Last updated: November 11, 2023
Beach camping is a bit different from regular camping, with a few more considerations to keep in mind and a few fun and unique benefits too. Just like regular camping however, it can be an extremely rewarding experience if you plan ahead with a few simple beach camping tips.
Camping on the beach is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer, especially when the tides are really low and the skies are at their darkest. I love falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing. It’s peaceful, it’s beautiful and it’s magical.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the sandy shores of Washington and Oregon and have a pretty well-defined beach camping setup for success. Here are my tips to a fantastic time at the beach.
29 Best Beach Camping Tips
The combination of nature, adventure, and relaxation makes beach camping a truly special and memorable experience. Being prepared when camping at the beach is what success is all about. It ensures your safety, comfort and enjoyment.
Beach Camping 101 – Plan Ahead
The best thing you can do for any trip is to know what you’re getting yourself into right? Here are some things to keep in mind, when camping for beginners or experienced outdoor lovers.
1. Understand the bathroom situation before you go
Know what to expect at your beach campsite and what you should be bringing with you. Will there be toilets at your campsite or will you be required to dig a hole for your waste? Are there rules in place requiring you to pack out your waste?
It’s never fun to be surprised on this issue, so check it out before you leave home. The answers to these questions will determine what you bring with you and may even influence where you decide to stay.
2. Check with rangers on water safety
There are often limited sources of freshwater at the beach and those that are present, are usually discolored and may or may not be safe to drink. Just because the water is discolored however, doesn’t mean it’s unfit for drinking water.
Tannins tend to give the water a yellow or brownish tint, similar to tea or coffee. But they’re not necessarily harmful to human health. Check with staff at the local ranger station to determine the quality of your water and be prepared to filter it if necessary.
Some people opt to simply pack in enough clean, potable water to meet their needs during a camping trip. This is easier to do if you don’t have far to go. It’s a little more of an issue if you’re hiking into your beach campground.
If you go this route, estimate the amount of water required based on the number of campers, relative expected duration of the trip, and anticipated level of physical activity.
3. Download at home
The availability of Wi-Fi at the beach is highly variable. Some beaches, especially those that are popular tourist destinations or have developed facilities, may offer public Wi-Fi access.
These beaches may have designated Wi-Fi zones or provide access through nearby cafes, restaurants, or visitor centers.
Others however, particularly more remote or natural beaches, may not have Wi-Fi available at all. And this can be a great thing for disconnecting from technology and enjoying the moment you’re in.
Either way, it’s extremely important to download and understand these three beach camping essentials before leaving home:
- the tide schedule
- a map and directions for where you are driving
- the trail map if you are doing any hiking
The last thing you want to happen is to get lost along the way or be caught unaware by rising waters.
Beach Camping List of Supplies
Start out with the right beach camping supplies, to set yourself up for the best possible adventure.
What to pack for the beach, for you
Here are some beach camping ideas that, while not absolutely necessary, will enhance your experience and make you grateful to yourself for considering them.
4. Bring a red-light headlamp
One of the most beautiful aspects of camping on the beach is looking up at the stars at night. Perhaps seeing the milky way or possibly a shooting star. This is the perfect environment to make the most of the dark, which means bringing a red light with you.
The purpose of the red light is to help your (and others) eyes to see in the dark without blinding them with white light. Many headlamps now have a red light option and are extremely easy to use.
5. Use a trekking pole with a sand basket
A trekking pole with a sand basket can help you navigate through unstable sand, as the basket prevents the pole from sinking too deep into the sand.
Poles also provide stability and balance, particularly as the sand can shift under the weight of your feet. In addition, a trekking pole can help distribute your weight and reduce the strain on your legs and joints.
This can help prevent fatigue, especially during longer walks or hikes along the beach.
6. Bring a microfiber towel
Microfiber towels are lightweight, compact, and quick-drying, making them perfect for beach backpacking or camping.
These towels are also known for their exceptional absorbency. They can absorb large amounts of water quickly, allowing you to dry off efficiently after a refreshing swim in the ocean or an unexpected soak in the rain.
7. Bring a water filter or purifier
Beach camping often means limited access to clean drinking water, so bring a portable water filter or purifier to ensure you have safe drinking water.
A water purifier filters out harmful bacteria, viruses, and other impurities, making the water safe for consumption.
Having a water purifier also provides independence and reduces reliance on bottled water, which is not only costly but also generates waste.
I’ve been at a few beaches where I filter it and boil it, because it looks so thoroughly unappealing. While the color doesn’t change, my confidence does, and I’ve not gotten sick yet!
8. Bring and use shower wipes
Having shower wipes when camping at the beach can be a convenient, lightweight and refreshing addition to your camping supplies. They offer a quick and easy way to freshen up when traditional shower facilities are unavailable.
Beach days often involve exposure to sand, saltwater, and sweat, which can leave you feeling sticky and dirty. Shower wipes are designed to cleanse and refresh your body, removing dirt, sweat, and odor.
They also help you feel clean and rejuvenated, especially after a day of outdoor activities under the sun.
9. Bring a portable power bank
Pack a portable power bank to keep your electronics, like your phone, charged on the go. While one of the main points of camping is to get away from electronics and spend quality time together, I always keep my phone charged in case of emergencies. And of course photos!
A portable backup battery provides a sense of security and peace of mind. In case of emergencies, having a charged phone can be crucial for contacting authorities or seeking assistance.
You can also use it to power portable speakers, rechargeable lanterns, or other camping gear that relies on battery power. This way, you can enjoy music quietly, create ambient lighting, or extend the usage time of essential camping equipment.
10. Don’t forget your first aid kit
Better safe than sorry, right? Be prepared for possible accidents and pack a first aid kit with essentials like bandages and antiseptic. Make sure to also include items like gauze, adhesive tape, alcohol wipes, tweezers, and scissors.
It’s also a good idea to bring any prescription medication that you may need.
11. Use eco-friendly soap and shampoo
Be mindful of the beautiful beach environment while you’re there and take steps to reduce your impact. One way to do this is by using biodegradable soap and shampoo when washing up.
This helps prevent harmful chemicals and pollutants from entering the water and harming marine life. Make sure to use soap and shampoo at least 200 feet away from any water sources to prevent contamination.
12. Optimize your sleep system
Invest in a good quality sleeping bag, pad and pillow for a good night’s rest. Your sleep system is everything when tent camping.
Choose a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating for the expected weather conditions at the beach. Consider the nighttime temperatures and any potential variations due to coastal breezes.
Look for an inflatable pad with sufficient thickness to provide insulation from the cold ground and offer comfortable cushioning for a good night’s sleep.
Opt for a compact and lightweight pillow that can be easily packed and carried. Inflatable or compressible pillows are usually ideal for camping.
Remember to check user reviews and ratings to find sleeping gear that meets your specific preferences and needs. Remember also that you want the highest quality and the lightest weight that you can afford.
A good quality sleeping bag and pillow will ensure a comfortable and restful night’s sleep and a better day ahead as well.
13. Don’t forget sunscreen
Bring sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply every few hours, more often when swimming or sweating extensively. As you surely must know by now, sunscreen is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent premature aging and skin cancer.
14. Wear a hat and sunglasses
Bring a hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun, for the same reasons just mentioned. They will also reduce the risk of sunburn and eye damage.
15. Plan for easy, healthy meals
Pack easy-to-make meals like sandwiches and wraps to avoid spending all your time cooking when you could be exploring the beach. It also helps you to eat healthier than you otherwise would if you were being more spontaneous.
What to pack for your campsite
Choose your campsite location wisely. The best campsite is most likely the one in which you set up camp above the high tide line to avoid getting flooded during high tides. Also, look for a spot that’s protected from the wind as much as possible. This is often near the tree-line, if there is one.
16. Invest in sand stakes
Use special stakes for camping at the beach and learn how to use them before you leave home.
Longer tent stakes, such as sand or spiral stakes, that can penetrate deeply into the sand for a secure hold are better than traditional tent stakes. These stakes are specifically designed to provide better stability in sandy environments.
17. Find a mesh bag that works for you
Use a mesh laundry bag to store your wet and sandy items. Preferably a different one for each, wet and sandy. A mesh laundry bag can help keep these items separate from your dry gear.
Use a fitted sheet to create a sand-free zone. Hold each corner in place with something relatively heavy, stable and tall if possible. Such as a water bottle.
Pack a dry bag to keep your valuables safe and dry. It’s a great way to keep your electronics, clothes, and other important items safe and dry. Look for a bag that is waterproof, durable, and has a secure closure to prevent any water from entering.
A good dry bag also serves as a great hanging bear bag in areas that allow it.
20. Weather-proof your tent
While many tents are designed to be water-resistant, they’re not always completely waterproof.
Tents are typically treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outer fabric to help shed water. However, over time and with use, the DWR coating may wear off, and the tent fabric can become more susceptible to water penetration.
Apply seam sealer to all the seams, both inside and outside the tent, to create a waterproof barrier.
The rainfly is an additional protective layer that goes over the tent to provide extra waterproofing. Ensure that the rainfly is properly attached to the tent and extends beyond the sides and edges to prevent rainwater from entering through the mesh or doors.
Using a groundsheet or footprint under your tent can provide an extra layer of protection against moisture from the ground. It acts as a barrier to prevent water seepage from below.
21. Have a quality tent
There is an enormous variety of tents to choose from. Too many in my opinion. Finding one that will stand up to the elements and keep you comfortable are the top priorities.
If you are backpacking, the weight of your tent becomes significantly more important. The lighter the better.
Top Three Tents for Beach Camping
- This family size pop-up tent is super easy to set up and durable for a variety of camping environments.
- A fantastic smaller family size tent, great for two people and a dog!
- Best budget family size tent that pops up easily and like the others is waterproof and windproof too.
22. Sit comfy
A camping chair or hammock will provide comfortable seating while enjoying the beach, eating dinner, or just sitting around the fire with friends. I highly recommend the Helinox chair, not just for its weight but also its comfort.
23. Leave no trace
Bring a trash bag to keep your campsite clean. One of the most important things to remember when camping is to leave the campsite as you found it. This is especially important when camping at the beach since litter and debris can easily harm marine life.
Make sure to bring a trash bag to keep your campsite clean and properly dispose of any waste. This includes food scraps, wrappers, and any other garbage. Always follow leave no trace principles and pack out everything that you bring in.
24. Keep sand and dirt where it belongs
Use a fitted shower cap to cover your shoes when you put them inside your tent. This keeps your tent as sand-free as possible.
25. Choose comfort in your cooking
A portable stove lets you cook a variety of meals beyond what can be achieved with a campfire alone. You can prepare a wider range of dishes, including boiling water, cooking pasta, frying food, making coffee or tea, and more.
In some beach camping areas, open fires may be prohibited due to safety concerns and environmental regulations. A portable stove provides an alternative cooking method that doesn’t rely on an open flame, allowing you to comply with any fire restrictions while still enjoying hot meals.
The Best Beach Camping Hacks
Some of my favorite and most-used tips for beach camping are strangely not as well-known as they should be.
26. Bring duct tape, but not the whole roll
Duct tape is quite possibly the ultimate camping essential, wherever you camp.
Duct tape is an excellent tool for quick fixes and repairs. If your tent, camping gear, or any other equipment gets damaged or develops a tear, duct tape can provide temporary solutions until more permanent repairs can be made.
It can help patch up holes, mend broken tent poles, fix torn fabric, or secure loose parts. Duct tape can also be used as a makeshift bandage or to secure dressings in case of minor injuries or blisters. It can help protect wounds from dirt, sand, or water.
When packing duct tape for beach camping, consider carrying a small roll or wrapping a length of duct tape around a hiking pole to save space.
It’s always a good idea to have a few feet of duct tape readily available in your camping kit, as it can be a practical and multipurpose tool for various situations that might come up during your beach camping trip.
27. Create a sand-free entry way
Of all the beach camping set up ideas out there, this one makes a huge difference in your comfort and in your sleep. Using an outdoor mat, tarp or blanket, create a space in front of your tent to serve as an in between for the sand outside and the sand-free inside.
I use this this trick when camping anywhere, because it works so well and because it creates a cozy feeling for the campsite.
28. Make the most of your environment
Create a makeshift clothesline with paracord. Tie a length of paracord between two trees to create a clothesline for your wet towels and swimsuits. Just make sure to account for all your items, especially in windy environments.
29. Create your own camping lantern
Strap a headlamp to a jug of water, with the light beam facing the water. The water will diffuse the light and create a soft and cozy glow for your campsite. This special touch still warms my heart every time.
Beach Camping Trip Checklist
Sign up for a complete beach camping trip packing list!
Food Storage Camping Tips
When it comes to food storage while camping at the beach, you first need to know what the regulations are. Most likely you will need to store your food in a bear canister, especially in Washington state, which limits the amount and kind of food you will bring to only non-perishable foods.
If there isn’t a bear canister requirement in place, be sure to use quality airtight containers and to keep perishables cool. Keep raw and cooked foods separate and store all food in a shady spot if possible.
Lastly, be responsible and dispose of your food waste in designated bins or containers. Avoid littering the beach, as it can harm the environment and wildlife.
What exactly is beach camping?
Beach camping is setting up a campsite on a beach or in very close proximity to a beach. It combines the joys of camping with the relaxing environment of a beach setting.
Staying overnight gives you the opportunity to spend quality time in nature while enjoying the scenic views and soothing sound of ocean waves.
It can take different forms, depending on the specific location and facilities available. Some beaches offer designated campsites with amenities such as restrooms, showers, fire pits, and picnic tables.
These campgrounds may require reservations and often have specific rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
In other cases, beach camping may involve more primitive setups, where you pitch your tent directly on the sand or in designated areas nearby. These locations may have limited facilities or no amenities at all, requiring you to be self-sufficient and bring their own equipment, water, and food.
Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state for example, is a stunning primitive campground, with extremely different bathroom situations for each of the three campsites.
Activities typically associated with beach camping include swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, fishing, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, and beach games. Many beach campgrounds also provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring nearby natural attractions.
How is beach camping different than regular camping?
The primary difference is the location itself. Regular camping typically takes place in forests, mountains, national parks, or designated campgrounds, whereas beach camping occurs on or near a beach.
Scenery and Atmosphere
Beach camping offers a distinct scenic backdrop characterized by sandy shores, the vast expanse of the ocean, and often stunning sunrises or sunsets over the water. The beach atmosphere tends to be more open and breezy, with the sound of waves providing a soothing backdrop.
While regular camping often focuses on activities such as hiking, fishing, or wildlife spotting, beach camping opens up a whole range of water-based activities.
Swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, and fishing in the ocean are some of the popular activities associated with beach camping. The beach environment lends itself to ample opportunities for relaxation and recreation as well.
Sand and Weather Considerations
Beach camping introduces certain challenges not typically encountered in regular camping. The sandy terrain can make it more challenging to set up tents securely, and sand can easily find its way into camping gear.
Additionally, weather conditions like wind and saltwater exposure may require extra precautions for campers and their equipment.
The Dos and Don’ts of Beach Camping
Even more extremely helpful tips for camping on the beach.
✅ Shake out your gear when packing up. You don’t want to bring the sand home with you.
✅ Expect the weather to change while you’re there.
✅ Pack up everything for the night, to protect from dew, weather, and animals.
✅ Clean up everything as you’re leaving.
❌ Don’t camp on sand dunes. They are highly unstable.
❌ Don’t camp in the middle of the beach, camp above high tide.
❌ Don’t leave trash of any kind, even if you think it’s biodegradable.
Benefits of Beach Camping
There are many wonderful reasons to camp on the beach.
- Beaches are known for their stunning natural beauty. Camping allows you to wake up to breathtaking views of the ocean, sandy shores, and stunning sunrises or sunsets.
- The sound of crashing waves, the gentle breeze, and the calming atmosphere of the beach create a peaceful and relaxing ambiance.
- Camping on the beach gives you the opportunity to unwind, de-stress, and connect with nature.
- You have easy access to a wide range of water activities.
- Many beach camping areas allow bonfires, which can be a highlight of the experience. Sitting around a crackling fire, roasting marshmallows, and sharing stories with friends or family creates a cozy and social atmosphere.
- Beaches often have less light pollution compared to urban areas, making them ideal for stargazing.
- You have time to fully immerse yourself in the coastal environment. You can take long walks along the shore, collect seashells, build sandcastles, or simply relax on the beach.
- The fresh sea air is invigorating and can improve respiratory health.
- The sun provides vitamin D, essential for bone health.
- Walking along the sand is the best pedicure you can get, and it’s free!
Beach camping checklist
Sign up for my beach camping packing list cta
How do you find beach campsites near you?
To find beach camping sites, you can follow these steps to make planning easier.
Start by conducting an online search for beach camping sites in your desired location. Look for websites, forums, or travel blogs that provide information on camping options along the coast.
Visit the websites of local government tourism departments, state or national park authorities, or beach management agencies. They often provide comprehensive information about camping options, regulations, reservations, and availability.
Utilize camping directories or apps that list beach camping sites. Websites like ReserveAmerica, Recreation.gov, or Campendium allow you to search for campgrounds and filter the results based on location, amenities, and campground type.
Reach out to fellow campers, friends, or family members who have camped on the beach before. They can provide firsthand recommendations, practical camping on the beach tips, and insights about specific beach camping sites they’ve enjoyed.
If you’re already in the area, consider stopping by local visitor centers or park ranger stations. They can provide up-to-date information on beach camping sites, availability, permits, and any current restrictions.
Engage with online camping communities or forums where outdoor enthusiasts share their experiences and recommendations. Platforms like Reddit, camping forums, or social media groups can be helpful in finding lesser-known or off-the-beaten-path beach camping sites.
Fantastic Washington Coast Camping Destinations include Deception Pass State Park, Dungeness Recreation Area, Kalaloch Campgrounds, 2nd Beach Campground, Shi Shi Beach, Mora Campground, Cape Disappointment State Park and Ocean City State Park.
FAQs about Beach Tenting
To safely camp on the beach, choose a designated camping area if available. Ensure you have permission to camp on the beach. Set up your tent away from the high tide line. Be mindful of wildlife and marine conservation. Leave no trace by cleaning up after yourself and respecting the environment.
For camping on a beach, essentials include a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, sunscreen, insect repellent, beach towel, camping chair, portable stove, cooking utensils, cooler, food and water, extra clothing, first aid kit, flashlight, beach toys, and trash bags to ensure a clean campsite and responsible disposal of waste.
Yes, people often use camping tents for beach camping. Tents provide shelter from the sun, wind, and insects. They offer privacy and a place to sleep. Beach camping tents are usually designed to withstand sandy conditions, with sand pockets or stakes for stability in the beach environment.
Yes, you can sleep in a tent on the beach overnight. Many beach camping areas allow overnight camping, and tents provide shelter and protection from the elements. Ensure you follow any regulations and guidelines set by the beach authorities or local authorities regarding camping on the beach.
Yes! Camping on the beach in the winter is colder, wetter and far less crowded with people. You may have the entire beach to yourself, with some dramatic wave action. It’s even more important to be prepared for weather and warmth, and to familiarize yourself with beach safety guidelines and potential wildlife encounters.
While beach camping, enjoy activities like swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, fishing, beach volleyball, and sandcastle building. Explore coastal trails, have bonfires if allowed, stargaze, and engage in water sports like kayaking or snorkeling. Relax, soak up the scenic beauty, and savor the tranquility of the beach environment.
When beach camping, pack lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for warm weather, such as shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, swimsuits, and sandals. Include a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection. Bring a light jacket or long-sleeve shirt for cooler evenings or windy conditions.
Final Thoughts on Beach Camping Tips
The beach is often associated with relaxation and stress relief, and beach camping can be too. You’ll have plenty of time to unwind and enjoy the calming sounds of the ocean waves. You’ll also have a front row seat for some spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
Beach camping is also a fantastic way to connect with family and friends in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. I sincerely hope that this beach camping guide is useful to you and that you are able to get out there and enjoy the ocean air and sandy views.