Guide to Beach Camping

You have to try beach camping.  Falling asleep to the pounding surf, awaking to the sound of gulls crying.  Campfires, skinny-dipping in the ocean, and miles and miles of shoreline.  Camping at the beach is one of life’s pleasures.  Use these beach camping tips to ensure your camping trip is a total success!

Finding your beach paradise
Start your campsite research online and look for campgrounds that advertise ‘beach front” or ‘water-front’ sites.  You’ll need to plan ahead if you want to camp on a holiday weekend or at a popular site.   If getting out to an actual coastline isn’t possible, there are great camping options along rivers and lakes – so don’t rule those out!  Official campgrounds will have amenities that can make beach camping a lot easier – like bath houses where you can shower off sand and salt, toilets, and potable water for drinking and cooking with.

If you are set on camping ‘in the wild’ make sure you research so that you are sure you are camping in an area where it is permitted to camp overnight next to the water.  Many public beaches do not allow overnight camping, so its important to do your homework ahead of time.

Hint: If you are planning a beach camping trip to Florida, here is a list of the top 16 Beach Campgrounds in the state.

Essentials: Shelter, Shade, Water
Camping on the beach can be a lot of fun as long as you carefully consider three essentials, your shelter, shade, and water sources.  Tents should be set up well above high tide level and staked securely.  Use special sand stakes if you have them, or, if you don’t – you can use regular stakes and take a plastic shopping bag, fill with sand and use to keep the stakes secure.

For camping comfort, you’ll want to ensure adequate shade for hanging out during the day.   Bringing a pop-up tent shelter will provide a spot out of the sun for food prep and relaxing.  As with the tent, make sure the shelter is staked securely.  Many campgrounds have drinkable water available, but if you don’t want to haul buckets back to your campsite, it’s a good idea to bring your own water.  For large group camping or extended camping stays – the 5-gallon jugs with pump attached are perfect for all your water needs, from drinking, to cooking, to hand washing, to teeth brushing.

Keeping Trash Secure – and other ecological tips
Beaches are windy and you do not want to leave trash.  Bring multiple garbage bags (the kind that can tie closed) so that all trash is always secure.  Make sure to dump your trash each evening to avoid attracting animals during the night.

Sand, Sand, Sand – how to deal
Honestly, one of the more annoying parts of beach camping is the sand.  It gets everywhere and in everything.  You can help keep the sand to a minimum by using Ziploc bags to keep important items (cells phones, car keys, wallets) safe.  Food should all be in seal-able containers or Ziploc bags as well.  String a clothes line to hang wet beach towels.  Put a large plastic camping mat outside your tent door to act as a landing spot for shoes and flip flops.  Line the inside of your tent with a porous plastic camping mat so that any sand still on feet and legs can fall through the mat to the floor – this keeps the sleeping area cleaner.

Tides & Wind – special forces of nature
Two things that beach campers must take serious consideration: TIDES and WINDS.  If you are camping on a beach where other campers are already set up – check where the other tents are and use that as a guideline for how close to the water you should set up your site.  Make sure you look for tide marks from the previous high tide and keep well above this level.  There is very little worse than being woken up by the tide inside your tent.  On the beach, there are no natural buffers for winds.  Stake everything down using sand stakes or with homemade sandbags.  Even if the weather is calm, it can change quickly – so ensure trash is secure, light objects are either put inside the tent at night or inside vehicles.

Beach-Camping Accessories you need:
Plastic Camping Mats (for inside/outside tent)
– Sand Stakes
– Small Dustpan and brush
– small shovel (for digging fire pit and buying human waste)
– Ziploc bags – you never know when you need them!
– Sunscreen

Human Waste Disposal – Special Considerations
Just because the fish poop in the ocean doesn’t mean you should too.  Choose a location to do your business at least 200 feet away from any water sources (including the ocean) and use small shovel or trowel to dig a hole at least 6 inches deep to bury your waste.

Fires
Starting a campfire on the beach can be difficult due to the winds and lack of good firewood.  To get a good fire going, dig a hole in the sand between 1 and 2 feet deep to provide a windbreak.  Gather dry wood and have that nearby to last through the night.  Driftwood might not burn well so if you can, bringing your own firewood will make life a lot easier.

Being Eco-Friendly
Beach camping, especially if you are ‘wild beach camping’ has special ecological concerns.

  • Stay off fragile sand dunes: the sand dunes might look like fun places to run and walk on, but they house vulnerable vegetation that can be easily damaged by human interference.
  • Bury human waste: Dig a hole for your poo and make sure you do #2 at least 200 ft away from any water source (including the ocean.
  • Leave no trace: Take all of your trash with you and dispose of in proper receptacles.

Driving on Sand
Before driving on any beach or sandy area, stop and air down all four of your vehicle’s tires to between 12 and 15 psi.  While driving, maintain a constant speed as much as possible to avoid sinking into soft sand areas.  If you are driving to a remote area, make sure you’ve got a full size shovel, inflatable jack, and tow ropes/straps.

Mountain Mat USA

Jennifer Hillberg is the Founder and Creator of Mountain Mat, LLC, the USA’s first 100% recycled plastic, reversible, outdoor recreation mat. As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Jennifer has hiked and camped in some of the world’s most remote places alongside her husband and three children. Learn more about The Mountain Mat Story.