Over the last few years, I’ve evolved from an overnight music festival virgin to a full-blown festival junkie. I’ve battled 70 m.p.h. gusts of
wind, torrential downpours and searing temperatures and came out the other side with a lifetime of memories and new friends from around the country.
While camping festivals are not for everyone (germaphobes and light sleepers need not attend), few other places offer the chance to hear all your favorite
musicians in a single location during the span of one weekend. In the spirit of festival season, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts
to make your weekend experience as memorable (and painless) as possible.
PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS
It’s summer, and pop-up thunderstorms mixed with sun-filled skies are a part of the deal. Here are some essentials to keep you (and your equipment)
dry and your body reasonably comfortable.
• A wide brim hat: A wide brim hat is one of the most important items you can bring. Your face and neck will be protected from the sun. Plus,
it’s an easy way to make a fashion statement. Recommendations include a sombrero covered with buttons of your favorite bands or a rice paddy hat.
• Poncho: Don’t be the jerk that decides to block everyone’s view with an umbrella. Instead, invest in a quality Helly Hansen rain jacket
or, in a pinch, just cut a hole in a trash bag.
• Waterproof dry bag: Rainwater can and will get into your tent. Unless you want a wet sleeping bag or other soaked items, bring a dry bag. REI
online camping store offers a huge selection from $11 to $100.
• Sunscreen: Most festivals are located in large, open spaces with limited options to escape the sun. If you do lather up, avoid oxybenzone (a
hormone disruptor) and go for some Purple Prairie SunStuff Natural Sunscreen.
• Old shoes: Mud can mean the death of your favorite kicks. I’ve destroyed my shoes in back-to-back years at the Philly Folk Festival. Shoes
should be comfortable but dumpster appropriate when caked in mud after the show. Avoid sandals.
• Tarp: That early morning sun quickly heats up a tent, limiting your sleep. Hang a tarp over top of your sleeping quarters for shade, and you may be
able to squeeze in a couple more hours of z’s.
STAYING (SORT OF) CLEAN
Music festivals are definitely not Club Med. Be prepared to smell like Sasquatch and poop in uncomfortable conditions. Here are a few suggestions to avoid
• Wet Ones: A wipe-down with an alcoholic napkin is better than no shower. Wet Ones are quick, easy and remove most germs that thrive in hot and
• Dry shampoo: Water is a hot commodity in the campground, so don’t waste it on your hair. Instead, pick up a bottle of Klorane Eco Gentle Dry
Shampoo. If you want something cheap and simple, baby powder works in a pinch.
• Toilet paper: Port-o-johns are notorious for running out of toilet paper. Don’t get caught with your pants down and have to prove your
manhood (or womanhood) by using your hand – bring an extra roll.
SAFETY FIRST (DEBAUCHERY LATER)
Remember Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Minimize the fallout.
• First aid kit: Although first aid stations are located throughout the festival grounds, it’s never a bad idea to bring along your own
supplies for minor cuts, burns and scratches.
• Earplugs: Music can be loud. Late-night and early morning festival-goers can be loud. If you want to save your ringing ears or catch more sleep,
invest in a 25¢ pack of foam earplugs.
• Lock box: Most people are honest, but let’s face it – thieves are everywhere. A lock box isn’t foolproof, but at least it keeps
prying eyes away from wallets and iPhones.
• Condoms: Many a love affair have blossomed at festivals, but play it safe. It’s best to “wrap it up.”
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Some items are common sense, others you may not think about, but all are necessary.
• Flashlight: Hazards are everywhere in the festival grounds, so avoid groundhog holes, tree stumps and passed out revelers by carrying a simple Mini
• Water container: Proper hydration can mean the difference between enjoying all the performances or spending an afternoon hooked up to an IV drip.
Most festivals provide water filling stations, so take your own BPA-free jug or purchase a CamelBak pack.
• Watch: Many festival-goers live by the adage that it’s better not to have a schedule, but few things are more frustrating than missing your
favorite band by five minutes. Your cell phone may be dead when you need it most, but an old-fashioned wrist watch works.
• Flag: Campgrounds are filled with hundreds (even thousands) of tents, tarps and tables. Set up a flag or some other unique item to identify your
camp. My Philly Folk Festival compatriots at “Camp Carnivore” have a banner with a caveman sitting atop a dinosaur.
• Blanket & chairs: A centralized meeting place near the concert stages is a great place to nap, people watch or eat some lunch. A blanket
with a few folding chairs to hold down the fort does the trick.
BOOZE, BREWS & EDIBLES
You don’t want to spend all your time cooking meals, but you also don’t want to spend $10 on a hot dog or $15 for a cup of beer. Here are some
quick and easy food and drink ideas.
• Food staples: Protein and carbohydrates will keep you energized, but they can be difficult to come by. Bring PowerBars or Clif Bars, gorp trail mix
and PB&J sandwiches.
• Bourbon: Alcohol isn’t typically allowed in the concert area, but the campground is a different story. Few things will win friends faster
than passing around a bottle of Maker’s Mark. If that’s too expensive, Evan Williams is an affordable alternative.
• Beer: Bottles are cumbersome and can break easily, so go with aluminum cans. Canned microbrews are popping up more frequently; some good bets are
Colorado’s Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and Phoenixville’s SlyFox Helles Golden Lager with the new “360 lid” that turns the
can into a cup.
Putting your time in before bands even hit the stages can help ensure you enjoy the show once they start rocking.
• Get your car inspected: Don’t get stranded on the way to or home from a festival. My car broke down a few years ago after leaving the
Clearwater Festival in New York State, and it cost me more than $1,000 in repairs.
• The morning yoga class: Many festivals offer special workshops throughout the day that don’t involve music. Stretch out your stiff muscles
with an early morning yoga class.
• Research the bands: Take an afternoon before the festival to look up all the performers on YouTube or Facebook. You may discover a surprising
• Request off on Monday: The post-festival hangover will kill your Monday morning work productivity. Don’t fool yourself into thinking
you’ll get that TPS report done – take off an extra day.
TEST OUT THE SURVIVAL KIT
Now that you’re primed for survival, here a few of the region’s best bets for multi-day shows just a car ride away.
• Spring Gulch Folk Festival
Spring Gulch Campground; New Holland | May 16-19 | $170-$110
Headliners: Peter Yarrow, Garnet Rogers
Hidden Gems: The Stray Birds, Vishten,Trout Fishing in America
• Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival
Granite Hill Camping Resort; Gettysburg | May 17-20 & Aug 16-19 | $125-$25
Headliners: Rhonda Vincent, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Seldom Scene
Hidden Gems: Dry Branch Fire Squad, The Rambling Rooks, Della Mae
• Firefly Music Festival
Dover International Speedway; Dover, DE | June 21-23 | $258
Headliners: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, The Lumineers
Hidden Gems: Django Django, Wild Belle, Foxygen
• All Good Music Festival
Legend Valley; Thornville, OH | July 18-21 | $175-$495
Headliners: Further (feat. Phil Lesh & Bob Weir), Pretty Lights, Primus
Hidden Gems: Toubab Krewe, Trevor Hall, The Sheepdogs
• Peach Music Festival
Montage Mountain; Scranton | Aug 15-18 | $450-$129
Headliners: Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir & Rat Dog, Black Crowes
Hidden Gems: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Galactic
• Philadelphia Folk Festival
Old Pool Farm; Schwenksville | Aug 15-18 | $175.50-$58.50
Full lineup not announced until June, but leaked performers include Otis Taylor, Ellis Paul and local favorites The Stray Birds