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16 Tips, 1 Summer Music Festival Survival Guide

Natalie Price

Your go-to Summer Music Festival Survival Guide: how to not just survive, but thrive during a weekend campout. 

Summer music festivals are popular for a few reasons. Often, you can see multiple musicians you like for a cheaper cost and you get to camp out with your friends on site, which makes for an unforgettable time no matter what. Here are a few tips for surviving that weekend campout.

Human Nature Festival

1. Buy your tickets early

Many summer music festivals want their guests to RSVP by purchasing presale tickets so they can get an idea for what kind of crowd to expect. If you purchase your tickets early, you're likely going to get them at a better price, and you can use the money you save to buy more beer and corndogs.

Where's my toothbrush?
Where's my toothbrush?

2. Be prepared

It's more than just a cheesy boy scout motto, it's common sense. You don't have to go overboard with the "glamping." Make sure your tents are clean from the last campout. Build a mess kit so you're eating something other than corn dogs and funnel cakes all weekend and you have a way to cook/clean/eat your meals. Bring a filled water container with a spigot. Five to seven gallons is sufficient for drinking water and minimal hand washing. Bring Gatorade or sports drinks that will replace vital minerals you might sweat out while getting your boogie on all night.

You might want to bring a first aid kit with some Ibuprofen if you plan on combining dancing and drinking all night. Put some Gold Bond menthol medicated powder in there, too. At some point, you might get sandy in some uncomfortable areas and have to walk great distances. It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. This might sound like a given, but make sure you have your tickets on you before you walk out the door. You can read more on preparing for summer adventures by reading my article on spring cleaning for the outdoorsman.

Shades and a hat are to shield your eyes from the sun are crucial.

3. Check the weather and dress appropriately

If it's going to be hot during the day, bring some light colors and sunscreen if you plan on getting some sun. If it's going to be cold at night, bring a jacket and something comfortable like sweatpants or a hoodie. If it's going to rain, don't just bring raingear, but extra clothes so you can have something dry to change into at night when you've been soaked all day.

Styrofoam sucks.

4. Don't be "that guy" with a styrofoam cooler

Bring a cooler that will keep things cold all weekend long. If you've ever wondered why you'd need a fancy cooler to keep your drinks cold for a week at a time, consider that if you leave a day early for a long weekend and come back a day late, you're going to have to keep your food and drinks cold for at least 5 days. While it might be an investment to purchase a quality cooler, consider how much ice goes for when it's delivered to your campsite by some event vendor that is essentially selling you two gallons of frozen water for upwards of $10-20 when you can get the same bag at a convenience store for $2 on your way to the event.

If you really want to extend the life of your ice, freeze a few quart or gallon jugs and stuff them on the bottom of the cooler and pour the ice on top of everything else. Those ice blocks also double as a reserve of water if you happen to run out towards the end of the weekend. While the Yeti Cooler is the most trusted name brand, check our Wide Open Spaces suggestions for 6 of the best coolers on the market.

Make sure you anchor down your canopy in case the wind picks up while you're in the show...

5. Bring a shade canopy

An EZ-up Tent is an essential item for any festival. It might be heavy and cumbersome, but it's worth it's weight in gold when the July heat is beating down on you after a few days of being in the sun.

Be prepared to wait in line if you show up late.
Be prepared to wait in line and set up camp in the dark if you show up late.

6. Get there early

If you want a better campsite that's closer to the stage area, you'll want to show up a little earlier. Getting there during the day also makes it easier to set up camp in daylight and set out your lanterns for the evening, rather than scrambling around in the dark with a headlamp and losing your keys/wallet/cellphone in the process.

Camp Landshark
Camp Landshark

7. Landmark your camp

Make it easy to find when you're wandering around in an altered state of mind. You can get creative with this, but generally you want something with altitude that will stand out from a distance in a sea of canopies and cars where everything looks the same.

Hey bro, do you have a lighter?
Hey bro, do you have a lighter?

8. Make friends with your neighbors ASAP

You probably won't need a cup of sugar, but who knows what else you might need from them. If nothing else, you'll want them to look out for your camp, your campers and your belongings. You might even make some lasting connections.

The bad apples in every camp usually stand out like a sore thumb
The bad apples in every camp usually stand out like a sore thumb

9. Bring the "squad" with you

It might make things more difficult to organize if you've got a lot of people in your crew, but you can truly build an amazing camp for the weekend with a little bit of teamwork. With some collaboration, you can create a magical environment with the support of your friends. You can split the responsibility of essential items among individuals in your camp, as well as build a theme that everyone can pitch in on.

Come back in an hour...
Come back in an hour...

10. Be independent

While dividing responsibilities among individuals in your camp and creating your own shared space with a team effort, you also need to be able to depend on yourself for essential items. You may also want to bring something like headphones or earplugs when you just need some quiet time without the ruckus of your rowdy friends and neighbors.

Telling everyone in your surrounding area to pipe down at night because you're tired and cranky is not the way to make friends. Don't depend on the venue to be fully stocked on toilet paper all weekend either, BYOTP!

Game on.
Game on.

11. Bring a game to play

Ladderball, Giant Jenga, cornhole, etc, etc, etc. This is a great way to pass the time and entertain yourselves between shows. Interactive games create a spectacle and are inviting for other people to join in the fun with you, a great way to meet some new people.

I have no idea what is going on here, but maybe these two should turn it down to eleven if they expect to make it through the gate.

12. Don't pregame too hard

It's a common misconception that you can save a few bucks by gettin' your drink on in the campground before you go into the gates for the show where they're selling $12 tall boys of Pabst. This is where mistakes get made, shows get missed, your folding chair collapses and you wake up in something that smells like regret. Don't do it!

That "made it past the gate" face.
That "Just made it past the gate" face.

13. Take some carry-on luggage on your journey to the gate

Professionals know that the best way to keep your buzz going is to either find a creative way to sneak your booze in the gate or cough up the cash for overpriced drinks. Some venues are more strict than others, so check the rules of each event and adapt to the situation. Sometimes drinks are allowed if they're in sealed containers.

If that's not the case, bring an empty canteen and find a place to fill it inside the gate so you're not paying outrageous amounts of money on water.

Don't leave valuables in your tent. Careful what you leave visible in your camp too. Bears might come looking for a picnic basket.

14. Lock up your valuables

We're all friends here... or are we? You don't know the people next door to you anymore than you know the people down street from you. Don't trust that your belongings will be trusted in the view of strangers.

If you're bringing a lot of cash for the weekend, leave some locked away in a safe in the trunk of your vehicle or somewhere out of sight, don't take it all in the show with you or you might get loose pockets under the influence or pick-pocketed in a crowd.

Will the driver of the Volkswagen Bus please report to the parking lot? It's the middle of the day and your lights are on.

15. Bring jumper cables

Blasting music from your vehicle for an all night dance party after the show sounds great until you're ready to leave in the morning and realize your ignition won't turnover. Don't depend on others to have the cables, and you might save someone else's day by having them on you.

Dude, where's my car?

16. Drive home safe

You're sleep deprived, hungover, your body is tired and you're a long way from home. Take your time getting back, and make sure you're okay to drive. If you brought "the squad," plan your partying at the weekend's last shows around who will be driving home.


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16 Tips, 1 Summer Music Festival Survival Guide