23 Essential Tips for Camping on The Beach

Camping on the beach can be an amazing experience, especially if the weather is good, the bugs are at bay, and you’ve taken the time to properly plan your trip.

However, if you don’t plan properly, it could be a camping trip that you would love to forget.

In this article, we’ve listed 17 awesome tips for camping on the beach that if used, will almost guarantee you the camping trip of a lifetime! We’ve included everything from how to plan for the weather and knowing the tides, to choosing the right tent and how to protect yourself from pesky bugs and critters.

Parked on a Gulf Coast beach in Texas. We used our car as a windblocker.

23 Useful Hacks and Tips for Camping on The Beach

Camping can be a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy all that nature has to offer and beach camping is no exception! However, if you’ve never done this type of camping, there are some things that you need to know that will help make for a better camping experience.

So, whether you are planning a camping trip on the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, or the white sand beaches of in Florida, or perhaps the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, these tips will help you in your planning process.

1. Plan on The Weather

This may seem like a trivial tip that every camper should know, but you would be surprised at how many people do not properly plan when it comes to the weather, especially when camping on the beach.

If you live in Florida, then you know that in the summer, we have afternoon thunderstorms almost every afternoon around the same time. However, if you’ve never lived in Florida, you may not have a clue about this phenomenon if you didn’t do the proper research. I can tell you from experience that you do not want to get caught in one of these storms, especially while tent camping on the beach.

If you get caught in a thunderstorm, and you don’t have shelter, there are a few things you can do–make sure and read our article about it, here.

The other thing that can really wreak havoc on your trip is windy conditions! This is sort of a catch 22. While the wind can throw your tent around and whip up the beach sand so that it gets in every nook and canny, it also keeps the no-see-ums and the mosquitoes at bay.

My tip for camping on the beach in windy conditions is Not To, especially if the wind is blowing consistently at over 15 mph or so.

2. Get Familiar With The Rules (Can You Even Camp There?)

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just pitch your tent on any beach of your choosing. In fact, most beaches are closed to beach camping. I highly recommend that you check with the Parks and Recreation Dept for the county/city that you plan on camping in. Also, while some places might allow you to camp on the beach, they will not allow you to build a campfire, while others allow campfires.

For example, Mustang Island park near Corpus Christi, TX allows camping and campfires on the beach while others don’t.

Please do not ignore this tip, as fines can be pretty hefty.

3. Know The Tides and Tide Lines

Picture this…you arrive at your campsite and find the perfect spot on the beach to pitch your tent. Your tent is up, you’ve unpacked everything and are feeling pretty good about your camping skills. However, did you plan on the changing tides?

This has never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories of campers who did not plan for tide changes and were awaken in the middle of the night by cold water creeping into their tent. I cannot even imagine!

So, you need to know your beaches tides and how far that they usually rise when it’s high tide. A good way to know where the tide line is is to just look around for a water line. If you are still unsure, just ask a local how far the tide usually comes up. If they are around, a surfer, lifeguard or fisherman is without a doubt the best people to ask. If no one is around, ask a local bait shop worker.

Another option you have is to look up the tides on tidesandcurrents from NOAA (if you’re not in the US, you might have to do some searching). You can click on the coast that you’re looking up and find the high tide. If you’re at low tide, then you will have to adjust where you put your tent based on what you find.

4. Don’t Sweat the Tent

I’ve slept in a lot of different tents on the beach and I’ve come to the conclusion that most standard camping tents will work just fine for a night of camping at the beach.

If I was to make any recommendations on what tents work best, I’d say:

  • Make sure you bring a double wall tent: Double wall tents usually have an inner mesh wall which is super nice for clear skies while on the beach–you can have the warm wind keep you cool in hot weather. If it’s cold, then the rain fly will help protect you from the wind or rain.
  • Choose a tent with a floor–part of the benefit of sleeping in a tent on the beach is keeping out crabs and bugs–if you are sleeping on the sand you won’t get that benefit.
  • If you’re staying for a couple days, get a bigger tent (6-man+) that can stay cooler in direct sunlight. Smaller tents can be very oppressive in direct sunlight.
  • Bring a tent that can withstand high winds: Beach winds can get very gusty and you don’t want your tent to collapse.

5. Know Where Not to Pitch Your Tent

We briefly touched on this with our earlier tips about knowing the tides, however, there are a few more things to consider before deciding on where to set up your tent.

  • Although convenient, avoid pitching your tent close to a trash can. Not only do they stink, but they also attract all kinds of bugs and critters, especially raccoon. Yes, raccoons live on the beach and they can be pretty aggressive when confronted, not to mention, extremely noisy when rummaging through the trash in the middle of the night.
  • Also, although it may be tempting, you never want to pitch your tent on the sand dunes! That’s because most sand dunes are protected wildlife sanctuaries and disturbing them can prompt a hefty fine.
  • I learned this the hard way (again, pun intended) but never pitch your tent under a palm tree that has coconuts! Although I didn’t get knocked out from falling coconuts, I thought I was gonna crap my pants when one of them fell on my tent in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid pitching your tent on any burrows–you might set directly on a crab’s home.
These little guys were all over the place near where we camped.

6. Make a Beach Camping Checklist

When you arrive at your campsite, you set up your tent, start unpacking your gear and supplies, and get ready to kick back with a cold drink in your favorite fold-up camping chair. There’s just one problem! You forgot to bring your favorite camping chair, and the sunscreen, the mosquito spray, and the propane for the gas grill.

Does this sound familiar?

Don’t worry because you’re not alone! It happens to us all. However, there is one way to prevent this from happening and that is to create a beach camping checklist and as your packing for your trip, check off each and every item.

A few things that you should always have, but somehow always forget include:

  • Propane
  • Garbage Bags
  • First Aid Kit
  • Drinking Water
  • Folding Chairs
  • Flashlight/Lantern
  • Knives, Spoons, other utensils
  • Plastic-Eating Utensils
  • Bottle Opener
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Sunglasses
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • Hat
  • Water Shoes
  • Paper Towels
  • Cutting Board
  • Filet Knife
  • Rope/Para-chord
  • Tent Stakes
  • Coffee/cocoa or whatever morning beverage you prefer
  • Wet Wipes
  • Duck Tape
  • Board Games
  • Glow Sticks
  • Small folding table

7. Protect Yourself From Pesky Bugs

Other than the wind and rain, the one thing that can ruin a beach camping trip, or any camping trip for that matter are the bugs, namely mosquitoes and no-see-ums. The blood-sucking little pests eat you alive and leave you with hundreds of tiny bites that will have you itching and scratching for days.

The best way to prevent their relentless assault on your flesh is to use a good quality bug repellent and since you’ll be camping on the beach and most likely be using sunscreen anyways, I suggest using a sunscreen that includes insect repellent such as Bull Frog’s Mosquito Coast Spray Sunscreen with Insect Repellent.

Another option that will help keep the bugs at bay is mosquito repellent candles. I personally haven’t had much success with them, but know a few campers who swear by them. The candle that I hear works the best is the Cutter Citro Guard Candle.

It also might be a good idea to purchase a mosquito net to hang in your tent.

One time, I had the bright idea to go beach camping right on the sand… I dug a hole, laid down a tarp and tried unsuccessfully to sleep. It turns out that there’s such a thing as “sand fleas”, which will nip at you incessantly all night long. If you’re thinking about sleeping in the open air, then I can’t recommend enough drenching yourself in bug repellant so you can get a good night’s rest.

8. Buy Long Tent Stakes or Use This Camping Hack

Most standard tent stakes just won’t cut it when camping in soft sand, especially if you have any kind of wind. While you can buy longer tent stakes like the Beach-N-Sand Stake tent stake that’s made specifically for camping on the beach or in ultra sandy conditions, there is also another way which I find to be more helpful.

You basically tie your tent line to piece of wood at least 12″ long, dig a hole 1-2′ deep and bury the wood. To adjust you can roll your tent line around the wood.

After camping many times on the beach and by the lake, I’ve found that this works much better than most tent stakes.

Another option is to just put your stuff in the tent. If you have a small 2-3 man tent, then all you need is some heavy stuff inside to keep your tent from blowing away.

Otherwise, if you have a tall cabin-style tent (the kind of tent that you can stand up in), then staking down is much more important.

9. Bring Your Own Firewood

Unless you’re camping on a beach that’s surrounded by a dense forest, chances are you’re not going to find much wood to start a fire with. If you’re lucky, you might find some driftwood along the beach, but I wouldn’t count on it. Also, driftwood can actually be dangerous to burn… Check out which woods are toxic to burn in our article, here.

If you can’t cut and pack your own firewood, you may want to buy some. Often parks sell their own firewood–or you can find firewood at a local gas station (during camping season).

10. Make Sure to Bring a Sleeping Pad

All beaches are not made up of white sand beaches! Some are in fact a little rocky, which could make for an extremely uncomfortable night of sleep. I highly recommend that you invest in a good quality sleeping pad, that’s also waterproof.

11. Always Think Waterproof When Beach Camping

In case you haven’t thought about this, camping on the beach can be a wet experience! After all, there’s a good chance you’ll be camping in the summer, which means heat and humidity, ocean spray, water, rain, and fog.

This means that you need to bring plenty of zip lock bags to store all of your electronics in, such as cell phones, battery chargers, etc.

We have a dry bag that we put all of our keys, wallets, phones, etc. while we are on the river or at the beach. Although you can’t keep sand out of ANYTHING, the dry bag definitely helps. You can find one like we have here on Amazon.

12. Don’t Forget the Chap-stick

Most people already know how important it is to use plenty of sunscreen when camping on the beach, but few remember to use lip balm or Chap-stick. Your lips are extremely sensitive and being exposed to hours in the hot sun can cause extreme dryness, which can lead to cracked lips.

13. Bring Plenty of Beach Activities

Although camping on the beach is an activity in itself, eventually, boredom is bound to set in. Make sure that you bring plenty of outdoor games to keep you and the kids entertained.

Some things to consider include:

14. Invest in a Sand-free Beach Mat to Keep Sand Out

You’re camping on the beach, so it’s inevitable that you will get sand inside your tent. The trick is to limit how much sand sneaks in. One way that I’ve found to be extremely helpful is to invest in a “sand-free beach mat.”

While they are not 100% effective in keeping out the sand (as some brands would suggest), they do help considerably. The that I recommend is the CGEAR SAND-FREE MAT (see on Amazon). It’s made from the same high tech technology that is used by the military for helicopter landing pads in the desert.

15. Invest in a Beach Cart or Make Your Own

Unless you can pull your car right up to your campsite (which some beaches you CAN do… although you risk getting stuck in the sand… err… don’t ask), chances are you’re going to have to lug all of your gear through the hot beach sand on your way to your destination. If you’ve ever done this before, then you know how hard, not to mention aggravating this can be.

That’s why I suggest that you either buy a good quality beach cart such as the Mac Sports Heavy Duty Collapsible Folding Beach Wagon (see on Amazon) or if you’re the handy type, build your own.

16. Know Your Bathroom Options (Or Make Your Own Toilet)

Most beach campsites are very primitive, so finding a place to use the restroom can be a challenge in itself! If you’re lucky, there will be a porta-potty nearby or a public restroom for weekend beachgoers.

However, if you’re camping off the beaten path, you’re gonna have to make some other arrangements! One option is to use the Go Anywhere Toilet Kit. They come with everything you need to go potty and the best part is, it is perfectly okay to throw them in the trash when finished.

You can also make your own toilet with a toilet seat and a 5-gallon bucket. Some coconut coir or peat moss, or even sawdust can go a long way in composting the poop so it doesn’t smell as bad. Read our article about making your own composting toilet, here.

Stand To Pee Device

Often going pee while camping is the worst for the females… fortunately there is some help. My wife enjoys the help of the PStyle stand to pee device (see on Amazon). This is a super empowering device that my wife loves for camping and also for gross public restrooms.

17. Have a Plan for Your Pets

While it may seem like a good idea to bring “Fido” along, but there are some things to consider beforehand. The first thing to consider is if the beach campsite that you’re planning on camping at even allows dogs/pets on the beach. This sort of falls in line with my tip number two of “knowing the rules.”

The second thing that you need to think about is your dog’s well-being. Will they really have as much fun as you think they will have? After all, the beach is hot, especially the sand and since dogs obviously don’t wear shoes (some do, but that’s beside the point), their bare feet will constantly be exposed to the hot sand. Also, since there aren’t too many options for shade on the beach, finding a cool place to cool off can be a challenge for them.

If you still want to bring your dog, make sure to bring plenty of extra water for them to drink, an extra tent for them to sleep in, and plenty of poop bags to dispose of their waste.

18. Bring Your Running Shoes

Maybe you aren’t interested in running so much–but I can’t tell you how amazing it is to run on the beach when you first wake up while everyone else is asleep. I’ve run barefoot but if you’re like me, your feet aren’t adjusted to running on sand (feels like sandpaper after a mile or so) without any foot support.

Amazing sunrise right at the water’s edge

Seeing amazing views like this is the privilege of camping on the beach.

19. Bring A Folding Table

If you’re lucky, the beach you’re camping at might have a table–this is hugely important for a successful camping experience.

Sand. Gets. Everywhere.

And so having a table where you can prepare and eat your food is very important. You can prepare and eat food on your lap (been there… done that)… but it’s pretty awful. A folding table makes a big difference.

us sitting on camping chairs eating from a camping tote as our table
We actually didn’t bring a folding table on this trip so we ended up eating from our camping tote. It worked… but man… a folding table would have been nice.

20. Bring a Small Broom

A small broom you use for your dustpan at home will work well–If you want to clear your tent of the inevitable collection of sand so you don’t have to sleep in the sand inside your tent.

This isn’t a must, but it can be a quality of life improver–especially if you’re staying multiple days.

21. Bring Extra Water

Bringing water is always important when you’re camping, but it’s especially important when you’re beach camping. Not only do you want to have water to drink, but man.. it’s nice to have a place you can wash your hands.

You can check out our post about how much water to bring camping, here. For beach camping, you can 1.5x or double it to give yourself some extra washing water.

22. Keep Your Food Tucked Away

There are many types of scavengers on the beach, seagulls being the most common–but there are other types of birds flying around that would love to make a meal of your food.

Birds flew over us all day at the beach

A tote, or some other hard top container will work well to keep your food safe when you’re out in the waves or otherwise not with your food. A cooler of course will work as well.

23. Wind Wind Wind

It’s windy on the beach. Depending on where you are the wind can be pretty consistent.

For example, on the gulf, there’s a very consistent wind coming from the ocean (this is probably pretty standard for many beaches)

Be ready for it. Your tent will be subjected to this wind, constantly. One thing you can do is park your car (if you can drive on the beach) directly in front of your tent. This helps block some of that wind.

You can also tie a wind shelter using tarps or you can buy pavilions, pop up tents or other structures to block the wind and sun.

Final Thoughts

Beach camping is a great way to get outside and explore all that nature has to offer! There’s nothing like spending the day in the surf and sand, then once the sun goes down, sit around your campfire, dining on the fresh catch of the day, while sipping your favorite adult beverage. And once it’s time for bed, you’ll fall asleep under the stars, while listening to the waves roll in off the ocean.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, then I encourage you to follow these 15 tips for camping on the beach. I can assure you that they will make planning and camping experience much more enjoyable!

Do you have a camping tip or hack that you would like to share with us? If so, we would love for you to leave a comment in the comment section below.

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