Can You Use a Camping Tent at the Beach?

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Your typical camping tent makes an excellent shelter in various outdoor terrains and weather conditions.

That said, are you typically allowed to use a camping tent at the beach? It depends.

You can use a camping tent at the beach in many cities. In fact, I’ve personally found that these tents are better suited for the beach than standard umbrellas or canopy tents because they provide more privacy, sunshade, and protection from wind.

However, some beaches do not allow camping tents or even tents in general. Some public beaches only allow tents that you can see through on all four sides. In other words, canopy-style tents with just a roof and no sides.

Other beaches don’t allow tents of any style. Why? On busy days an overabundance of tents can consume the beach, preventing access and sight of the water’s edge and affecting public safety and enjoyment.

Here are a few examples of tent policies at major beach locations (at the time of publishing this):

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: No use of tents or other shading devices between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Tents and canopies are permissible on Labor Day through Memorial Day.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: Camping tents are not allowed. Canopy-style tents where you can see through all sides are allowed.
  • Padre Island, Texas: Many spots do allow for camping tents, with some even allowing overnight camping.
  • Destin, Florida: Allows pop-up canopy tents on the beaches within city limits.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas: Allows pop-up tents on the beach. Just don’t leave them there overnight as the beach clean-up crews will remove them.
  • San Diego, California: They typically don’t allow tents on the beach, but there are a few designated campgrounds and parks near the beach with ocean views that you can set up a camping tent and even spend the night.

Tip: Before attempting to set up a tent at the beach of any style, whether a camping tent or a beach tent, you should check with the local city ordinance.

What Kind of Tent Do I Need for the Beach?

The most important consideration for beach camping is choosing a tent with UV protection, is breathable and one that is allowed under the rules and regulations of the particular beach it will be used on.

When looking for the perfect tent for your future beach trips, you’ll have two main options – beach tents and your regular camping tents.

Beach Tent vs Camping Tent

Let’s look a little closer at these specific types of tents.

What is a beach tent?

what is a beach tent

A beach tent provides a comfortable, open shelter where beachgoers can rest and relax. They can be used as a portable baby changing station, a shaded place to rest, or even an emergency shelter against unexpected storms.

Beach tents typically are open on all sides, with just a “canopy” or roof on the tent. Many beaches only permit these canopy-style tents to better allow public safety personnel to see through the tents and to the water’s edge.

How does that differ from a camping tent?

what is a camping tent

Camping tents are designed to protect campers from the sun and various types of weather, typically for overnight stays. They also provide a private space to store camping gear and food.

These tents are typically completely enclosed, with the ability to unzip portions of the tent to reveal a mesh screen for breathability and ventilation.

Which is better for the beach?

Both beach and camping tents offer at least some level of UV protection, and both are breathable (though beach tents are the more breathable option by far).

So, which one is better comes down to which type is allowed under the rules and regulations of the particular beach it will be used on, how you’ll be using it, and convenience.

For example, if privacy is more of a concern, then a camping tent will be your best option. If breathability is the most important feature, then a beach tent is the way to go.

If you just want some shelter from the sun while you’re at the beach for the day, then whatever type of tent you have on hand will likely work.

Again, the best way to determine which type of tent is best for your needs is to check the local tent regulations for beach use and think about how you’ll be using it.

How Do You Pitch a Tent in the Sand?

Pitching a tent in the sand is similar to pitching it on regular terrain, but with a few added considerations to help keep sand out of the tent and properly secure it to the ground.

  1. First, you’ll want tent stakes designed for use in sandy soil. Check out our guide to the best tent stakes for sand for our top 3 options.
  2. Find the spot you want to pitch your tent and level the sand out with your feet.
  3. Pitch the tent with the entrance sloping downward (typically toward the water) to prevent sand from being blown into the tent.
  4. Scoop away the top 3-5″ of sand where each stake will go. This will remove the loose top sand so our stakes can screw into the harder ground underneath, creating a more secure hold.
  5. Insert a sand stake through each stake loop on the tent and screw the stake straight down into the ground (at a 90-degree angle).

Your tent is now pitched and secure!

Tip: Keep the tent door closed when not in use to prevent sand from accidentally being kicked or blown into the tent. And open the windows so the inside of the tent can breathe and not get too hot.

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