Beach

PREPARING FOR YOUR BEACH CAMPING EXPERIENCE:

 

CHOOSING YOUR TYPE OF BEACH CAMPING DESTINATION:

The most important consideration with beach camping is the tides. The best part of the beach to drive on is down near the waterline and therefore, the best time to drive on the beach is at LOW TIDE when the sand is harder and more compact.

Island Beach Camping
If you’re beach camping on an island, it’s likely you are quite remote and using a four-wheel drive to traverse different terrain. Many of the islands in South East Queensland have small villages and basic necessities are available, but they can can often be a long way from camp. Make sure you are fully equipped with essentials like drinking water, first aid, fuel and timber for fires. Remember, not all island beach camping destinations allow fires, and those that do often have laws that state all timber must be milled (pre cut into sections), as it is illegal to burn timber laying around.

Semi-Suburban Beach Camping
Living on the East Coast of Australia means we have easy access to coastal beach destinations. The unique benefit here is having the ability to access some of these great camping spots via two-wheel drive and the chance of a genuine back-to-nature camping experience is so easy! Another great thing about semi-suburban beach camping is the easy access to amenities at the local townships. It also means less packing! I love nothing more than supporting small family owned businesses in a lot of these little beach camping townships. Being able to pack your vehicle at home and grab your groceries once you have reached your destination can make camping a breeze.

WEATHER WITH BEACH CAMPING

Mother Nature determines everything we do with camping and in my eyes it is the most important factor to consider when preparing for a beach camping experience. Make sure you have a good weather app on your phone or tablet while you’re camping. I’m passionate about ditching the technology to get back to nature, however I also consider myself a bit of a safety guy and keeping an eye on the weather is imperative when camping. Especially if I have the family heading out for a bush walk or kayak for the day – managing the risk and being prepared makes sense!

Windy Weather – Beach Camping.
Having 30-knot winds blow sand straight off the beach and into your campsite (and face) is not a pleasant experience. So with this in mind, a wind break on your tarp or even the protection of setting up camp behind a sand dune will improve your camping experience.

Hot and Sunny Weather – Beach Camping.
When the weather is clear and sunny, beach camping is unparalleled. The water is crystal clear, there’s no wind, the waves are peeling perfectly for a surf and the fish are on the bite. But with skin cancer and sun damage top of mind, it’s best to protect you and your family from the unforgiving sun, having a sidewall on your gazebo, tarp or awning to protect you from the sun in the early morning is not a bad idea and remember to slip, slop, slap when your camping on the beach.

Previous weather – Beach Camping.
Something you must consider before you camp on the beach is the previous weather conditions and the effect it may have had on the beach you are about to drive on. The beach could be an absolute disaster zone after heavy rains or swells. With severe beach washouts, possible erosion that has exposed old buried rocks, and the driftwood etc that litters the beach from the ocean can tear a vehicle apart in seconds. At low tide I have seen the beach take on many different forms over the years, from having 50 or 60 metres of driving space to having that much sand erosion on low tide that you can barely pass each other and spend much of the time rock hopping at 10km p/hour in sections.

So do your research when it comes to beach camping and check out what the weather has been and is currently. There is nothing like being prepared.

Pre maintenance for salt air
Oxidisation and rust from the salt water and air will ruin most metals. I remember being really shocked at the corrosion to my gear after camping near the beach for three weeks. It was all the little things like the sliders on the zippers of my tent that really saw damage. The salt air gets on everything! A good lesson learned was to ensure that all of my gear was rust and oxidisation proofed. There are some great products for this on the market, just keep these tips in mind:

Make sure the rust prevention product you use is clear. There is nothing worse than coating a zip runner with something that is going to stain your brand new tent. Wipe off any excess coating because when beach camping – sand sticks to everything! And when sand sticks to things like your galvanised tent poles, it can become abrasive and do damage to your camping goods.

Legal camping preparation:
There are some laws and regulations around camping on the beach. Before you pack, you might need to consider these elements:

Milled timber:
Be sure to do your research on your camping destination. If you are allowed to have a fire, in most cases the timber must have been milled or shown to be cut previously. It’s actually illegal to burn any wood either alive and growing, or dead on the ground in many of the national parks or reserved camping areas. So it is a case of buy your own wood pre-cut and packaged – or saw your own from home.

Portable camping toilet:
In a lot of places it’s illegal to bury your own human waste so you might want to consider your options here.. portable camping toilets have evolved a lot in the last decade or so. In the past we had toilet chemical and once it had broken down the waste, everybody buried it in the sand dunes. This isn’t accepted at all these days, and there are numerous access points to waste dump points as you travel along.

Cleaning:
If you have successfully pre coated, lubricated and applied the correct rust restart coatings to anything that could oxidise or rust from the salt air, it will make your clean up and post-maintenance twice as easy.

Here are some handy hints on post beach camping maintenance and cleaning:

  • Hose down and clean as much of the salt air and moisture off your camping gear as you possibly can.
  • Once cleaned down, re-coat and lubricate the metals in your camping goods, such as zip runners on your tent zippers, tent/tarp poles, steel fittings on your chairs, tables and cooking equipment. If you do re-coat and lubricate, just keep in mind to wipe away any excess lubricant. If it is left nice and thick, everything including sand and dust will stick to it, making for a worse problem next time.
  • Wash your car from top to bottom and every single crevice in between. This means hosing out all of the sand from inside your chassis, to the bash plates and coverings under your vehicle. Possibly the best advice I was ever given was to sit a sprinkler running under my car and move it around to wash the entire under body of my car, it works a treat!

DURING YOUR BEACH CAMPING EXPERIENCE:

 

DRIVING ON THE BEACH

You will need to prepare your vehicle before you enter and exit the beach. Just before you drive onto the sand, you’ll need to:

  • Let your tyres down to approximately 15PSI
  • Engage 4WD. This is usually done in a parking area prior to the beach entry. Likewise, after you exit the beach, you will need to:
  • Pump your tyres back up to the appropriate PSI rating before you drive on bitumen again. There are usually allocated compressors close by the beach exit or at nearby service stations.
  • Disengage 4WD before you start driving on a hard surface.

Entering and Exiting the Beach:
Before you start you must be aware that all road rules apply when beach driving and are enforceable. Be sure to consider the unwritten rules and sand etiquette including:

  • Always try to drive on the harder sand (always down closer to the water)
  • Always pass to the left of oncoming traffic. (Standard road rules)
  • Always use your blinker when passing to the left of oncoming traffic. It let’s the on coming traffic know in advance, exactly what your intentions are and saves on any confusion at the last minute.
  • Never stop and park your vehicle in the middle of the roadway, park up in the softer sand away from traffic.

Soft sand threshold:
There is a section of the beach I call the ‘soft sand threshold’. This is the soft sandy section between where we enter the beach to the driving section down on the water’s edge. This soft sand threshold is where most of us get bogged. Not only do we have to spend a lot of time digging ourselves out, it can hold up other traffic from entering or exiting the beach causing a backlog. Having your tyres deflated, a clear run to enter or exit and plenty of motion will help here.

Handy hints on entering and exiting:

Whilst usually there is two tracks onto the beach – one for entering and one for exiting – more often than not one track is used for both. This is mainly done due to it being harder and easier to drive on and reduces the risk of being bogged. So with this in mind, we all need to manage the risk of collision or someone being bogged and having to stop halfway through.

Handy hints:

  • Hop out and walk it first as often the visibility is limited and we cannot see what’s ahead. See how hard it is, what speed you will need, where the track will push you and what sort of traffic is entering or exiting.
  • If you have a passenger, have them walk up front and help you to manage the correct time to enter or exit.
  • If you have a heavy load, it can be a wise choice to lighten the load of passengers as much as possible before entering or exiting. Just keep in mind it is a high traffic area with some vehicles in tough negotiating conditions, doing some serious speed. So all pedestrians should keep well away from the track.

Handy hints on entering and exiting:

Whilst usually there is two tracks onto the beach – one for entering and one for exiting – more often than not one track is used for both. This is mainly done due to it being harder and easier to drive on and reduces the risk of being bogged. So with this in mind, we all need to manage the risk of collision or someone being bogged and having to stop halfway through.

Handy hints:

  • Hop out and walk it first as often the visibility is limited and we cannot see what’s ahead. See how hard it is, what speed you will need, where the track will push you and what sort of traffic is entering or exiting.
  • If you have a passenger, have them walk up front and help you to manage the correct time to enter or exit.
  • If you have a heavy load, it can be a wise choice to lighten the load of passengers as much as possible before entering or exiting. Just keep in mind it is a high traffic area with some vehicles in tough negotiating conditions, doing some serious speed. So all pedestrians should keep well away from the track.

DRIVING ALONG THE BEACH:

Washouts:
You need to keep an eye out for washouts. Washouts are freshwater feeds that come from the sand dunes down into the ocean. They can be almost camouflaged while driving along the beach and when you are doing upwards of 60 km p/hour, they are upon you in an instant. Hitting some of the deeper washouts at high speed can destroy a car and cause serious injury to occupants. So take your time when approaching these.

Handy hint:
I have seen many people drive their vehicle through these washouts to try to wash the salt off their car. I had an old fellow tell me years ago that the water coming out of these washouts is actually that high in minerals, it can do just as much, if not more damage in oxidising your vehicle (rust) than the salt water!

Hard sand driving:
Most driving is done at low tide due to the exposure of the harder sand. This is almost always down closer to the waters edge. This is where to drive if possible and stick to all road rules.

Soft sand driving:
Driving in soft sand ensures your vehicle will be working harder, therefore your vehicle will be churning through more fuel. Sticking to existing forged tracks in soft sand will make driving easier on your vehicle and will reduce the chance of being bogged. In essence, drive only on hard ground where possible, and this is done best at low tide.

Finding your campsite:
When choosing your campsite along the beach, there are many things to consider such as rain and wind direction and how exposed you might be to being windblown. If the forecast is perfect, then by all means set up camp with a clear view of the ocean. However camping on an exposed beach here on the east coast of Australia with a potential 30-knot wind driving at you from the south east will ensure you need the protection of camping behind a sand dune.

Fires:
In the beach camping areas where fires are legal, you will find remnants of them scattered in hundreds of different places. When setting up camp in these areas it is vital to consider if the previous fire has been put out correctly. If it has it will be full of black charcoal which will stain your camping gear and make its way on to everything! There could also be some sharp sticks that could damage your tent, or your feet. Remember, all fires MUST be put out with WATER!!! Burns from campfires are more common than you may think because some people only cover up the fire with sand, which can hold hot coals for hours, sometimes days. If possible always use a fire pit and consider where the wind is coming from. You don’t want to set up and have a fire blow straight through your campsite all weekend!

Native Animals

Dingos:
Native animals have inhabited our beach camping areas for thousands of years, long before we did. So we need to adjust to them, not vice versa. Be sure to stack all food scraps, any bins and any shoes and socks away at night where they cannot access them. It’s the simple things like locking down the latches on your ice box and zipping closed your camping pantry to keep them out. Oh and by the way…. DO NOT FEED THEM!

Marsh Flys:
Here is a handy hint – give all bright blue and bright red camping products a miss when camping on the beach. We have experienced over the years that when the Marsh Flies are in town, they are highly attracted to these colours. In fact, we had to stop selling bright blue tents years ago because the locals wouldn’t touch them!

Shelter

Tarp:
Good shelter is imperative when beach camping. Kerri and I have tried almost everything that includes tarps, gazebos, dome shelters…. you name it! Personally, I believe you cannot beat a good tarp. It has a much larger outdoor area with much more protection from the elements, and with our new tarp side wall modification kit, they now have protection from the wind. In short, most gazebos and dome shelters have frames made out of black steel, which rusts quickly and they simply do not always handle the windy weather like a well set-up tarp.

 

Handy Hints:

  • Always face the V-pitch in a tarp towards the wind direction. Research and understand the wind and weather patterns prior to embarking on your camping trip.
  • Side walls on whatever shelter you have when beach camping is an absolute no brainer. They don’t always need to be solid and waterproof either. The main job of a side wall on your tarp, gazebo or dome shelter is to reduce the wind and therefore decrease the amount of sand and leaves blowing into your camp.

Post beach camping experience

Ah, this is the least favourite part of the camping experience, especially beach camping. There is usually a bit more involved in cleaning up but I guess that is the compromise we make with being able to camp in such a beautiful location. I have one really good bit of advice for beach camping when packing to come home: Make a note and pack with easy access anything that might require some maintenance when you get home

(anything that will need re-lubrication or rust resistant coatings).