One of the best parts of blogging for a living is being able to set my own hours and work from just about anywhere. When my children are home for the summer, my productivity does go down a little — I cherish my time with them, and there are far too many beautiful summer days to spend inside in front of a computer. I try to find a good balance of work time and play time each day.
I have a setup that I’ve nicknamed my “summer office,” which is ready to go with us wherever we might want to spend the day. Whether we’re spending a few hours at the park, the pool, the beach, or even our own backyard, I can spend time with my kids and get some work done while they enjoy the sunshine. My mobile office gear is pretty simple but effective:
– Pop-up sun cabana
– Folding beach chair
– Compact laptop desk
– Laptop, wireless mouse
– Beach bag & supplies
Pop-Up Sun Cabana
I’ve owned this pop-up sun cabana for over a decade. I’ve written about it before, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear. It has a spring frame that automatically opens when you take it out of its backpack, and it sets up and folds down in a flash. Four stakes hold it to the ground, or you can fill the side pouches with sand to anchor it on the beach. The cabana is wide enough for three or four people to sit together inside. You can unzip the back wall and allow the breeze to come through, which is important — it can quickly heat up inside without a crosswind.
I originally purchased mine as the “Sun Smarties” cabana from the One Step Ahead children’s catalog, but they no longer carry it. However, Shade Shack makes one with the same dimensions for $50, which is about the same price I paid years ago. I also found another version made by EasyGo for around $36. These two have a noted improvement over the one I’ve got: side windows for additional ventilation.
Certainly, there are other sun cabana products out there, but nearly every time I set this thing up in public, people immediately want to know where I got it! There are no guy lines or ropes to stake out, and it can be popped up and taken down in seconds. It’s also pretty strong in the wind, which is important on those breezy days! Its strong steel frame can bend in the wind, but it doesn’t collapse.
I’ve seen a less-expensive sun cabana at Aldi for under $15, which seemed like it would be a steal, until I saw one set up at our public pool on a breezy day:
Despite its diagonal ropes staked across the front and back for stability, this cabana just didn’t seem strong enough to stay up in the wind. If budget allows and it’s something you’ll use regularly, I’d highly recommend springing for a good model. Not only does this give me some shade for my laptop screen, it also gives us a place to gather out of the sun and have a picnic lunch too.
Rio folding beach chair
I picked up my Rio beach chair at CVS a couple summers ago during an end-of-summer sale for around $15, and I just love it.The back and seat are solid fabric panels versus the plastic-webbing kind, so your skin doesn’t stick to it, even when it’s hot outside. It also fully reclines for those vacationing-at-home, break time/sun time moments. It came with a shoulder strap for easy carrying when it’s folded.
Everything about this chair is comfortable. It also has solid wood arms. I didn’t realize how important that was until I started using this chair regularly for working outdoors. We have other lawnchairs with metal arms (they get hot, and your arms stick to them) and plastic arms (again, sweaty/sticky in the heat.)
The other reason I like the arms of this chair is that they’re stable enough to balance my laptop desk on…
Logitech Portable Lapdesk
My husband gave me this lapdesk as a gift years ago, and it’s truly one of the greatest pieces of equipment for working on the go. While my laptop has a touchpad, I really prefer to use a mouse, and this lapdesk has a built-in, slide-out platform for the mouse. When you’re done using it, the platform slides into the lapdesk, and the lapdesk fits inside my laptop bag, suitcase, or in this case, my beach bag. It’s very lightweight, and its footprint isn’t much larger than my laptop itself. (Strangely, the newer model of this lapdesk costs much less than the one I have.)
Its only tiny flaw is that the desk and mouse platform aren’t quite wide enough to span the arms of my beach chair (first-world problem, I know..!) I end up rolling up a towel to support the end that isn’t resting on the arm of my beach chair. The top surface of the lapdesk is coated with a soft rubber that keeps the laptop from sliding off. The lapdesk also keeps the heat of the laptop from transferring to my legs. It’s a great little piece of equipment.
Everything I bring to “work,” with the exception of the beach chair, fits in my large utility tote bag. I’ve written about my love of these totes too — score a low-priced bag during end-of-summer sales at places like Meijer and Target. (Or, make your own!) They’re huge, and in addition to my mobile-office gear, there’s plenty of room for beach towels, sunscreen, snacks, toys, a mini cooler, and whatever else our day trips call for.
When you read my blog during the summertime, there’s a very good chance that what you’re reading was written right from the comfort of this office!