Packing for a camping festival is a daunting task. There's a lot more to remember than just cute festival outfits (although cute festival clothes are definitely part of the fun)! Tom and I have been attending festivals for nearly a decade, so here's our roundup of the festival gear we can't live without!
Festival Camping Gear
The first and most important item you will need is a good festival tent. But what makes a good festival tent?
The best festival tents are comfortable and durable. Larger tents with more headroom, more ventilation options, and multiple doors tend to be more comfortable. Tents with a streamlined, dome-like shape (NOT tents shaped like a cabin or box!) tend to be more durable, and hold up better for multiple events.
The exception to these rules is if you are specifically looking for a tent for Burning Man. In that case you want the least amount of mesh/ventilation possible (because dust comes through any open spaces), and you want serious durability. Basically, for Burning Man, comfort is less important than survival. (Heading to Burning Man for the first time? Read our Guide to Burning Man Prep. Considering a trip to Burning Man but you aren't sure? Read our post: Should I go to Burning Man?)
In my opinion the best tent for festival camping is our Marmot Limelight 3 man tent. It can be set up or taken down by one person in less than 5 minutes, it is designed to have added headroom which makes it feel a lot bigger inside, and it has TONS of ventilation and entry options. We take this tent to every festival except Burning Man. There is far too much ventilation for this tent to work at Burning Man.
For Burning Man, I am a huge fan of the Wenzel Alpine 3 man dome tent. I used this multiple years in a row on the playa because it has very little mesh, and its shape holds up beautifully to windstorms. Also, as far as cheap festival tents go, this one is very well made. Mine lasted years before it got a tear in the side. One thing to note: this tent is on the small side, no way could it hold 3 adults! But for one person it is jussssst right!
Sleeping pads and bags
The next item on your festival camping gear list is your bedding! I cannot stress how important it is to have a comfortable sleeping mattress and sleeping bag for a festival. Camping at a festival is not the same as a weekend camping trip into nature. Festivals are crowded, noisy, chaotic, and generally you will be pushing your body much farther than you normally do. A good night's (or day's) sleep can make or break your festival experience!
Many festivals will allow you to drive in and drop off your gear, OR will allow you to car camp. This is a HUGE perk, because it means you don't have to worry about bringing a lightweight sleeping pad. Instead you can roll in with one of these amazing foam sleeping mattresses. Tom and I recently purchased two of these specifically for festivals, and we will never go back! These mattresses feel like you are sleeping on a regular bed. Pro tip: Bring your favorite pillow from home! A comfy pillow is an absolute festival camping essential.
As far as sleeping bags, there are a wide variety of options that will work just fine. My recommendation for the most comfort would be to find a sleeping bag that does not taper (so no mummy bags), and that is made from a synthetic material. I personally love my North Face Dolomite sleeping bag. It is rated to 40 degrees fahrenheit, and thanks to the synthetic material it keeps me warm when it's cold, and cool when it's hot!
Festival Camping Chairs
Choosing the best festival camping chairs is a lot like choosing the right tent, you want something comfortable and durable. There are LOTS of good options out there, but Tom and I have one ultimate favorite festival camping chair (and we only have one so we fight over who gets to use it haha). It's called a zero gravity chair, and it is magical at festivals because you can recline in it far enough to take a nap if you want to. Basically, this chair puts all other festival camping chairs to shame and we clearly need to buy a second one...
When you stumble back to your tent in the wee hours of the night you are going to want a light! We absolutely love our inflatable solar Luci Light, which you can now get in a multi-color option that is perfect for a festival!
Unless you want to spend a small fortune on food I recommend bringing a basic camp kitchen setup to all festivals (and if you are going to Burning Man you will have to provide all of your own food anyway)! It doesn't need to be super fancy, just a basic one or two burner gas stove, a small pot, a spatula, and a skillet. We like this Coleman 2-burner camp stove because we can heat water for coffee AND cook pancakes simultaneously!
Also, don't forget a water bottle, a cup for non-water beverages, a plate, a bowl, a spoon, and a fork to complete your kitchen setup!
A cooler is one of the most important pieces of festival camping equipment you will purchase, so don't go super cheap on this one. Festival coolers are a little bit like Goldilocks- you don't want one that's too small or too big, you want one that is jusssst right for your needs. So ask yourself a few questions before you look at coolers: How many people will be using this as their primary cooler? How many cans of cold beverages will I want available to me? How much perishable food do I want to eat at this festival?
Tom and I have found that for the two of us this Coleman Xtreme 70 quart cooler is perfect for festivals 4 days long or more. If we are going to a shorter weekend festival we go with a 52 quart option instead (yes, we do own one of each). If you go to lots of festivals of different lengths it may be worth investing in two different cooler sizes. If you don't fill a cooler up it will not hold it's ice nearly as long, so a cooler that is too large can be a real annoyance.
How to choose the right festival clothing for you
Choosing clothes for festivals is extremely personal, but there are a few things to keep in mind when you choose your festival apparel:
- The best festival outfits are versatile! Whether they can be layered, or are made of a material that will keep you comfortable in cool or warm weather, try to keep versatility in mind when you choose your festival apparel.
- When you are considering what to wear to a festival take a moment to ask yourself if this outfit is functional. It may be beautiful, sexy, or funky, but if it doesn't work in the physical environment of the festival you are going to you won't end up wearing it much.
- Do you feel good in it? The beauty of festival culture is that you can experiment with expressing yourself in a way that regular society deems inappropriate or strange. So rather than trying to mimic "festival style", choose festival accessories and clothes that you feel good wearing!! If you feel good people will notice, and that will make your outfit extra fabulous!
My personal favorite festival outfit is this super funky silver jumpsuit. I wear it at least once at nearly every festival I attend because it's made of a soft material that feels great on. I usually add a bunch of LED accessories and face paint, and I feel pretty awesome sporting this funky festival bodysuit!
My next favorite festival accessory is my panda hat. This is the ultimate in functional and fun festival gear because it keeps me super warm, and is totally adorable (there are other cute creatures available too!).
Festivals usually go 24 hours a day, which means you will likely pull some all-nighters! To make the most of the evening festivities be sure to bring some personal lighting!
First, have a head lamp. Seriously. Porta potties are not to be navigated at night without a head lamp. Flashlights tend to fall in the potties, trust me, have a head lamp, you will thank me later. Tom and I are both happy with our Petzl brand headlamps, which we've used for years now.
LED blinkies and accessories are a TON of fun at festivals, and I cannot recommend them highly enough! I bought Tom one of these LED ties a few years ago, and it is still one of his favorite festival accessories. I also love these 3d LED necklaces, they look crazy in the dark!
Now that you've had a look at the festival gear we can't live without you can grab your own essential festival gear and start packing!
Want to know more about our festival experiences? Read about my crazy first trip to Burning Man (I went alone!), our volunteer experience at the Oregon Country Fair, or that time I danced all weekend at Northern Nights Music Festival!
If you'd like to browse more of our recommended gear click here!
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Do you have questions about festival gear? Any items you love to take to festivals that we didn't mention? Leave us a comment!