Camping comes in degrees. There are the extremes of wild camping, the comforts of family campgrounds, the luxuries of glamping and the simple pleasures of a makeshift tent in the backyard. But amid the panoply of possibilities, there is a particular camping experience that has its own special place in the world of nylon, pegs, and soggy food: music festivals.
If you are an experienced camper, there is no festival in the world that will rock you (pun intended). But if you have only slept under stars through a skylight while wrapped in the tender embrace of a freshly-washed duvet, you may want to grab a few tips before you head for the hills and the sound of music.
The Boring but Necessary
All camping shares a few basics: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, best way to store and prepare food. Give yourself plenty of time to peruse informative websites such as the Outdoor Gear Lab and Road & Travel Magazine‘s camping guide. Always double-check the actual size of a tent, as some that call themselves two-man are only suitable for those who find MRIs cozy.
Before you buy (or borrow), be sure you know the climate of your destination. Many places are hot in the daytime and shockingly cold at night. Some locales are surprisingly changeable and can turn from balmy to rainy in the blink of a sleep-deprived eye.
Know before you go: practice putting up your tent and taking it down before you have to do it in the rain, dusk or with an audience.
Lessons from the Field
Ain’t No Sunshine: Check the weather for the actual weekend — be safe rather than sorry. Bring more warm layers than you think you’ll need and stash some dry clothes in your car. Bring a waterproof sheet to go under your picnic blanket once the sun comes out and consider some camping chairs. It may be a long walk from the parking area to the camping site, so pack for a hike in the rain.
The Dark Side of the Moon: Even if your festival has decent toilets and enough minions to keep them replenished and reasonably clean, night promises a long dark walk through tent city. And chances are things won’t be all they’re cracked up to be, especially if you are at the kind of festival where you could run into the Wicker Man. As barbaric as it sounds, at 3 a.m. in a rain storm you will want a pot to piss in. Bring something along the lines of in a plastic tool box with a tight, latchable lid. If you use it, seal it and put it outside your tent for proper emptying in the morning. If you must have a slash outside the tent, head away from your slumbering neighbors to the nearest trees, bushes or perimeter before bringing out the fire hose. If you can’t “go” anywhere but in a designated spot, bring a headlamp that will allow a hands-free encounter with the festival toilet. Always pack an extra roll or two of toilet paper.
The Sound of Silence: Music festivals are loud. And they stay loud. Some will play on past your bedtime, others may take a nightly break but nevertheless inspire fellow campers to wax lyrical at top volume long past the strum of the last guitar. There will be snoring and other noises. Bring ear plugs. If a nightcap sends you off, consider bringing a few whiskey miniatures or a flask.
Sticky Fingers: If you are more Felix Unger than Oscar Madison, another essential will be handi wipes: regular and — apologies to the environment — antibacterial. You may be near running water or have enough bottled water to wash your hands at will, but chances are you’ll need a little help. Remember that you may want to wipe off your hands before inserting or removing contact lenses or before and after applying unguents such as suntan lotion. Antibacterial wipes can also be used in a fix for fermenting underarms, but not on faces or other delicate areas. Pay attention to signs, as not all water will be potable (drinkable). Really, just prepare to ripen — but be comforted by the fact that everyone else will too.
Alice’s Restaurant: Festival fare is unpredictable. Food runs out, cooks fail to show, and rainstorms make waiting in line miserable. Bring your own supplies. Experience will broaden your options, but first timers should stick to simple staples like sandwiches, apples, grapes, protein bars and coolers of cold meat and hardboiled eggs. Make sure your cooler works before you go. If cooking is allowed, read and learn your stove in advance. Always bring a bottle opener (and consider canned beer and screw-top wines). Try to camp with experienced friends as they may end up saving your bacon (literally).
Join Together: Many festivals rely on volunteers and/or borrow fields from reluctant farmers. Festivals depend on the decency of attendees. Buy raffle tickets or programs that fund the cause. Read and follow the website small-print about campfires and cooking. Don’t litter or leave stuff behind — there was nothing lovable or hip about the crap left on the fields after Woodstock.
So pack smart, pitch well, and then head for the marquee knowing a nylon B&B awaits you when the music’s over.
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