Music festivals like the upcoming Lollapalooza event in Chicago are a perfect time to celebrate being carefree while listening to great music with like-minded individuals. However, sometimes a little planning can go a long way to having an amazing festival experience. Whether you plan on staying for a single day or a full week, you’ll want to have a game plan to make your experience a smooth one. I attended the Firefly Festival in June, and here is what I can tell you to help you have a GREAT time!
Festival camping is a bit different than regular camping. There will be rules and regulations on what you’re allowed to bring, and your tent will be no more than 6 inches from the tent next to you- howdy, neighbor. Obviously, if you’ve camped before and are staying on site for more than a day, you know you’ll want to bring a tent, sleeping bag, a camping chair and a cooler (or 2). However, you may not have thought of some of the other things that make your festival campsite into a glampsite.
If you haven’t packed one already, you’ll want to grab an EZ Up. This will help you gain some much-needed shade, and will act as an extension of your tent. If you want a bit of privacy in your EZ Up, you’ll want to bring some tapestries (and a way to hang them) as well. This not only gives you a wall between you and the campsites next door, but it also adds some style to your site.
Once your EZ-Up is set up, you’ll want to roll out a tarp and/or a carpet. This helps your site feel more comfortable, and gives you the ability to kick off your shoes and lounge around without being covered in dirt and bugs. It’s usually a good idea to set up a tarp under your tent, and a carpet inside of your tent, too. This is all totally optional, so you can definitely laze-out, here. Just keep in mind, after a long day of standing and walking, you’ll probably want to just drop everything when you return to camp, so a few extra minutes of setup can make a huge difference when you want to sit down.
Once your shelter is built, it’s time for a drink. You can throw some string lights up around your site, lift your camp flag (the best way to find your camp after a long day of music and fun), and settle in. It’s a good idea to set solar lights at your camp stakes and make sure that everything is very secure- it can get windy. You don’t want to be one of those campers chasing their tent down the road. If you decide to fly a camp flag, make sure it’s not going to become a javelin in the middle of the night.
No matter if you are camping, or just attending for a few hours, one of the most important things to bring is water. Seriously. You’ll drink more water than you ever thought possible. Be it a 1 day pit stop or a 1 week extravaganza, you’ll want plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to offset the many alcoholic fluids that will be entering your system. Keep in mind that most festivals happen in the summer, and you’ll be surrounded by lots of sweaty people who may or may not have opted for a shower. You may want to use some of this water to shower yourself- or them. Luckily, most festivals have water refill stations, meaning that if you keep your empty water bottle, you’ll be able to refill without paying $5 a bottle.
If you’re going to be rocking out with a group of friends, or just want to have something to wave around, you’ll probably want to think ahead and create a totem. A totem is a great way to find the rest of your party. Once you know that you’re looking for the 12ft tall “Where’s Waldo” figure or the giant flashing stop light, it makes navigating the large crowds a little more manageable. Besides being functional, totems can be a super fun way to make new friends.
Festivals are an excellent way to express your weird, fun, and/or creative side. Most people like to pack some sort of costume for at least one of the days that you will be attending. Your “costume” could be as simple as some face paint or as extravagant as dressing to match your totem (I saw a girl dressed as a piñata with a piñata totem at Firefly). No matter how you dress, try to remember that you’ll be doing a lot of standing, so you’ll want to be comfortable- especially if you’re going to be attending a multi-day event.
Now, the following are pretty basic, but sometimes the basics can be easily forgotten. Please, please, please bring deodorant. This is for the sanity and enjoyment of every festival goer. The same goes for a toothbrush. Bring it. Use it. Enjoy the freshness of yourself and your fellow attendees. Just because you’re (likely) camping, does not mean that you should forget basic hygiene. For your own well-being, it’s also a good idea to bring bug spray and sunblock.
Because festivals can get crowded, and you won’t have many places to sit once inside, you’ll want to bring a blanket or towel that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. You’ll also want to carry a pack of cards or electronic game to amuse yourself while waiting in line for things like showers, food, and toilets. Bringing a game can help a long line pass much more quickly.
Once you’ve gone back to your camping home for the night, you’ll want to curl into bed (preferably a cot or inflatable mattress) but the party probably won’t be stopping anytime soon. If you’re in need of some Zzzs, but your fellow party people are not, you’ll probably want to whip out some earplugs and an eye mask so that you can at least catch a few hours before your next jam. It may also be a good idea to bring a cordless fan to help cool down your tent. No one wants to sleep in a stuffy, hot tent.
There’s no way to tackle all of the things you may need in a festival. The best thing to do is to prepare for war. Bring jackets if it says it will be 100° and bring shorts if it says it will be -30°. Once you’re there, it’s hard to get in and out (if you’re allowed to leave at all). Even if you’re underprepared, you’re at a festival. Just grab some chili cheese fries and a cold drink, and make the best of your situation while you listen to some tunes (or, barter with your neighbor for anything you’ve forgotten). No matter what, have fun.