How to keep sand out of your tent

by | Jun 14, 2023 | Backcountry camping

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Camping on the beach or at a sandy campsite?

You’re bound to get sand in your tent if you’re not careful.

It’s not really a bad thing—it’s just a nuisance.

After all, nobody wants to clean sand out of their sleeping bag, clothing, and other gear.

But if you’re willing to put up with the hassle, there are some definite advantages to camping on the beach or at a sandy campsite.

A tent set up on a beach at sunset

For one thing, your surroundings can be quite beautiful—you’ll get an unbeatable view of the waterfront and perhaps even some incredible wildlife.

And on hot summer nights, the sand can be surprisingly cool and comfortable to sleep on—much more so than the hard ground of a standard campsite.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about dodging roots and rocks when pitching your tent.

If you love the sand, but prefer to keep it outside your tent as much as possible, here are some tips you can follow.

Choose the right campsite

An empty campsite with a picnic table and fire pit.

When you’re planning your camping trip, selecting the right campsite can have a big impact on keeping sand out of your tent.

Ideally, look for a spot away from dunes or areas with loose sand.

If you’re at a designated campground, choose a site with some kind of barrier, like vegetation or rocks.

This will help reduce the amount of sand being blown into your camping area by the wind.

Elevated spots tend to be better for preventing sand accumulation, as they’re less likely to accumulate wind-blown sand.

Plus, they can offer better drainage if it rains during your trip.

To make your search for the perfect campsite even more efficient, doing thorough research before arriving at your camping destination can save you valuable time.

Check out maps and read online reviews to learn more about the terrain and conditions at different sites.

Aside from the physical location, consider the direction of the wind.

Position your tent with the entrance facing away from prevailing winds to prevent sand from being blown inside as you enter and exit.

As a bonus, this strategy can also help keep your tent cooler in hot and sunny conditions.

Don’t forget to secure your tent with strong stakes and guylines to withstand wind gusts.

Use windbreaks

A tarp shelter at a campsite on a windy day.

When you’re camping near the beach, windbreaks can be a game-changer.

They effectively block the blowing sand, providing a cleaner environment around your tent.

Here are some suggestions on how to use windbreaks to keep sand out of your tent effectively:

Choose a natural windbreak if possible, like a tree or large rock formation.

These will create a barrier between your tent and the wind, reducing the amount of sand that gets blown in.

Keep an eye on the wind direction when setting up to ensure your natural windbreak is optimally providing shelter from the wind.

You can also set up portable windbreaks to create a barrier.

These commercially available windbreaks often come in fabric panels connected to poles.

Place them strategically around your tent to shield it from wind and sand.

Make sure they’re properly secured so they don’t collapse or blow away during strong gusts.

Another option to create a windbreak is using your own camping gear, such as your car, RV, or a parked boat.

Park the vehicle upwind from your tent, creating a wind buffer zone that will help keep the sand from reaching your tent.

This also offers added privacy and some extra shade.

Lastly, consider creating a campsite that’s recessed or dug into the ground slightly.

This will help to minimize blowing sand entering your tent, but be cautious of potential water pooling or flooding issues when choosing your site elevation.

Incorporating windbreaks into your campsite not only helps to block sand from entering your tent but can also provide a more comfortable overall camping experience by reducing wind exposure.

Don’t forget to keep your shoes outside, preferably in a vestibule or under a waterproof tarp, as this will also help you avoid tracking sand into your sleeping space.

Use an oversized groundsheet

A tent with two extra groundsheets.

A larger groundsheet not only protects your tent floor from dirt and moisture, but it also provides a barrier against sand, making it less likely to invade your sleeping space.

Start by selecting a groundsheet that extends beyond the dimensions of your tent.

This extra coverage creates a buffer zone to prevent sand from being blown or tracked into your tent.

Be sure to choose a groundsheet made from durable material to withstand rough terrain and not easily tear.

When setting up your campsite, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a location: Find a spot that’s elevated and less sandy, if possible.
  2. Lay out the groundsheet: Spread the oversized groundsheet flat on the ground, ensuring it’s larger than the footprint of your tent.
  3. Place your tent: Position your tent on top of the groundsheet, aligning it so the excess material extends equally on all sides.
  4. Secure the groundsheet: Use tent stakes or rocks to weigh down the edges of the groundsheet, creating a taut surface that prevents sand from getting underneath.

Additionally, make it a habit to always remove your shoes before entering the tent and store them in the vestibule area.

This no-shoe rule will significantly minimize the amount of sand that enters your sleeping area, keeping your tent clean and sand-free throughout your camping trip.

Lastly, consider adding a mat outside your tent entrance to act as an extra layer to catch and trap sand.

Keep a towel handy to wipe your feet

Sweat towel.

One practical way to keep sand out of your tent is to have a towel available outside the entrance.

A towel will help you clean off your feet before entering the tent, minimizing the amount of sand that makes it inside.

You can use a small, lightweight, and portable towel, like those designed for camping.

You can also repurpose an old bath towel that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Make a habit of wiping your feet before entering your tent.

Be diligent about it because even a small amount of sand can make a significant difference in your tent’s cleanliness.

While you’re at the beach, you can also rinse your feet with a portable water container before drying them off and wiping them on the doormat.

Aside from wiping your feet, take your shoes off and keep them outside the tent as well.

It’s a good idea to remove your shoes while your body is inside the tent, leaving your feet still outside.

This way, you prevent any sand or dirt from your shoes to get inside.

You can store your shoes in the tent vestibule if your tent has one or simply keep them just outside the door.

Shake off gear and clothing before bringing them inside

Camping gear all over the ground.

When you’re camping, it’s important to shake off your gear and clothing before bringing them inside the tent.

This simple step can significantly reduce the amount of sand and dirt that enters your tent space.

Sand and dirt often cling to these items, especially when they’re damp, so take the time to remove as much debris as possible.

Pack a small brush and dustpan

A small brush and dustpan

Sand may inevitably make its way into your tent even when you’re doing everything you can do keep it out.

One easy and effective way to clean up sand in your tent is to pack a small brush or broom and a dustpan.

A lightweight, portable brush and dustpan is a perfect companion for beach or desert camping.

Once a day, plan to remove your sleeping gear and clothing so you can give the tent floor a quick sweep.

If you’re really keen, you can even consider bringing a portable mini vacuum cleaner, like this one you can get off Amazon.

Keep your tent zipped at all times

A zipper on the rainfly of a tent.

One easy yet effective way to keep sand out of your tent when camping is to always keep your tent zipped.

By consistently closing the tent’s door when entering and exiting, you’ll minimize the chances of sand getting blown inside by the wind.

It’s a simple habit that’ll make a significant difference in maintaining a sand-free shelter during your beach camping trip.

When you’re camping with family or friends, remind them to zip the tent door as well.

It may be helpful to assign one person as the “zip police” to make sure everyone remembers.

Being diligent about keeping the tent door closed will not only prevent sand from entering but also reduce bugs and other unwanted visitors from sneaking into your sleeping quarters.

Next up: How to keep your camp chairs from sinking in the sand

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What’s the best way to set up a tent on a sandy campsite?

When setting up your tent on sand, it’s essential to anchor it properly.

One way to do this is by tying ropes to your tent stakes and burying them deep in the sand.

Additionally, using large rocks as anchors can help keep your tent secure.

It’s also wise to choose a location with some vegetation, as this can offer more stable ground for pitching your tent.

Always place a groundsheet or tarp beneath your tent to create a barrier between the sand and your tent floor.

Lastly, orient the tent opening downwind to reduce the amount of sand that enters your tent.

Do I need a specific tent for sand camping?

There are specific beach tents available, but these are generally designed to provide shade cover for day use and aren’t meant to be used for overnight camping.

While a specialized tent isn’t necessarily required for sand camping, certain features can make your experience more enjoyable.

Look for a tent with a vestibule, which provides a barrier between the inside and outside of the tent, making it easier to keep sand and dirt out.

Additionally, tents with mesh windows and doors can help to improve ventilation while keeping sand out.

Will sand damage the floor of the tent?

There’s a risk of sand causing damage to your tent floor, particularly if it’s abrasive or if there’s a lot of movement inside the tent.

To minimize the risk, always use a groundsheet or tarp beneath your tent as a protective layer.

You should also follow the no-shoe rule to prevent bringing sand and debris into the tent.

Regularly clean the inside of your tent with a dustpan and brush, and try to avoid dragging gear or heavy objects across the tent floor, as this can cause abrasion and wear.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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