Across the country, summer brings outdoor festivals. Many are multi-day events where onsite camping is offered. Two years ago, I attended Creation East, a Christian festival held on a farm in Pennsylvania. This year, my brother and I decided to attend Bonnaroo 2013. Bonnaroo is an annual music and arts festival held in Manchester, TN with over 150 bands in the lineup.
Festival camping can propose some unique challenges, and living conditions can be similar to that of a third world country: limited space, lots of (dirty) people, unsanitary conditions, limited resources, etc. Here are some tips to make your festival-going experience a bit more pleasant.
Festivals can be huge draws; Bonnaroo had over 60,000 attendees. With that many people, campsite logistics are bound to be a nightmare. We essentially got a space equal to two car lengths. Our car had to fit into that space as well. Because we brought our family tent, my brother and I had to configure our tent by only putting half of it up. We also had to make sure that rain would run off correctly and not flood our tent. First rule: ensure that your tent and car will fit in the allotted space.
Manchester is humid and hot during the day, as are many summer festival locations. Temperatures for Bonnaroo were in the 90s all week. Portable, battery-operated fans were invaluable during the day. I’m not talking about the small fans you hang around your neck. I’m talking about a 5-inch portable fan. They retail for around $9.99 on amazon.com and at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and run on batteries. We had two of them, and they were great at the campsite. I would also put one in my backpack to use during the concerts. Hats, sunscreen, and bandanas are also good for dealing with hot weather. I also recommend plastic rain ponchos ($1 at the dollar store).
If I never use a port-a-toilet again, I will be fine with that. Bonnaroo holds all my worst bathroom experiences, so be warned if you are attending a large festival. Even though Bonnaroo provided toilet paper, it often ran out in between cleanings. I had a gallon size bag with a roll of toilet paper, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a flashlight; I took it everywhere I went. I often inspected 5-6 toilets before I found one clean enough to use. I would also squirt hand sanitizer on a piece of tissue and clean the toilet seat.
Our neighbors at Bonnaroo were jealous of the meals we ate during the festival. Most people don’t think about packing fruits and vegetables when camping. Zucchini, oranges, avocados, tomatoes, and apples all travel well and were included in our grocery supplies. I pack produce because it’s healthier than convenience snacks like potato chips and cookies, and produce contains water that helps with staying hydrated.
Drink plenty of it. It’s easy to get dehydrated at festivals with the heat and all the walking you will do. If you drink alcohol or soda, both will dehydrate you, so drink at least two glasses of water for every one glass of alcohol or soda. I brought some water with us, but we took advantage of the water stations and refilled water bottles numerous times during the day. Most festivals will have water stations, but you definitely want to ask about the availability of water and take extra if it will not be readily accessible on site. We also took powdered Gatorade to give us some variety while keeping us hydrated.
Along with getting enough water, the application of sunscreen is another must. Most festival attendees prefer to wear clothes that you usually see at the beach. By the end of Bonnaroo, a lot of people had started turning red. It’s already hot enough without being uncomfortable with a sunburn.