Beach camping is adventurous and fun and differs from traditional camping in the forest. But you need a good beach camping checklist for a successful trip.
Preparing for those differences can make your trip fun or leave you with sand in your shorts.
This post will cover all the beach camping essentials needed for a great trip. We will also review some safety tips and what to consider on a beach camping trip.
Be sure to check out our comprehensive family camping checklist
Shelter and sleeping needs
- Awning or tarp for shade
- Oversized tarp for under the tent
- Small floor mat or rug
- Sand pegs and sandbags
- Sleeping pads
- Sleeping bags
- Beach umbrella
- Beach blankets
- Socks for chilly nights
- Lightweight shorts and pants
- Breathable shirts
- Wide-brimmed hat
- UV-rated clothing if able
- Slides and flip flops
- Water shoes
Toiletries and First Aid
- Camp towel and washcloth
- Wet wipes or hand sanitizer
- Biodegradable pump soap, not bar soap
- Toothbrush and paste
- Hairbrush and ties
- Sunblock with a high SPF
- SPF chapstick
- Bug-repellent or essential oils
- Antihistamine, Ibuprofen
- Bandaids, gauze
- Eye drops
- Sleeping mask
- CPR cheat sheet
- Water jug designated for washing hands and face
- Camp toilet and biodegradable toilet paper
- Propane camp stove or grill
- Camping kitchen
- Lighter, matches, firestarter
- Small folding table
- Tablecloth and clamps to hold it down
- Camp or beach chairs
- Cookware, kettle, mess kit
- Water bottles, plates, bowls, and utensils
- Cutting board
- Oven mitt
- Water jug for drinking water only
- Gatorade and other drinks with electrolytes
- Paper towels
- Tub for doing dishes, biodegradable dish soap, scrubby
- Sandwich baggies and foil
- Sharpie pen
- Chip clips
- Smores sticks
- Garbage bags
Gadgets, tools, etc.
- Headlamp, extra batteries
- Portable solar power
- Lantern, propane, and matches
- Camping shovel
- Portable tent heater (if low temps at night)
- Portable fire pit
- Wood and tinder for campfire
- Rope, thin cord
- Carabiners and clamps
- Old school watch
- Paddleboard, surfboard
- Snorkel gear or just goggles
- Pool noodles
- Life jacket
- Sand toys
- Soccer ball, volleyball
- Smash ball, frisbee
- Portable cornhole
- Card games
- Backpacks for day trips
- Fishing gear, bait, and fishing license
- Glow-in-the-dark sticks
- Beach blanket
Beach Camping Checklist Explained
Most of the items on the checklist make sense, but here are some beach camping essentials that may need more explanation.
A pop-up tent with a rainfly is going to be your best option. You want a tent that has plenty of ventilation for airflow. Good ventilation is important because you must keep the tent zipped up as much as possible to keep the sand out.
A rainfly is key to keeping condensation from dripping on you while sleeping. Weather can be unpredictable at the beach, so be prepared for sudden rain showers.
Be sure to include a tarp or two with your beach camping gear. A big tarp can help keep sand out of the tent. Position your tent toward the back of the tarp, which leaves a lot of space to take off your sandals and shake off sand. The goal is to leave as much sand on the beach as possible—no need to bring sand inside your tent.
Floor Mat or Rug
Place a small non-slip floor mat just on the inside of the tent. Give your feet one last wipe on the rug before crawling into bed.
Sand Pegs and Sand Bags
Sand pegs or stakes anchor into the sand like a screw. We recommend making homemade sandbags with nylon or large zip-lock bags and sand.
UV-Rated and Quick Drying Clothing
Pack plenty of sunblock and UV clothing in your beach camping gear. You will spend a lot of time in the sun while beach camping, so protect your skin with UV-rated shirts and shorts to help with possible sunburns.
Invest in a nice wide-brimmed hat. Even better is one with a drape to cover your neck. Lightweight material that dries quickly and shakes off the sand will also be helpful. Cotton fabrics dry slowly and tend to trap in the sand.
Slides Over Flip-Flops
Flip-flops are what you think of with beach footwear, but a pair of slides is a nice break after a few days of sand between your toes. You also can wear a pair of slides over socks.
Water shoes are convenient for beach exploring and rough rocky areas. Plus, water shoes or sandals with velcro straps add stability.
Camp Towel and Washcloth
Cotton towels and washcloths take forever to dry, and they trap in the sand. So your cotton washcloth will feel like 80-grit sandpaper, no thanks.
Look for quick-drying towels and washcloths. They dry fast and don’t attract the sand like cotton. They are also dry, soft, and not crunchy like cotton towels.
Biodegradable Pump Soap, Not Bar Soap
Stay clean, my friends. When you are camping at the beach, personal hygiene is still important. Wet wipes are great for cleaning up in sandy situations, be careful with bar soap if you need to lather up.
The sand will quickly stick to your soap bar and feel like pumice on your skin. Unless you need exfoliation, pump soap is a better option, and your skin will thank you.
Eye drops are helpful for those windy days at the beach that dries out your eyes. They are also handy to flush out any sand in your eyes.
CPR Cheat Sheet
Bring along a laminated card or cheat sheet with the basics of CPR. Accidents can happen anywhere, but camping at the beach could be risky.
Hopefully, everyone in your group is a strong swimmer, but you should always prepare for a water-related emergency. Keep the CPR card in a spot where everyone will see it.
First Aid Kit
Whenever you are camping, a first aid kit is a must-have item. Hopefully, you will never need to use it, but scratches, bumps, and bruises happen when camping.
Camp Toilet and Biodegradable Toilet Paper
If your campsite does not have facilities to go to the bathroom, you should bring a camp toilet. Digging a hole to bury your poo is frowned upon and gross. Beach camping is not the same as camping in the woods.
Remember the importance of leaving no trace!
Table Cloth and Clamps to Hold It Down
A tablecloth is easy to wipe down and can be used over any flat surface to serve as a clean space. The beach is windy, and clamps are helpful to keep the tablecloth from blowing away.
An oven mitt is a multipurpose tool when we go camping. For example, we use an oven mitt to move firewood around when we don’t have a poker. Sometimes you can use a stick or a camping shovel to stoke your fire.
My husband comes home from every camping trip with no hair on his right arm, but I recommend using a large stick like a normal person. An oven mitt works well if you don’t have a hairy-armed husband to stoke your fire.
Gatorade and Other Drinks With Electrolytes
Dehydration is a serious concern when spending long days at the beach. Water is excellent, but you may need some help replenishing those electrolytes.
Sharpie Pen and Chip Clips
A Sharpie pen is excellent for labeling sandwich bags so you can keep an eye on whose food belongs to who. For example, I don’t want my kids to take my fantastic sandwich.
Chip clips are a must-have item when camping. I use them for so much more than sealing up snacks. They are helpful on a clothesline too.
Portable Solar Power
Portable solar power packs are perfect for the sunny beach. I highly recommend investing in some. You will be happy you did.
Soaking up the sun or enjoying the sunset is much more relaxing than sitting in a beach chair. Most beach chairs are versatile, lightweight, and easy to transport. Some folks might find it hard to get in and out of a regular beach chair so you can take the camping chair of your choice.
Always bring a lightweight camping shovel on your adventures. We don’t recommend using it for what you think, though. Digging a hole to poop at the beach is frowned upon and icky. Bring a camp toilet.
A shovel is always handy on any camping trip. In addition, you may need to dig out rocks for your tent or stoke your campfire.
A good camping shovel is necessary to add to your beach camping gear.
Portable Fire Pit
Beaches can be very windy and can create dangerous conditions for a fire. A portable fire pit is a safe way to keep your fire contained.
Many portable fire pits also come with a grill for cooking dinner. Be aware if there are burn bans where you are camping. They may allow propane fires instead, so having a propane fire pit is a significant benefit.
Old School Watch
An old-school watch will not have a dead battery if unable to charge. It’s a reliable way to know the time, which is helpful at the beach. Pay attention to when the tides are changing.
Camping at the beach probably includes water activities, which means water safety. Pool noodles are fun for bobbing around in the ocean. They are lightweight and easy to pack.
For serious water activities, a life jacket is your best option.
Glow in the Dark Sticks
Glow-in-the-dark sticks are a great way to light a path to your campsite. We use them to mark where the tent stakes and ropes are so we don’t trip. You can use glow sticks anywhere you want to remind you of a hazard.
Camping at the Beach vs. Camping in the Forest?
The sand at the beach will get into everything, including your food. Sand will blow into your tent, snuggle up in your sleeping bag, and stick to your food.
Of course, it can be windy in the forest, but it can be extremely windy at the beach, so you need to prepare for it. Be sure to anchor your tent and tarp (using sand stakes) when camping at the beach.
Use a large tarp and sand stakes
Bring along sand stakes or pegs, not the skinny smooth ones for pounding into the dirt. Sand stakes screw into the sand like a beach umbrella. You will want a larger tarp under your tent to create plenty of space to brush off the sand by the door.
Stay well hydrated
Hydration is essential while camping at the beach. It is easy to get dehydrated while spending so much time in the sun.
There are trees in the woods to provide shade when needed. At the beach, not so much. However, an awning for shade will give you a much-needed break from the sun. Try a beach umbrella or suspending a tarp for shade if you cannot bring a large awning.
Many campsites in the woods have drinking water, but you may not have access to potable water at the beach, so you may need to pack in your drinking water. You can always do dishes in the ocean with biodegradable soap or sand to scrub off the food, but you can’t drink salt water.
Often campsites in the forest have vault toilets or restrooms if you are lucky. Camping at the beach, you might not be so fortunate. Bring a camp toilet to the beach. Human waste doesn’t decompose too well at the beach, and it’s bad etiquette to poop at the beach anyways.
Protection from UV rays
Yes, you can get sunburnt in the woods. My husband manages to do just that every time we go camping. But at least you can hide in the shade of trees in the forest.
Protection from harmful UV rays at the beach is always essential. So be sure to have a shady place to hang out and wear plenty of sunblock and SPF clothing.
Bugs and critters
Different critters and bugs live at the beach. Do your research about the local animals and bugs at your campsite. Bring the proper insect repellent and first aid to ward off the local critters.
Research the Area
Research the area you want to camp in. Check with national parks or the state for beaches you can camp on. You also can look for designated campgrounds to setup camp at the beach.
You will also want to know the landscape and terrain. Pay close attention to the tides; do not camp below the high tide line. The high tide area is lined with seaweed and driftwood, so camp well behind this area.
Check the Weather Forecast
Weather can change quickly and drastically at the beach. Do not go camping at the beach if any storms are in the forecast. Stormy weather patterns can affect the tides, so be careful what time of year you decide to camp at the beach. Use an app to keep yourself up to date on the conditions.
Always be aware of your camping area’s burn bans and fire restrictions. A portable fire pit is a safe way to keep your fire contained. Some areas may have restrictions on fires but allow propane fire pits, so portable fire pits are a great option.
If you are looking for that authentic bonfire at the beach, dig a hole 1-2 feet deep for your fire. The hole will help keep the fire contained and will also aid in putting out the fire. When you finish for the night, fill the hole with sand. The wetter, the better. Be sure to stir it until the coals are cold to keep the fire from spreading.
Leave No Trace
The most important part of being a responsible camper is to leave no trace. The rule of thumb is if you pack it in, you pack it out.
Leave the campsite as you found it, or even a little better if possible.
Camping at the beach can be a great adventure with proper preparation. We hope our post gives you some tips and pointers that will make for a fun camping trip at the beach. And as always, remember to camp smore worry less.