Submitted Date 01/21/2019

“How to Survive Your First Camping Festival”

So you’re about to attend your very first camping music festival. You’ve bought your ticket, picked out some cute outfits, and made a playlist full of all your favorite songs for the car ride there. But before you hop in the car and set off on your trip, there are a few things that you should consider.

As a seasoned festival goer, I’ve learned through lots of firsthand experience how to not only survive your first camping festival, but how to totally kick your first festival’s ass. Whether or not you’ll get through this festival unscathed begins and ends at what you pack. It’s summer. It’s going to be hot. You don’t need to bring any blankets or sweatshirts, right? Wrong. You’d be surprised just how cold it can get when you get back to your tent at 3 a.m. to try to get some sleep. When you go to a camping festival, it’s best to pack for all weather conditions. Pack for the heat. Pack for the cold. Pack for the rain. Invest in a pair of rain boots, because if it rains, things can get very muddy, and there’s nothing worse than having to walk around the festival with a muddy, soaked through pair of shoes on. Also, pack for the dust. If it doesn’t rain, there’s a good chance that lots of dust and dirt will be blown around, and you do not want to breathe that in. Get yourself a bandana to protect your nose and mouth for when you’re walking around and things are dusty. And don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses as well. Not your $150 pair of Ray Bans either. Get yourself a cheap pair, so if and when you ruin or lose them, you won’t be upset about it.

This next part is for the ladies. I know that it’s fun to dress up and do a full face of makeup when you attend concerts or music festivals, but for camping festivals, you may want to consider skipping the makeup or at least dialing it down a bit. I’ve done camping festivals with makeup and I’ve done camping festivals completely bare faced. I personally prefer going bare faced. The hassle of holding up your tiny eye shadow palette built in mirror (most festivals won’t let you bring in an actual mirror because they don’t allow glass inside) with one hand and trying to applied a winged eye liner with the other, all while sitting in a fold out chair in ninety degree weather is just not worth it. At least not to me. But if you do want to wear makeup at the camping festival (more power to you), be sure to put things like lipstick inside your cooler because if you don’t, you will come back to a melted tube of lipstick and you will be sad. Trust me on that one. That goes for deodorant and any other melty things you may have with you as well. And definitely do not forget to bring makeup remover wipes!

Another must is sun protection. Sunscreen is so important when you’re outdoors for multiple days on end. You don’t want to get burned your first day there and spend the following days in pain. This will definitely put a damper on your festival experience. So be sure to apply sunscreen generously and often. Remember to reapply it every few hours too. I also suggest getting a hat. I once went to a camping festival in Colorado that took place in the middle of July, and the campgrounds were in a large, unshaded field. I didn’t wear a hat and ended up getting a sunburn on my scalp where my hairline was, and let me tell you, when your scalp burn starts flaking into your hair, it is not a good look. So try to avoid that by protecting not only your skin, but your scalp from the sun.

As far as food and drink go, bring water. I mean LOTS of water. My general rule is at least one case per every two people in the group. But the more water the better! Bring lots of ice as well and depending on how far away the festival is, make a pit stop right before you get to the festival to switch out your ice so that none of it is melted when you go in. Music festivals have tons of great food vendors, but if you want to save a little money, there are plenty of foods that you can bring with you too. Some favorites of mine are pasta salad, premade sandwiches (it’s just easier than trying to make a sandwich outside in the heat), fruit, hummus with veggies or pita chips, and energy bars. The reason these foods are my favorite is that they are all easy, filling, and fairly nutritious. There are some camping festivals that will allow you to bring in a grill which does expand your options a bit. However, I find it easier to bring foods that you don’t need to cook or prepare.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about a few commonly unthought of things that can be very helpful when you go to a camping festival. The first is garbage bags. Your goal anytime you go camping (not even just at a music festival) should be to leave the campsite exactly the way it was when you arrived. This means putting all of your garbage into trash bags. Littering is not cool and either is leaving behind unwanted chairs, tents, etc. Another must is toilet paper. The porta potties will run out and when they do, you’re going to want to have some of your own. Otherwise, you’ll be shit out of luck (pun intended). So bring a few rolls and make sure to keep some on you whenever you leave your campsite. Porta potties are bad enough with toilet paper, but without it...good luck. Baby wipes are another one of my must haves. Unless you buy a VIP ticket, you’re going to have to pay to shower at a camping festival, and there is almost always going to be a long line to do so. If you can get away with only showering once (or not at all, I’m not judging) all weekend, then do it. Baby wipes are great for when you’re getting a little funky but aren’t trying to wait an hour for a cold, ten dollar trailer shower. A few other useful things to bring are extra tent stakes (someone will forget theirs and if you have extra to bring, you’ll be able to help someone out), a flashlight, a plastic bin to store your shoes or anything else you don’t want to get wet in case it rains, an umbrella (or better yet, a canopy) for shade, hand sanitizer, and some aloe vera just in case you do forget to reapply sunscreen and get burned.

Now that you know the essentials of what to pack, let’s talk about the actual festival. I suggest arriving as early as possible to guarantee a good camping spot. When looking for a camping spot, there are a few things to consider. If you can find somewhere that’s shaded, that will be key, but usually with shade comes bugs, so prepare for that. Bring some bug spray if you’d like. If you don’t love walking, try to camp as close to the actual festival as you can. However, keep in mind that the closer you are to the festival, the louder it’s going to be at night time. Some festivals play music into the early morning, so if you’re someone who needs their beauty sleep, consider finding a camping spot that isn’t too close to the festival. Also consider bringing some ear plugs. Another thing to think about when setting up your camp site is putting up a flag, tapestry, or even a balloon to help you more easily find your tent. They all start to look the same around 2 a.m. when you’re five (or ten) beers in.

So now you’ve got your campsite picked out, tent set up, and have packed all the essentials you need to survive this festival. Party time! I like to partake in extra curricular activities just as much as the next guy, but it’s so very important to know your limits. Don’t start doing back to back tequila shots at noon without drinking any water in between. Pace yourself. It’s so incredibly easy to get dehydrated when you’re out in the sun all day even when you aren’t drinking. So if you do choose to drink alcohol at a music festival, make sure not to overdo it and to drink plenty of water as well. For every shot you do, beer you drink, or bag of wine you slap, take a sip of water...or five. You don’t want to be that person who gets too drunk and falls asleep in their hammock and misses the artist they’d been looking forward to seeing all weekend. It’s fun to drink and have a good time at these festivals, but remember that you’re here for the music. So don’t get too drunk to remember it!

One of the most important things to know going into these festivals is that if you, one of your friends, or even some stranger in the crowd does need medical attention, get it for them. If someone says that they don’t feel well and need medical help, do not dismiss them or tell them that they’re fine. Listen to them and get them the help that they need. I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve seen too many people being carried away on stretchers at these things. Take care of each other! Your health and safety is more important than any performance you may miss by seeking medical help.

Okay, onto a lighter topic. The two very best parts of these festivals: the music and the friends! Unfortunately, sometimes these things don’t line up with each other. You may want to see an artist that your friend doesn’t want to see and vice versa. I’m of the opinion that if I paid for my ticket, I’m going to see everyone that I want to see. This does require splitting up with your group sometimes though. If you end up being the only person out of your group who wants to go see an artist, you have the option of skipping that set to stay with your friends or venturing off by yourself to catch that artist. I think it’s best to decide how badly you want to see this artist and how much FOMO you’ll have if you miss them. If it’s someone you don’t care too much about, then maybe you should just stay with your friends. But if it’s someone you really want to see, go see them! I promise you’ll regret it if you don’t. Going off on your own can actually be a lot of fun too. If you need to go to the bathroom or grab some water, you don’t have to check in with anyone. You can just go! You can stand as close or as far back as you want in the crowd without someone from your group complaining about the spot you’re in too. Plus it gives you the chance to meet some new people. However, if you do get split up from your friends, whether it be intentionally or not, it’s always best to have a plan for where to meet. A lot of the time there won’t be any cell phone service or your phone will be dead or your friend just won’t check theirs when you’re trying to get a hold of them. Having a back up plan in case you get lost or a meeting spot for when you intentionally split up is important if you want to be able to reunite with your friends. So figure out a spot in the festival where you can all go to find each other.

My last tip for all you first time festival goers is to go into it with an open mind. You may see things that are strange, outlandish, or just downright disgusting. Music festivals are a place for people to let their freak flag fly. Try not to judge because hey, they’re people too. Even if they are walking a pineapple around with them on a leash.

Music festivals, especially camping ones, are some of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, and if you follow all these tips, I guarantee you’ll be saying the same thing by the time the festival is over. It can easily turn into a bad experience if you don’t prepare properly though, so be sure to pack the essentials, know your limits, and most importantly, have fun!


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