With beautiful views, easy access to the ocean, fishing, surfing and more, the beach is an idyllic place to camp. However, beach camping does come require some planning and you will need to make sure you have everything you need to have the perfect vacation.
Which is why I have compiled a comprehensive list of 75 essentials for beach camping. You can download a free printable checklist, and easily buy anything you don’t have right here.
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Downloadable Beach Camping Packing List
Get your beach camping checklist (PDF):
I’ve divided this beach camping gear list into sections. Let’s start with things you’ll need to sleep comfortably.
1. Tent for beach camping
One of the most important things you need for beach camping is the right tent. Camping on a beach comes with its own challenges and needs. Read my Guide to the Best Tent for Beach Camping for FAQs, detailed reviews and recommendations.
My top pick for the best beach tent is this Coleman family cabin tent.
2. Sand Stakes
It’s obviously more difficult to secure a tent in soft sand than in regular soil.
There are two options. Some tents come with built-in bags that you fill with sand to weigh your tent down.
The other option is special stakes that screw into the sand and provide the traction you need.
3. Ground Cover Tarp
To guard against the chill of the sand and moisture, you’ll need a good tarp to put under your tent.
If this is a bit bigger than your tent, it will also help keep the sand out.
4. Rain Fly Cover
In addition to a ground tarp, you should have a tarp or fly to keep rain, moisture and/ or spray from your tent.
5. Whisk Broom
It’s inevitable when beach camping that you’ll get some sand in your tent, no matter how careful you are. Having a small whisk broom on your beach camping essentials list so you can sweep the sand out will help keep your tent clean and comfortable.
6. Lightweight Sleeping Bag
If you’re at the beach, chances are you’re not going to need a heavy-duty sleeping bag. However, even in summer, nights can get surprisingly cool at the beach, so I recommend taking a lightweight sleeping bag.
7. Water-Proof Blankets
Supplement your sleeping bag with an extra blanket or two. You’ll want to make sure they are waterproof. Water is everywhere at the beach, and you’ll be more comfortable in the event they get a little damp.
8. Sleeping Mat / Mattress
If you’re right on the sandy beach, you may think you can get away without a sleeping mattress, but the sand will be cold and will start to feel very hard throughout the night. A mat or mattress will help insulate you and give you a good’s night sleep.
9. Travel Pillow
I like to take a small inflatable travel pillow, which is comfortable but takes up almost no space when you’re getting there.
10. String Lights
String lights are a great way to light up your tent and/ or campsite while also helping to create a more atmospheric environment. They transform a plain campsite into a magical location at night.
Read my Guide to the Best Camping String Lights to see best-in-category lights depending on your fuel source and how fun you want to go.
It can get surprisingly dark at night by the beach. String lights will help, but you will also need a few good lanterns around your campsite so your day doesn’t end when the sun sets.
12. Headlamp or Flashlight
You’ll also need a flashlight or headlamp to navigate night trips to the restroom area, etc. I prefer using a headlamp, as my hands are then free.
When beach camping, you will be spending all your time at your campsite or on the beach. You’ll want to make sure you beach camping list has all you need to relax and enjoy your time there.
13. Camping Table
You’ll need a good table not only for cooking and eating, but also throughout the day (for fishing gear, playing cards, etc.), so I think it’s important to have a good one.
14. Camp Chairs
You probably won’t be on the beach all day and night – you’ll spend some time at your campsite, so make sure you have comfortable chairs.
15. Beach Chairs
You’ll also want to have chairs for the beach. You may be able to use the same chairs for both, but I recommend having low chairs for the beach and higher chairs for the campsite.
16. Beach Umbrella
For when you’re actually on the beach, a good beach umbrella is a must. You’ll want one that can screw into the sand so it’s more wind resistant, and one that bends so you can easily adjust it for shade throughout the day.
17. Sun Shelter
A beach umbrella works for hanging out on the beach, but you will want to have shade at your campsite too. You can use the same shelter for the beach if you prefer to skip the umbrella and move the shelter around, but it can be more convenient to have one shade shelter at the campsite and then a more portable umbrella for hanging out on the beach.
This is totally optional, but if your campsite is among trees on the edge of the beach and you know this in advance, a travel hammock can be great for relaxing throughout the day.
20. Water Toys
Of course, you’ll also want to have toys you need for fun in the water. If you’re somewhere calm, noodles make it easy to hang out in the water and paddle boarding is a great activity to do. If you’re at a surf beach, you’ll probably want a body board instead. If there are fish and/ or a reef nearby, make sure you have snorkel gear with you.
21. Fishing Gear
If you like fishing – or would like to learn – the beach is often the perfect place to fish.
If you’re new to fishing, you can get the gear you need before you go.
22. Radio (Battery and/ or Solar-Powered)
This is optional, but if you have radio service, it can be nice to have a radio to play music – and weather updates, etc. (though you can also get that on your phone if you have cell service, of course).
I recommend one that has battery and solar power and is water resistant. This one even has an emergency cell charger:
Your packing list for beach camping should definitely include at least one way to power any devices.
23. Solar Panels
Solar panels are the most eco-friendly option. They are also silent and, after the initial investment, don’t cost anything to run. And chances are if you’re at the beach, there will be sun (hopefully, anyway).
Read my Guide to the Best Solar Panels for Camping for the full low down.
25. Extra Fuel / Batteries
Make sure you have enough batteries for any battery-powered devices like you lanterns or a radio, and enough fuel for anything that takes other types of fuel like a BBQ.
FOR EATING | DRINKING
When beach camping, you are often somewhat isolated, so you’ll need to take all your beach camping supplies with you. This includes having enough drinking water and food.
26. Water Bottles (and Fresh Water)
If you have a source of fresh water, then you will just need one or two large containers, so that you have water easily accessible at your campsite. If you’re more isolated, you’ll need to make sure you have enough water for your whole trip (or until you can get to a water source).
27. Food For the Fire
You’ll need to plan ahead and make sure you have food for all your meals. If you’re going to have a fire (recommended, depending on safety) and/ or hot plates, you will want to have food to cook.
Canned food like chili, canned beans and vegetables and root veges like potatoes keep and carry well. Assuming you also have a cooler or fridge (see below), add in things like hot dogs and sausages.
Try to avoid fatty meats like hamburgers that tend to attract sand.
28. Food Without a Fire
You’ll want lots of foods that don’t need to be cooked, for ease when camping. Again, assuming you have a way to keep food cool, cheese, cold cuts, salads, fruits and yogurt are all good. Bread, granola bars, etc. don’t need to be refrigerated and are even better.
Cookies, nuts, fruit, tail mix, etc. make great snacks that are easy to store.
30. S’mores Kit
If you’re able to have a fire (always check about fire safety at the time of your trip), a camping trip wouldn’t be complete without s’mores around the fire at night.
You’ll need the ingredients, plus I recommend having the right equipment too.
You’ll almost certainly be cooking during your trip, so your beach camping trip packing list will need to have everything you need.
31. Cooler / Camping Fridge
An essential item is a good – and large enough – cooler and/ or camping fridge. I’d go with a fridge/ freezer (and generator and/ or solar panel to keep it running), as you then don’t need to worry about ice.
Check out my Guide to the Best Camping Fridge if you are looking to get one.
32. Cooking Equipment
If you plan to cook, you’ll need some basic pots and pans.
33. Reusable Bowls and Utensils
It’s best to avoid disposable dishes to reduce trash (and, of course, it’s better of the environment). I like this set of reusable and durable plates and cutlery, which are kept in a easy-to-carry bag.
34. Biodegradable Dish Soap, Pan and Sponge
Of course, you’ll need to wash your dishes. You’ll want to make sure that the dish soap is biodegradable, so that it doesn’t damage the beach area. Throw in dish cloths, a sponge/ scrubber and a portable tub.
35. Dish Towels
You can bring regular dish towels from home, but I like these cute camping ones.
36. Camp Stove
If you cook a lot of one-pot meals (which is much easier), you can get away with one hot plate. If you plan to have more elaborate meals, you’ll probably need a couple of hot plates.
37. Dutch Oven
38. Portable Fire Pit
This is optional, but having a portable fire pit can be easier than creating a fire without one.
You may be able to find driftwood, depending on the beach, but often firewood is hard to find at the beach. I don’t recommend bringing this from home unless you live nearby, because you can inadvertently carry bugs from one part of the country to another, which can wreak havoc with the local environment. however, you should pick up firewood locally before you get to the beach unless you know there will be driftwood there.
40. Dry Tinder / Fire Starter
This is especially important at the beach when wood can get a little damp from spray, etc.
41. Waterproof Matches or Lighter
You never know when you’ll need to cut or fix a rope, fix an electronic device, etc. Having a multi-device tool is extremely handy. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
Another option is a multi-tool knife. You can get both, or just one, depending on what setup you have.
If you plan to gather driftwood, then I recommend taking a portable camping saw.
When packing for beach camping, you’ll want to make sure you have all the clothing you need for the beach and for possibly changeable weather.
I recommend taking at least 2 sets of swimwear. This will give one set a chance to dry and also mean you can wear some fresh swimwear during your trip, given that you’ll most likely most of the time wearing it.
46. Life Jackets
If you are going to be boating at all, you’ll need a life vest for everyone in the boat.
47. Broad-Brimmed Hat
Sun protection is key when you’re going to be spending so much time at the beach. First up is a hat that you can wear whether you’re lying on the beach, playing frisbee or hanging out around the campsite.
48. Loose-Fitting UV-Rated Shirts
I can’t recommend these enough. After getting horribly sunburned after an afternoon at the beach (even after I had put on sunscreen), I now always wear a long-sleeved UV sun shirt!
49. Rain Jacket
52. Long Pants
53. Quick-Drying Underwear
54. Sweatpants and/ or Sweatshirt
55. Water Shoes
Definitely take a good pair of polarized sunglasses.
This is my ‘secret sauce’. A sarong takes up almost no space, but can be a beach towel, a wrap, a picnic blanket, a towel, and much more.
FOR COMFORT | STAYING CLEAN
There are many beach camping necessities that you should take on your trip.
I recommend taking more towels than you think you’ll need. You’ll need beach towels and bath towels (that are kept free of sand if possible), as well as extras in case they get wet and take time to dry.
59. Toiletry Bag
This is a good idea to keep all of your toiletries together.
60. Biodegradable Soap and Shampoo
Make sure that you are only using biodegradable soaps and shampoos since chances are that they will be going directly into the environment.
61. Biodegradable Body Wipes
Not essential, but these are especially handy of you don’t have access to a faucet and want to ration water a little.
62. Bug Spray
Make sure your bug spray is DEET free – it’s better for the environment and for your skin.
Since your sunscreen is going into the water, make sure it’s reef-safe. Even if you’re not in a tropical area, this sunscreen is better for the environment.
Because you’ll be in the sun so much, take a lot of sunscreen. Estimate you’ll use about 9 oz a day per person if you reapply every couple of hours, as recommended.
64. Aloe Vera
If you do get sunburned – or even as a way of moisturizing your skin after being in the sun – aloe vera is the best thing.
65. Camping Toilet
You may or may not need this. But, if you won’t be near facilities, having a camping toilet is a great way to go!
66. Biodegradable Toilet Paper
As with soap, you want to make sure that anything that might go into the environment is biodegradable (though you should bag it up and take it out with you if possible).
67. Camp Shovel
If you don’t have a comfortable camp toilet, but are burying it every time instead, you’ll need a shovel to dig a hole.
Rope is an absolute must. You can use it to replace a tent line, etc., but it’s really helpful as a clothes line – you’ll have wet swimwear and towels and possibly much more every day.
These will keep everything on your clothes line on windy days.
70. First Aid Kit
Absolutely don’t forget a first aid kit with all of the basics you might need.
72. Personal Hygiene Items
73. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
74. Ziploc Bags
75. Garbage Bags
Beach Camping Tips
In addition to the packing list, here are some useful beach camping tips. Beach camping is a little different from regular camping, so there are some additional things to think about.
- Check that camping is allowed
Many beaches do not permit camping. Make sure that you’re allowed to camp at the beach that you’re planning to go to.
- Choose a good location
When you get to the beach, choose your site carefully. First up, it has to be above the high tide line. You can usually see a line of seaweed, shells or driftwood that indicates the high tide line. You can also check with tide charts and always double check the weather forecast in case bad weather is coming, which might raise the water line.
It’s actually better to camp in amongst vegetation on the edge of the sandy beach rather than the beach itself. This will provide some protection from the wind and rain, give you something to hang a clothes line on, and also give you more privacy. However, don’t go too far from the beach. Sea breezes tend to help keep bugs away.
Also, avoid the dunes. Some beaches have sand dunes at their edge. This is a fragile environment and should be avoided if at all possible.
- Know where you can get fresh water (or bring enough for your whole trip)
Unless you’re at a dedicate campground, you probably won’t have easy access to running water. You will either need to know where your nearest source of drinkable water is or take enough with you for the whole trip.
Take more water than you think you’ll need. You’ll be in the sun a lot, and staying hydrated is especially important.
- Choose the right shelter
There are a few options to choose from, depending on the beach, the climate, season, etc. You could go completely tentless and sleep under the stars or go with a shelter like a tarp. However, often the best option is to go with a beach tent. If you do, make sure you have a way to hold it down, using a sand anchor.
- Choose the right sleeping gear
I mention a lightweight sleeping bag above. Having extra blankets in case you need them gives you the most flexibility. But you need to decide what makes the most sense for your own trip.
- Keep the sand out
Sand can get everywhere. Which is why I recommend a ground tarp and a small handheld broom to sweep out your tent. Also make sure you brush off your feet before entering your tent or walking on a tarp or mat.
- Build a campfire
Always check that open fires are allowed. Fires can be banned if there is a high-danger period. If fires are allowed, you can either dig a hole to create a fire pit or take a portable fire pit.
If you are going to cook over the fire, let the fire burn down and cook over the embers.
At the end of the night, throw sand over the embers so that that the fire is completely out before you go to sleep.
- Practice safety
If you’re going boating, or even if you’re not, but the water is a bit rough or you don’t swim that well, wear a life jacket. If there isn’t a lifeguard on duty, designate your own lifeguard so someone stays on the beach keeping any eye on everyone.
- Leave no trace!
- Don’t leave things outside
Weather at the beach can be changeable and it can rain unexpectedly overnight. So always set up a rain fly over your tent (or be prepared to dash inside if you’re sleeping under the stars) and put everything under cover. Always pack away food so it’s safe from critters.
Happy beach camping!
What else do you think should be on this checklist for camping on the beach? I’m happy to add it. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).
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Other Packing Lists
- Winter Vacations
- Day Hikes
- Winter Hikes
- Tent Camping
- Cabin Trips
- National Parks Essentials
- Road Trips
James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.
He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.
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