Beach camping is one of my favorite activities. We have often paddled to the outer edges of the Ten Thousand Islands to camp, and I used to love to camp on the beaches of South Florida before they had too many “rules.”
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 bit more. The closer you get in a boat or your car, the more you can bring.
Beach Camping 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, and the red fox can often be seen, although they are likely to stay clear of humans.
Lightweight sleeping bag or a blanket and a travel pillow will do the trick. It can get chilly out there. Sleeping mats are 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?
Firewood is not always available, although there’s nothing like a flickering campfire on the beach. You can often find driftwood.
Charcoal. Ashes are easily dispersed in sand, so this is a good option if you can manage the bulk of carting it out there.
Backpacker’s stove. Lightweight and small, with a wind shield. For serious campers, Jetboil makes the best.
Don’t forget a lighter and/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. Corelware is great. A handful of wet sand does an excellent job of cleaning, then rinse in the ocean.
Trash bag. Don’t bring in what you can’t bring out.
Tools: Check out this RoverTrak multi-tool with saw and hatchet to chop driftwood.
Food and Water
Cooler. Soft-sided cooler or a max-cold cooler, if you can carry it or are near your vehicle.
Water. Containers 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 hat to protect from the sun.
T-shirts and/or loose-fitting UV-rated shirts. Short sleeve and long sleeve for sun protection.
Sweatpants, sweatshirt. Optional if you expect temperature drops at night.
Sunscreen, bug repellent.
Toothbrush and toothpaste.
Towel for beach and bathing.
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
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.