mentioned how uncomfortable wet clothes can be. That was a great reminder to pack extra clothes.

    • Hilah on August 25, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      I’m happy this was helpful, Becca! Have fun at the lake! 🙂

  10. Gis on May 3, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Fyi! Baby powder works great to use before getting in the car to remove excess sand off skin that has been rolling around in sand and prevents feeling ichy on your way back to cabin or hotel.

    • Hilah on May 4, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Great tip for the beach, Gis!

  11. Blood Line ?? on July 23, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Love the ideas guys

  12. Chanda on June 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I love the trash bag paragraph!

    • Hilah on June 28, 2019 at 4:27 pm


    • JP on August 1, 2020 at 3:00 pm


  13. Genesis on July 13, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    These tips were really great but kinda obvious, maybe add some more interesting tips that no one thinks about. And I really jad a laugh when I read this article so great work! 🙂

    • Patricia Q on August 18, 2021 at 12:10 pm

      Bluetooth speaker is a good idea, I have mine charging rt now for this weekend ? ?

  14. Chantel on May 13, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    Who’s Is here 2020 also I am planing to pack all these items

  15. David M Powell on May 21, 2020 at 4:49 am

    I really enjoyed reading this and getting tips. The replies were great as well! “Don’t be a dick!”, I wasn’t expecting that!!!!

  16. Makayla on May 21, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    This list was amazing I am planning a four-day trip this weekend and this list was very helpful and I think that it would be a lot more helpful if you were to add more items that would be for more than a day trips. But other than that the list was very good and very helpful thank you!

  17. Pamela on May 30, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Bug spray!!!!! How can anyone forget!? It’s a miserable day on the lake without it.

  18. juliette on May 23, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    these all are very good ideas

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