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I've done plenty of camping in my life, especially since it's part of my job, but one area where I've been particularly challenged is camping where sand is involved. It just gets everywhere and into everything and can become quite miserable quickly if not managed well. It almost seems impossible to keep it from getting into all my gear. (And sand coupled with saltwater and high humidity are quite the team of irritants.)

What are some fool-proof techniques, habits, or equipment for minimizing the invasion of sand when camping on or near the beach (or other sandy areas)? What are some good ways in the field to get rid of it once it has already gotten into your gear?

Theoretical ideas are good, but I'm really looking for answers that speak from experience.

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This is going to be a really tough one for me to accept just one answer. So far you guys have provided some great responses! – manoftheson Sep 29 '14 at 7:06
up vote 9 down vote accepted

If possible, don't pitch your tent on the sand - get back a bit into some vegetation. Then apply these strategies:

  • set up your cook area well out of traffic and impose a strict no-running rule anywhere near the cook area.
  • keep lids on everything you cook, to keep sand out
  • keep a clean plate near the stove to put in-use (wet, sand can stick to) items like wooden spoons. Consider another clean plate over them to keep them clean
  • no shoes in the tent ever. Take them off while your body is in the tent but your feet are still out, and keep them in the vestibule. Put them on in reverse
  • put a lifejacket or other non-fuzzy item down in the vestibule to put non-shoe things on, out of the sand
  • bring a small hand whisk to keep the tent swept out and use it at every takedown, plus daily if you stay in one spot
  • if your knees or backside are sandy, get them brushed off before you get in the tent. Use your dry hands, or the tent whisk, to get the worst off while you're still outside - ideally, step a few feet away from the tent while you do so
  • buy replacement sliders for your tent zippers and keep them permanently in a tent pocket or your repair kit. Sand abrades the inside of zipper sliders and keeps the zipper from closing. Replacing them is a matter of minutes and presto - your zipper closes again
  • hang things up even if they aren't wet, to keep them out of the sand or to give sand a chance to fall / blow out of them. To that end, get several clotheslines up pretty much as soon as you've set up camp, and always bring a dozen clothespegs with you (I keep mine in the rope bag)
  • work out a way to get from your sand-rinsing place to the tent without picking up more sand. This may mean taking a towel to the rinsing place and coming back dry, or it may mean setting the rinse station up somewhere that has a no-sand path back to the tent area. Or you might go the baby powder way and keep water out of the desanding process.

I can generally avoid sand even on a beach site, and just keep a towel at the border of sand and vegetation, but a forest site can have a lot of "bittiness" - shreds of tree material I guess - that most of this also applies to.

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Having spent most of my life within a couple of miles of the beach in pretty windy areas, I have learned some tried and tested things you can do (although I have never found it much of an issue in any case)

  • Always point the opening of your tent downwind so sand doesn't blow in. This will prevent the majority of your sand-related problems. Keep sand from your kit.
  • Remove footwear outside the tent, and store it outside (under the fly or similar)
  • Use a groundsheet with a rug outside the tent. Something that can easily be shaken out
  • Keep spare water handy for rinsing. I'm okay with sea water, but if you don't like the salt, then camping near a river is very handy.
  • If you have sand stuck to you where you don't want it, and can't wash it off, use a handful of talcum powder and just brush the sand off. We use this when trying to de-sand our kids. It works especially well to remove sand stuck to you with sweat.
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+1 on having tent downwind, I learned this the hard way. – treeNinja Aug 28 '14 at 19:34

I go camping in the sand all the time. (see Rainbow Beach, QLD, Australia)

The two best things to have are.

1) Small dustpan/brush - (or just the brush really).. use it to wipe dry sand off your feet before going into the tent, and as you're packing up, wipe things down.

2) Shade cloth - Used as a ground sheet at the door of your tent, or other areas of camp. It sits above the sand, and sand falls through it giving you a pretty clean surface all the time to walk on.

some shade cloths are better than others for this - experiment. In Australia, shade cloth can be found at large hardware stores, or direct from the supplier if you want larger quantities of higher quality material.

Of recent years, i see camping stores selling "ground sheets" which are basically just shade cloth with eyelets.

There's a couple guys in Melbourne, Australia that have a patent on the use of (basically shade cloth) for commercial/military application. They use it for quick/temporary helicopter landing pads in sand/desert environments. Sand goes down through the weave, but not back up.

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