Camping at the beach is a terrific way to experience the outdoors! Few things are better than toasting sticky marshmallows around a sandy campfire while ocean waves crash in the background. And the endless, rhythmic motion of the surf creates an idyllic lullaby as you drift into la la land.
If you enjoy spending time at the beach and you love to camp, why not combine the two, and go camping on the beach? You’ll get to splash in the water, build a beach fire, play in the sand, and fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves that are just steps from your door.
To make sure you’re prepared to go tent camping on the beach, I have 10 beach camping tips for you! I’ll share some beach camping hacks and reveal must-have beach camping essentials that you’ll need to have the best time tent camping on the beach.
10 Tips for Beach Camping
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1. Bring Beach Camping Essentials
Beach camping essentials will look similar to car camping gear or backpacking gear but with a few special add-ons! ✨
- Sand tent stakes. These also work great in snow. Who doesn’t love a good piece of multi-purpose gear?
- A sturdy tent that can withstand windy conditions. It’s hard to beat Big Agnes Copper Spur!
- Mini broom and dustpan. To keep your tent clean! Trust me, you’ll want this on all of your camping trips.
- Mat to lay at the entrance of your tent. I use a microfiber pack towel because it doubles as a beach towel.
- Lightweight umbrella. Bringing one of these can be unnecessary, especially if you’re backpacking. But if you’re car camping on a sunny beach, an umbrella’s relief is refreshing.
- Hammock. If there are trees nearby (or at) your campsite, you’ll want one of these! There’s nothing quite like lazing under a shade tree while you read a book or watch the surfers ride the waves.
2. Check the Tides Before You Go
Before you go camping on the beach, check the tides for the days you’ll be there. Make sure you’re looking at the tides that are specific to the beach you’ll be camping on!
If you are camping on a beach with little to no cell service – like the remote Second Beach in Washington – make sure you download the tide charts to your phone before your trip.
If you don’t want to rely on electronics, simply print the tide chart or buy an old-fashioned tide table book.
So why should you check the tides?
In some locations, high tide vs. low tide (aka the tidal range) can vary as much as 50 feet. Meaning, the high tide line is 50 feet higher on the shore than the low tide line. Now, this is an extreme case – many tide margins are just a few feet – but the bottom line is that you do not want to be camping below the high tide line and wake up in the middle of the night to water licking the sides of your tent.
Knowing the tides also helps backpackers safely round headlands.
3. Set Up Your Tent Above the High Tide Line
When you’re camping on the beach, you’ll want to set up your tent above the high tide line.
If you’ll be in a frontcountry campground or backcountry designated campsite, you’re in luck because they’ll already have your campsite mapped out for you. But if you’ll be in the backcountry without a designated campsite, you’ll need to do some scouting.
Here are some tips on how to find the high tide line on a beach:
- Look for where the darker sand meets the lighter sand. The ocean water darkens the sand with every wave, so if the sand is dry, it means the tide doesn’t stretch that far.
- Look for objects that are washed ashore. The tide washes up all kinds of goodies from ocean treasures like seashells and clumps of seaweed to manmade junk like bottles and jars. If you are standing amongst washed-up treasures that the tide choked up, you’re below the high-tide line.
- Spy a line of debris. Oftentimes, a line of debris like fine shells or seaweed will mark the high-tide line. Sometimes, unfortunately, instead of ocean debris, it can be human-created litter.
4. Know How to Use Sand Tent Stakes and Guylines
Before you go tent camping on the beach, you’ll need to know how to use sand tent stakes and guylines.
Regular tent stakes won’t work for sand because they aren’t the right length and aren’t designed to hold firmly against the granules. One gust of wind will send your regular-staked tent flying through the air.
Instead, you’ll need sand tent stakes. The best ones are actually the MSR Blizzard Tent Stakes, which yes, can be used in snow, too! I love owning things that serve more than one purpose/function.
Guylines are useful for many different reasons on a diverse range of camping trips, but using them when beach camping is extra useful. You can tie guylines from your tent onto large driftwood logs, trees, a picnic table, or any other sturdy object you might find around your campsite. Guylines can be used in conjunction with (or instead of) sand tent stakes.
5. Lay a Mat in Front of Your Tent for a Sand-Free Entrance
I like to lay a “doormat” in front of my tent whenever I’m camping because it gives me a chance to wipe my feet or my shoes/sandals before walking inside.
Not only is it annoying to have dirt, debris, and sand scattered throughout the interior of my tent, it can be detrimental to the zipper functionality. To minimize sand coming into your tent, lay a pack towel in front of your tent to act as a doormat.
Before entering your tent, wipe your feet on the mat, brush off your clothes, and leave your shoes on the mat. You won’t be able to prevent all of the sand from creeping inside, but at least you can help lessen the impact.
6. Keep an Eye on the Weather
Weather can change rapidly along the coast. Make sure you check the forecast in advance and then watch the sky throughout the duration of your camping trip to calculate any changes.
If you suspect a dangerous storm is rolling in, it’s best to just pack up your camping gear and head out. You don’t want to be caught in a nylon tent on a beach in the midst of a strong storm or worse, a hurricane.
7. Build a Campfire Below High Tide Line
First, before you build and light a campfire, ensure that you are allowed to have a campfire on that particular beach.
Each beach will have its own rules and regulations. Guidelines will vary from beach to beach, state to state, and park to park, but as a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to build your campfire below the high tide line.
If you’re at a frontcountry campground, they might already have a ring assembled for you, but if you’re in the backcountry or you’re in a spot that doesn’t have an assembled ring, you’ll need to assemble your own (assuming that it’s legal on your beach).
Make sure you are following all of the local rules regarding the construction, placement, and destruction of the fire ring.
🔥 Read my Campfire Safety Tips guide to learn how to properly and safely build a campfire.
8. Find Some Shade
Unless you’re going to be camping in the Pacific Northwest, chances are you’ll be drenched in sunshine for the duration of your beach camping trip.
Make sure you set up your campsite in a way that allows you to get some much-needed shade when the sun becomes unbearable. Whether that means you throw up an umbrella over your campsite or set up a hammock between a couple of trees, you’ll appreciate the relief.
9. Leave No Trace
Whenever you’re recreating outdoors, including camping on the beach, you need to leave no trace.
Here are some things you can do to Leave No Trace at the beach:
- Plan your trip ahead of time and be prepared for all types of weather and conditions.
- Pitch your tent in a legal zone.
- Unless there’s a trash can at your campground or campsite, prepare to pack your trash in and pack it out.
- Plucking souvenirs on a beach is tempting, but you’ll need to leave what you find.
- If allowed, construct a modest fire ring, and deconstruct it when you’re done. Remove all evidence of a fire.
- Never leave a burning campfire unattended. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished and the ashes are cooled off before abandoning your campsite.
- Respect the wildlife. If you’re camping in bear country, make sure you are properly storing your food away from your tent. Read more about bear safety here.
- Bring a trash bag and pick up any trash that you see on the beach. Oceans and beaches are the recipients of some of the biggest amounts of human-created trash.
10. Care For Your Camping Gear When You Get Home
Your tent and other camping gear will undoubtedly get beat up after a few nights outdoors. After your beach camping trip, you’ll need to give your gear some extra TLC.
Take each piece of gear out of its stuff sack and shake the sand out. Pay close attention to anything that has a zipper – i.e., a tent, a sleeping bag, etc. If sand is left inside a zipper, it could malfunction.
⛺️ Learn how to care for your tent, including how to protect it, clean it, store it, and repair it!
I hope you’ve learned a few things about how to camp at the beach. If done right and safely, beach camping can be an incredible experience that you’ll want to repeat over and over again.
Whether you’re camping on the rugged beaches of the Pacific Northwest, the tropical beaches of South Florida, or the rustic beaches of the Northeast, enjoy your trip and stay safe!
And please remember: leave no trace!
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or reach out to me on IG @alexysabroad 😊