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Beach camping is the stuff that so many people dream about. The smell of the water in the air, the sand beneath your toes, and of course, lots of playing along the water.
We love camping so much that we took a massive beach camp trip through the Pacific Northwest last summer. While it wasn’t exactly the perfection I’d dreamed of, it WAS still incredible and we learned some really valuable lessons about camping with kids along the way.
Look up beach camping rules
Most areas only allow camping in certain places, not anywhere you want. Do your research ahead of time to find out where you can and cannot camp. Some areas allow dispersed camping, while others require you to camp in a beach campground.
Make sure that you also look up rules for pets, waste disposal, and vehicle use.
There are also often fire restrictions in place, so again, do your research or you may end up being very disappointed when you get to your desired camping spot and can’t have the perfect beach bonfire.
Bring your own firewood for a beach camp
While you may get lucky with a chunk of driftwood, more often than not, you’ll need to bring your own wood for camping fires.
We’ve found that it’s best to bring a good amount of wood, more than you think you’ll need.
That way, if there are any restrictions in place or if the fire doesn’t quite cooperate, you’ll still have enough wood for your camping trip.
It’s also good to keep in mind that some areas prohibit burning driftwood, or don’t allow collecting firewood on the beach, so it’s best to know before you go.
Don’t forget beach toys
Even if you’re an adult, you need to bring beach toys on your camping trip. Think things like frisbees, volleyball, and of course some shovels and buckets. To make cleaning up all the sand easy after playing on the beach, bring a bottle of baby powder with you. Sprinkle it over your sandy body, rub it in, and VIOLA – no more sand to bring into the tent with you.
Know Where To Use The Bathroom
Before you head out, look into where the toilet options are. Most established beach campgrounds have public toilets, so make good use of those. Other areas that allow dispersed camping have basic toilet facilities near the beach, so it’s a good idea to set up camp within walkable distance of those.
If there’s not a toilet available, make sure to bring your own toilet or system to haul your solid waste out. Yes, that means a portable toilet (or wag bags if you don’t have one). Burying human waste on the beach is unsanitary and inappropriate, so don’t even consider it. If you’re uncomfortable going to the bathroom outside, this video on how to pee outside will be helpful.
Use Sand Stakes to anchor your tent
If you’re tent camping in the dirt, regular tent stakes and guy lines will work, but in the sand, those stakes will just pull right out of the ground with a little bit of wind. Sand stakes are designed to go in deeper and hold super tight in the sand. They are designed to screw into the sand, really tightly, to prevent your tent and other belongings from blowing away. While they are expensive, sand stakes for tent camping are something not to skip!
Get A Sand Mat
Once you camp with a sand free mat, you’ll never camp without it! Imagine being able to sit around at camp, while you’re on the sandy beach, and not have to be covered in sand. Sand free mats let the sand fall through so you can sit more comfortably on the sandy beach. We especially love to lay ours down in front of the tent as a place for everyone to put shoes on and off and it drastically cuts down on the amount of sand that ends up in our tent while tent camping.
Keep A Small Broom and Dustpan In The Tent
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but this is another must have camping item. While you can get away with one from the Dollar Store in a pinch, we love this camping broom and dustpan because it really does a good job at getting the small pieces of sand out of the tent.
TIP: Keep them in your tent bag so you have them on every single camping trip!
Always use a rainfly and keep windows closed in the wind
While the idea of laying up and watching the stars is pretty magical, what that plan didn’t factor in was wind…and blowing sand! Yes, we’ve camped without a rainfly while camping and we always wake up with sand in our eyes, in our hair, and even in our mouths. Beaches are almost always breezy (because of the differences in temperature over water and land), so wind is inevitable. To keep sand from blowing in your tent, keep the rainfly on, the doors zipped up, and the windows closed.
Plan to bring shade
Most camping sites are on wide open beaches. Plan to bring your own beach sun shade as well as plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin from the reflective sun on the water. Don’t forget hats and sunglasses to protect your face as well. If you’ve got a baby, a baby beach tent is a lifesaver for keeping them shaded and out of the sun during the day!
Know The Tides
Not only do you need to know when high and low tide are, but also HOW HIGH the tides come up. Know the high tide level and then camp well above that level, JUST IN CASE. Use an app to track high and low tides, or talk to a local ranger for more information.
Plan For COLD While Beach Camping
Even if you’re camped in a warm area, camping on the beach will be much cooler than camping inland. The water cools quickly and the moist air will make your campground cooler. Add that to the common shore breezes, and camping can get a little bit chilly.
Bring Drinking WATER
Salt water can’t be filtered with a regular water filter, so bring your own water or make sure there’s a fresh water source nearby. Some camping areas have spigots, but others do not, so make sure to do your homework and look at your options in advance. Even if your camping area says they have water, it’s always a good idea to bring some of your own in case there’s a problem with the supply (which happens often).
Beach Camp Food Ideas
Just because you’re camping on the beach, doesn’t mean you have to eat PB&Js for every meal. There are plenty of easy camping food ideas that will make your trip even more memorable. We’ve gathered together some of the best easy camping meals from breakfasts to desserts, that you can find on our camping meal resource page.
Dig out a fire pit
Beach bonfires are dreamy, but it can be hard to contain one with an obvious lack of rocks. Since beaches are notoriously breezy, dig a fire pit into a deep hole in the sand for safety. Make sure that before you go to bed that the fire is completely out and cool to the touch.
Secure everything at night
Winds on the beach are very common, and you never know when a storm will come in and blow some of your gear into the water. Secure or put away EVERYTHING at night. This includes everything from wet swimming suits to trash bags, and even your beach toys!
Stay Hydrated While Camping On The Beach
Spending lots of time in the sun and water is a very quick way to get dehydrated. Make sure that you’re drinking LOTS of water on your beach campout. If you’re having a hard time getting enough water, I highly recommend these flavor packets. We always take them camping with us because they taste great and are really inexpensive.
Pack sun protective clothing and hats
While sunscreen is essential, you can cut down on how much you need by wearing sun protective clothings and hats on your beach campout. Long sleeve sun shirts are great because they’re designed to keep you cool and prevent sun exposure at the same time.
Sunglasses are a necessity
Not only to protect from the sun reflecting on the water, but to protect your eyes from any blowing sand. We’ve all had that experience of getting sand in our eyes and it’s not fun. Sunglasses will help to prevent that.
Don’t forget camp chairs
Camp chairs make a beach campout so much nicer since they give you a clean, dry place to get out of the sand. We put together a list of our favorite camp chairs for kids as well as camp chairs for babies and toddlers.
Rinse off in fresh water every day (hands, feet and face at a minimum)
If you don’t have access to a shower, a squeeze water bottle is perfect for this. Make sure to wash and dry feet before getting into the tent. Sand in the tent = bad times. Rinsing off in fresh water can help prevent your skin from getting irritated from the salt and sand, so is especially important for kids.
Beach Camp With Baby
If you’re going camping with a baby, you’ll need to plan something a little differently.
First of all, make sure that you have a safe space where the baby can play OUT of the sand. This will allow you to not stress as much about them while you’re taking care of camp chores like meal cooking and set up.
Second, make sure that you have a designated camping high chair for your baby. Otherwise, they’ll get sand in all of their food and it’s going to be a disaster. Check out our favorite camping high chairs for babies.