Tent Camping on the Beach: Top 10 + 2 Essential Tips for a Great Vacation

Top 12 Tips for an Awesome Beach Tent Camping Trip
Top 12 Tips for an Awesome Beach Tent Camping Trip

Now that summer is in full swing, I wanted to share my top 12 tent camping on the beach tips.

Tent Camping At Assateague ©Kathy Passmore

My first camp set up.

Camping has become a very popular American past time. Five years ago, I could make my reservations at Assateague National Seashore a mere two weeks in advance and get a prime spot on the beach during the week in the summer.  Now, that is no longer true.  Reservations must be made months in advance for Assateage National Seashore and Assateague State Park.  Here is a link to my first camping post back in September 2011.  Here is a link to another trip to Assateague back in 2013 which was not the best camping trip I’ve ever had.

I went tent camping by myself for the very first time back in the summer of 2011.  I was in my late 40s, and I LOVED it.   I went to Assateague National Seashore in Berlin, Maryland, which was about a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house.  I specifically chose Assateague because of this:

Assateague Horse ©Kathy Passmore

I love photographing the WILD horses, and love the way they would come and hang out in the campsites. Mostly it was to forage for food that people would unwittingly leave out.  After this first trip, I was seriously hooked.  I learned some very valuable lessons on that first solo trip.  First and foremost, I learned that camping at the beach is a totally different experience than camping in the woods or almost anywhere else

In Assageague, there is “hike-in” tent camping, which means you leave your car in the parking area and haul all of your stuff to the beach to set up your campsite.  That’s a LOT of work.  Also in Assateague National Seashore (the National Park side), there is no electric and no bathhouses.  A latrine type toilet, and a stall with cold water for showering.

I am going to share my #1 item (besides a good tent) that I recommend for ANYONE who is tent camping anywhere:


Luggable Loo

Because who feels like trudging all the way to the bathhouse just to “go,” in the middle of the night?  Seriously this was one of the best investments I made for my tent.  A heavy plastic liner goes inside with deodorizing agents.  Ok.  Enough said about that.  Just buy one.

Here is my top 12 list for tent camping at the beach:

Camping at the beach is a totally different experience than camping in the woods or almost anywhere else.

1. Make your reservations early.

Camping sites fill up quickly especially at beach locations during summer weekends and holidays.  If camping at a National Seashore or National Park, go here to make your reservations.  If camping at a state campground, go here.  Not all campsites are created equal.  Do your homework.

2.  Have extra long tent stakes made for sand.

You can buy them here.  They should be at least 10″ long41aQsccytgL

These stakes will seriously injure you if stepped on with bare feet because they are pointed at the top.  I placed my citronella candles right beside the stakes to prevent injury.  You could also opt for a different type of 10″ stake.

3.  A Shade Shelter is absolutely necessary.

Assateague Horses at my campsite ©Kathy Passmore

There typically isn’t a lot of shade when camping at the beach, so you  must provide your own.  Twelve hours of hot sun beating down on you is not good for anyone.  You need to have a way to escape from the sun.  A shade shelter that anchors into the sand with one of those 10″ stakes will keep the shelter from blowing over.

Kathy's Camp Kitchen ©Kathy Passmore

This is a great shelter for beach camping.  I placed my shade tent over my picnic table and set up my outdoor kitchen inside.  The screen provides plenty of ventilation.

4.  Place a tarp under your tent that extends a few feet in front of your tent.

Kathy's Tent Set Up ©Kathy Passmore

This will help keep the sand out of your tent.  I also bring along a mat to wipe off my feet and a whisk and broom to sweep the sand off the tarp, my feet and inside of my tent.  You are camping in sand, so you aren’t going to be able to get away from it altogether.

5.  Keep another mat by your sleeping area along with a feather duster.

Inside of Kathy's Tent ©Kathy Passmore

 I don’t know about you, but I HATE sand in my sleeping bag or my bed.  As an extra added way to get most of the sand off of your feet, I wipe my feet again and use the feather duster before tucking my toes under the blankets.

6.  Baby Powder repels sand.

Keep several containers of baby powder in your tent and around your campsite.  Use it often to further assist in keeping the sand out of your tent.

7.  Bring a lightweight shirt, pants, lightweight rain jacket, socks, hat and mosquito netting.

Put all of it on if biting flies and/or mosquitoes become a problem (they did for me one year), and bug spray does nothing to repel the biting flies.  I just covered myself up and made myself cozy in  my tent.  They did go away after dark and when I started a fire.  I also bundle up when it’s windy after the sun sets as it tends to get a little chilly.  You always need a rain jacket when camping.

8.  When the weather comes, have a Plan B.

One year there was no wind.  At All.  It was hot and the biting flies were relentless.  I had just made a fire and was wishing for a breeze.  I got my wish, and the winds came at 30mph.  My tent was caving in from the force of the wind.  I spent the night in the car.  The next morning, my tent looked like this:

Kathy's Tent After Wind Storm ©Kathy Passmore

But it was still anchored into the ground because of those 10″ stakes.

9.  Run clothes lines from screen house to tent to hang all of those wet beach towels and bathing suits.

Bring clothespins to keep the clothes and towels on the line and not in the sand 🙂

Kathy's Clothesline on the Tent to Screen house ©Kathy Passmore

10.  Bring several mesh bags.

I use one to hold my stuff I take to the shower

I use another one for beach combing

Place wet dishes in the bag and they dry without taking up room at the camp site

Store all of the beach toys and leave the sand at the beach.

11.  Stay hydrated.  Drink LOTS of water.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.  Staying hydrated keeps everyone happy.

12.  Buy one of these:

BCFMU-studio-300px-text beach-cart-150px beach-cart-folding-alone-131px

They are expensive, but SO worth it.  This will make hauling your stuff to your campsite SO MUCH EASIER.  In Assageague, there is a boardwalk that leads up the middle of the campsite loop and then you have to trudge through the sand to get to your spot.  That’s A LOT of work.  Don’t waste your money on a cheap imitation.

I am going also going to write a future post about camping essentials no matter where you are going.

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