Last updated on February 24th, 2020 at 08:31 am

Beach camping on the outer edges of the Ten Thousand Islands has long been one of my favorite things to do in Florida.

The beach at Fort Pickens
The beach at Fort Pickens

Before you go, determine how far you have to hike or paddle with your gear.

If offshore, especially in the Ten Thousand Islands, schedule your trip with the tides and know the weather forecast.

Be mindful that even with a pleasant forecast, storms or blustery winds suddenly appear on any beach.

While you may dream of grilling burgers and steaks, recognize how quickly sticky meats are compromised by blowing sand. Just saying. 

Expect sand to get into everything.

Some folks only need a blanket, hammock, fishing pole and Pop Tarts.

Others require a little more. 

Beach Camping Gear

Our campsite on the beach at Panther Key
Our campsite on Panther Key in the Ten Thousand Islands. It’s worth noting that we also had a motorboat to carry coolers and gear.

Should you bring a tent?

I’ve spent many nights sleeping on the trampoline of my Hobie Cat without a tent, using a beach towel as a blanket, and I have friends who love hammocks for beach camping.

Another inviting option is to simply roll out a sleeping bag or a blanket on the beach and feel the warm, gentle breezes drifting across your body.

But it’s not always warm, the weather does not always stay perfect, and there are invasive critters to consider: raccoons, mosquitoes, no-seeums, sand crabs.


An airy pop-up tent with a floor. Also bring sand stakes to securely anchor in the sand (not those thin wire stakes). 

Lightweight sleeping bag or a blanket and a camping/travel pillow will do the trick. It can get chilly out there. Sleeping mat is nice but unnecessary in sand.

Ground cover/beach blanket. Handy but not essential. Besides ground cover, this lightweight, waterproof blanket creates shade or serves as an emergency shelter.

Headlamp or flashlight, bug repellent, sun screen.

Beach umbrella and beach chairs are nice to have, if you can carry them.

Whisk broom to sweep sand out of the tent.

What about cooking gear?

jet boil camp stoveFirewood is not always available, although there’s nothing like a flickering campfire on the beachYou can often find driftwood.

Charcoal. Ashes are easily dispersed in the sand, so this is a good option if you can manage the bulk of carting it out there.

Backpacker’s stove. Lightweight and small, and many have a wind shield. For serious campers, Jetboil makes the best

Don’t forget a lighter or waterproof matches.

Pots and Pans? Keep it simple: One-pot meals. 

Reusable Bowl and Utensils. Don’t bring paper plates, plastic or paper towels. They create garbage you don’t want, nor does the beach or ocean.

Trash bag. Don’t bring in what you can’t bring out.

Multi-tool with saw and hatchet to chop driftwood, bottle opener and pliers.

Food and Water

cnoc water pouch
CNOC Water Pouch

Cooler. Soft-sided cooler or a max-cold cooler, if you can carry it or are near your vehicle. 

Water. If you have a cooler, gallon jugs of frozen water provide drinking water as the ice melts. No cooler? Try the CNOC Outdoors Water Pouch.

Gatorade Hydration is always an issue when camping on the beach.

For the fire: Hot dogs, sausage and peppers, canned beans, potatoes. Avoid hamburgers and fatty meats that attract sand.

One-pot, one-plate meals, Chili or stews, pre-cooked and frozen for the cooler, or get creative with this delightfully quick and easy Tuna Couscous Bowl.

Without a fire: Cold cuts, cheeses, salad mix, fresh bread, fruits, yogurt, granola bars, Pop Tarts. 

Treats: Nuts, trail mix, firm cookies and cakes, fruit, s’mores.


Getting naked is best if no-one is around but, alas, that’s not always practical (or even legal).

broad-brimmed hatSwim suit, of course.

Broad-brimmed hat to protect from the sun.

T-shirts. Short sleeve and long sleeve.

Lightweight, breathable rain/wind jacket. Weather changes often on the beach. For men | For women 

Quick-drying underwear. For men | For women

Water shoes. Versatile shoes for wading in unfamiliar surf or strolling into the dunes or brush looking for driftwood. For men | For women | For kids

Sweatpants, sweatshirt. Drops in temperature.

Personal Items


Sunscreen, bug repellent.

Toothbrush and toothpaste.

Biodegradable soap and/or large wet wipes

Towel for beach and bathing.

Lightweight camp shovel and biodegradable toilet paper

First Aid kit.

Don’t forget your medicine!

Should you bring toys?

Of course! If you can carry them…

Frisbies, footballs, beach balls, noodles.

Paddleboards, snorkel gear, surfboards.

Fishing rod, tackle, lures and frozen bait 





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