The beach has always been my happy place, so a few years ago, when presented with the idea of camping on the beach, I jumped at the opportunity. Just imagine, waking up and going to sleep with the soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore, watching the sun peek over the horizon while you lay in bed, or dining al fresco with your toes in the sand. The thought of all of this makes me want to pack my bags right now and head to the beach, but when I sat back and thought about everything it would take to beach camp, reality began to set in. The the thought of the waves crashing on the shore turned into thoughts of being washed away by the ocean. Dining al fresco turned into dinner with bugs, and the sun peeking over the horizon quickly became the dread of having no escape from its rays. Now the reality of camping may sound a little daunting, but after a few years of practice, we have beach camping down to a science and have plenty of pro tips to share with you from campsite selection to fighting the sun.
First steps to successful beach camping are to choose the right time of year and good location for your campsite. As appealing as it may sound, camping at the beach in the height of summer may not be the best option. Sure you can cool off in the ocean, but an 80-90 degree day with, no reprieve from the sun, can quickly turn into misery. Depending on your location, early spring or early fall should allow for slightly cooler temperatures that won’t have you bundled up to stay warm. For our most recent trip to Portsmouth Island, NC, mid-April brought sunny 70 degree weather, so once we arrived, the main challenge was finding the perfect campsite. On the beach, there’s always a risk of high tide and high wind, so selecting a location far from the high tide line, that also has some dunes to protect you from the wind is ideal. Choosing the right location will help to prevent water rushing into your tent (been there) or being blown away by a gust of wind (was nearly there). And, as always finding a level piece of ground to pitch your tent, is key.
As much as we love the sun, when beach camping, you need a plan in advance to make sure you can have a reprieve from it. With no shade, even a moderate temperature day can seem hot with, no cloud cover or shelter. A good shade tent, vehicle awning or beach umbrella will work wonders for keeping the sun at bay. But, even with an option for shade, the the sun is powerful, so make sure you pack plenty of sunscreen and apply liberally and often. It’s recommended to use at least 30 SPF and for a pro-tip, using an unscented sun screen can help avoid attracting unwanted bugs.
Speaking of bugs, this was a bit of a surprise during our first beach camping trip. When you think of a beach, bugs typically aren’t the first thing that comes to mind, but often, more natural beaches, that have not been built up with houses and condos, have an abundance of vegetation and bugs, in the unspoiled dunes. Flies, mosquitoes, and gnats are all things that can become pest and will bite. All of this creatures can put a huge damper on your personal paradise, so plan in advance. Before hand, spray your clothes and gear with Permethrin. This helps prevent pesky bugs from biting through your clothes and chair. Then, for extra projection use and unscented topical repellant like Picaridin. Through trial and error, we’ve found using both Permethrin and Picaridin work best for preventing unwanted bites.
Lastly, one would think that on a beach, surrounded by water, the topic of water would not be an issue, but think again. Of course you’ll need fresh water to drink and salt water is no help. Before you arrive to the beach, check if potable water is available near by. If so, this is great and you don’t need to pack water for you trip, but if not, be sure to gage how much water you will need (minimum 1 gallon per person per day for drinking). Potable water is great for showering and after a day of sweating, sun screen, insect repellant, and playing in the sand, a shower will be precisely what you will want. But don’t just think about showering, water for hydration and cooking is most imperative. Potable water can quickly be converted to drinking water with the use of a water filtration system. If you can’t pack enough bottled water from home or a don’t have a water source that specifies its for drinking, be safe and filter your water, because a stomach bug at the beach is never fun.
Beach camping is not a pastime that’s for the faint of heart, but if prepared with the right time of year, right location, proper shelter, protection from bugs and enough water for a good shower, cooking and drinking you can have an amazing trip. So what are you waiting on? Find that perfect beach campsite and create the paradise you’ve been dreaming of.