Beach Camping 101 – Essential Tips For Campers & RVers

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway, or to escape your daily grind and find some peace, beach camping can be a great adventure. The beach is one of our favorite spots for camping. We spend the whole summer traveling along the coast to discover new beaches. Today we’ll cover everything you need to know about beach camping with tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

So let’s begin with what we think are the 10 best reasons to give beach camping a try.

10 Reasons To Try Beach Camping

surfer girl on the beach

1. Amazing Views

One of the best things about camping on the beach is the amazing sunsets and sunrises you’ll get to witness. Have a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise over the water or if you’re a night owl, get your campfire set up and make watching the sunset that night an event.

2. Save Money

The most you’ll spend for a camping spot on the beach is $30 to $50/day and that’s for a private location. Camping is much cheaper than a hotel. If you can stand to be away from room service and a proper bathroom it can definitely save you money.

3. Calming Sounds

You won’t need an app to fall asleep to the sounds of crashing waves or the song of birds or crickets. The sounds of nature is a great added bonus of camping on the beach.

4. Getting Away

If you’re looking at getting away from concrete buildings and all the people you pass by on a daily basis, you may benefit from beach camping. It can be a great change of scenery for those who live and work in the city.

5. De-Stress

Being in nature is, you guessed it, a natural de-stressor. Taking in the fresh air and surrounding yourself with sand, water and trees can help alleviate any stress or worry you’ve accumulated.

6. Good Eats

Camping food can be some of the best food out there. Building your own fire and roasting corn or hot dogs make the food that much better. If you’re a born fisherman you can even catch your dinner! You could also get a sense of accomplishment from building the fire and successfully cooking your food. Did we mention s’mores? That’s a reason enough to go. Yum!

7. Skin Care

If you choose to camp on a beach with a lot of sand, your skin could benefit. Sand is a natural exfoliant and will make any surface it touches smooth and refined. Take off your shoes, relax and let the sand take away that rough skin.

8. Exploration

Allowing yourself to search and explore the area you’re camping in can make you feel like a kid again. Finding waterfalls, grand cliffs, animals in their natural habitat and cool plants are a few of the things available. Now if only we could find that buried treasure.

9. Tide Pools

Depending on where you’re camping, you might get to see tide pools. The best time to see them is at the lowest tide (early morning). You just might get a glimpse at starfish, sand dollars, crabs and other fun creatures and plants.

10. Physical Healing

It’s said that if you camp for 3 days while sleeping on the ground without any air mattress or padding, you can realign your spine. On top of that, if you’re without electronics for 3 days, your circadian clock resets which can help your sleeping habits.

Planning Your Perfect Beach Camping Trip

Where To Go

There are many beautiful beaches all over the country but you can’t just pitch a tent and camp on all of them. It’s important to research the state or region you wish to visit and contact the local authority to find out which beaches you are permitted to camp on. Some great suggestion here: Travelandleisure.com

Beach Camping in the U.S

Canada Beach Camping

Australia Beach Camping

Weather Conditions

It goes without saying that you should always check the weather forecast when planning a beach camping trip. Some beaches may be closed during cyclone season so it’s worth knowing before heading out.

Even though the sun is shining and the weather is looking promising, it could suddenly turn on you. Before heading to the beach, you want to be prepared for any unforeseen weather. Make sure your tent has a rain cover so you and your belongings don’t get soaked. Have your vehicle close by or locate a nearby shelter so that in the event of a thunderstorm you have somewhere safe to wait it out.

Lastly, in the event of severe weather such as tornadoes, look around to see what shelters are available (ie: welcome centers or bathrooms). If none are available and you’re camping during a tornado and can’t leave the area, a ditch or low lying area is the safest place to be.

Fees

A lot of places where it’s legal to camp on the beach do charge a fee and require you have a reservation to stay there. This highly depends on where you’ll be camping. Check out online where you’re planning to camp to see what the fees might be. You most likely won’t be paying over $30 a night unless you’re on a private beach.

Laws

Similar to fees, the laws when it comes to camping on the beach highly depend on where you’re wanting to stay. There will be one beach that allows it and one a few miles away that doesn’t. Some beaches have hours of operation and are specifically closed during the overnight hours. Do your research before setting up camp so that you’re not breaking any laws and receiving any fines for doing so.

Restrictions

There might be a few restrictions depending on where you’re staying. A lot of beaches will require there be someone camping who is over the age of 18. A lot of restrictions have to do with what you’re allowed to bring or what you’re allowed to do. Some beaches don’t allow gas stoves or RVs, while most don’t allow swimming after sundown and have quiet hours generally starting around 10 pm.

Terrain & Requirements to Get to Your Campsite

Beach camping may involve driving on the beach as some campsites are located way off the main road. If this is the case, you will need to have the right vehicle and equipment to get to your campsite. See our Driving on the Beach section below to find out how to prepare for this.

How to Choose The Perfect Campsite on the Beach

One of the most important tips for camping on the beach is picking an appropriate place to set up camp. The best place to set up is where the sand meets the grass. Doing this can protect you from high winds, the sun, and high tides.

On that note, above all else, make sure your tent and belongings are above the high tide line so that everything isn’t swept out into the water. Try to find a place with soft sand that has shade so you’re not in the sun all day and away from any dunes so you don’t harm the ecosystem.

beach camping in tent

Tips For Campers

The terrain mostly matters for setting up camp. Above all, you need to make sure you’re up past the high tide line. When choosing the ideal spot, think about what you’re comfortable sleeping on. The sand and grass seem to be the softest options while staying away from any rocky or uneven area as it’s uncomfortable for most. Before putting the tent up, lay down a tarp on the ground to keep your tent dry and keep the sand out.

Shade

One of the most important things when searching for where to set up for camping is that you have some areas of shade. Being dehydrated is extremely common while camping and being in the shade helps with that along with keeping your tent cool. The ice, food, and beverages in your coolers will also stay cold longer.

Winds

If you’re planning on tenting, being aware of the winds is important. This is mostly so that even when secured into the ground, strong winds can easily lift a tent. If there are high winds, find a larger rock to place in your tent or weigh it down with sand bags.

Being aware of the winds is also important if you’re planning on having a fire. This can affect where you build your fire and how difficult it could be to get it started and keep it going. Try setting up your fire a good distance away from any trees and your gear.

Tides

We’ve already mentioned it a few times and we’ll say it again because it’s one of the most important tips for beach camping: stay above the high tide line. If you don’t, your camp could easily get swept away into the water, potentially putting you and those you’re camping with at danger.

Staying away from the tide line assures you that you will stay dry and your belongings will be safe. It also is smart for the sake of building a campfire. Being away from the tide allows you to know that there won’t be a rogue wave or tide putting out the fire you worked so hard to build.

Toilets

Most beaches that allow camping have brick and mortar restrooms available. If this isn’t the case there are usually outhouses available. If neither of those are available, you have the option of driving to the closest facilities or making the most of nature (if it’s legal where you’re camping). Just be sure that if you do go in the woods, to clean up after yourself and your pets.

If you’re digging your own toilet, make sure it’s at least 100 feet away from any water source.

RV Beach Camping

Tips For RVers

Electricity

A lot of campsites provide electric hookups but not all so you should bring a generator and/or solar panels based on your consumption.

Choosing a Spot

When choosing where to park your RV for beach camping, steer clear of parking on wet sand. Not only could your vehicle get stuck, it could be a sign of high tide. It could also make for a bigger mess if you and your family are surrounded by wet sand when entering and exiting the RV. If wet sand is the only area around you can place plywood under the leveling jacks or tires to prevent you from getting stuck.

Putting up Walls

When you think of camping in your RV, putting up walls may not be something that comes to mind but can be a lifesaver when camping at the beach. Use mesh, plastic or even plywood sheets and place them against the side of your RV that’s facing the body of water. You’ll save yourself from the blowing sand that comes from under the RV tires which can get your vehicle stuck.

Parking Your RV

It’s smart to park your RV with the door facing away from the body of water you’re camping next to. Whether that’s a lake or the ocean, this will help to deflect wind and could save you from having to sweep up small mountains of sand inside your RV.

Keeping Sand Out

To make sure you’re not tracking a bunch of sand from the beach into your RV, you have a couple of options. You can use mats to wipe your feet near the entrance of the vehicle or you can place a small container of water to rinse your feet off before entering the RV.

beach camping rooftop tent

Beach Camping Equipment You’ll Need

This is an overview of the main equipment you should bring on your beach camping trip. For the full list, you can refer to our complete beach camping checklist.

BackPack

If you’re camping somewhere you’ll have to walk a distance from your vehicle, you will thank yourself for bringing a backpack. This will help you not only take fewer trips to and from your vehicle, but it will make losing things much harder since everything is in one place.

Shelter

Most people when they’re camping on the beach prefer shelter versus shelterless camping. Depending on your own preferences these could be one of the following items:

  • Tent
  • Hammock
  • Pop-Up Shelter
  • Tarps
  • Floorless Tent

If you’re new to beach camping, do your research beforehand on which shelter works best for you and the environment you’ll be staying in.

Bedding

Bedding can be very important when it comes to beach camping. Usually, when you’re near a body of water, the weather is much cooler than if you were inland. Before you go camping, check the weather and pack your bedding accordingly and add extra blankets with sleeping bags and pads just in case.

Clothing

Again, depending on your location this could change a bit but for beach camping, you need a few different changes of clothes. You first want to make sure you bring a bathing suit so that you can enjoy the water while you’re near it. You also want to make sure you bring something warm for the evenings as they can get a lot cooler than the days. For the hot temps during the day time, it’s smart to bring shorts, t-shirts, and a hat being sure that whatever you bring is breathable and comfortable.

Cookware

If you’re planning to cook your own food while camping, you have to bring cookware. This could mean pots, pans, utensils, and spatulas or it could be something as simple as aluminum foil and a can opener. Bring whatever will make your camping experience the most enjoyable for you.

Sand Stakes and Sand Bags

You read earlier about wind and weather that can affect camping on the beach, this is where sand stakes and sandbags can come in extra handy. These two products make sure that your shelter is safe and secure during high winds.

Beach Chairs

Forgetting to bring along a few beach chairs can be a real pain in the butt, literally. Make sure you pack a few so you can relax and catch some rays or rest while your dinner is cooking over the fire.

Beach First Aid Kit

You may roll your eyes at this one but having a beach first aid kit is a must, especially if you’re bringing children. Having a few things like bandaids, topical antibiotic ointment, tape, and gauze can be great in the event that someone gets hurt. This is also a great opportunity to remember to bring any medications you take daily or other medicine you need for allergies that could flare up at the beach.

Water

A great beach camping tip can be to bring your own water. You can do this by bringing bottled water or a small camping water tank. This will not only help to keep you hydrated but can also be used for cooking, washing hands or cleaning dishes after a meal.

Cleaning Up

One of the most important parts of beach camping is leaving zero waste. After you pack up your tent, you shouldn’t even be able to tell anyone was camping there. We mentioned a broom and dustpan earlier, so here are a few more things to make your camping clean up easy.

Garbage Bags

It’s simple, take all of your garbage with you. Keeping a few garbage bags on hand will make it easy to throw any trash you use or find into the bag.

Ziplock Bags

Bring a few ziplock bags along to store your phone, wallet, and keys in for easy finding and to keep dry from any water damage.

Toilet Paper

Sometimes, you have to bring your own toilet paper and this also means you have to throw it out too. Please remember to throw away any toilet paper you use into your garbage bag rather than leaving it in the woods or on the beach.

Tools and Devices

Broom & Dustpan

Bringing a broom and dustpan will help you keep the sand out of your tent.

Hammer

Bring a hammer or mallet to help you easily get your tent stakes into the ground.

Flashlight

A flashlight to camping is what bread is to a toaster, you just have to have one. This will help you if you need to do anything after sundown. Whether that’s going to the bathroom or look for your pajamas, a flashlight will come in handy during any camping trip.

Recreational Gear

Flotation Devices

Flotation devices can make beach camping so much more fun. Whether you want to bring your surfboard, a stand-up paddleboard, a sea kayak, a few pool noodles, or inner tubes, there are many to choose from. If you get the bed floaties, they can also double as an air mattress during the evening.

Life Vest

Bringing a life vest is essential if you’re camping with young children. This is just an extra safety precaution to prevent any accidents. Making sure your vests are up-to-date and the right size is important. Try them on before leaving to camp and replace if necessary.

Snorkel Gear

Not only is snorkeling fun for adults but kids will love it if you bring some snorkel gear. They’ll be able to see the fish and cool underwater plants. While these may not be as fun if the body of water where you’re camping isn’t crystal clear, the kids will still get a kick out of it.

Sand Toys

You really can’t go wrong by bringing some sand toys to the beach. You can buy packs that come with buckets, shovels and castle molds. You could hold sand castle building contests that the adults and kids could both find joy in.

Beach Camping Food and Cooking

A great tip for beach camping is to meal prep your meals and snacks. Here you will find a few ideas that work great whether you’re camping solo or bringing the whole family.

Parfaits

These are great for breakfast or a sweet snack throughout the day. You can pre-make parfaits by using a sealable jar and filling it with yogurt, fruit, and granola.

Trail Mix

Whether you make it yourself by combining nuts, raisins and chocolate bits or you buy a bag from the store, trail mix is an awesome snack that’s packed with protein.

Muffins

Another great for breakfast or snack food is muffins! You can premake these by the dozen and they’ll keep well which is perfect for camping on the beach.

Veggies

Cut up some carrots, celery, and broccoli and bring these along for a perfect snack or side to any meal. Not only are these healthy but most veggies will help to keep you hydrated. Whole pieces of corn can taste amazing roasted over the fire, and if you hold them long enough, you just might find yourself with popcorn.

Bread & Spreads

We all know one of the easiest things to make is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Bringing along bread and different spreads make for an easy meal that adults and kids love.

Bagged Salad

Bringing along bagged salads is a great way to keep healthy while camping, plus they take up little to no room in the cooler.

Hot Dogs

We can’t make a list of food to bring for camping without adding in hot dogs. These are a camping staple and can make for a perfect meal when cooked over a campfire.

S’mores

Graham Crackers, Marshmallow & Chocolate make for the perfect dessert after a long day at the beach. Swap the chocolate out for a chocolate and peanut butter cup if you’re feeling adventurous.

Beach Driving

Driving On The Beach

We wanted to include a few things to keep in your car in case you end up driving on the beach during your stay. You may not need all of these depending on where you’re staying but it’s never a bad thing to be extra cautious.

  • Tire Deflator
  • Air Compressor
  • Jack and Jack Board
  • Shovel
  • Tire Traction Boards
  • Snatch strap
  • Gloves
  • Sand Flag
  • Water
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Full-Size Spare Tire
  • Tire Repair Kit

Prior to driving on the beach we recommend following a few steps to avoid burying your truck or 4X4 to the frame:

Air down

Lowering tire pressure increases the tires footprint and keeps you floating on top of the sand surface. Start at 20 PSI and drop lower if you start to get stuck. Just don’t go too low as you run the risk of breaking a bead; consider 10 PSI to be lower limit for full-size trucks without bead lock rims. Best purchase an inexpensive tire deflator.

Select Four-Wheel Drive

It’s not recommended to drive on sand in 2WD, generally 4 High is fine for most flat hard sand driving. However, 4 Low may be required when assenting dunes or soft sand.

Maintain Momentum

It’s important to keep moving, which becomes more evident as the sand gets softer. Prepare for inclines by getting a run up but remembering to stay within the posted speed limits.If you do come to a stop avoid spinning the wheels as this just digs you deeper into the sand.

Avoid sudden turns

Lower tire pressure changes the handling properties. Sudden turns especially at speed increase the chances of roll over.

Stay Above the High Tide Line

Have we mentioned tides before? Time and tide wait for no man, even if that means swallowing your brand new truck. Staying above the tide to avoid rising waters if you do get stuck.

Stay in the Ruts

Following an existing path is always a good idea. Odds are good that if no one got stuck, you won’t either. And if others did, you will most likely see some indication of it, which serves as a warning of soft spots.

Air Up

Before traveling at highway speeds, be sure to fill your tires back up normal tire pressures as highway speeds can overheat the tires and cause damage. It also negatively changes the vehicles braking and handling. Get yourself a good 12-volt air compressor to air up as soon as you’re back on the road. This way you won’t have to drive around in search of the closest roadside air pump.

12 Beach Camping Safety To Remember!

1. Protect Your Skin

The sun follows you everywhere you are on the beach. It also reflects off the water and increases the chances of getting burnt even if you are hiding in the shade. Trust me, nothing ruins a beach trip faster than a sunburn on first day. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in the morning and during the day, especially after you swim. Sunburn can lead to dehydration and a myriad of other problems. Be sure to also bring proper first aid to heal any burns quickly.

2. Watch the weather

When you book your trip months in advance, it’s hard to predict what the weather will be like during your stay. You may end up arriving in heavy rain or get caught-up in it once you are all set up. With rain comes storm water runoff that often leads to contaminated water which is best to avoid. You also need to keep an eye out for high surf warnings. If the bad weather persists, it’s always good to have a plan B.

3. Protect your feet

It’s important to protect your feet while camping at the beach. If you find the sand too hot, throw on a pair of flip flops. You can also bring water shoes for extra protection in the water when you can’t see what you’re stepping on.

Beach Safety Tips

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4. Track the Tides

Have you read enough about tides yet? Tracking the tides is important for safety if you plan on sleeping in a tent. Not only should you sleep above the high tide line, but this can also be useful if you like the idea of looking at tide pools in the early morning.

5. Know how to swim in the surf

If you’re camping near the ocean, it’s important that you know how to swim in ocean water. The atmosphere can change quickly and even with a life vest on can be dangerous. Make sure you and anyone you’re camping with know how to swim appropriately as not all beaches have lifeguards.

6. Learn to Spot Rip Currents

Another way to keep safe in the water is knowing how to spot rip currents. Even the most experienced swimmer can be swept out from under their feet by this scary water phenomenon. If the area you’re camping in has rip currents or tides, it’s best to be educated on what to do in the event you’re caught up in one.

7. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is extremely important when you camp on the beach so you don’t get dizzy or experience heat exhaustion. Keep drinkable water nearby at all times and make sure some of the food you’re eating is hydrating as well.

8. Bring a First Aid Kit

Bring a first aid kit with extra sunscreen, bandages and ointments as we mentioned before. You can also carry pain relief medication, Aloe gel, Sting Ease and any other medicines necessary in the event that anything goes wrong. Docks and boardwalks are notorious for splinters so tweezers are also sa great thing to have in your kit.

9. Be Mindful of Wildlife

Remember that the area you’re camping in isn’t yours. The land is home to many wildlife animals that may not be used to humans. It’s important to keep your food off the ground and avoid keeping any food waste near your tent site as a way to not attract any unwanted animals.

10. Build a Campfire Safely

Building a campfire should always be done by adults. Creating open flames can be dangerous for anyone and you should mind what’s around you such as aerosols or any flammable liquid such as alcohol. The ideal location for a campfire is on flat ground, away from your camper or tent and vegetation. Bare in mind that some beaches don’t allow campfires and it’s always a good idea to bring your own portable grill.

Find out how to safely build a fire

11. Stay Away From The Dunes

Dunes are a natural ecosystem for a lot of plants and animals. Staying away from dunes helps them stay untouched and thrive in their natural environment.

12. Protect Your Valuables

Be aware that thefts are not uncommon on crowded beaches so protect your personal belongings such as car keys, wallet, and phone. Either place them inside a towel with a zip pocket or inside a portable locking safe secured to a chair or umbrella.

You can also store your items in a Ziploc bag or waterproof pouch. They will not only stay dry from water and free from sand but you will also be able to hide them in the sand under your towel.

Summary

Camping on the beach can be a great experience whether your are a solo adventurer or traveling with your family and friends. Spending time by the water, away from the grind of your daily life can really help reduce stress. There are plenty of fun activities to do in and out of the water. It’s important to leave no trace when you’re packing up to leave your campsite, bringing all garbage along with you. Give beach camping a try as an alternative to a hotel this summer and tell us about your experience in the comments below. Happy Camping!

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