BEST Beach Gear
Ocean Reef Aria Full-Face Snorkelling Mask
Understandably, many people find breathing though a snorkel extremely claustrophobic and that’s even before they’ve put their head in the water. Well here’s a snorkel and mask combo that’s suitable for even the most aquaphobic of wannabe snorkelers. The Aria is a one-piece system you place over your entire face, from forehead to chin. Device Squad tested it out in a local pool and we can only heap praise on it. It’s a remarkable difference to the norm.
The removable snorkel section is fitted at the top of the mask and features an effective float stopper to prevent water from pouring in during a dive. Aside from the fact that the mask allows the user to breathe far more easily without that panicky hyperventilation feeling, what equally impresses is the way it refuses to steam up. A special internal nose guard and a system of valves and clever channels embedded around the sides of the widescreen mask ports hot breath back up through the snorkel without any misting whatsoever.
Sure the Aria is a bit more cumbersome to put on, but once in place it offers excellent underwater vision and a great sense of calm, allowing users to enjoy underwater life without feeling like they’re submerged. If you’re thinking of purchasing one, make sure you try one out at a high street retailer in order to get a proper fit. The Aria won’t necessarily be the first port of call for experienced snorkelers but for beginners and scaredy cats it’s a genuine blessing.
CGear Sand-Free mat
This ingenious beach mat sheds sand like a giant sieve. Just tap or gently shake the mat and watch in amazement as the carpet of beach sand that mysteriously encroached upon your private sun space magically disappears through the mat’s ultra fine, dual-layered polyethylene weave. It's not the softest material, mind, so place your beach towel on top for optimum comfort. If you supplement the mat with CGear’s Sand-Free Tote (£20), you won’t have half the beach following you home either.
Kobo Aura H2O
Kobo’s gone one better than Kindle by producing an e-reader that can be submerged in water or covered in sand and dust without causing your current read to spontaneously self destruct. The Aura H2O is IP67 certified so it’ll survive in one metre of water for up to 30 minutes, and that means beach sand hasn’t got a chance of fouling up anything either. With a choice of over four million books at your disposal, the Aura H2O is surely the definitive beach reader.
Overboard Classic Waterproof Duffel Bag
Overboard manufactures a wide range of water- and sand-proof bags for offshore boating enthusiasts, canoeists, beach goers and anyone else wishing to keep their gear safe from the elements. This 40-litre duffel folds flat for easy transport and provides enough space for a full gamut of seaside accoutrements. Best of all, it keeps everything completely dry and dust free and, if sealed correctly, even floats.
As any parent will testify, deep water and young children do not mix; if anything’s going to send a shiver down the spine, it’s the thought of a loved one falling into a swimming pool, pond, river or lake without anyone knowing about it. That’s where the iOS-connected iSwimband comes in. The system is comprised of a headband sensor for swimmers and a wrist band for non swimmers.
The swimmer version measures the amount of time the wearer is under water and sounds a loud audible alert on the parent’s iOS device should a child not surface within a predetermined time scale. The non swimmer model, meanwhile, rings alarm bells if the wearer falls into any body of water. It’s an invaluable monitoring system for beach holidays, owners of pools and anyone with a body of water on their land.
Make the most of the sunshine without turning the colour of tomato by wearing this UVA+B detector. The SunFriend’s design is more suitable for kids than adults but then children’s skin is more at risk from burning. The SunFriend measures both UVA and UVB rays and alerts the user well before any damage is done. Simply set the device to your personal skin colour (1 is for light skin and 11 is for dark) and relax in the knowledge that when you’re approaching ‘done’, the watch face will come alive with a circus of flashing LEDs. Rather handily, the device is also waterproof to three metres.
You reach into your beach-bag for the last beer only to discover it’s morphed into a hot fizzy soup. What you need is some kind of portable electricity-powered cooler box that keeps food and drink at two degrees above fridge temperature – all day long. Wait a minute, how about this brand new solar-powered cooler that holds over 50 cans at a respectably chilly 5.5˚C?
Waboba Water Ball
It’s a ball, but not just any old ball. The Waboba is about the size of a tennis ball, only softer and covered in a nylon-type material. Nothing unusual there, then. However, chuck this soft-centered sphere diagonally across the water and it skips across the waves like an offshore powerboat. Hours of chuck-and-catch fun guaranteed.
Liquid Image 325 scuba mask
This tempered glass scuba mask sticks to your face like a limpet and features a built-in 12mp camera that shoots impressive 1080p widescreen video. It’s good for a depth of 40 metres and includes a nice big shutter lever to make sub-aquatic picture taking a breeze.
Vertty Beach Towel
It’s a towel. But not just any old towel. This triangulated beach pal is uniquely shaped, larger than the average sunbathing towel and made from a smooth, lush, velvety fabric that has impressive drying properties. The Vertty even comes with its own waterproof pocket to keep your valuables hidden from dodgy beach bandits. And it’s available in more colours and patterns than Joseph's coat.
Sea-Doo Caban Lounge
This floating patio is the lilo equivalent of a Russian oligarch’s yacht, replete with drink holders, waterproof phone holder and integrated stereo speakers. It takes some puff to blow up but rewards the effort with extraordinary comfort and stability. Its sun awning could feasibly double as a sail to get you back to shore.
Sun is a wondrous thing… until it turns you the colour of ketchup and your skin falls off. This natty electronic slap-on rubber wrist band monitors the sun’s UV rays and vibrates like a phone when it’s time for another sun-screen application.
There's no better kite flying area than the beach. The wind is usually constant and, aside from a few sunbathers, there are precious few obstacles in the way. For the ultimate thrill, get yourself a powerkite and let yourself be dragged across the sands. Such fun. The Flexifoil Rage is suitable for beginners as well as advanced flyers . It’s available in several different sizes and is eminently controllable, extremely robust and huge fun to fly. It’s an excellent design for buggying too. Just make sure you wrap up the lines carefully when finished or next time you’ll have a nightmare of a tangle to deal with.
See more about powerkiting on our special Traction Kites page.
You can hire snorkelling gear at most aqua sport centres but you’ll probably be handed a cheap set of one-size-fits-all guff that doesn’t actually fit very well. This especially applies to masks. The ultra pliable LiquidSkin material used on Mares’ X-Vision hugs your facial contours and leaves no marks when removed. The clear, see-through surround also helps prevent that claustrophobic feeling you get with non transparent designs. With this mask you can see everything above and around you – handy for spotting that Great White lurking in the shadows. The Mares X-Vision is available in two sizes.
Mares X-Vision Mask
Aquapac Wet & Dry
As the name suggests, Aquapac specialises in sealed bags that keep gear bone dry whether kayaking down rapids, hiking through a damp rainforest or lounging on a beach. Made entirely from TPU-coated fabrics (Thermoplastic polyurethane, if you must know), the new ultra lightweight Wet & Dry features a simple roll seal to keep gadgets and other items free from H2O damage. The main internal pocket is also waterproof which is very handy for keeping stuff like wet swimming trunks away from your precious electronics. And, as if that weren’t enough waterproofing for one bag, there’s yet another, smaller sealable pouch on the inside for gadgets like phones and compact cameras. The Wet & Dry is available in three sizes (15L, 25L and 35L) and is the perfect partner for anywhere damp. Like Britain.
Armbands are so last generation. How about kitting your kid out with a SwimFin? This widely-endorsed shark fin-shaped swimming aid straps to your child’s back and keeps him or her buoyant without the restrictive nature of having large balloons strapped to the upper arms. Best avoid the black Killer Whale version lest your sprog is mistaken for an actual shark. You really don't want any Amity Beach-style scenarios spoiling your holiday.
Apple’s iPad is a beautifully sleek thing but kick sand or water in its face and it’s sure to throw a wobbly. This over-engineered, industrial-specced 10-inch Windows 8.1 tablet is designed for construction workers so a little sand is never going to bother it. The extraordinarily expensive Toughpad is equipped with a rugged drop-proof housing and resilient 10-inch display that are not only sand- and drop-proof but water resistant too, and that means peace of mind even if, Heaven forfend, your beach turns out to be a builder’s yard.
Panasonic FZ-G1 Toughpad
Not all snorkels are the same. Some cheaper models simply have an open top that lets in water which you then need to blow out before taking another breath. Others have a valve system that closes off the top end as soon as the diver submerges. However, even these can let in a spoonful or two of H20. Aeris’s Cuda snorkel lives up to its ‘dry’ moniker. It even stays dry when bobbing about in breaking waves. During tests, we still felt the need to blow when surfacing but this little tube of magic somehow remained bone dry every time. The Aeris Cuda Dry may cost more than others and it's not easy to find in the UK, but that’s the price you pay for avoiding a lungful of water.
Aeris Cuda Dry 2 Snorkel
If you’re off on a boating holiday, you might rue the day you never took along one of these handy keyrings. The Waterbuoy is a clever floatation device that automatically inflates a bright orange balloon shortly after hitting the water, bringing your valuables to the surface with it. It’s ideal for boat keys and any other vitally important items. It remains afloat for up to 24 hours and even features an integrated flashing beacon.
Overboard Dry Tube Bag
Protect your belongings from the elements with one of these airtight waterproof bags from Overboard. The rubberised material is extremely hardwearing and if you seal the top correctly the bag will float. An invaluable accessory for boaters and beachcombers.