Festival Camping? Costs, Rules, and Insider Tips & Tricks

Music and arts festivals have become extremely popular in recent years. Major festivals like Coachella, Burning Man and Bonnaroo have inspired Canadian festivals like WayHome, Shambhala and Boots and Hearts.

Seasoned attendees seem to agree, the best way to truly experience all that a festival has to offer is by opting to camp. For a first-timer, this can seem pretty intimidating, which was the case for my girlfriend when we attended WayHome in 2017. But, she persevered and prospered, mostly thanks to how well we planned and prepared for it.

In this guide, I hope to answer all your burning questions on how to prepare for festival camping – you too can have an epic experience (and not end up in a Lord of the Flies situation, Fyre Festival edition).

1. Why Festival Camping is Awesome!

So, you’ve decided to attend a music festival – Great! After registering, the next important question you have to ask yourself is “where am I going to stay?”

Sure, you can book a hotel or hostel, or stay at an Airbnb. But, how far is the nearest accommodations? How are you going to commute to and from the festival grounds each day? Will you need to rent a car or catch a shuttle bus? And, what’s your budget?

Well, camping (if available) is a great option that can address all those issues!

Why it’s Great to Camp

[wp-svg-icons icon=”checkmark” wrap=”i”] The vibe at a festival campground is an extension of the festival vibe. You’re talking to your neighbors, visiting other people’s sites, sharing food and drinks, playing games, and dancing even when the music stops. The campground turns into a community of sorts, with an ebb and flow all of its own.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”checkmark” wrap=”i”] Festival campgrounds are typically located adjacent to the main festival grounds. No need to drive and park – just wake up and walk over! And, if you’re feeling tired or hungry, you can just stroll back to your campsite for an afternoon nap or snack.

Festival Camping vs. Hotel

[wp-svg-icons icon=”checkmark” wrap=”i”] Camping can also be much cheaper! Let’s do the math for a 4-person crew heading to Coachella:

Hotel Camping
Accommodations (Mid-range Hotel, 2 Rooms, 3-Nights)

$2400

-

Shuttle Bus Pass ($80 per person)

$320

-

Food and Water

$600

$400

Alcohol

$300

$200

Camping Pass

-

$125

Tent

-

$400

Sleeping Gear

-

$360

Chairs

-

$100

Cooking Gear

-

$100

Pop-up Canopy

-

$130

Miscellaneous Equipment
-

$150

TOTAL

$3,620

$1,965

The numbers speaks for themselves – almost a 50% reduction in costs if you choose to camp! And, if your borrow, rent or bring your own gear, you’ll save even more…

Reference: Hotel costs are based on http://money.com/money/5217998/cost-coachella-2018-beyonce/

2. Festival Camping Setup

If you plan to camp, you’ll need some basic gear and then build your festival campsite around it. Check out Car Camping Essentials for a list of recommended equipment.

What You Need to Bring

Basically, you’ll need to consider the following:

1. Tent

Tent backcountry campingThe two most important aspects of a good festival tent are that it’s waterproof and you can stand in it. This ensures you can stay warm and dry if it happens to rain overnight and it’ll make changing and getting ready WAY easier.

2. Sleeping Gear

Sleeping bag car camping

After a long day of singing and dancing, you’ll want to have a good night’s rest. So, instead of sleeping directly on the ground and waking up as sore as a rugby player, bring a blow-up mattress or sleeping pad.

And, although it might seem hot and humid during the day, sometimes the temperature drops drastically overnight. Bring enough blankets or a sleeping bag and pillow to keep you warm during those cooler nights.

3. Stove and Cookware

Backcountry Camping Essentials - Food Prep and Cookware

Cooking while camping at a festival can really bring down your costs. Bring a butane or propane fuelled stove and some cookware to prepare meals.

4. Cooler

If you plan on cooking, store perishables in a cooler alongside any tasty beverages. Freeze water bottles beforehand and add them to your cooler to keep everything chilled – no need to buy bagged ice.

5. Chairs

camp chairs car camping
If you plan on lounging around camp, chairs are a must have. It’ll give your back some well deserved TLC, plus it’s a great spot to enjoy a few brewskies and recharge.

6. Pop-up Canopy 

Pop-up canopies are game changers. They can be used for respite during hot days or a place of refuge if it starts to pour. Set up your cooler, chairs and outdoor blanket inside and rest in the shade! Check out this instant canopy from Amazon.

7. Foldable Table 

A small foldable table makes cooking, eating (and beer pong) so much easier. But, if you’re tight on space, just use your cooler as a make-shift table and you’re all set! Check out this portable table on Amazon.

3. Personal Care & Hygiene during Festival Camping

I’ll admit, if you elect to camp, expect your level of personal hygiene to take a hit. But, there are several things you can do to stay fresh and clean all festival long, which include the follow:

Get a Shower Pass

Showers are a luxury at most festival campgrounds. I managed to squeeze in a free shower during Coachella 2010 and it was fantastic – I just had to wait almost 2 hours for it! With that said, if you want to stay relatively clean, get a shower pass, if they’re available. Just be mindful that you might have to wait in a long line, but when you do you’ll feel like Andy Dufresne from Shawshank.

Bring a Portable Shower

A great option we found was to bring our own portable solar shower. We filled it in the morning and let it warm up during the day. Then, when we felt like it, we had a warm shower. Plus, we could use it to rinse our dishes.

Personal Wipes (For the Win!)

If you want a quick freshen up, disposable wipes are fantastic. And, ladies, if you’re unlucky enough to be camping during shark week, these wipes are a god-send!

4. Festival Camping Etiquette & Good-to-Knows

There are so many little tidbits of information and good-to-knows for festival camping. Here are a few that come to mind:

Driving and Arriving

• Check to see when the campgrounds open and get there early. Each car is checked by event staff and security, so the lineup starts to get ridiculous. For Coachella, we were in a 2-mile-long line which took 2 hours!

• If there are multiple cars in your party, and you plan to have spots next to one another, you’ll need to arrive in a convoy. Cars are usually directed to park in sequence and you won’t be able to save a spot.

• Check the festival website for banned campground items. Large propane cylinders, glass bottles, pets and weapons are typically restricted.

Camp Setup

Each campsite has a designated footprint. If you can, stay within your area, but if you need to encroach on someone else’s, ask if it’s okay before staking down any gear.

Lend a hand to those who look like they need help setting up their campsite. It might be someone else’s first time setting up a tent too! Hey, that person might turn out to be your soul-mate… probably not though.

• Try to pick a spot away but not too far from major paths, portable toilets and water stations. You don’t want to be sniffing port-a-potty aromas all night long.

Sleeping and Camp Up-keep

• Obviously, a campground filled with festival revellers isn’t the best place to sleep. So, if you’re a light sleeper bring earplugs and an eye mask to help you get to bed and stay asleep. However, there’s another simple sleep solution… Alcohol! (As always, please drink responsibly.)

Decorate your car and campsite with neon writing and flags to let people know where you’re from – It’ll help break the ice with your neighbours! This will also clearly mark where your campsite is in the sea of tents and cars.

• It’s disheartening to see litter start to accumulate around the campground so don’t add to it. Bring garbage bags and pick up your trash! It’s good karma.

Music and Valuables

• Bring a portable music player, but be mindful of those around you. Keep noise to a minimum in the early morning hours as well as at night when most people start coming back to sleep.

Do not bring valuables – seriously! Leave your Faberge eggs and Stradivarius violins at home. If it’s irreplaceable, don’t think twice. If you need to, you can leave important items like electronics and booze locked in your car. You can also add a small lock to your tent to keep out would-be thieves. Just remember, Tent ≠ Fort Knox

Water

• “Potable” water is okay to consume. “Non-potable” water is not okay to consume.

• Dispose of dirty water away from your campsite. Stagnant water and food scraps tend to attract flies and mosquitos.

5. Games & Activities during Festival Camping

Besides painting your friend’s face, eagerly waiting for your favorite band’s set, or just drinking, games are a great way to socialize and pass the time during a festival. 

So, bring festival-friendly games to keep you, your friends and strangers entertained. (Psst, they also make epic Instagram posts…)

Here’s a short-list of some of my favourite festival games and activities:

Festivals have become more than just about the music. They’ve become pop culture events, where memories are created and friendships are elevated. 

So, do yourself a favor and choose to festival camping so you can become completely immersed in the festival experience! You’ll be so glad you did…

What festivals are you planning on attending? If you’re a festival veteran, why not share some of your camping experiences in the comments below.

 

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