There are few outdoor experiences better than camping by the ocean. Beautiful sunsets, fantastic weather, and amazing wildlife encounters are just some of the many things you have to look forward to when camping on the beach.
Like any camping trip, however, beach camping requires its fair share of preparation to ensure that your adventures go off without a hitch. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of our 21 top beach camping tips and tricks so you can enjoy your seaside escape.
21 Beach Camping Ideas To Try On Your Next Trip
1. Determine Where You Want To Camp
One of the trickiest parts of any beach camping trip is figuring out where to actually pitch your tent for the night. As you can imagine, beach-side tent sites are a hot commodity, so finding the right spot isn’t easy.
When planning your trip, you usually have 2 options: a dedicated beach campground or dispersed camping on a public beach that’s open to campers.
Beach campgrounds tend to be pretty popular places, so booking your site early is highly encouraged.
When it comes to dispersed camping (a.k.a. wild camping, backpacking, or primitive camping), your primary responsibility is to find a beach that’s open to campers. Not all coastlines are camper-friendly, so call the park rangers at your local national or state park to find out the regulations before you leave home.
2. Get The Right Gear For Beach Camping
Camping trips are inherently gear-intensive affairs, so having the right equipment on hand is essential for an enjoyable adventure.
The good news, however, is that your standard beach camping checklist is usually quite similar to the camping checklist you’d find for most types of camping, with a few exceptions, additions, and substitutions to optimize your experience.
For example, one of the beach camping essentials is a quality tent that’s suitable for use in hot, windy, and sandy environments.
In general, you’ll want to look for a tent that is quick to set up because windy tent conditions can make pitching your shelter a struggle. You’ll also want to prioritize breathability and sun protection when camping in a beach environment, like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL.
3. Learn How To Anchor Your Tent In Sand
Unlike camping on soil, when anchoring your tent to the ground is fairly straightforward, camping on a beach is a different beast altogether. Indeed, figuring out how to anchor your tent to the ground when camping in sand can be tricky, so it’s important that you come with the right pair of sand stakes to ensure that your tent doesn’t fly away at night.
In particular, when it comes to sand stakes, you’ll want to look for a model like the MSR Blizzard Stakes. These stakes have a wide, flat profile that can form a better anchor in loose soil at the beach than a traditional thin tent stake.
4. Bring A Handheld Dustpan
Sand is the archnemesis of any beach camper, because, no matter how hard you try, it will get everywhere by the end of the day. As a result, you’ll need a method for removing it from your tent and gear with minimal hassle.
If you’re car camping, one of the best ways to say bye-bye to sand inside your tent is to bring a small handheld dustpan. This doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, but a simple dustpan can help you sweep up the sand that collects in the corners of your tent each night.
5. Use An App To Check The Tides
Unless you happen to be camping at a beach on a very small lake that’s not affected much by the tides, you’ll almost certainly want to be aware of the high tide line as you camp. Since tides can vary by up to 50ft (15m) in some parts of the world, knowing precisely where the high tide line will be is essential for a successful beach camping adventure.
If you want to go old fashioned, you can purchase a tide book at most fishing and marine outfitters around the world to learn more about the tide times and heights before your trip. But, these books are relevant only to a particular area, so they’re not helpful if you like to travel a lot.
Alternatively, you could download a tide app, like the Tide Alert App from NOAA for reliable information about tides around the United States. Since you may not have cell service where you’re camping, try to download tide information before you leave home.
6. Dig A Fire Pit
Bonfires are one of the best parts of camping. However, in a wet and windy environment like the beach, constructing a fire isn’t as easy as it might seem.
One of the best ways to build a fire on the beach is to dig a fire pit into the sand. Doing so will provide natural shelter from the wind so you can enjoy your fire in nearly any conditions.
Do keep in mind, however that you will still need to extinguish with water before calling it quits for the night. So, when it’s time to go to bed, douse the fire with water until the coals are cool, then you can bury the pit in the sand for the perfect Leave No Trace fire.
It’s one of the common camping rules to never leave the fire unattended even surrounded by water.
7. Always Stormproof Your Camp At Night
Beaches can be pretty windy places at night, so it’s imperative that you always keep your camp neat and organized while you’re outside. Doing so means “stormproofing” your camp, which is basically a fancy term for putting everything inside your tent or another sturdy container (like a backpack or cooler) so that it doesn’t blow away at night.
Plus, stormproofing your tent also helps to prevent dew from forming all over all of your gear each morning, which minimizes the chances that all your equipment will get coated in wet sand during your trip.
8. Keep An Eye On The Weather
We’ve all been there: you’re relaxing on the beach on a beautifully sunny day when, lo and behold – a storm comes barreling in out of nowhere, leaving you scrambling to put away all your gear before it flies away.
Unfortunately, unexpected storms do happen, especially near the ocean. However, you can often see these storms coming as low, dark clouds move quickly toward your campsite.
Therefore, it’s important that you always check the weather before you leave home to ensure that there aren’t any major storms forecasted for your trip. When you’re actually outside, you’ll also want to keep an eye on the weather at all times so you can be prepared if there’s an incoming storm.
9. Avoid Camping On Sand Dunes
While they might seem like a cool place to pitch your tent for the night, sand dunes aren’t the best place to camp while at the beach.
Well, sand dunes actually serve as a natural barrier between the ocean and the coastline to prevent beach erosion. So, it’s important that we humans don’t run around on them or camp on them, which can disturb the dunes’ natural ecosystems.
Plus, sand dunes are also more likely to have various grasses and shrubs growing on them, which increases your likelihood of tick and insect bites as you camp.
Moral of the story? Avoid camping on sand dunes whenever possible and opt for a flat area above the high tide line, instead.
10. Bring Blankets For Relaxation
Although lying on the sand might be fun for a short period of time, it’s not quite enjoyable when you already have sand in every little nook and cranny of your body.
Therefore, if you really want to relax and enjoy yourself on the beach, you’ll want to bring a blanket or towel for lounging and relaxation. If you’re backpacking, you can bring a lightweight and highly portable towel, like the beach-sized PackTowl for added convenience while you’re outside.
11. Prioritize Hydration
Hydration is an important part of any outdoor adventure and beach camping trips are no exception. That being said, in the heat and sun that you often find at the beach, proper hydration is especially critical.
As a general rule, we humans should aim to drink at least 3 liters (0.75 gal) of water per day, though you may need more if you’re camping in hot environments, like at the beach. So, try to budget at least 4 liters (about 1 gallon) of water per person, per day for drinking to ensure everyone has enough.
12. Create A Sand-Free Entryway
If you’re camping on the beach, it’s nearly inevitable that sand will make its way into your tent. However, you can minimize some of this problem by creating a sand-free entry way to your shelter.
To do so, simply place a tarp, towel, or even an unused old sleeping pad at the front of your tent (be sure to weigh it down with rocks to prevent it from flying away). Then, create a “no shoes” rule so that everyone has to take off their footwear at the sand-free entryway before going inside the tent to minimize any unwanted sand transportation into your sleeping area.
13. Bring A Quality Cooler
In a hot environment, like the beach, it can be difficult to keep your food and drinks properly chilled. To do so, you’ll need a quality cooler.
There are a whole lot of different coolers on the market, though, so selecting just one isn’t easy. For beach camping purposes, we’d recommend a durable, extra-insulated, roto-molded option like the YETI Tundra Haul, which can keep ice frozen for days on end.
14. Don’t Forget The Sunscreen
At this point, the dangers of excessive sun exposure are well-known and are widely understood. Therefore, it’s critical that you come prepared to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays while you’re at camp.
Doing so means packing plenty of sunscreen for your adventures. While everyone has their own preferred sunscreen, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
For beachside use, sunscreens like the zinc-based Ethical Zinc Sunscreen, which is harmless to corals, is a solid choice. Just remember to frequently reapply your sunscreen, especially after swimming!
15. Packing A Sun Shirt Is A Good Idea, Too
Although sunscreen is a great first line of defense against the sun, it’s generally not enough to protect you if you’re spending a lot of time outside – especially on a camping trip.
Therefore, it’s worth considering packing clothing with UPF protection, like the BALEAF Sun Shirt, which can offer extra protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Oh, and don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat, too, to provide extra protection for your face and neck.
16. Make Your Own Shade
Okay, okay, it might seem like we’re focusing a lot on staying out of the sun when you’re beach camping, but in a hot, sunny environment like the coastline, shade can be hard to come by. Plus, while hanging out in the sun might be fun for a few hours, over time, you’ll find that you crave the shade, so making your own shade is essential.
In the interest of keeping sand out of your tent as much as possible, it’s often best to create a second shade area where you can relax during the day. You can do so by pitching a hammock tarp or by setting up a dedicated beach umbrella where you can hang out whenever you need a break from the sun.
17. Be A Beach Steward & Pack Out Trash
Did you know? NOAA estimates that billions of pounds of trash end up in the ocean each year, which can threaten wildlife and delicate coastal ecosystems around the world.
While most of us avid campers already pack out our trash, regardless of where we’re camping, the particularly precarious situation of the world’s beaches makes this point worth repeating.
Oh, and if you want to do some good for the environment while you’re camping, consider bringing some extra garbage bags so you can collect some trash during your stay. If you’re camping with kids, you could even make it a contest to see who can collect the most beach trash during your adventures – you’ll be surprised at how much you can collect!
18. Do A Tick Check Every Night
While ticks might not be high up on your list of things to worry about while in a coastal environment, ticks do live at the beach, particularly in warm locales. In fact, tall sea grass makes for an excellent habitat for ticks, so you’ll want to do a tick check before going to bed each night, just in case.
You can also consider wearing clothing that’s been treated with insect repellent while you camp. If you already have clothing that you enjoy wearing, you can spray your gear with Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent for an extra layer of protection.
Do take care when actually spraying your gear and clothing, however, as permethrin (the active ingredient in many insect repellents for clothing) is toxic to cats when wet. So, when you are camping with a cat, keep your recently treated clothes away until it’s thoroughly dry.
19. Camp Chairs Are A Must
Camping at the beach is all about relaxing and enjoying the stunning view. But, after a while, you might not want to lie down in the sand anymore, so you’ll need to bring a quality camping chair.
While you can certainly pack a traditional beach chair if you’re car camping, for backpacking trips, you’ll need to be a bit more creative. In these situations, a small, highly portable camping chair, like the Helinox Chair Zero makes for the perfect relaxation station.
20. Rinse Off With Fresh Water Every Day
Chafing and dry skin is a fairly common problem if you spend a lot of time in a hot beach environment and both sand and salt are normally to blame.
To prevent sand and salt build-up on your skin while you camp, consider rinsing off with fresh water on a regular basis. If you’re at a beach campground, this will likely be fairly straightforward, as you can generally find showers or running water to rinse off with.
For folks that are backpacking or in a more remote locale, you’ll want to be a bit more cautious about how much of your drinking water you use for rinsing off each day.
A simple solution is to take a quick sponge bath each day with a small amount of your fresh water. Focus mostly on areas that are more likely to chafe, such as behind your knees, in between your legs, and your armpits if you’re low on water.
21. Shake Out Your Gear At The End of Each Trip
Finally, the very last thing you should do before leaving your beachside campsite is to shake out all of your gear to remove any lingering sand.
Sand is known for being particularly difficult to remove from your gear, which can cause a big mess when you finally unpack your equipment at home. To save yourself the hassle of sweeping up a miniature sandbox at home, be sure to thoroughly shake out your chairs, towels, and tents before packing them up for the day.
If you can, it’s also worth shaking out your gear one more time when you get home in your driveway or yard to ensure you got as much sand out of your equipment as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up transporting a whole lot of sand to your next campsite, which isn’t exactly ideal.
1. How Do You Prevent Chafing While Beach Camping?
The best way to prevent chafing while beach camping is to rinse off frequently with fresh water. Since most chafing at the beach is caused by sand and salt, rinsing off with fresh water can help alleviate some of the problem.
Additionally, it’s important to keep your skin moisturized as dry skin is more likely to chafe over time. So, bring plenty of moisturizer to ensure that your skin stays well hydrated during your camping trip.
2. How Do You Get Sand Out Of A Tent?
You have 2 primary options when it comes to getting sand out of your tent. First, you can use a handheld dustpan to sweep up the sand on a regular basis.
Or, if you have a freestanding tent, you can take out the stakes and take off the rainfly, pick up the tent, flip it upside down, and shake it so the sand falls out. When you’re done, you can set your tent back up and enjoy your sand-free abode.
3. Is It Illegal To Sleep In A Tent On The Beach?
The short answer? It depends. While there are plenty of great places where it is legal to sleep in a tent on the beach (particularly in national and state parks or designated campgrounds), most public beaches are day-use only and are not open to campers. When in doubt, contact the local land manager for camping approval before you plan your camping trip.