This post comes from Jenn Simon of Sea to Summit’s marketing department. Jenn is a veteran festival goer here in the Rocky Mountain West. She breaks down the gear you need to have a good time!
I’m a pretty outdoorsy girl, most weekends you can find me out adventuring and sleeping in a tent. I like to think I have mastered my outdoor gear kit, whether it be backpacking or car camping I am always prepared. Every summer I like to hit up a music festival or two, which brings new elements into camping. Good sleep is vital. Keeping clean and looking good are more important than my weekend adventures in the woods. I drive a small Subaru so packing my entire house is not an option. Just like backpacking, having the right gear can enhance your experience and make the weekend much more enjoyable. Below are my top gear picks for festival camping.
The show must go on rain or shine! I bought tickets and won’t miss a show because of rain. A nylon tarp poncho is key for staying dry at any festival. I know what you’re thinking, “I have a really nice (and good looking) Gore-Tex rain jacket, that I can bring”. Rookie maneuver; a rain jacket will not keep your legs dry like a poncho. A poncho ventilates well so when you are dancing the night away you won’t sweat up a storm (and scare the ladies away). You can also use the tarp to sit on if the grass is a little wet or muddy. Bonus: tarp ponchos pack down small and easily fit into a daypack.
Sleep at a festival is key. Staying up late and waking up early is normally the MO at festivals. Anything that can help you sleep better and longer is vital! I always seem to camp next to “that guy” who is up all night playing Wagon Wheel on his guitar… even after EVERYONE else has gone to sleep! The Aeros Pillow, Travelling Light™ Eye Shades and earplugs have done wonders for my festival sleepy time. Don’t leave home without them!
Even with my Aeros Premium Pillow I normally don’t get my 8 hours of sleep when I’m festival camping (Thanks, Wagon Wheel guy!). A good cup of coffee is part of my normal festival morning routine. My friend Tom always brings his amazing home roasted beans and French press, I bring my X-Pot Kettle to boil water. The kettle collapses down (remember small Subaru, not a lot of storage) and is very packable. It boils enough water for Tom’s French press which equals two happy morning campers. The Delta Insul-Mug is great for keeping my coffee warm in the morning and margaritas cold in the evening… okay, and in the morning for Bloody Marys too!
How to make friends at a festival: provide shade and protection from rain at camp! Do I really need to explain this one, a tarp is a crucial part of your camp. Your friends will be stoked when they have a place to gather when it rains (maybe even invite Wagon Wheel guy for entertainment). The tarp packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle, so there is no excuse not to bring it. It also makes a nice shaded area for afternoon naps or chill-out sessions.
Speaking of napping, I am a big fan. Getting a little extra sleep before a night show is a good idea. I always use a sleeping bag liner; it just makes sense. It keeps your sleeping bag clean, regulates moisture, and feels amazing! One of the best times for a sleeping bag liner is in the heat of the day for your afternoon snooze. It’s too hot for your sleeping bag so bust out your liner and you are in nap heaven!
Staying clean and smelling fresh at festivals can be a challenge. Long shower lines, cold water, and lack of coins are three really great excuses to stay away from festival shower facilities. Festival solution: Kitchen Sink and Tech Towel Wash Kit. Bring the bath to camp! Our Kitchen Sink is amazing for cleaning dishes at camp but also can double as a “bathroom sink”. I take 2, one for dishes and one for personal hygiene. The Kitchen Skin plus a Tech Towel Wash Kit is the perfect setup for a sponge bath at camp. To supplement your sponge bathing Wilderness Wipes are key! These wipes are amazing. Keep them in your pack during shows for an emergency wipe down (when that dancing festival goer spills their margarita all over you). At Burning Man I became addicted to washing my feet off with wipes every night before bed. It’s been a camping tradition ever since!
I have mentioned a few important items to have with you at every show (poncho, Wilderness Wipes, don’t forget extra layers, sunscreen, and of course snacks!). Hauling stuff around festivals is never fun, but let’s be real, you will need it. I take my Ultra-Sil® Day Pack to every show. It’s so lightweight I can hardly feel it on my back. Unlike clunky shoulder bags, it’s on my back making it easy to dance and sneak my way through the crowd to get up front. The Ultra-Sil® CORDURA fabric is water-resistant so in a light rain, my gear will stay dry. Of course in my pack, I store my poncho in case of heavier rains. It comes in a range of stylish colors so I can look good and match my festival flare.
I am a big fan of staying organized at all times. When backpacking I use the Ultra-Sil® Dry Sacks, when suitcase traveling I love the Travelling Light™ Garment Mesh Bags. The question is, which is best for festival camping? Both are good and definitely better than a big pile of clothing and gear. With a little experimenting, I vote for the Garment Mesh Bags. I pack all of my clothing, toiletries, and gear in Garment Mesh Bags and other Travelling Light packing containers. They stack nicely between my sleeping bag and tent wall. I don’t even need a bag to store them in. Everything is organized and easy to find. Camp ZEN accomplished.
Of course, you are going to need a comfortable sleeping mat for your base camp. If you have seen all of the awards the Sea to Summit Sleeping Mats has received, this is an easy pick. The Air Chair is a conversion device that turns any Sea to Summit Sleeping Mat into a comfortable chair for lounging. Think back to small Subaru, this device saves tons of space (no clunky camp chairs in my trunk). The Air Chair and Sleeping Mat pack up so small, they will fit into your Ultra-Sil® Day Pack if you want to bring a chair into the show. This is a win-win!