If you’ve never been beach camping then you’re really missing out. It’s the perfect way to combine two of life’s great pleasures: hanging out by the ocean and sleeping under the stars.
But camping on sand next to a huge body of water can differ greatly from the average backpacking trip, and there’s a few things to consider before you head for the coast – not least packing the right gear and understanding some pretty major safety concerns.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of our top beach camping tips, including that all important packing checklist and essential info such as survival skills, trip ideas, campfire recipes and a whole bunch more.
The first question to ask yourself when planning a beach camping trip is how remote you want to be.
A designated beach camping site is perfect for casual campers and weekenders who just want the experience of sleeping outside near the ocean. Regular campsite facilities like washrooms and drinking water will make your stay a lot more convenient, and, crucially, there will be a safe and well-maintained camping area to pitch your tent. Plus, the presence of other campers will offer greater potential for socialising, if that’s what you’re after.
On the other hand, campsites can be expensive and restrictive. So if you want a more remote and adventurous experience, we recommend you go wild-camping and find your own hidden beach.
If you already know a good beach camping spot – perfect, go there. If not, start asking around and digging for some expert knowledge among the locals, either in-person within your own community if it’s a trip close to home, or online if you’re heading further afield. Use local message boards and forums (like Couchsurfing sites) to research which beaches are most accessible and amenable for camping.
After you have a general idea of where you’re going to camp, scope it out on Google Maps. Figure out how you’re going to arrive (you may have to hike or even take a boat), and if there’s drinking water nearby (if not, be sure to bring plenty). Also, check the local regulations regarding camping overnight (in some areas you may have to get a permit or camping may even be banned altogether).
You should put a bit of extra thought into what you pack so that you’re prepared to both enjoy the sun and waves during the day, and sleep comfortably and soundly at night. So, what are the best things to bring camping on the beach?
So you’ve finally made it to your beach of choice; where do you put your all gear? While it may seem like a basic question, it could make or break your experience. Ideally, you should set up where the sand meets the vegetation. This will protect you from high winds, sun, and high tides. But, if the vegetation is so far from the ocean that you won’t be able to hear those soothing waves as you fall asleep, then you have a bit more thinking to do.
First and foremost, find a spot above high tide or you’ll pay the price. We recommend that you look up local tide charts so you know where the high tide line is, but if that’s not an option then you can usually tell where high tide is based on looking to see where the sea refuse (seaweed, driftwood, etc) ends. But be careful! Don’t camp anywhere near the high tide line, especially if it’s windy.
Apart from avoiding high tide, you want to find a place that’s going to be comfortable. This means finding soft, flat sand ideally in a shady spot away from the wind. Avoid camping on sand dunes because they’re incredibly fragile and are an important part of the beach ecosystem, but camping near sand dunes could provide you some extra shelter. Just be careful about a potential sand shower in windy conditions.
Are there going to be bugs where you’re camping? If the answer is yes then you pretty much have to bring a tent. If not, you have a few options.
For example, setting up a tarp provides you with shelter from wind and potential rain while still letting you use the sand as your floor. If you know it won’t rain and that there won’t be any wind you can even just sleep out in the open. This is the option we recommend; you’ll have the stars overhead and the ocean in the distance, but only if you’re sure about the weather.
If you choose to go with a shelter, you’ll find that securing a tarp or a tent in the sand is tough because you can’t use stakes. You can purchase sand pegs which are designed for exactly this purpose, or you can use nylon bags filled with sand.
You’ll be surprised at how cold it gets at night, so a sleeping bag is probably a good idea. If you’re in the tropics or if it’s looking like a warm night, then maybe you can get away with something lighter, but don’t forget about the wind and air moisture.
If fires are permitted (check first), then making a campfire is a must. There’s nothing like a fire on the beach. It’ll keep you warm (we’re telling you, it’ll be colder than you think) and you can use it to cook everyone dinner. How do you go about building a fire on the beach? Our how to start a campfire guide will get you started.
Two of your most important considerations will be finding wood to burn and making a fire pit. Depending on where you’re camping, it might be tough to find wood, but you can always bring some along to be safe. Digging a fire pit is always essential to protect and contain your fire, but even more so at the beach because there’s almost always a strong sea breeze.
Once the fire’s roaring, it’s everyone’s favorite time of day: dinner time. Cooking on a campfire is one of the many simple joys of camping, no matter where you are. Just prepare some delicious food at home, wrap it in tin foil, and then warm it up on the fire.
Spending time at the beach is a skill. For one thing, sand is no joke, and, if you’re not careful, it will be everywhere and in everything before you realize it. But don’t worry, here’s some pretty cool hacks that will ensure you have a pleasant and relaxed experience.
When camping on the beach, as with any other type of camping and backpacking, safety trumps everything else. We’ve said it once but we’ll say it again: make sure to bring enough water. You’ll need a lot of it, especially if you’re running around and swimming in the heat. You obviously can’t drink seawater, and most water sources flowing into the ocean will be pretty dirty. Brush up on these essential survival skills before you go.
Be careful of the heat and the sun. Make sure you get a lot of rest in the shade to avoid heat stroke and sunburn. Apply sunscreen more than you think you need to; nursing a sunburn at the beach is no fun.
If you plan on swimming, which you should, be aware of riptides. They are serious business. Know how to spot them and know what to do if you get caught in one.
A bit less serious but equally important: how do you deal with your poop? If you’re in a remote area, you can simply dig a shallow hole below the high tide line (away from your friends..) and let the ocean carry it away. If there are a lot of people around and you’re a shy pooper go find a remote spot away from the beach and follow proper wilderness pooping guidelines.
Plain old beach camping not adventurous enough for you? Let’s ramp this up a notch.
Kayak camping is a great start. Instead of walking or driving to your camp spot, load everything up on a kayak. You can even turn it into a multi-day trip and travel from spot to spot.
Surfer? Why not scope out a campsite known for its waves? You’ll have a warm campfire at night and a killer swell all day long.
Climbing is another way to add some adventure to your trip. Oceanside climbing is quite the rush if you’ve never tried it, and many oceanside climbing spots have their own campsites. Just remember to always be extremely safe and go with someone who knows what they’re doing.
Those ideas are just the beginning. Once you get the hang of beach camping, the potential for adventure is endless. This Alaskan beach camping trip looks pretty awesome:
The best of our beach camping tips is to just get out there and go for it. Do some research about where you want to go and start planning your adventure now! We promise that despite all the sand you’ll have an amazing time. Just remember to always clean up after yourself when you’re done. =ZIP=