camping music festival stage
Camping,  Travel

What You Should Know Before Your First Camping Music Festival

It is that time of year. With temperatures rising, we are heading into my favorite season. Festival season! Ok, so maybe you haven’t quite gotten as into it as I have yet, but trust me, I’ve got all the tips to make the most out of your first camping music festival.

If you know me at all, you would know that I love to camp. Now add my other loves, live music and partying and well, get ready for the best weekends ever. I’m talking about dancing the night away to your favorite bands or DJs, meeting great like minded people, all at the convenience of an onsite campsite.

I get it though. Camping festivals may not be for everyone but, I wouldn’t knock it before you try it if I were you. I know that many popular festivals have convenient lodging options that don’t require camping but, as someone who has been to city festivals and camping festivals, I prefer the later.

One of the biggest reasons is that you fully get to immerse yourself in the festival experience when you camp. Picture this. After spending a day checking out your favorite artists and discovering the great art installations around the festival, you’ll probably want to keep the party going throughout the night. If you are in a hotel, unless you know about after parties, it may dull down. 

Not to mention, the trek from the festival may be less than glamorous and your buzz may be well gone before you get home, recuperate, and get back out there.

Even worst, maybe you get lost before you get to the next thing. It has happened to me at a city fesitival. The cabs and ubers literally had us pull up a google map to find their way home since they were having a difficult time navigating their own city. Ugh!  

Plus, if you stay at the campsite, you may meet really sweet people that may become future friends. I’ve met plenty of people through music festivals and keep up with them via social media. Hell, one of my friends I met from a music festival visited us a couple weeks ago.

Now, I do understand that the thought of braving the outdoors may seem daunting for those who have never really spent much time in the outdoors. Don’t you worry. This is where I come in to give you my greatest tips.

I’m one of those people who make car camping glam and I’m talking without a camper either. Besides my obvious lack of funding for such vehicles, I personally like sleeping in tents. If you’ve ever been camping with me, you would hardly say it lacked in luxury either. Check out my popular story on how to glam your campsite up for some really fun tips I use.

Related: Glamping: How to glam up your campsite

Turn your Campsite into a Make shift Glamping Paradise

Tapestry and flag to decorate car camping music festival site

Decorate your Campsite

If you are coming in by car, this is your opportunity to really make your space yours. Trust me, you’ll really want to decorate as well.

Music festivals generally have an art focus, no matter the genre.  You will notice that most people sport flags, tapestries, lights, rugs, or whatever to really personalize their site.

Besides that, it is a lot easier to find your site at night if you decorate. 

As a car-camping-to-glamping expert, I already have all the gear in my standard camping set up. I like to use a free standing canopy, rugs that I don’t mind getting dirty, tapestries or fabrics, solar lights, and pillows to spruce up my site.

When it comes to decoration at a camping music festival, I’d invest in a few solar light strings. Unlike camping, you aren’t able to make fires at your site so you have to rely on lights to create ambience. You can find them battery operated but I like these better. That is because all you have to do is keep them out to make them work. I even found some nifty ones that dance with the music. My battery operated ones from a rave store honestly broke after one weekend and was annoyingly pricier than I hoped.

Here is my listing for ones that I got several years ago and they still work great. Like Amazon goes, the prices on certain items may change but when I bought these, they were 15 bucks. If they change to a ridiculous price, I’d just search for like items.

Bring Some Kind of Shade for your Camping Music Festival

If you need one thing, it will be this. I know, if you are hiking in or arriving by public transit, this may not be a tip you can use but if you can squeeze this in your car I recommend it. Honestly, if you are hiking in or public transiting in, you can use a tarp and ropes or even one of these nifty shade tarps but you’ll probably need to rely on a kind neighbor to tie them up.

Either way, you want extra shade. Not only will the bright sun be lovely for your hangover, it can make your campsite very hot. Or alternatively, there could be rain and an unprotected campsite can get wet and that’s not fun.

I unfortunately broke my last free standing shade last summer but they are pretty cheap to get a new one. Here is one you can even get online.

Make Sure your Bed is Comfortable during your Camping Music Festival

Bed in tent from car camping or camping music festival

Another great thing to think about when at a camping music festival is that you will probably need to recover as much as possible per night. Hangovers are horrible but they are even worst when you wake up with a sore back from your restless night.

Now before you go out and buy that cheap air mattress from Walmart, let me stop you and show you my story Why you shouldn’t use a cheap air mattress for camping.

I am so happy I don’t have one of those anymore.

Alternately, if you aren’t trying to spend a lot on a snazzy self inflating pad like this , go for an inexpensive foam pad. They won’t deflate in the middle of the night and you can find even the highest brands for 20 bucks or so. Since I already wrote about this before, I’ll end here.

Also, if you have room, I recommend bringing plenty of blankets and pillows for your bed. Honestly, I don’t really thing you need that fancy of a sleeping bag unless you are doing extreme camping.

You are at a camping music festival. This isn’t very extreme.

Save your money and bring all the blankets instead. Plus, you can bring blankets in fun patterns.

Don’t Forget Ear Plugs and Eye Masks

Speaking of sleep, you NEED ear plugs and eye masks. I can’t say this enough. Your neighbors will be up all night or early in the morning. Either way, it will be annoying if you can’t block them out. Do you want to be woken up to loud screams , bright lights, and music while hungover?


Make Sure you Eat Correctly during a Camping Music Festival

Prepare a Menu for Cooking

Make sure you bring easy to make foods. This doesn’t necessarily mean cheap foods that you would expect for a college room dorm. I’m saying delicious foods that are simple.

I made the mistake of bringing really bad non parishable foods at my first camping music festival and was bumbed out to learn that’s all I had to eat. Why would I eat Cup o Noodles when I never eat Cup o Noodles? It was also hot. I don’t want hot soup when it’s hot outside.

There are plenty of foods you can make without refrigeration that I mention in my story here but honestly, there is usually ice at festivals.

They may be overpriced, but they do exist.

I read so many blogs acting like camping music festivals is roughing it out in the desert (unless you’re going to burning man which is a whole different game), but it’s really not. There is often a market for some items, and the festival usually provides ice and water.

Obviously, some organizers will suck so it’s good to have something non-perishable to eat as back-up. Or bring some cash. You can always buy food from a vender.

Try to Eat Somewhat Healthy at a Camping Music Festival

Woman eating ramen at a camping music festival

I am not your mom. You can eat whatever you want. Just know that a somewhat healthy diet may help you stay on your feet longer, recover faster, and avoid the dreaded porta potty.

I like to bring fruit and veggies that don’t need to be refrigerated. As a millennial, this a great time for avocados. Fruit and veggies like avocados, tomatoes, peppers, oranges, apples, and even ones meant for flavor like onions and garlic can really make a dish and are super easy to cook with or just eat. 

I also like to bring those lovely dissolvable vitamin filled things like Emergen-C. It probably doesn’t really do anything but it doesn’t really hurt so I bring them anyways. It’s pretty hard to get all your nutrients while at a festival so if there is any way to make it easier, I’ll do it.

Lastly, I usually try to bring nutrient dense foods so if I don’t eat as much, I’ll still be set. Bring on the Kale!

General Tips on Surviving the Camping Music Festival

walking into set at camping music festival Electric Forest

Pace Yourself

I can’t stress this enough. Please, take it easy on the first few days. Not only do you put yourself at risk when you go all in at the beginning of a festival, you may well, miss the festival. One festival I went to, this young lady got hammered every morning. She was basically out by the night. Don’t be that girl.  

Be Careful with any Mind Altering Substances

Be careful with anything you consume. Like I’ve said, I’m not your mom and you can make your own decisions. Just know that there is always a risk in any mind altering substances.

Some festivals may provide a station that can test anything you consume to make sure you know what you are doing.

Don’t be Afraid to Seek Help

Get medical attention if you or a friend needs help. They aren’t there to get you in trouble. They can save your life.

If it makes you feel better, I’ve had a few friends seek the medical tent and didn’t get in trouble. I know that especially when you are young, this may be intimidating. They are here to help you. The festival community loves you and wants you to be safe regardless of your decisions. 

Buddy Up

Its fun to have friends at a festival and it can also keep you safe. Even if you didn’t go with anyone, it’s pretty easy to make friends. You can even try to join community boards to meet people prior to the event. Just check out your festival Facebook page and there is usually a group for people to get to know each other.

Bring a Flashlight and Toilet Paper to the Bathroom

The porta potty situation can be a nightmare. Lets just say, there are certain things that I really didn’t like seeing over the rim.  But what is worst is when you can’t see. Plus, there isn’t always toilet paper. This is not a mistake you want to make.

Drink Water

Don’t show everyone that you’re a rookie. Drink water like a real adult. Trust me, you’ll thank me. They are usually offered all around a festival for free or purchase.

Invest in a Water Backpack

Speaking of water, I like to use a camelback type of backpack to stay hydrated. This will help you remember to not forget to drink water.

Don’t be afraid to leave your crew

While you obviously should try to buddy up with someone, don’t get completely stuck with a crew. You may want to check out a different stage, eat, drink, stay up later, or whatever but your crew might not be feeling down. I’ve learned that at a festival, you can’t let the slow moving group mindset hold you back from having fun.

Wear Comfortable Shoes that you Don’t Mind Getting Dirty at a Camping Music Festival

You will walk a lot and there will be dirt.

You don’t need to wear dorky shoes either. Just something confortable and relatively cheap.

Dress Up

This is a safe space to really explore your creativity. There aren’t many places that you have so few rules when it comes to fashion. Why not go crazy with the costumes? The only rule I’d say is to be respectful and avoid sacred headdresses, or hate group flags (you’d be surprised).

Explore New Types of Music

Obviously, check out the headliners but don’t be afraid to try something new in a genre you may not know well. You might end up falling in love with a whole new style of music like I did. I wasn’t always much of a raver until I went to Bonaroo and danced until the sun came up to Kaskade. Now, I’m very into electronic music.

Your Phone will Probably Die

It’s fairly difficult to keep all of your electronics charged. There may be some stations to charge up but they are often crowded and let’s be honest, who wants to sit and charge a phone all day?

Invest in a portable power sourceand have a plan b meet up spot if you lose your friends.

Wear Sunscreen

Don’t be dumb. This isn’t the time to tan.

Don’t Let Small Mishaps Ruin your Time

You will get dirty. You may get sunburned. Lines may be long. It may rain. You may miss a set you wanted to see. Don’t let that ruin your great time.

I remember at Electric Forest, people were complaining non-stop because it was more crowded than the prior year. So what? You paid a lot of money to be there and you might as well enjoy it.  

There you have it. I hope that some of my tips help you out on your first camping music festival.

I’d love to hear your stories and plans! Do you have any tips for a camping music festival?

Share them in the comments and if you like what you read, be sure to subscribe.

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