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Camping at Outdoor Festivals: Some How-Tos

The Sleep Club Editors

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series on Music Festival Comfort

It’s April and the world is alive with beautiful, eclectic, and wholly captivating festival extravaganzas to engage every one of your senses in an environment of complete — and, yes, carefully planned and controlled — freedom of expression. And a great many of these are outdoor affairs that offer camping as a wise and immersive alternative to grabbing a hotel off-site that can make traveling to and from and parking at a brute.

Staying if not right outside of the festival limits then somewhere easily reached by walking, biking, scooter or frequent shuttles allows you to truly relax while still feeling a part of the activities and the energy around them. After all, that’s part of the reason to go to these multi-day events — to throw yourself into the happening with complete and utter abandon.

If you’ve never gone to any of these, have but never stayed on-site, or even stayed there but hated it, here are some tips to help make your experience the best it can be.


Time of year, weather, terrain, environment…

Festivals take place around the world at different times of year. While late spring through summer are most common, there are happenings that offer outdoor camping as early as February, and what may be hot and dry in your town in August could be the wet, chilly season at your festival location. It’s super important to understand the natural logistics of the region you’ll be visiting and get to know the specific environmental/weather/terrain/wildlife ins-and-outs of your actual campground at the time of your event.


And speaking of “ins-and-outs” that leads us to…


Understand your event’s “yep/nope” of camping

Every outdoor fete on the planet has a list of guidelines for everything from the kind of camping gear you can bring to where you can park if you are driving yourself to age limit to… you get the drift. The organizers WANT you to camp out with them. It’s why they have a variety of accommodations available for said experience — and some rather cushy ones at that — and want you to pay attention to what not, what to, what you can and what you most assuredly will be kicked out for if you do. So, please, read the rules first. And if anything is unclear on their website, give a call. You want to be sure you’re covered, which means the organizers will be really happy you came and glad when you return.


Pack (and dress) for success

That goes partially back to understanding your surroundings but also to being smart on space, carry weight, comfort and security. Pack what you need, not what you THINK you’ll need. You don’t want to overdo it and you don’t want to find yourself SOL because you forgot something crucial. Consider your tent, whether you’re bringing your own or reserving one provided. How many will you be? What supplies and equipment do you need? What kind of sleep and hangout gear is best? And as far as dress, no matter how cold or hot you think it will be, go for lightweight layers — because you’re sure to get warm with all the dancing, singing, just plain energy you’re exerting and nights in even the hottest places can get cold.

Bring lots of batteries, an electric anything that’s portable but you don’t have to keep plugged in, flameless accouterments, ways to waterproof — morning dew is just as big a beast as rain, sleet, or snow — and something you can lock and secure after you lock it. Cool travel safes with combo locks are great for this. Oh, and if you bring food to cook on a portable stove rather than constantly buying at the festival, money saved. A tip we heard was prepare a couple of meals yourself then splurge on buying just one or two. That means you’ll want a good cooler to keep your perishables from perishing and safe from any pesky wildlife seeking a free meal (including other fairgoers).

And ear plugs and eye masks. We know. You’re there to hear and see whatever’s going on. We get it. But there may actually be times when you want to grab a quick snooze, chill out or whatever. You’ll be so happy when you realize you were able to rest because you could shut out the sounds and sights not only of the event but the crew in the tent across the way indulging in tribal yells… naked.


Deck out your tent

We’ve all had that, “Wait… where did I park?” moment when we stand in a crowded parking lot trying to remember where the car we’ve been driving for who knows how long is. And if this hasn’t happened to you, then you are a far better, more organized, less frazzled person than we.

Now, imagine not your familiar choice of motorized transport, but a bunch of same colored tents in an area you don’t know at all at an event that’s all about dancing, music, drinking, eating, partying, fun then slogging back to get some sleep before more of the same through a sea of same colored tents and trying to remember, “Wait… where’s my TEMPORARY HOUSING UNIT WITH ALL OF MY STUFF?!?” Within the realm of festival rules — and not so incredibly overt it’ll piss off your neighbors — deck out your tent with something unique to you so you can find it easily. Electric lights are great, colorful banners, whatever helps you find your specific home away from home amidst the sea of many is encouraged. You’ll really, really, REALLY be glad you did after a long day of wild abandon and all you want to do is crash.


Practice makes stress-relief

Do a practice run of what you’re bringing and setting up your camping space. Pack and unpack your gear to get a sense of what you do and don’t need/want. If you’re bringing your own tent — which many allow — set it up, arrange the inside and outside, and do that a few times before you even get there. By rehearsing all of this you accomplish two things: 1. Make sure you’re not in that dreaded “overpack” and “underprepared” position that happens all too often when you’re pressure prompted and 2. Get setting up down to a science so your “must dos” are done so you can fully enjoy your “want tos.”


Lay of the land

It’s usually not until you get to the festival campground that you find out where you and your belongings will end up. So, get there early, set up fast, and immediately get a feel for what’s around you. How close are you to the bathrooms, showers, parking, first aid, food, pop-up store, security? What’s the best route to get to the event itself? Where’s the closest charging station? What’s the lighting like? Who are your neighbors?


Glamping, anyone?

This can be a good chance to give glamping a shot. Most festivals offer VIP/Platinum camping options — whether it’s reserving one they provide or arranging for a space that allows you to bring it yourself. It’s a great way to ensure being outdoorsy doesn’t feel quite so, well, outdoors especially if “roughing it” really isn’t your thing or you’ve never done it before. And if you’re worried about the cost, luxury choices are usually designed for multiple guests so grab a few friends and split it.


Last and definitely not least...

Sleep. You had to know we’d go there. Yes. Please, sleep. And to make sure you do, bring along the best possible paraphernalia to help you. Comfy sleeping bags or inflatable beds, great blankets and wraps, things to cool you down and warm you up, those ear plugs and sleep masks we mentioned, natural sleep aids, your own tunes to help you unwind and relax. Whatever you need for a good night’s rest, bring it. We also encourage you to pace yourself with libations and extracurricular this and that — with plenty of hydrating water thrown in, for sure — to make getting your snooze on that much easier. You want to enjoy the festival, not find yourself constantly regretting in the morning what you did the night or entire day before, nor so wiped out you can’t possibly get the kind of rejuvenating slumber you need to actually recharge.

Embrace the fact that you’re here for awhile and turn the stress of camping at a festival into a joy by making your space homey, easy to find, uninvited critter free, and get… some… sleep.

Night Sky Night Sky