It’s summertime and the great outdoors are calling. You want to hit the beach, but you also want to go camping. Why not do both? Beach camping is the ultimate summer getaway – the changing tides and crisp sea breeze, waves yearning to be surfed and horizons begging to be explored offer a sense of complete and utter freedom in a constantly moving environment. Sure, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by checking into an organized campsite with toilets, showers, electricity and a communal kitchen. But unfortunately, many campgrounds that are advertised as near the ocean can be miles away. And in the end, nothing beats waking up to nothing but sand standing in between you and the rolling waves.
Do your research
Before you begin packing, research the state, region, national park or reserve you wish to visit to make sure that there are beaches where you are permitted to camp. Contact the local authority or state park and find out whether it’s okay to camp on the beach you have in mind. Keep in mind that some beaches may be closed during cyclone season.
The next question you need to ask is ‘Where is the nearest potable water source?’ No nearby water source means you will need to pack gallons of water.
Choose your location wisely
When you arrive at your destination, take time to study the terrain. Never camp below the high-tide line. On most beaches, this is easy to identify by the layer or driftwood and seaweed left behind by the previous tide. If you are unsure of the levels, check the local tide charts. Be aware that the fluctuation between tides is even more aggressive during full and new moon stages. Also, check the weather forecast – violent offshore storms and winds can produce massive waves.
Being close to the water is soothing, but setting up your tent in the middle of the beach may not be the best idea. You’ll be exposed to the sun and winds. Look for those places where vegetation meets the sand, which provide some protection from the wind and rain, more privacy and also a firmer soil to stake down in. Don’t go too far into the vegetation, though. Stay close to the beach because the sea breeze will help keep those nasty bugs away.
Pick your shelter
- Floorless shelter
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Go tentless!
Keeping the sand out
It’s easier to prevent the sand from getting in than it is to get it out of your tent or sleeping bag.
- Lie an oversized tarp under your tent so that you have extra space to take off your shoes.
- Brush off your feet before you get in the tent. If you come by car and camp near your vehicle, you can bring two buckets to fill with water and keep by the side of your tent to rinse your feet. A water bottle also does the trick.
- Pack a dustpan and brush if you have enough room. They will come in handy when cleaning your tent.
Building a campfire
On extended stays, cooking over a fire is a must. Not only is it practical, but food cooked over a campfire is far more delicious. Remember that you will not be cooking over the flames – you need to let the fire burn down and use the hot bed of embers that remain. But first, make sure the beach you are on allows bonfires!
Windy places are difficult to start a fire, so here’s a trick: make a fire pit by digging a hole in the sand, one to two feet deep. This will also keep the fire under control and will make it easier to put it out by simply throwing sand over it.
If it is not too windy, you can gather some rocks and create a circle to build your fire inside. Look for driftwood that is far from the water. This way, it will be drier and easier to start a campfire with.
If you plan to cook using your stove, you’ll need some wind protection for that too. This is when a protected camping area comes in handy, such as between trees or some other form of vegetation. Never use a stove inside your tent. Aside from the risk of catching fire, you might die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
What else to pack
- Ziploc bags – to keep sensitive things like your phone, camera, wallet and car keys sand-free; also, you might have wet clothes that you need to pack, and you wouldn’t want to mix those with the dry ones.
- Sunscreen with high SPF – apply generously all day, every day. Even if the sky is overcast and the weather is cool, you can still get sunburnt quite easily. Reapply after swimming, snorkeling or surfing.
- Garbage bags – you are responsible for your own garbage!
- Backpacking hammock (optional) – if there are trees near the beach, there’s no better place for a ‘siesta’ than in a swinging hammock in the cool shade.
- Extra towels – both for beach use and for cleaning up. Opt for quick-drying towels; you will not have to wait eons for them to dry. Plus, they take less space to pack.
- Layered clothing – the cool sea breeze in the evening will make you want to put on some warm clothes. A beanie will also come in handy.
- Camping cookware – cutlery set, plate, mug (an old-school enamel coffee mug can also be used to boil water), non-stick skillet, small and large pot with fitting lid and handle.
Leave no trace!
This applies to camping and travel in general: make sure others can enjoy the same spot in the future!
Do not camp on sand dunes. These are home to vulnerable vegetation that provides a fragile ecosystem many species depend on. You can check with the local rangers beforehand to find out whether a certain sand dune is on the official tracks or not.
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