If you’ve clicked on this blog post, you’ve probably made the commitment to camp at a music festival. *commence freakout*. Perfecting the camping experience at a music festival is the final stage of truly becoming a festival warrior. Going to a multi-day festival is already a marathon, but add camping to it and you truly can survive anything.
If you’ve never camped before or you have but never at a festival, we’ve put together the ultimate survival guide for you. We’ve camped time and time again at numerous camping festivals: Bonnaroo, EDC, Electric Forest, Euphoria, Okeechobee, Firefly, and Coachella to name a few. We’ve experienced many highs and many lows while camping so we’re hoping to help you out for your next camping festival experience. We’re here to roundup the best pro tips for YOU.
Benefits to Camping at a Music Festival
There are tons of benefits to camping at a music festival. Sure you’re giving up the luxury of having a bed, A/C and shower that hotels and airbnbs have, but by giving that up you:
- Save money! You can split the costs of camping with your squad. Once you build up a solid set of camping gear you don’t have to continuously buy for every festival. Camping can usually outweigh the costs of hotels/Airbnbs and paying for shuttles/Ubers.
- Get easy access to the festival. You don’t have to worry about traffic, parking, Ubers, etc. You can easily get to and from the festival so that when the night is over you can go back to your site and pass out. No one wants to be stuck on a shuttle or in the parking lot after dancing for hours.
- Have extra amenities at your disposal. Coachella has many activities like the Silent Disco for campers to partake in, Electric Forest offers informative seminars at The Brainery, and EDC has yoga and pool parties during the day. This truly adds to the whole festival experience.
- Being welcomed into a community. You can meet so many other festival-goers and make long-lasting friendships. I’ve met and bonded with so many of my camp neighbors over the years.
- Can still live comfortably even without A/C and a bed. #Glamping anyone?!
- Bond with your fellow camp mates. Camping with your festie besties and rave squad can truly bring you closer.
DO YOUR RESEARCH. Most festival websites have a ton of information on the various camping options, tips and more. You can determine which camping option is best for you (i.e. tent-only, car camping, VIP options, etc.). From there, you can find out how much space you’ll be given which will determine the amount of camping gear you’ll be able to bring with you.
Pro Tip: Join Facebook Groups for the festival you’re attending and search on Reddit for helpful tips from veteran festival goers.
Securing Your Pass
While researching the website, make sure you understand what you’ll need to do to obtain a pass. Some festivals like Electric Forest have your ticket and camping pass packaged together. Whereas for festivals like Imagine, EDC Las Vegas and Coachella, you’ll purchase a ticket AND a camping pass separately. Have a plan for this so that when tickets go on sale you’re able to get everything you need.
Also identify if you want to arrive early. A lot of festivals offer early arrival passes so that you can arrive the day before the festival, get your camp all set up so that you don’t have to stress the day first day of the festival. This is typically an added cost that you can split with your crew.
Pro Tip: ARRIVE EARLY. This will get you all set up and ready to go so you’re not scrambling the first day of the festival to get camp set up, get ready AND go to a festival to dance for eight hours. Give yourself that extra day to ease into a fun-filled weekend.
Determining How to Get There
How are you going to get to the festival and the campgrounds? If you’re able to make the drive, you'll definitely have more flexibility in what you can bring.
If you are going to fly, you’ll have to get a little creative with what you can pack. If you’re flying, you’ll also need to determine if you need to either: 1. Rent a car, 2. Take a festival-approved shuttle or 3. Arrange a ride to the festival (i.e. through friends, social media). When we fly, we’ll rent a car and make a pit stop at Walmart for any supplies we couldn’t pack with us.
Pro Tip: Pack one suitcase for clothes, toiletries and essentials, pack another with any camping needs you can fit i.e. tent, sleeping bag, yoga mat, etc. Create an online order at Walmart for pickup at a location that’ll be on the way for you to the campgrounds. Since many festival goers will have the same idea as you, it will help to have your stuff already pre-arranged.
How to Prepare and Pack for Any Kind of Weather
Check the weather leading up to the festival, but understand in some environments you may experience all different kinds of weather. You could have super warm days, but cold (and sometimes rainy) nights. You may experience heavy wind and dust or a random thunderstorm could roll through. It is best to pack for all types of weather which means pack EXTRAS of everything.
Keep these items in mind while packing for different weather:
Rain: Rain jacket or poncho, rain boots, extra socks, umbrella (if it’s allowed)
Wind/Dust: Bandanas, face masks, allergy medicine
Snow: Layers layers and more layers! Extra socks and snow proof shoes
Pro Tip: Pack for any and all kinds of weather. Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
What to Bring for Your Campsite
Aside from what you’d typically pack for a music festival (i.e. outfits, toiletries, etc.), this is a general list of what you could bring. Pro tip: double check the allowed/not allowed list on the festival website so you have zero issues with security!
- Your tent & stakes - make sure to stake it down!
- A tarp or two for any wet weather (do not leave the tarp exposed out from underneath your tent or it will turn into a giant puddle if it rains)
- A rubber mallet to stake down your tent
- Shade & stakes – one 10×10 pop up tent per four people is a good estimate. Make sure to stake it down!
- Camp chairs. Foldable ones, enough for your crew, and maybe a visitor if your car has space.
- Decorative tapestries to hang from the side of your shade tent. Crucial for blocking sun and helps identify your campsite.
- Folding table
- Spare batteries for everything
- A battery-powered tent fan is nice to have. They hang from the peak of your tent and keep the air flowing. They also keep you cool enough to take a midday nap, or sleep in.
- Sleeping supplies. The ground isn’t soft. In addition to regular blankets and pillows, it’s nice to have a sleeping pad. Camping cots and air mattresses (with battery or car-powered inflator!) are also viable options.
- Big trash and recycling bags – 60 gallons or larger is best! Pack a lot of them to keep your camp clean and respectful of the land and your neighbors. (Tie them to the legs of your shade tent to keep cleaning up extra easy, and to keep trash from flying away!)
- Camp lantern(s) – electric not flame! Try hanging one lantern from the roof of your tent, and one from the roof of your shade tent. Leave one on the table for accessibility.
- Headlamp or flashlight
- A portable speaker for playing jams at the campsite
- Swiss army knife, or a multi-tool (camp setup, fixes, etc)
- Duct tape (quick fixes, if you feel like being creative, or pretty much anything, it’s duct tape)
- A USB battery, or solar charger to recharge all electronic devices.
- Jumper cables for your car battery, or to help someone else out.
- Baby wipes if you opt-out of a shower that day. Hygiene is super important!
- Flip flops for the showers!
- A flag and flagpole. The campgrounds are large, and it’s always nice to be able to locate your camp from far away. You can get collapsible flag poles for easy travel.
For Cooking/Eating (keep reading for food ideas!)
- Cooler with ice. Fill your cooler at your last stop on the way in (some of the stores close to the festival sell out, so be prepared for that). The fuller your cooler is, the slower the ice will melt. Block ice lasts even longer than chipped! Most festivals do sell ice so make sure to have cash on hand for that.
- Reusable containers or bags for your snacks.
- A water resistant container to store dry food (and keep them dry).
- Cloth or paper towels for clean up.
- A small propane or butane cook stove with fuel and cooking utensils (if you plan to cook).
Entering the Campgrounds
Depending on when you arrive, you could have a smooth process and wait an hour or less to get into the campgrounds. If you go during peak times, you could be waiting a lot longer. This is where that research comes in handy to know those peak times to avoid. Check to see if the festival has multiple entrances to the campgrounds or if there is only one. At Electric Forest they have a north and south entrance where the south entrance can be much busier than the north one. Knowing that ahead of time can help reduce your wait time.
The big question always is: “Ok but how thorough is security at the campgrounds?” The answer? It varies. Some festivals security will be very thorough in their search. Other festivals will take a peek in your car and a couple of bags and will send you on your way. Make sure you don’t have any prohibited items, be nice to the person searching your car and you should be fine.
Once you enter that’s when the excitement begins and you can get your camp all set up. Follow the directions of the staff that’ll show you to your campsite. They’ll most likely have your campsite marked out so you know the space you’re working with. Make friends with your neighbors and make sure you’re not going into their space with your setup.
How to Survive
It wouldn’t be a survival guide if we didn’t tell you actually how to SURVIVE camping. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Drop a pin on your phone where your campsite is so you don’t get lost. Identify any landmarks so you can safely get home each night.
- SLEEP. I know it can be fun going to renegade parties after hours, but please value your sleep. It’ll prevent you from achy muscles and getting sick. Try to sleep as much at night and try to take a nap before you head into the gates.
- Drink EmergenC and Pedialyte to keep your immunity high.
- Have a hydration pack you can continuously refill. Hydration is KEY!
- Make sure you prioritize eating with snacks and meals. Food is FUEL.
- Make friends with your neighbors! You never know the connections you can make and they can help you out from time to time.
- Take advantage of the showers when you can! Research when peak shower times are. The feeling of a shower after dancing for days is incredible.
- Go with the flow! Some things may go wrong: random thunderstorms flood your camp, car battery dies, etc. Keep a positive mindset to get you through the rough times.
Food and Drink Ideas
Food is a little limited since you will be living out of a cooler. Here are some food ideas you can prep beforehand: pasta salad, granola & energy bars, fresh fruit and snack-able veggies, hard boiled eggs, bagels, muffins, PB&Js, stuff for sandwiches, and prepackaged snacks. Most festivals have food within the campgrounds, so these options are for easy access and cost-effectiveness.
As for drinks, bring a lot of WATER and anything that can replenish your electrolytes. If you do want to pregame, make sure you check on the website what you’re allowed to bring. Sometimes it can be one box of beer and one box of wine per person and no glass so just make sure you know beforehand.
Pack In, Pack Out
Make sure you take away anything you brought. Properly dispose of any trash and recycling so that you leave your site better than you found it. Being environmentally conscious is huge, we want to be a part of the solution as festival goers, not contribute to the issue.
Exiting The Campgrounds
Find out the earliest you can leave the campgrounds. Some festivals have a period where no one can leave so make sure to know that beforehand. Figure out in your research when peak leaving times are and leave slightly before that. Nothing is worse than sitting in your car for hours trying to leave the campgrounds and barely moving. If you’re in a clear-headed state to leave, the earlier the better.
We hope this has prepared you for the magic of camping at a music festival. It can be intimidating at first, but once you get one or two experiences under your belt you’ll be a pro in no time. Have an open mind, go with the flow and enjoy the experience.