I love camping on the beach but it is so much better when you know just a few key beach camping tips!
From keeping sand out of your tent to making sure your spot is legit, there’s a lot more to think about than camping elsewhere.
But have no fear, let this post be your guide and learn from:
1. Camping Facility or Free-Range Camping?
Before we offer you beach camping tips, you must decide where you want to camp.
Some people love to roam free while others prefer amenities like a bathroom or running water. There are some great campgrounds on or very near to the beach.
On the other hand, campgrounds mean more people. So if you prefer to roam free and have the means to do so (usually need a 4-wheel drive vehicle), then by all means do so.
There are pros and cons to both but if you decide to go free range, make sure camping is permitted where you go. You also need to make sure a campfire is permitted if you plan on having a fire.
Pros to free-range camping:
- Fewer People
- Can camp closer to the ocean
Cons to free-range camping:
- Not permitted in many places
- Need a four-wheel drive vehicle or need to carry gear
- No amenities like a bathroom or drinking water
- Higher risk of getting caught in high tide
2. Camp Above High Tide and Check the Tides with an App
The most important of all beach camping tips has to do with your safety! You have to make sure you camp above high tide. Here’s how to check it.
High tide comes every 12.5 hours so there’s a good chance there will be one during the night. Try to identify the high tide mark by a line of seaweed or driftwood left from the last high tide.
Did you know that not all high tides are the same? Some can be higher than others so even if you’re above the last high-tide mark, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear. You should always check the tides and you can do so easily using the Tides Near Me app.
Tides are most extreme during the new moon because that’s when the sun and moon are in the same direction. This means that they’re both pulling the ocean the same way with their gravity, creating higher and lower than normal tides. They can also be extreme during the full moon.
3. Don’t Camp on Sand Dunes
Sand dunes are more than piles of sand – they are a special habitat for protected vegetation. Most beaches don’t allow camping on sand dunes so please don’t do it.
Also, only use established trails for crossing the sand dunes. I know it’s temping to want to sit on top of one and stair out on the ocean. But remember, the dunes are actually fragile, special places on which certain plants and animals depend.
4. Transport Your Stuff on the Sand Using a Plastic Sled
A good day at the beach often requires a bunch of gear, not all of it light. By the time you’ve packed up the cooler, the canopy, and plenty of water, you’re carrying quite a load!
Backpacks are a pain when every step sinks into soft sand and a wagon is pretty much useless because the wheels sink right in.
Have no fear, this is one of the best beach camping tips: carry your stuff on a cheap plastic sled! Just tie a few feet of rope to the front and you can easily pull it across the sand even with a heavy load on top.
Bonus: it makes a nice seat after you get out of the ocean and you’re all wet!
5. Smooth Out the Sand Before Setting Up Your Sleeping Area
This is one of easiest beach camping tips to forget! Whether you’re using a tent or just sleeping out under the stars, you’ll want to get that sand smoothed out before setting up.
Sand can be quite comfy as long as it’s not lumpy. Remember to start on one end and walk backwards as you smooth it so you don’t mess up the sand you already smoothed.
6. Use Sand Stakes or Pack Bags Full of Sand
The wind is ever-present at the beach so you definitely want to ensure your shelter won’t blow away. Normal camping stakes can slide out of the loose sand easily so you need to use stakes with a special shape.
Alternatively if you don’t have stakes, a good hack is to fill up some plastic bags with sand and use those to weigh down the corners of your shelter. Tie them off to the corners on the outside of your tent to avoid having to bring tons of sand inside. Or if that’s not possible, just be careful not to spill the sand inside your shelter.
7. Use an Oversized Tarp so You Have Room to Clean Your Feet
Even just a foot or two of extra tarp in front of the door of your tent gives you space to kick off your sandals and give your feet a quick brush so you don’t drag too much sand into your tent.
If you want to take it one step further…
8. Keep a Bucket of Water Next to the Door
A small wash basin with some clean water (can be sea water) next to the door of your tent or RV can help immensely to keep sand where it belongs – outside!
Just remember to keep a towel with it so your feet aren’t always wet when you come inside.
9. Bring a Small Broom and Dust Pan
Even with the large tarp and the wash basin, sand still gets into your tent. I mean, it’s the beach, sand gets everywhere no matter what you do.
A small broom and dust pan can be a life-saver for tidying up. You can get a super small, super light, and cheap dust pan set from Amazon here.
10. Use a Fit Sheet for a Sand-Free Sitting Area
This is one of those beach camping tips that is applicable to really any beach trip. Bring a fitted sheet and use four heavy objects to hold each corner in place. This also makes the perfect play-pin for a small child.
11. Dig a Pit for Your Fire
The wind at the beach can make starting a fire tricky. Digging down just a little can help immensely in blocking that wind and getting your fire going. You could also pile up some rocks or wood around the sides to block the wind.
Keeping your fire blocked from the wind not only helps light it, but also helps contain it. Too much wind can blow embers around which is a fire hazard and can result in some burn holes in your gear!
When you’re done with your fire, be sure to extinguish it with water (good thing you’re near an endless supply), before burying it in the sand. Covering it with sand and not using water won’t do the trick because coals can stay hot for a long time in sand.
Also, make sure the ashes are well buried so when you’re done camping, there is no trace you were ever there.
12. Check the weather often
The weather next to the ocean can change quickly without warning. Storms can form offshore in a matter of hours and you don’t want to be caught in them. Or, if you are caught in them, you want to be prepared.
Even if it doesn’t look like a storm is on the way, you should…
13. Pack up Everything before Bed
The beach is a humid place and mornings are almost always full of dew. Also, remember what I said about unexpected storms? That’s why it’s always a good idea to put everything away before bed.
Don’t just bring everything in under your beach canopy, you want to cover your stuff with a tarp to keep it from getting wet. Make sure your food is put away in closed containers too! There are plenty of critter and seagulls that can ruin your breakfast if you’re not careful.
14. Bring a Screened Canopy for Sun and Bugs
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of camping at the beach is the lack of shade. Sometimes you just need escape from the sun and a tent is just too hot during the day.
A canopy with screened walls is key for some relief. A ton of light rays reflect off the water which is why shade from overhead isn’t quite enough. The screened walls provide some relief from those sun rays that come in horizontally, not just from above.
Screened walls on your canopy also help keep away the bugs in the evening. Depending on where you’re camping, mosquitoes or no-see-ums can ruin a trip.
15. Bring Tons of Water and Stay Hydrated
Most people don’t realize how much water they lose at the beach. The sunny, salty environment takes it out of you! It’s also easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy playing in the sand and surf.
To help you remember to stay hydrated, be sure to pack more water than you think you need. On a normal day, a person should drink at least two liters of wate,r but during a day at the beach, this should be closer to four. You can’t drink sea water so you have to bring it, and bring plenty!
16. Bring Some Extra Quick-Drying Towels
Besides keeping a towel at the foot-wash near your door, it’s super convenient to have some spare towels when you’re getting in and out of the water often. Bring quick-drying ones for frequent use.
17. Use a Higher SPF Sunscreen
So you’ve got a beach umbrella, screened canopy, wide brimmed hat, and you plan on staying in the shade most of the day? That still might not be enough when sun rays are reflecting off the sand and water, thus coming from every direction.
Nothing provides better protection from the sun than wearing that protection directly on your skin. When you’re camping, you’re going to spend way more time outside than you normally would, so you should use high SPF sunscreen and apply it several times throughout the day.
Nothing ruins a good trip faster than a sunburn! But if you do happen to get sunburned, you can treat it with…
18. Freeze Aloe Vera Cooling Gel
Use a normal ice trey and freeze some aloe vera gel to make super-soothing, skin-nourishing, green ice cubes.
These things feel divine after getting burned.
19. Pack an Extra Cooler Just for Ice
Ice has a way of disappearing fast at the beach. If you bring an additional cooler packed with only ice, this ice will last longer because it stays cooler. You can then resupply your other cooler with ice from the ice-only cooler.
Pro tip: buy gallon jugs of drinking water, empty them to 3/4 full, and then freeze them with the top off the night before going camping. Emptying them a little and leaving the top off allows for the water to expand while it freezes. These huge blocks of ice will last a lot longer than cubed ice and you can drink the water once it melts!
Another pro tip: freeze a half full water bottle laying on it’s side, so the water level covers about half the mouth hole or less. Once it’s frozen, you can fill it up with water again and again so you can drink ice cold water several times in the same bottle!
Well that’s all for the beach camping tips but some people still have some questions. So you might want to read through our…
Frequently Asked Questions about Beach Camping Tips
What to bring camping on the beach?
In addition to your normal camping gear, make sure to bring:
- Tent stakes designed for sand (for example, the MSR toughstake)
- A canopy or beach umbrella for shade during the day
- Sunscreen with high SPF (we recommend a minimum of 50 SPF)
- Extra water
- Extra ice in your cooler or a second cooler just for ice
How do you camp on sand?
First, make sure you’ve chosen a good spot well above the high tide line. Next, smooth out the sand as best you can with you foot. Finally, use sand stakes with a screw shape on them to stake down your tent or tarp. Normal tent stakes can easily slide out of the loose sand on the beach.
How do you go camping on the beach?
Beach camping can be just as enjoyable as camping anywhere else. Just make sure you’re camped well above high tide, smooth the sand before setting up your tent, and use special sand stakes to stake down your tent.
Can you put a tent on the beach?
Yes, you can put a tent on the beach if you’re just going for the day. Make sure to stake it down well using stakes designed for sand or weight it down well using bags of sand.
If you want to sleep overnight, make sure camping is permitted where you want to camp. Make sure to camp well above high tide. You should smooth the sand with your foot before setting up your tent for a more comfortable night of sleep.
Final Thoughts on Beach Camping Tips
Camping on the beach can be awesome with a few helpful tips. Make sure to stay safe by camping well above high tide, checking the weather often, and making sure you’re allowed to camp where you are. You need to take extra special care to protect yourself from sun and bugs as well as stay hydrated. You’ll also be a lot happier keeping as much sand as possible out of your stuff!
If you’re not sure where to camp, I highly recommend Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina – miles and miles of beach camping as well as options for small cabins.
Looking for great camping recipes? You should check out a few foil dinners (also know as hobo dinners). The best ones are this Garlic Butter Shrimp and Veggie Foil Dinner or this Beef and Veggie Foil Dinner.