RARA’s Farm Florida Music-Festival Survival Guide
As winter nears an end, festivals season beckons. With Music fests like Aura, 9 Mile, and Wannee coming up, Florida has a lot to offer rock lovers. If you really want to get the full festival experience, it’s a good idea to do the camping option that most festivals offer. Camping alongside thousands of rock loving festival goers and future friends is just as awesome as it sounds. Not only will you meet lots of cool people but you’ll also be able to get into the festival grounds before everyone commuting there.
Hardcore festival goers know how important it is to come prepared but for the first timer, it’s difficult to know exactly what to prepare for. I went to my first festival several years ago and found myself severely under packed and under prepared, but have since learned a few key rules to remember when preparing for a festival. Follow this brief survival guide to make the most out of your festival experience.
The first and most important item on the shelter list is your tent. You won’t be spending much time in here but the time you do spend will be vital. Festivals certainly aren’t cheap, so you’re going to want to get your money’s worth by seeing as many acts as possible during your time there. In order to do this you’re going to have to wake up early and go to bed late, leaving you little time for sleep. Yet, sleep is necessary in order to sustain the festivities another day.
If your festival is a multi-night event, an air mattress is a necessity. I thought I could go without an air-mattress on my first festival experience and was sorely mistaken. Each night that you spend sleeping on the ground leaves you more sore. If you don’t own an air-mattress, I highly advise investing in one; it will make every bit of your experience that much more enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be the highest quality air-mattress; it just shouldn’t require electricity to inflate.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your tent’s rain covers. Even if the forecast predicts clear skies, you still need to bring your rain covers. According to Daven Hiskey at todayifoundout.com, “air holds a certain amount of water vapor in it. How much water it can hold depends on the current ambient temperature. The higher the temperature, the more water vapor air can hold”. This is bad news for Florida festival goers because Florida is hot at the start of festival season and becomes more so as the season progresses. According to Hinskey “the temperature along the surfaces of these objects can eventually cool past the ‘dew point’ and once this happens, water from the air will condense on the objects, forming droplets” and these droplets will form all over your tent.
In other words, if you don’t bring your rain covers, your tent will get soaked inside. Dew droplets will form on the top of your tent and proceed to drop right inside while you’re making the long trek back from the festival grounds. After a day of music and party, all you’ll want to do when you get back is collapse into your tent and pass out. Yet, this might not be so enjoyable if the bottom of your tent is soaked. However, even if you forget your rain covers, at least you’ll have your air-mattress to float around on inside your tent.
While your tent is important, it’s not the only piece of shelter you’ll want to have with you. Listening to music all day is tiring, especially if you’re as passionate about it as I am. That being said, you’ll want to make the journey from the festival grounds to the camp grounds at least once a day for a rest-sesh. You’ll be standing or dancing all day so it’s nice to be able to sit down in a comfortable spot and grab a bite to eat midday. Unfortunately, your tent will most likely be scorching hot during the day due to the heat trapped inside. Luckily, you read RARA’s Florida Music-Festival Survival Guide, so you knew to bring a canopy with you; cheers to you, my friend.
Canopies are a great way to get shade from the brutal Florida sun, while still being able to enjoy a nice breeze. If you have two or three tents worth of people going it’s a good idea to setup the tents facing towards one another with the canopy in the middle. Set-up some folding chairs around the edges and just like that, you’ve created a living room for you and your friends. It’s also a good idea to lay down a tarp underneath the canopy and in between the tents; this will prevent dirt and mud from getting into your tent.
While the canopy is great for relaxing, it’s even better for making friends.The campgrounds can be like a small city; and if the campgrounds are Party City, then you want your camp to be the mayor’s office. With the canopy/tarp living room setup you’ll undoubtedly have people stopping by to say hello. I’ve met significantly more people at the festivals I brought a canopy to, which is cool, but what’s cooler is what people are willing trade you for just a minute in the shade.
There’s not a lot of use for money at most festival campgrounds; and because of this, not a lot of people bring money with them. This lack of U.S. currency leads to something pretty awesome happening – people start to barter for everything. You can trade a good conversation and a seat in the shade for just about anything from cigarettes to food. Although, it’s not polite to ask anything in return for an open seat, a lot of people will be eager to repay you for your hospitality.
Remember, the amount of rest you are able to get determines the amount of party you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy. Make the most of your night so that you can make the most out of your day.
Every festival provides food vendors but you’ll want to avoid these if you’re on a budget. It’s not that the food is unappetizing, in fact a lot of times vendors will offer up mouthwatering meals. The catch is that these vendors prey on the unprepared festival goer. If you forget to bring food, you’ll have no choice but to buy food from them and they name their own price. Since all the vendors are likely run by the company putting on the festival, there’s no competition to drive the price down. Because of this unfortunate food monopoly, I have ended up paying as much as fifteen dollars for hamburger the size of a McDouble.
If you don’t have copious amounts of money to spend on food then you’re going to want to come prepared. Check with your festival’s website to find out if the campgrounds offer grills. Unfortunately, you won’t be grilling up any hamburgers or steaks. In the Florida heat, you’ll be lucky if the ice in your cooler lasts into the second afternoon of the festival. This means anything you bring in a cooler must be eaten within the first thirty-six hours or it will start to go bad. When you consider the distance you may have to walk from your car to your campsite, it just isn’t worth it to haul a cooler.
However, just because you can’t grill up steaks doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a hot meal. Canned foods like ravioli or soup can be heated up using the can as a cooking pot. All you’ll need is a canned food, a spoon, a knife, a lighter, coals and a potholder, and you’ve got yourself a hot meal. Open your can of soup using your knife and place it on the grill over the hot coals, wait a few minutes and take the hot can off the grill using the potholder when ready. BOOM! The lunch of champions has been made, and now it’s time to enjoy your meal in the comfort of your camp’s living room.
While hot meals are most desired during your festival experience, they’re not always practical. You’ll want to bring snacks with you when you leave your camp for the festival grounds. You’re going to be gone for hours at a time and it’s nice to be able to stop and snack at times. Trail mix and beef jerky are two examples of good snacks to bring. You want something that not only tastes good but will also fuel your body. Protein, carbs, and calories are vital to keep you head bangin’ through your favorite band’s set list.
With all this eating, you’re also going to be doing a good deal of drinking. Water is key to survival, especially when you’re constantly sweating from dancing so much. Water bottles are awesome but they are heavy and awkward to carry. A lot of people who bring water bottles end up abandoning them on the hike from the car lot to their camp site. Gallon jugs are a little bit easier to carry and are more eco-friendly. Make sure to bring a refillable water bottle or canteen. To avoid weighing down your luggage, make sure to fill up your canteen as often as possible from the free water fountains on site at the festival grounds. If you remember to drink a lot of water while in the festival, you’ll only need to bring about a half a gallon of water per person per day for the campgrounds.
It’s also a good idea to substitute some of your water for Gatorade or some other form of sports drink. Your body may not be used to so much abuse. According to Edward Kane with bodybio.com, “Body fluids are primarily water and electrolytes” and with all the sweating you’ll be doing during the day, you’re going to lose a lot of both of these. Kane says “Electrolytes turn on all thought and motion, almost like a wall switch. They trigger all events like muscle action by controlling ion channels”. So in laymen’s terms, you need to replace the electrolytes you sweat out in order to keep partying.
Finally, once you have all the drink you need to survive, you’ll want to pack the drink you need to party. Rules vary from festival to festival so remember to check your festival’s website for exact specifications; but most festivals permit one handle of alcohol or one case of beer per person. If food inside the festival grounds is expensive, then alcohol is priceless. You’ll want to drink at the camp before you head out to the festival grounds in order to avoid paying an arm and a leg for alcohol. I advise the handle over the case as the beer will be warm by the end of the first day. However, keep in mind that most campgrounds prohibit glass bottles, so you’ll want to find your favorite liquor in a plastic bottle.
Even if you don’t drink alcohol, it’s not a bad idea to bring some with you anyway. With all the bartering going on in festival campgrounds, everything has a value. In my festival experience, alcohol seems to be at the top of a lot of festival goers’ hierarchy of needs, giving it high value among barters.
The amount of clothing you’ll need depends on the number of days and nights you’ll be camping and festival going. It’s a good idea to bring two pairs of clothing per day; it’s usually a little bit cooler at night than it is during the day so it’s nice to be able to change clothes accordingly. More importantly, your clothes will be disgusting by midday and you’ll want to get out of them. If your sweat isn’t enough to make you want to change your clothes midday, perhaps the thousands of other sweaty people bumping into you will be enough to make you want to change, not to mention the dirt and dust constantly getting kicked up into the air.
It’s also important to have a plan B when it comes to clothing. It’s usually hot in Florida during festival season so it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s going to be hot during your festival. However, there’s nothing worse than being caught in the cold unprepared, so it’s usually a good idea to bring an emergency set of cold weather clothing. As with most things, better safe than sorry.
When it comes to shoes, there’s only one way to go – comfort. I get it, hiking shoes aren’t the coolest or maybe you want to wear your converse so you can get all your new friends to sign them, but none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that you can comfortably get around. You will walk more in a four day period at a festival than you will in two weeks’ time anywhere else. If walking from the car lot to the campsite, and then from the campsite to the festival grounds isn’t enough, once you’re in the festival grounds, stages can be over a mile apart in some cases. Don’t let your shoe choice stop you from making it to your favorite band’s set on time.
Finally, it’s very useful to bring a backpack with you. You’ll want to bring snacks with you from your camp to the festival grounds, and you’ll need a place to keep that drumstick you catch during the show. You don’t need a hiking pack or even a school backpack. I recommend a small drawstring bag; it’s light and simple with just enough room for the necessities.
In the end, it’s important to look cool at a festival, and you should always stay true to your own unique style, but you need to remember why we wear clothes. When a caveman first strapped some leaves to his foot and called it “ughuh” by which I’m sure he meant “shoe”, he did so because it helped him get around, not because it looked cool, which it did. Festivals and festival camping have a way of making us remember our most basic needs and clothing is no exception. Remember to bring the clothes you need, even if they’re not the clothes you want.
- Bring a decongestant or nasal spray. Festival snot is a thick, black mucus that forms as a results of inhaling the dirt and dust that gets kicked up into the air by the thousands of people shuffling around the festival grounds.
- Be cool, man! Remember that everyone is there to have a good time, same as you. You will undoubtedly run into loud, pushy, or generally annoying people, but don’t let it get to you. When you’re in the pit at a festival, moving ten feet can literally make all the difference in the world. Moving a short distance means surrounding yourself with an entirely new group of people, so if the people surrounding you are getting on your nerves, don’t sweat it!
- See what you came to see. Checkout the set times online and make sure none of your favorite artist’s set times overlap. If they do, make plans to leave one artist partway through their set in order to make it to the end of your other favorite artist’s set. Overall, it’s not a bad idea to plan out exactly who you want to see and when you want to see them each day. I have found that it’s hard to stick to the plan but it’s always helpful to have one.
- Lock it up. For the most part you’ll come across nothing but goodwill and good vibes at a festival, but there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Bring a padlock for your tent to prevent smugglers from raiding your camp. Just the sight of a lock will deter most thieves since there are so many tents without locks.
- R.I.P.! Prepare a eulogy because your phone will die. It doesn’t matter how sparsely you use it, it will die. I find it’s best to keep your phone turned off except for times that you really need it. If you’re like me and your phone is your only camera, it’s a good idea to only turn your phone on every now and then to take pictures.
- Dirty is a relative term. Festivals that offer showers at the campgrounds charge a lot for patrons to use them and as a result, most people just don’t shower. Stay ahead of the game by showering in the sink or at the hose; most campgrounds offer one of these two options, it’s where you’ll be brushing your teeth.
- See no evil, hear no evil, sleep better. It’s a good idea to bring ear plugs and eye-covers in order to get the best night’s sleep possible. The ear plugs are to block out the people that don’t sleep. I don’t know how it’s possible but some people party from the time they get back to the campgrounds at night till the time the sun comes up in the morning. That same sun comes up pretty early and if you want to sleep a minute past sunrise, eye-covers are clutch.
- Yearbook it! Bring a permanent marker and something to sign. You’re going to meet a lot of really cool people and it’s nice to be able to keep something to help you remember all the new friends you made.
I hope this survival guide has been useful to you. Festivals are exhausting and strenuous but most of all they are fun. Pack well and prepare for the time of your life, but above all else, rock on. If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this survival guide feel free to tweet me with any questions or concerns. Find me @JoeyFarese.
Hiskey, Daven. “What Causes Dew.” todayifoundout.com. Vacca Foeda Media, 21 6 2012. Web. 8 Feb 2014. .
Kane, Edward. “The E-Lyte Story: Why You Need Electrolytes!.” bodybio.com. Body Bio Inc., 7 5 2010. Web. 10 Feb 2014.