When I first met my wife, I was but a couple toothbrushing sessions this side of feral. I had come to southern Oregon two months before my job managing a whitewater rafting company began during a banner snowpack year. The fact that I was able to divert enough attention from that epic rafting season to fall in love is a testament to how amazing she is.
In our early courting stages, she invited me to meet some of her closest friends and family at a barbecue. When I asked what I could bring, she said, “Yourself.” I showed up an hour late, empty-handed save for the funk lingering on the synthetic top and trunks I had been wearing under my dry top from kayaking that day. I silently brooded over my disheveled appearance even as I was showered in kindness, perfectly cooked pork chops, and top-shelf alcohol.
While I’ve never managed to show up for another family barbecue on time, I have gotten into the habit of putting on deodorant, wearing decent clothes, and bringing a decent six-pack of beer. Here are seven items to keep you from showing up empty-handed and looking like a bum at your post-adventure barbecues this summer.
Spy Optic Trancas Sunglasses ($140)
The stylish full-framed Trancas have been my go-to casual since I tested a preproduction pair last summer. They have survived dozens of ground falls and a horrific drop into a toilet at a burrito joint (plus subsequent bleaching), thanks to the heavy-duty frames and five-barrel hinges. Their story isn’t all about style: They feature Spy’s Happy Lenses, which have proven to be the easiest on the eyes in terms of reducing glare of any lenses I have tested.
Howler Brothers Horizon Hybrid Shorts ($65)
In the year that I have been wearing the Horizon Hybrids, they’ve been everywhere from on my waist and under my spray skirt and party to all kinds of adventures: kayaking Crystal Rapid in the Grand Canyon, refreshing the dirt in my raised flower beds, and accompanying me through countless brunches. They’re my most versatile shorts. The nylon ripstop dries in minutes after a soaking. Coupled with mesh pockets, they are amphibious enough to encourage a mid-barbecue swim. The best part? The 9.5-inch inseam, casual cut, and matte finish of the nylon make them dressy enough to look good under a collared shirt.
Iron and Resin Days of Our Lives 2 Woven Shirt ($105)
Show up at summer barbecues looking sharp without looking stuffy with this linen-and-cotton woven shirt from Ventura, California–based brand Iron & Resin. The small, simple graphics—mountain camping, beer, fishing boats—tell a fun summer story while the tailored fit keeps it from looking too shabby.
NRS Men’s Crush Water Shoe ($80)
The grippy siped rubber sole, fast-drying Cordura upper, and four drain ports make the Crush perform like a technical water shoe, but it wears like a casual canvas shoe. The Crush have become my favorite around-the-house shoe because the heel is designed to collapse into the footbed without losing its integrity. That means they’re easy to politely slip on and off.
Topo Designs Map Hat ($32)
We love everything Colorado-based Topo Designs makes, and this simply designed six-paneled hat is no exception. The understated logo coupled with the cotton twill knit and leather sizing closure make this hat look more like a style piece than anything else, but the vibe is subtle enough that you won’t look like you’re trying too hard.
Mountainsmith Cooler Tube ($25)
This 3.75-liter tube is low-profile enough strap close to your back while biking to your barbecue and won’t split into pieces if you crash on the way, thanks to its hardy 19-ounce hemp exterior. The lightly insulated tube doesn’t have space for ice, but being able to toss a six-pack into the side pouch is a sweet party trick if you aren’t traveling too far.*
Yeti Rambler Colster ($30)
I am a strong believer that every warm-weather beer deserves a koozie. I’ve been using the Colster for a little over a month now and can say it is an evolutionary step above the various hand-saving beer insulators I’ve used before. The stainless-steel, double-walled, 12-ounce can or bottle holder locks your beverage in tight with a top lid and keeps a solid quarter-inch of dead space between your hand and your beer—ideal for keeping both at their preferred temperatures.
*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Mountainsmith Cooler tube costs $22, has a 150-denier nylon exterior, and is waterproof.