There are several aspects to consider when purchasing a beach towel. The most obvious are size and weight. A regular size adult beach towel is approximately 170cm in length and 90cm wide. This is bigger than a standard bath towel. This should provide ample cover for a sun-lounger, to wrap around the body and provide sufficient water absorbancy. There are many towels on the market that are smaller but we would not recommend a towel any smaller than 150cm x 75cm unless for a small child. Most of the towels we sell are extra large in size and measure 180cm x 100cm.
Towels are also differentiated by weight. The normal measurement is grams per square meter (gsm). The higher the gsm number then the heavier the towel and the more luxurious. The number usually refers to the thread count per square metre. Most standard beach towels are around 380-420 gsm. The full range tends to be 320gsm to around 540gsm. However, it is worth bearing in mind that when packing in a suitcase or when a towel is wet, the lighter the towel then the easier it is to fold down and the quicker it dries when wet. This aspect has led to the rise in popularity of the so-called ‘hammam’ or 'fouta' towel. These are like a giant tea towel (although much prettier) and can easily absorb water but dry very quickly.
When we refer to ‘terry towelling’ we simply mean the towel is of loop piled fabric. It is the loops that provide great absorbancy and can be seen when examining the towel more closely. We sell a wide range of towels that have a velour finish. This means that the loops on one side of the towel have been partially sheered. This is done to allow much sharper patterns and images to appear on the towel. However, the towel will have lost some weight and absorbancy as a consequence although the latter is only slight. The word Jacquard can also be used with beach towels and refers to the manner in which the towel is woven. A Jacquard loom allows complex patterns and designs to be created much more simply with most now computer controlled.
The last point to note is whether a pattern on a towel is woven or printed. A woven towel should produce a pattern on both sides of the towel. A printed towel will have an image or pattern on one side only. The majority of printed towels use white cotton towelling and this is what is seen on the reverse side. However, plain coloured towelling can also be used. Printed towels tend to be smaller in size (150cm x 75cms) and lighter in weight (320-350 gsm). Consequently, a printed towel should cost less than a woven towel.
We have not touched upon the different types of cotton grown and its origination so as to not get too technical. Just bear in mind that cotton towelling can comprise different types of cotton whether pure or blended.
All beach towels should be washed on receipt before using as this helps soften the material and washes away any residue from production. Good quality towels will sometimes produce what is called 'lint' or fluff when washed. This should diminish over time. Quality towels should also soften with age and retain their colour longer. We have noticed that printed towels do tend to fade with washing over time.
There are three main factors to consider – length & height of fabric, type of fabric, number and type of poles. Generally, the length of the fabric will determine the number of poles needed to support it.
Mass-produced windbreaks comprise polyethylene fabric and softwood poles. This type of windbreak is inexpensive and the colour choice tends to be limited. However, there is a wide choice of fabric length defined by the number of poles needed to support it. These range from a standard 4-pole up to a ridiculous 20 pole design. However, most customers opt for a 6 poles, 8-pole or 10-pole design. Today, customers also have the choice of two heights – standard 1.2m or a taller 1.5m. This refers to the pole length with the actual fabric being either 70cm or 1m high. Due to the materials used, these windbreaks have a limited lifespan but do what is required of them on the beach.
For those who wish to differentiate themselves, we offer more expensive alternatives. A popular choice is a cotton windbreak. This offers greater scope for more attractive colour combinations as the cotton is woven to a design. Woven cotton allows double-sided patterns unlike printed cotton that will only have the pattern on one side. As cotton is much heavier than polyethylene, the windbreak has to be limited in size to keep the weight down. We sell our own design cotton windbreaks in a tall 4-pole design that is around 9ft in length. The poles are made from hardwood to provide longevity. To add a little more luxury, we also provide a coordinated cotton carry bag to make it easy to transport. More recently, we have introduced a longer version but have reduced the height of the fabric. This helps keep the carry weight down and it tends to fit into the car boot a little easier. Cotton windbreaks do require a little care when storing (not wet) but will provide many years of use.
In recent years, the ‘sailcloth’ windbreak has appeared and seems to be catching on. These are made from either recycled or new sailcloth that is lightweight, durable and weatherproof. Currently, we offer windbreaks made from windsurf sails that are very colourful and even partially transparent. Due to the materials being used these are more expensive and are generally offered with a matching carry bag. If looked after they will last for many years and certainly make a statement on the beach.
Rather than sitting on the sand, a beach chair gives you a little bit of luxury and it is well worth having one. There are a large number of designs to choose from and it can be confusing. To simplify matters, just think of the chair as comprising a frame and fabric. When it comes to frames, you need to note what they are made from, how they fold down and whether they recline. Frames can be wooden, steel or aluminium. Obviously, both wood and aluminium are rustproof and so tend to be more appropriate than steel that is not. Furthermore, aluminium frames are much lighter and so easier to carry. Most of the beach chairs we sell are aluminium frames. The majority of beach chairs sold by large DIY/garden retailers are steel framed and so cheaper in price. The frames will either fold flat or collapse inwards. The latter tend to fold down into a carry bag whereas the former will have a carry handle or strap incorporated into the design. Chairs also differ insofar that some have one fixed seating position while others have several seating positions, maybe even reclining fully for sunbathing. Lastly, many beach chairs are designed to provide low seating (8-12” off the ground) while outdoor recreational chairs are full height (14-16” off the ground).
When it comes to fabrics, deckchair fabric is normally cotton. It can be printed cotton or woven cotton. The latter is more expensive. Although durable, cotton is not weatherproof and if left outside for long periods in the wet it will begin to rot and if left in the sun a long time the colours may fade. It makes ideal fabric for home leisure use but we would not recommend for commercial use. The latter is better served by acrylic which is far more durable and weather-resistant.
Canvas is sometimes used as it is heavier and harder wearing. However, it will be more expensive and can be more difficult to stitch together.
Beach Chairs generally use either polyester or nylon fabric. Both are lightweight synthetic fabrics that are pliable and absorb less water than say cotton. They are relatively elastic and resilient making them useful outdoors. Most of the beach chairs we sell are made of 600 denier polyester. The higher the denier count (number) then the stronger the fabric but also the rougher the surface.
The traditional accessory for providing shade on a sunny day. Not so good when windy! Parasols can vary enormously in size and shape although the standard construction technique has remained the same for many years. It is worth remembering that beach parasols differ from garden parasols – they must be portable. They should not be heavy and be easy to carry. Against that they need to provide shade and be fairly robust. The most common design comprises stretched fabric over steel wire ribs attached to a telescopic pole that is in two parts. The bottom part goes into the ground and provides the support for the top part that carries the wire ribs and fabric. Traditionally, the top pole slides into the bottom pole allowing the height to be adjusted. To open the parasol, there is a sleeve that slides up the top pole and fans out the ribs and fabric to provide shade. Variations on this standard design concern the poles (can vary in length and diameter), the fabric (can vary in weight and size) and the ribs (can sometimes be U-shaped alloy design rather than steel wire). More recently, the fixed height pole assembly has become more prevalent. The top half of the pole slides onto the bottom half and overlaps by around 10-15cm. It does not operate as a telescopic pole and so the height is not adjustable. The diameter of the poles are also wider giving greater strength. Obviously, the diameter of the fabric when open determines how much shade is provided. Generally, parasols start at around 1.2m diameters but can increase to an impressive 2.5m. However, they are then verging on garden parasol sizes.
A major issue with beach parasols is how to secure them into the ground, especially if there is a sea breeze. Many people force them into the sand using brute force or a rubber mallet. This is fine if there is only a slight wind but can be insufficient if the wind strengthens (normal on British beaches). This is why we sell several versions of 'sand anchors'. These comprise short hollow poles with turning handles at one hand and a corkscrew point at the other. These can be screwed into the beach (sand or stones) and provide a more stable base for the parasol to stand in.