As I was talking to my parents last night about what stove they should bring to Bonnaroo in a couple weeks (yes, I come from the type of family that goes to Bonnaroo together), I realized that packing for a music festival, especially a camping music festival, is very similar to packing for a backcountry trip. Sure, you may have your car nearby. And you COULD haphazardly throw all your stuff inside and hope to find what you need, when you need it, but if you pack only what you need, and do so in an efficient way, you’ll have more time to kick back and enjoy the festival atmosphere. So, in honor of music festival season, here’s What’s in my Pack-Music Festival Edition:
–A small (30L or less) pack, that has room for a hydration bladder. You want something that you can bring into the festival, that can fit all your stuff, but isn’t so big that you’re bumping into people as you dance and make your way through the crowds.
–A hydration bladder. For camping, I love my 3L Platypus, but most festivals have water stations that are crowded, and the faucets can be leaky, and unpredictable (no water, and then boom, fire hydrant pressure). Because of this, I prefer a Camelbak bladder for festivals. The openings are large, and easy to fill. But, if all you have is a narrow-mouthed bladder, bring it. You’re going to need a lot of water, who cares if you hold up the line a couple extra seconds?
–A tent. As festivals become more picky about the space they give groups, and as they start charging for parking spaces (in prior years, you brought a bunch of cars becuase parking was free, and you got as much space to camp as your cars took up), you’ll need to make use of the small space you have. That means it’s harder for each person to have their own tent. So, bring a couple big tents that take less room than a bunch of individual ones, and you’ll have more room for your group’s lounge space.
–Sleeping pad. Sure, you’re going to be so exhausted you’ll probably fall asleep as soon as you lay down. But, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, a lot of dancing, and not a lot of sleeping. You might as well make the time you are getting some zzzs enjoyable. This is essentially car camping, so bring a cot if you’d like, or just use a sleeping pad. I like the Thermarest NeoAir.
–Sleeping bag. Most festivals are during the summer months, and it gets hot in a tent quick. You definitely don’t need a 4 season bag! Something like the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, or Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy, are nice options because you have the option to use as a blanket (Quilt), or stick your arms and lets out of the bag (Mummy). Some may simply opt for a blanket.
-Pop up canopy tent. A lot of your time will be spent in the center of the festival, but it’s nice to have a home base to return to, whether it’s for a quick meal, to meet back up with friends, or to relax in between shows. Having a canopy for all your friends to sit under lets you momentarily cool off before you head back out to the shows.
-Camp chairs. Set them up under your canopy. You’ll be happy to give your feet a rest. Try out the
–Jetboil w/ Java Press. There’s food for sale at music festivals, but the lines are long, and the prices can be hefty. Save yourself a little time and money by bringing a camp stove and cooking a couple meals your self. Think instant oats in the morning, or ramen noodles at night. Or bring all the accessories and cook a 4 course meal. Oh, and having coffee first thing in the morning is a lifesaver.
-Plate, cup, spork, flask. Any trash you accumulate, you have to take care of. So don’t accumulate as much. Bring your own dishes and cutlery that can be reused.
-Pack towel. Good for cleaning dishes. Good for cleaning you.
-Camp suds. Good for cleaning dishes. Good for cleaning you.
-Bug spray and sunscreen. You’re going to spend days in the sun. Do yourself a favor and but on sunscreen. I can’t tell you how many people I see the second day of a four day festival and they’re burnt to a crisp because they didn’t apply (and reapply) sunscreen. And then they’re just miserable the rest of the weekend. Also, depending on what festival you go to, there may be bugs, so bring bug spray also. Or go with Sawyer’s combo spray that contains both sunscreen and bug spray, less to keep track of.
–Hat. Use in conjunction with sunscreen. Try and get something wide-brimmed, to protect more of you. Plus, if you happen to come across ice, putting that into your hat feels like heaven after being in the dusty, heat for days.
-Sunglasses. Protect those eyes from the sun too.
–Headlamp. So when you get into your communal camp site in the wee hours of the morning, you don’t walk through your friend’s tent. It’s nice to see where you’re going instead of guessing.
-Bandanna. Good to dip in cold water and put around your head, or neck. Good to use to cover your face if it’s dusty (think Bonnaroo or Burning Man). Good to use as a washcloth. Or a sweatband/headband. Etc. A bandanna is a very versatile piece of cloth.
–Chacos. Your feet are going to go through a lot during a music festival. Mud. Dust. Grass. Rain. Chacos are easy to put on and adjust, and easy to clean. Even better, they’re recommended by podiatrists. They’re actually good for your feet, and you’re going to be on your feet. Your legs and back will thank you for wearing a shoe with support.
-Loose fitting, comfortable clothes. The clothes people wear to a festival vary greatly. You’ll see people in pink fuzzy bear costumes, wearing masks, and glowsticks. People wearing fringe, and feathers. Some people don’t wear much of…anything. I recommend wearing whatever makes you comfortable. I like quick dry and comfortable shorts made by companies such as prAna, Mountain Khaki, Patagonia, and Gramicci. I’ll pair that with a light tank (ExOfficio is one of my favorites), and I’ll carry a long sleeve shirt in my pack (in case it gets colder at night). I also opt for ExOfficio undies, because they’re ultralight and antimicrobial. I love people watching at music festivals, but I myself dress for comfort.
-Rain jacket. A little rain isn’t going to stop a music festival, but spending hours standing in the rain can still but a damper on your mood. I always have my Patagonia rain jacket stashed in my bag. It’s light, and folds into it’s own pocket. The North Face, Merrell, and other companies make similar and reliable products.
-Dry bags. Whatever I put in my pack, I first put in dry bags. Because if it starts raining, you may potentially be miles from your camp. Seriously, there are some big festivals nowadays.
-Solar charger. I’m all about living in the moment, and rarely use my phone during music festivals. With that being said, sometimes you need to get ahold of someone in your group to meet up, or you need to snap a couple pictures. You could always charge your device in your car, but that requires sitting at camp. Bring a solar charger with you and attach it to your bag. That way it’s always charged when you need it.
-Something to keep your phone waterproof. As mentioned above, sometimes you just need your phone. If you don’t already have a waterproof case on it, bring something you can put your phone in to protect it in case it does start raining. There’s nothing worse than having a worthless phone. Well, other than losing your phone and not having one at all (because that can happen too).
–GoPro. If the camera on your phone isn’t enough, and you want a waterproof camera that, with the right accessories, can get your whole group in the picture, opt for a GoPro. They’re built to withstand tough environments, the way music festivals sometimes can be.
Of course there are some items on my list that YOU may not need (especially if you’re going to a music festival that doesn’t involve camping), and other items that I didn’t list that you can’t live without. But, in the almost 10 years I’ve spent going to music festivals, this is my go-to list. Pack right, enjoy the music, and as my mom would say, have a “groovy” time.
Nicki Klein loves to run, especially in new places, and ESPECIALLY on new trails. She started running in 2011, ultrarunning in 2015, and can be found most days running around the LSU Lakes with her dog. Nicki also enjoys backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, SUPing, and generally spending as much time outside as she possibly can. Combining those activities with family, friends, and a good beer or two, and you’ve got her ideal day. Nicki Klein’s Instagram