Whether you’re a camping festival veteran or first-timer, we’ve got you covered with the essential gear for surviving and thriving!
Camping festivals are a truly unique experience – thousands of people “sleeping” under the stars and dancing at multiple stages, often day and night, out in nature. These festivals can be invigorating, transformative, and just a ton of fun. But if you arrive unprepared, you may feel more like you are on an episode of Naked & Afraid than spending time celebrating life.
While organizers should be prepared to help in any situation, this isn’t always the case, so be sure you go in prepared to take care of yourself. Our essentials guide will be sure you’re covered!
First, you’ll need to select a tent and other critical items for basic sleep and shelter.
The FE Active 4 Person Tent is both a great deal and a great model for groups of two (or even one). We always recommend finding a tent that can fit more than the people in your group for comfort. Though, keep in mind that if you are average to tall, you won’t have much room to store gear inside the tent. We stored ours outside the tent, but under the rainfly. This worked OK but you need to be sure things are off the ground in the case of rain.
The FE Active tent is a backpacking tent which means it’s shorter and lighter and meant to be carried on a hike. If you’ll be car camping and weight is not an issue, you can get a standup tent as a terrific alternative. Here we recommend going with the Coleman 4-person Cabin Tent, which is a pop-up style, meaning it’s super easy to set up and break down. In either case, be sure you’ve got a ground cover, too!
Next, you’ll need a sleeping bag (or two) and we like the Agemore Cotton Flannel bags. These inexpensive bags perform really well on a budget. Although not specified, it’s the equivalent of three pounds of fill, giving a comfort rating down to 50F/10C which is perfect for most festival conditions. If you know it will be colder, either add layers or go with a four-lbs or five-lbs fill bag instead which will add some bulk. Oh, and the zippers on this bad boy are especially smooth, not often the case on budget bags!
While a tent and sleeping bag will provide the basics of shelter and sleep needs, unless you are someone that thrives in the backwoods, you’ll really want something separating you from the ground. Sleeping mats not only provide a little cushion from rocks and twigs, but a nice barrier to keep cold or wet ground from encroaching on your sleep situation. You can go with a basic self-inflating option like the KLYMIT Static V Camping Sleeping Pad which is super durable. Or, for a similar price, get space for two and more cushion with this option that includes built-in pillows. Granted, you’ll need to manually inflate the latter, but its got a built-in foot pump and you’ll be done in a few minutes.
Lastly, even if you get the sleeping mat with the built-in pillows, you probably want a little more support and comfort for your noggin. Some campers swear by inflatable pillows, but you could also go for compression pillows that only add a little more bulk and practically no weight.
While a tent and sleeping bag give you basic survival needs, you’re going to a festival, so consider more creature comforts, too!
Your campsite will be your home for the duration of the festival, so you won’t want to be sitting on the ground the entire time. Bring along some of the Sportneer Backpacking Chairs which are packable, comfortable, and stable. They are extremely lightweight and easy to assemble making them the perfect addition without adding too much to the overall load. If bulk isn’t an issue, the Coleman Camping Chair is classic, well priced, and has the bonus of cup holders.
Another terrific comfort is having a table. If you went with the backpacking chairs, the table to match is the Nice C Folding Table, which is both lightweight and lower to match the backpacking chairs. If you’ve gone with full size chairs, you’ll once again like the classic option from Coleman.
For festivals or just a night at the club, hiking socks are an underrated treasure. Advantages to a good hiking sock – they hold up to heat, sweat, and impact way better than sweat socks. Your feet will thank you after a marathon day (or days) of dancing, and your gear won’t stink because these also resist odors! We love the Darn Tough Men’s Hiker and here’s the women’s version as well.
Whatever the season, there are often needs for warmth either at night or when weather patterns throw you a curveball.
I typically rave in t-shirts, even when it’s cold – cause once I’m dancing, I’ll warm up nicely. But when I need a layer, I go with an inexpensive printed hoodie for a little more flair while keeping warm. These are also easy for me to tie around my waist so I can put it on or take it off without it getting in my way.
If you are the type that gets cold feet (literally, not figuratively!) get some of these slipper socks for your time in the tent and sleeping bag. And these mittens may seem like overkill, but if you’ve ever gotten a chill in your fingers (or toes) you know how hard it can be to get warm again. Instead, put these on during the morning chill and keep those digits toasty until the sun warms the air, or it’s time to dance and get warm naturally.
Want to be sure you are warm AND stylish? Get yourself a onesie and make this your morning outfit. When you get up in the chill of the morning, you’ll be happy to have this to slip into for instant warmth and comfort, while still keeping your festival look. We’d suggest one with a flap for ease of bathroom visits, or get out the sewing machine and add your own!
Next up on the list, let’s cover nutrition and hygiene needs.
Over the course of a camping festival, you will be putting your body through the wringer. Lots of dancing, late nights, limited sleep, and weird food choices are likely to have your body screaming to go home already! A few small modifications can ease these challenges. Let’s start with vitamins. Take an Emergen-C each day for a week before, each day during, and a week after the festival – it’s got all the basics your body needs. We also recommend a 5-HTP with B6 supplement daily for a week ahead of the fest as this helps regulate sleep. Sleeping well in the lead-up helps you survive the inevitable lack of sleep at the fest. And if you partake in some “party favors” or “recreational” that give you the blues afterward, this supplement is the perfect thing to take for three days after. They aren’t cheap, but, trust me, they will get you back on track better than any other option.
Electrolytes are another important supplement when dancing and partying in the great outdoors. (Or anywhere, really.) We really love Nuun Tablets and they also come in a formulation with caffeine added. These are convenient because they are in tablet form, have only a light taste, and the caffeine added is from natural green tea extract.
Moving on to hygiene needs, camping fests have various access to showers, but even the best ones often have lines or limited access. A good stash of body wipes will help you get by either in between, or instead of, showers. Regardless of how you are bathing, please don’t forget your deodorant as well! Even if you don’t have access to a shower, bring a thin towel that can handle many different needs. From just drying off when it rains, or after your campmates get you with that off-brand super soaker that still, well, soaks.
One more semi-mandatory item that defies the category are earplugs.
There are at least two distinct needs for earplugs at a camping festival. First, you need good-quality earplugs for the dance floor. Everyone should invest in these but we’re especially looking at you, bass zombies! Second, consider some inexpensive and disposable foam earplugs for sleeping. These are comfortable and effective for when the music never stops and you need a nap, and also to give out to others in need who didn’t follow my first point here.
Let’s not forget about lights and decorations for both you and your campsite!
It can be really hard to pick out your tent among the thousands of others, and even harder in the dark. Any number of light strips will do the trick like this set for its versatility and ability to lower the illumination at night to respect your neighbors. The app even allows you to program lighting changes based on time, so you don’t need to be there to dial it down. I also bring a set of El Wire that can be used on the tent or on me to enhance my outfits. Even more versatile are fairy lights, available in an array of colors.
Decorative and fun are optional, but lights for blazing a trail and seeing in your tent are required. Start with a good headlamp and you’ll always have a light directly where you are looking. You’ll need some lighting inside your tent and these lanterns are adjustable, can be really bright, and will run for days on a set of batteries. Concerned that your tentmate is on a different schedule? Get a red light lantern instead so you can see without disturbing them as much.
And, finally, a few random items that may fit your style.
- Tapestries are great for decoration and to create shade or block light at night
- Inflatable (wind) couches are super fun and great for chilling around the periphery of a stage or campsite
- Collapsible cooler bags will keep food cold for a couple of days and are easier to handle than typical coolers
- A beach mat can be the perfect “doormat” outside your tent
- Small fans can help keep your tent cool if you are in the sun
- If worried about water, this large jug can cover all your needs
Camping festivals are an experience all to themselves and while you definitely don’t need everything in this guide, using this as your checklist will assure that you’re covered and can go enjoy the party!