Image: Roxanne Desgagnes

Tents Up, Surf’s Up: Tips for Beach Camping

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Sunrise surf sessions are easier to manage when you wake up next to the surf break itself. Then, you can fall asleep to the lull of crashing waves once a full day of surfing is done.

If you’re planning a surf trip on a budget (or simply love the to spend as much time outside as possible), camping by the beach is be great to take your trip to another level. You can watch the sunrise over the wide-open ocean from the comfort of your tent. And then you’re ready to surf at a moment’s notice, whenever the mood strikes! 

Image: Luis Muzquiz

Camping on the beach is pretty similar to camping in the bush, but there are some key differences. Discover our top tips on how to make your beach camping trip a success.

Choose the right beach campsite

First, make sure to choose a beach that allows camping, as it’s not legal everywhere. Some beaches have full-amenity campsites complete with showers, laundry rooms, fire pits, barbecues, and picnic areas. Many of these campsites take bookings.

Other campsites allow dispersed or wild camping. This means you’ll have to be a bit more prepared, as waste management systems, showers, and cooking facilities might not be available. 

For beach campsites that allow bookings, be sure to reserve your space as soon as the surf looks good. Bookings can fill up quickly, especially during summer! 

You might want to check ahead to see if the beaches allow campfires if you’re planning one. Some campsites have blanket bans on campfires for safety reasons–especially during summertime when wildfires are more prevalent. Remember to never leave your campfire unattended, keep your fire small and use local firewood. 

Once you know which beaches you can camp on, look for one that meets your needs. Are you planning lots of ocean activities? Do you want some soft sand for sunbathing? Is there one walking distance to the surf? Could there be any dangerous water for less strong swimmers in the camp group?

Once you’ve done your research and picked your campsite, now you’ll need a shelter for the night.

Pick a beach-friendly tent

Although it might be tempting to spend a night on the beach watching the stars, it’s a good idea to take some sort of shelter with you. Sand can get everywhere. When it comes to laying down for the night, you want a shelter free from its coarse terror. 

Image: Roxanne Desgagnes

Some beach tents come with weather protection against sand or dust which is great for keeping your tent clean. A dustpan and brush works wonders just in case sand does get inside your tent.

It can also get pretty windy when camping on the beach, so taking a tent to provide some shelter from the wind is a good idea. 

It’s also a good idea to bring a tent large enough to pack all your gear you want to keep dry inside, even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain. In the morning, beaches can be foggy so anything you leave outside can get damp. You can probably leave the kayaks and surfboards outside, though.

Quick tip: You can use your board bags as extra padding under your camping mattress to help smooth out any bumps in the sand.

Look for a tent that will be waterproof and large enough for your gang and all their gear. Some tents also offer protection from the sun and sand or dust, making them perfect for beach camping. 

Make sure to pitch your tent above the tide line. The last thing you want is to wake up to find your tent surrounded by the sea. If you look for driftwood and other markers, you should be able to find the high tideline on the beach. Pitch your tent far enough away from the line (on the land side!). If the swell is picking up throughout the night, pitch your tent even further than you think.

When trying to stake out the guy lines of your tent on a beach, regular tent pegs won’t do. There’s a couple of ways to make sure your tent doesn’t fly off in the middle of your trip. 

You could get a freestanding tent that doesn’t need to be staked down and weigh down from the inside. 

Alternatively, you could use the same tactic for camping in the snow and bury your guylines instead of staking them. Tie a bit of driftwood or something to act as an anchor to the line and bury it in the sand to make hold the line taught. You might want to test pulling the anchor out of the sand before relying on it to hold your tent up to make sure you know how strong it is. 

Read: The Best Beach Tents: Buyer’s Guide

Prepare for the weather 

As someone who has spent the day at the beach arrogantly ignoring warnings to apply throughout the day, take it from me–do what you can to avoid sunburn at all costs. Bring a decent sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF rating of 30 or higher. 

Remember that even if a sunscreen advertises as being waterproof, you will still need to reapply after splashing about in the waves. For a sunscreen that will leave you with supple scorched-free sun-kissed skin, check out Surfmud! If your trip is to a tropical location, check out our top picks when it comes to reef-safe sunscreen.

You can also bring some other protection from the sun including protective clothing with high UPF measures, like surf suits, rash guards, and surf leggings. 

The sun isn’t the only element you’ll need to be wary of on your trip. Camping right next to the water can mean that nights get chilly as cold air rolls in off the sea so pack enough clothing in case it gets cold at night. 

Take only photographs…

… leave only footprints! 

As ocean lovers, we obviously want to do our part to preserve the great outdoors for generations to come. So when you’re chilling out by the beach, remember to follow the leave no trace principles to make sure you do your part. 

This means making sure to take away all your garbage from the trip and making sure not to leave anything littering the beach when you head home. But it also means thinking about the wider impact on the local environment you might be having during your time there. 

Image: Pars Sahin

You need to consider if the local area has any ecological features that require conservation. Sand dunes can be important for sustaining vulnerable vegetation. Camp in already flattened areas and avoid climbing on top of them during your trip. If you see cool seashells or marine wildlife, it’s best to let them be.

Bring a sled 

This tip is all about minimizing effort and maximizing your relaxation. 

Carrying your gear all the way across the sand can get tiresome, so why not bring a snow sled you can use to take the weight off? 

Rather than trudging through the sand, weighted down with bags and gear for your trip, pile up your sled and secure it with some bungee cord or straps to keep your equipment in place. 

Camping on the beach, however you plan to do it, is great fun. There’s nothing that can quite beat waking up and starting your day looking out at the ocean. 

James Black is an outdoorsy blogger born and raised in Scotland. He started the website Wilderness Redefined to reconnect with nature after moving to the city of Glasgow in Scotland where he spends his day-to-day life working for an economic institute. He writes articles for the site that promote sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors for all.