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The Secrets to Music Festival Camping

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The Secrets to Music Festival Camping

March 15, 2019

It’s time to start planning for music festival season. And without calling out any names where music and camping catastrophes are concerned, let’s just say you can never overplan. Whether you’re heading to your first ever festival or you’re on first-name terms with security at Coachella, the more preparation you can put into your trip the greater the enjoyment. So, without further ado, here's our ultimate guide to music festival camping!


The Different Types of Accommodation Available

If your festival is in the center of Chicago or on a Gulf Shore beach, camping may not even be an option, so we’re talking here about the more remote festivals that you reach by car or RV. Choose the latter, and you’ve already solved the majority of your challenges. You can overpack to your heart’s content and indulge yourself in as many hot showers as your solar panels can handle.

When You Want to Camp in Style
If you have upwards of $1,000 to spare—not necessarily outrageous if you’re in a group—many festivals give you the option of a pre-set luxury tent, usually with bed, linen, and air-conditioning. Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas uses ShiftPod2 tents, while Firefly in Dover, DE, and many others offer pre-set glamping.

Otherwise, you’re looking at the car-plus-camping combo. You’ll be allocated a clearly defined area within an allocated field, where you'll just park, and pitch your tent. In some cases, however, you might have to park in one area and hike to the camping area, which brings us to your main consideration.


For the Best Experience, Lighten Up

The golden rule: travel light. It’s a music festival not a camping trip, after all. Unless your festival is in the Alaskan wilderness in February (and there aren’t any), you can be comfortable with the affordable pop-up tents that retail for $100 or less. That’s an essential. Then factor in:

  • A lightweight sleeping bag
  • Inflatable roll mat
  • Inflatable pillow (you’ll be glad you did)
  • Lightweight backpack for clothes, toiletries, cameras etc.
Most festival organizers will let you arrive the day before (usually a Thursday), and some even have a pre-festival party to kick off the mayhem. Once the last band has come off stage on the closing night, you’ll have up to a day to pack up, tidy up, and clear out.


Your Essential Music Festival Packing List

The above list covers the basic gear and equipment to survive a music festival. Don’t take it for granted, though. Plan for the following:

Peace of Mind in a Tent
A lightweight, affordable tent is a wise choice, but you’ll soon find that it’s a popular one too. You want to be able to find yours easily in the crowd. Festivals such as Coachella prohibit tents that carry anything other than manufacturer’s branding, so your best option to make your tent stand out is to mark it with a flag. Bring a small padlock to lock it up while you’re away, and observe the "Leave No Trace" policy at most U.S. festivals. More than 60,000 tents might be left behind each year after the Reading Festival in the U.K., but you’ll be expected to pack up yours and take it away.

Comfort According to Climate
Temperatures at Coachella can reach 100 degrees, but the nights are often cold without warning. Wherever you’re heading, preparation against the full force of the elements includes:

  • Packable waterproof ponchos for rain showers
  • Rubber boots for mud
  • Sun-cream and moisturizer
  • Hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes
Staying Fresh, Looking Insta-ready
There will be toilet and shower facilities, but they’ll be busy. Take flip flops for both, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes just in case, and pack a First Aid kit like a good camper to deal with bug bites, blisters, or hangovers.


What to Bring to a Music Festival: Pro Edition

To elevate your experience from good to great, a few simple music festival camping ideas will make a huge difference. Let’s start with a controversial one.

Bring the Water; Leave the Food
You will need plenty of water, especially if you’re sweating in a crowd under the sun, but you can manage without your own supply of food. It will spoil, it’s bulky, and part of the music festival experience is tied to the food trucks. If you do want to bring a supply, check the festival policy on stoves and gas, or find out if there’s a communal grill or campfire.

Festival Aficionado Packing List
This checklist of items will make a huge difference to your comfort and experience.

  • Ear plugs
  • Head torch or handheld flashlight
  • Battery packs to charge phone, camera etc.
  • Garbage bags—to sit on and tidy up
  • Fast-wicking, hand-washable underlayers
  • Quick-dry camping towel
  • Government-issue ID (there will be checks around site)
Leave These Behind
Much will depend on the regulations for the music festival you’re going to, but most organizers follow a similar formula for what works. That means you won’t find many music festivals that will let you come in with glass bottles, metal tent pegs, or any other fuel apart from propane (if that). You should also familiarize yourself with the rules on how much beer you can bring in, and whether liquor is permitted.

As you can see, you don’t have to load up the wagon train to camp at a music festival in comfort. In fact, you can cover the bases with just enough kit to fit in a lightweight back back, as long as you’re prepared to buy any food or extra clothing on site. Do take the time to check all your gear beforehand. You don’t want to discover that you’re missing a tent pole or your mattress has a leak as the first band is tuning up.

Written by Nick Marshall for Knockaround

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