Every year, when spring is in full swing and summer is right around the corner, festival season comes sweeping across the country. Festivals showcase some of the best music across dozens of stages in one weekend.
Ever since Woodstock made waves as the first-ever iconic music festival in 1969, music festivals have been a right of passage. Each summer, the wild and free pack up for a weekend away for a festival of epic music with their best friends.
Besides the music, one of the most significant parts of any great festival is camping onsite. Spending a weekend outdoors with friends, camping, and enjoying music? It doesn’t get much better than that.
If you’ve never been festival camping before, you may have a few questions. It is similar to regular camping but offers its own unique challenges (and advantages). Without the proper preparation, your trip might not be quite what you’ve imagined.
We assembled some of the top tips for first-timers camping at a music festival so that you can have a totally memorable experience (but memorable for only the right reasons).
Here are ten festival camping tips for beginners:
1. Do Your Research Ahead of Time
The first absolute must-do tip for festival camping newbies is to do your research ahead of time. Every festival is different in ways that can dramatically impact the experience. Each event can vary based on weather, campground rules, target audience, amenities, and more.
The three basic details are the most essential: where the festival is, the dates of the festival, and the bands and groups in the lineup. While it might be tempting to go along with a group of friends or coworkers, if you don’t like the event location or the artists, you’ll be hard-pressed to actually enjoy yourself (or justify the costs)
Smaller but equally important details include the parking situation, how to reserve a campsite if needed, and the predicted weather (along with the right gear for unpredictable weather). Festivals are often in the middle of remote locations, making it difficult to purchase any essentials you may have forgotten.
Just like traditional camping, a carefully-prepared checklist is essential.
2. Practice Setting Up Your Campsite
If you have never been camping before (or have relied on your camping buddies), you may struggle with setting up your tent for the first time. If nobody in your group has experience setting up the specific tent you’ll use at the festival, it’s in your best interest to practice setting it up before you get to the festival.
This can save you tons of time and frustration when you get to the festival. Getting your group together to practice setting up your campsite in your backyard is a great way to have a smooth setup when you arrive. Turn the event into a fun trial run/BBQ crossover and make a day of it.
3. Set Up Right Away
The very first thing that you should do when you get to the festival and make it to your campsite is get everything set up how you want. There will be a lot of excitement right when you get there, and you may want to explore everything as soon as you arrive.
While this may seem tempting, recall Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” You don’t want to be trying to put together your camp in the dark, especially as even summertime desert temperatures can drop drastically, even to 60 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides the impending nighttime chill, the top-billed headliners tend to perform later in the day, and you won't want to miss them. Not to mention that if any of your group starts to indulge a little too heavily in the experience, they may not be so reasonable or helpful when it comes to setting up camp.
Setting up as soon as you get there will ensure you have your camp base in operating condition before anything else happens. If you let it wait, your campsite may never get finished.
4. Bring a Nice Cooler
There is nothing more critical to your festival camping trip than having a top-notch cooler for your trip. Since you will be camping, you’ll likely need to bring all of your food and drinks for the entire weekend with you. The food will need to be properly stored so that it stays fresh and cold. That calls for a great cooler.
Patriot Coolers has the perfect solution for your festival camping needs. Our Rotomolded Coolers are hard-sided camping coolers built tough enough to withstand anything, all while keeping your food and drinks ice cold. Our Rotomolded Coolers are so well-insulated that they keep ice frozen for up to five days straight, giving you a portable refrigerator with you at your campsite.
Our Rotomolded Coolers come in 20 and 50-quart sizes so that whatever your group size, you have a cooler solution that is right for you. With a hard-sided Rotomolded Cooler, you never have to worry about spoiled, warm food or room temperature water and drinks ever again.
5. Pack Some Food
Most festivals will have food vendors there for the entire weekend, offering all sorts of snacks, drinks, and meals for purchase. Many festival-goers chose to buy food all weekend and save the trouble of cooking meals on a camping stove.
It is probably most sensible to strike a balance: food vendors are a part of festival culture, but so are camping and cooking out. If you do plan to cook any of your meals, bring a camping stove. Before lighting the fire and pulling out the marshmallows, check that the campsite allows this practice and thoroughly review campfire safety protocol.
6. Stay Hydrated
It is critical that you stay hydrated while you're festival camping. Festivals in the spring and summer tend to get quite hot in the sun all day. Add to that that you will be dancing for much of the day and that there will likely be other activities that might cause you to become dehydrated. Dehydration can quickly become a dangerous situation.
Bring plenty of water and keep it fresh and cool. Carry an insulated water bottle with you at all times during the festival so that you can have cold water available to you at any moment.
We offer cylinder-shaped traditional water bottles and canteen-style insulated water bottles in several sizes so that you can get a bottle that is right for you. Our water bottles have an incredibly effective copper interior lining that chills drinks for up to 24 hours.
If you aren’t keeping yourself hydrated with water throughout your festival, you might end up spending an afternoon in the medical tent, and that is no fun.
7. Always Wear Sunscreen
Any festival wear when you are outdoors camping is a festival where you need to be wearing sunscreen for the entire day, even if it’s cloudy. The sun emits ultraviolet rays, which can damage your skin, giving you sunburn and leaving you more susceptible to developing skin cancer during your lifetime.
Apply sunscreen the same way you would if you were going to the beach or pool for the day — a coating across all of your exposed skin every couple of hours, every day. Use a sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF to provide optimal protection from UV rays. Plus, sunscreen will keep you from getting a sunburn, which is not fun to deal with at a festival either.
When you get up in the morning, apply sunscreen right away, then toss it in your camping backpack for later. Bring enough sunscreen to share — you’ll likely need to have your crew’s backs in this regard.
8. Bring a Shade Canopy
If you are going to be at a festival that gets a lot of sun and heat, bring a shade canopy so your group can relax, shielded from the sun’s glare.
The simplest solution is just to purchase a shade canopy; there are dozens available from camping suppliers. You can get all sorts of sizes, designs, and materials that range in price and quality for your specific needs.
For DIY fans, there are some simple camping hacks to create a make-shift shade canopy: Gather some tarp and a few two-by-fours to act as stakes in the ground. As long as you have a way to hang the tarp over your poles, you have a shade barrier for you and your group.
9. Bring Lighting
Not only do you need lighting for all of your amazing pictures, but you need lighting so that you can see in the dark. Some first-time campers fail to understand how dark it can get at night and why you must use lanterns and flashlights when moving around after sundown.
Scatter a few lanterns scattered around your campsite and throughout your tents, and give a flashlight to every camper. You can bring battery-charged lights and replacement batteries. Add in some rechargeable lights and a solar-powered battery pack for eco-friendly options. With a solar-powered battery pack, you can charge up your battery while you’re out enjoying the festival all day.
10. Stay Safe (and Have Fun)
The final tip we have that will help newcomers and long-time festival attendees alike — prioritize safety. While there is a generally happy, caring, and thoughtful environment at festivals, crime can and does occur. While you don’t have to be paranoid about something going awry, you should have your wits about you to spot suspicious behavior.
You should never leave your personal belongings unattended at your campsite without locks or portable safes. Better yet, don’t bring anything valuable with you. While it can be tempting to show off your fancy jewelry, shoes, or accessories at a festival, they can quite easily get stolen.
You should never accept an open drink from a stranger, nor should you accept any other substances from someone you don’t know. Make sure you use a buddy system so that everyone always has at least one person to keep their eye on.
Together, these few tips should help you stay safe at your festival and have a good time without worrying.
Festival Camping Tips: Takeaways
Going camping at a festival for the first time is a wonderful experience that can get you hooked on the festival experience. To have the best time possible, plan ahead.
Make sure you have researched the festivals you are attending beforehand for vital information like the location, weather, and musical artists attending, as well as how the campsite is set up and how to reserve a space. You may want to practice setting up your campsite before your trip and set up as soon as you arrive at the festival.
Of course, you’re going to need a killer camping cooler for your festival camping setup. Rotomolded Coolers are the perfect solution for music festivals, camping, and cookouts to keep ice frozen for up to five days. Bring some food with you in one of our coolers to enjoy a nice, old-fashioned cookout and avoid surge pricing on festival grounds.
Stay hydrated during the festival with an insulated water bottle or canteen. With a Patriot Coolers insulated piece of drinkware, you can have an ice-cold drink with you 24/7. Wearing sunscreen is also necessary for your health and safety to prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
You should bring a shade canopy to help with the sun and bring plenty of lighting options so you can see at night. Last but not least, keep an eye out for your safety with a buddy system and leave your valuables at home.
If you follow these tips, your first festival trip is going to be a success.