Beach season is almost upon us (unless you live somewhere like California or Florida, in which case it’s probably a year-round thing). Nobody wants to go cold turkey with their technology — even while out on the beach — so it’s time for a roundup of gadgets that will make the sun, sand and surf even more enjoyable.
The Coolest Cooler was set to be the best gadget ever for beachgoers when it raised $13 million on Kickstarter. A cooler with wide, sand-friendly tires, built-in blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, an LED light and its own bottle opener?
Sounded great, but unfortunately it imploded in a spectacular fashion and has turned into a Kickstarter cautionary tale.
Many of those ideas were solid — you definitely want things like a cooler and a Bluetooth speaker for the beach — but trying to jam them all into a single uber gadget is not the best approach.
Here are 10 gadgets that are guaranteed to improve your summer beach experience.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Samsung Galaxy Active
You don’t want to be without your smartphone, even on the beach, but sand and water are a combination that will make short work of these delicate devices.
Every year, Samsung (SSNLF) releases an “Active” version of its popular Galaxy smartphone. It’s “ruggedized”, dust-proof, water-resistant and has a larger battery, making it perfect for checking e-mail or updating something on any of Facebook Inc’s (FB) platforms while relaxing by the ocean.
The last official version was the Galaxy S6 Active, but Samsung accidentally spilled the beans on a forthcoming Galaxy S7 Active. The regular Galaxy S7 will definitely fare better than anything Apple Inc. (AAPL) offers, but if you can spring for an Active version (once it hits shelves), you should be covered for just about anything a day at the beach can throw at you.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Dog & Bone Wetsuit Impact Case
If you carry an iPhone, you need to protect it if you’re going to take it to the beach.
Rumors have the iPhone 7 being waterproof, but the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s definitely are not. Splashing, blowing sand and hits by errant Frisbees will quickly reduce your favorite gadget to a hunk of junk destined to meet Liam, Apple’s recycling robot.
Fortunately, there are many protective cases to choose from.
I’ve been impressed by the Wetsuit Impact Case, available for iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus. It’s made by Australian company, Dog & Bone … is there anyone out there who would know beach conditions better than Australians? The Wetsuit Impact Case provides protection from bumps, water, dirt, sand and even snow (in case you want to check out a beach in Antarctica).
The rubberized case is stylish and the textured rubber makes it easier to grip, even with wet hands.
I submerged a review unit for 15 minutes in water to prove there was absolutely no leakage. The flexible glass screen protector doesn’t distort your display, and there’s even a thin membrane over the Home button so Touch ID works.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Margaritaville Explorer Cordless Frozen Concoction Maker
One thing the Coolest Cooler had right was the idea of a portable blender.
While a cheeseburger in Paradise is nice, I think sipping on a frozen beverage, while sitting in the hot sun and watching the waves hit the beach, is even better.
And who would be better qualified to tackle this scenario than Jimmy Buffett? As part of his beach party empire, the Margaritaville Explorer Cordless Frozen Concoction Maker lets you shave ice and blend up to 60 drinks — 20 pitchers — on a single charge.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: GoPro Hero Session
Beaches are home to the kind of activities that are made for an action camera: surfing, snorkeling, water skiing, para sailing … you get the idea.
GoPro Inc (GPRO) is still at the top when it comes to action cameras, and the GoPro Hero Session is its most affordable and compact device yet.
Waterproof to 33 feet, one-button controls, Full HD video and the option of 100-frames-per-second slow motion means you can capture all the action.
The tiny cube measures only 1.5-inches on a side, so you can attach it virtually anywhere, and “lugging” this tiny gadget from the car to your spot in the sand is a matter of slipping it in a pocket.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Fugoo Tough XL Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re going to be camped out on the beach all day, you need tunes.
Thankfully, the days of boom boxes that need 10 D-Cell batteries (and blow through them in two or three hours) are long gone. With a portable Bluetooth speaker, you don’t need anything but your smartphone to play hours of beach-friendly music.
There are thousands of Bluetooth speakers out there, but the best portable speaker I’ve found for this situation is the Fugoo Tough XL.
This thing packs eight drivers, 38-Watts of power and 360-degree sound into a case designed to survive being run over by a dune buggy. It’s IP67 waterproof, sandproof and pretty much everything-proof (as part of a review, I even tossed one in a snowbank, where it kept playing without missing a beat).
The battery will last an incredible 35 hours at 50% volume, and a USB output port lets you us it recharge your mobile devices.
In addition to doing double-duty as a speakerphone, you can even use the Fugoo Tough XL to access Siri and Google Now, so you don’t have to touch your smartphone screen with those greasy sunscreen fingers when you want to check the weather forecast.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: UE Roll Bluetooth Speaker
If you want music in a package that’s a little more compact and maybe a bit more “beachy” in appearance, then the UE Roll from Logitech International SA (USA)’s (LOGI) Ultimate Ears division is a popular choice.
The UE Roll is colorful (there are lots of funky options to choose from), compact, has 9-hour battery life and it’s waterproof. Sound isn’t anything near to what that Fugoo can put out, but it’s a heck of a lot better than your smartphone’s built-in speakers. The UE Roll also has an extended 65-foot Bluetooth range, so you can take it in the water and leave that smartphone safely back at the chairs.
Buy it directly from UE’s website and they’ll even throw in an inflatable “Floatie” life preserver for it, so the UE Roll floats in the water with you.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Kobo Aura H20
Listening to music is big, but reading, one of the other most popular beach activities, can also be improved through use of gadgets.
For years, bringing a dog-eared novel to read while relaxing in a lounger, surrounded by sand and waves, was the ultimate in vacation relaxation for many people. With an e-reader, you’re not just limited to a single book — you can bring your entire digital library with you. And unlike a tablet, text on an e-reader looks even better in sunlight, and battery life won’t be an issue.
When it comes to beach-friendly e-readers, Amazon.com, Inc.’s (AMZN) Kindle line is out. Unless you’re stuck on the Kindle format (in which case you’d better try to find a waterproof case for your Kindle), the Kobo Aura H2O from Japan’s Rakuten Inc (RKUNF) is the way to go.
You get a high resolution, 6.8-inch display in a premium e-reader with 11 different fonts in 24 different sizes to choose from. All of this is in a package that is dustproof and waterproof — I dunked a Kobo Aura H2O in a foot of water as part of a review, so I can attest to the fact that it should survive anything a beach visit can throw at it.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: DJI Phantom 2 Drone
Flying a kite at the beach is so 1950s. The new version of this longtime favorite activity uses one of the hottest gadgets around: a drone.
The DJI Phantom 2 is a few generations behind the latest Phantom 4 drone, so you will not get all the latest features like ActiveTrack or a built-in 4K camera.
However, the Phantom 2 is still a very impressive drone, and its price has been cut to $339, which is a considerable savings compared to the $1,399 Phantom 4.
It’s not cheap enough that you wouldn’t be upset if you accidentally ditched it in the ocean, but add your own GoPro camera and imagine the aerial footage you could get. You could also keep an eye on the kids in the water without having to leave the comfort of your chair.
Just make sure to check local rules and regulations before launching, as not all beaches permit visitors to buzz the crowds from above. Also, fellow beachgoers enjoying an outing in their bathing suits may not appreciate your hovering camera, so be prepared for some conversations if you decide to play pilot.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Lightspeed Quick Shelter Beach Tent
Enjoying the beach naturally involves a lot of sun, but spending all day under those blazing rays can be a little too much. That’s why a beach tent is such a great idea.
The Lightspeed Quick Shelter Beach Tent has an easy-to-use top-pull hub system, so you can get it set up in seconds. There’s room inside for two chairs, the fabric offers UPF 50+ protection, as well as hard-to-find shade and there are two large mesh windows for airflow.
It’s lightweight, packs up into an easy-to-carry bag and uses pockets you fill with sand to keep it in place.
The only thing that would make this shelter perfect (if you’re willing to carry a little more gear and spring for some D-cells) is this battery-powered ceiling fan … and a few frosty beverages from that Frozen Concoction Maker.
10 Best Tech Gadgets to Take to the Beach: Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit
All these gadgets run on battery power, but what happens when power runs low? It’s not like there are electrical outlets on the beach …
The Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit from Goal Zero is an excellent addition to your beach gear collection.
Included is a 7800 mAh battery, capable of charging most small consumer electronics. It has enough juice to recharge several smartphones or a tablet … or you could recharge a GoPro five times. You can even recharge two devices at the same time.
While you can charge that battery at home to start off, the kit also includes a folding 7W solar panel that will fully re-charge the battery in nine hours of sun.
The whole kit folds up for easy carrying and it is impervious to water damage, making it the perfect backup power for your beach trip.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.