Bonnaroo is approaching! This year I’m lucky enough to be attending the massive gathering that attracts over 70,000 people from all over the nation for four days (and nights) of music, film and art. If it’s your first time visiting the farm, There’s a tendency to become overwhelmed with excitement and nerves. One of my biggest worries can be what to bring! If you don’t bring enough water, and the proper clothing, your whole experience could be massive amounts of inner-thigh chaffing followed by a sun stroke. To prevent this, I’ve been hunting all over the internet, interviewing past attendees and asking friends for the answers on just the right mix of things to lug along. So here’s my best summary of what to bring with you for a great Roo experience.
You’ll be camping. Either way you look at it, whether it’s in a camper or in a classic tent setting, you’ll be roughing it. The weather on the 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee is in constant flux between two states: torrential rain or merciless sun. You’re gonna want some where to call home, and a place to escape the elements. Make sure you have a reliable tent w/ a rain fly firmly attached for those moments of downpour. And in the morning, around 8 a.m., when it’s already 80 degrees, your tent turns into a sauna; escape is mandatory. So bring a shade tent as well. Something that’s open and has a layer between you and the sun. It’s the place you’ll sit in the morning waiting for the shows to begin, and the place you’ll be eating and preparing your meals. The Sun is your enemy. Shelter is your friend. Also, tarps are great. One under your tent, and one over.
– Rain Fly
– Tarps (at least 2)
– Shade Tent
Bringing bedding assumes you’ll be sleeping. And with some shows that last until 2 or 3 a.m. and your campsite neighbors waking up at 7 for yoga and blasting music, you will be lucky to get your daily recommended 6 hours. In general, Bonnaroo is a four day marathon of lucidity. By day two you just won’t care what time it is. There are concerts to catch. BUT, if you’re someone who needs his or her precious rest, and don’t plan on pushing yourself too hard, you’d be best served by bringing three things: a G.I. Pad, an air mattress and sheets.
Sleeping bags are just too hot for the nights and mornings. You’ll be waking up early in the morning in a pool of sweat if you wrap yourself up in one. G.I. pads are those thin layers of foam that typically go between the ground and the layer you actually sleep on. It’s good to take the edge off the pesky rocks that hunt for your spine late at night. Air mattresses are a godsend to get you up off the ground onto some semblance of a sleep-able bed. They may seem like a heavy burden now, but when you get there, and all you want to do is collapse…an air mattress is an angel. Sheets are pretty much all you’ll need for a blanket. Anything else is a death trap.
Oh and keep everything away from the inside edges of your tent. The condensation in the morning will soak anything touching it. Many pee and drool jokes will occur.
– G.I. Pad
– Air Mattress (automatically inflatable or with a pump)
– Bed Sheets
– Pillow (or balled up T-shirts)
– Ear Plugs (not bedding, but necessary for sleep in a campsite of 70k+)
Ah, decency. To want to be clothed is a natural thing to desire, but in this case…it’s a luxury. The unwritten rule of Bonnaroo is anything goes. You’ll find most folks wear little to nothing throughout the span, and lesser as time goes on. The typical uniform is: Tank-Top – Shorts – Shoes, with some undergarment thrown in to secure the danglies. And don’t bring anything you love. Your clothes will get dirty and muddy and salty with sweat. They will become rags. It is inevitable.
A shirt is a shirt. No long-sleeves. No hoodies. Tank-tops are recommended because of the air flow it gives you, not because it lets you show off your svelte arms. Remember, anything not covered by clothing is susceptible to sunburn.
Shorts, shorts with pockets. Shorts with pockets that button, zip or tie. You’ll want some place to stash your money and other valuables. Cargo shorts are a good idea for this.
Shoes might be the most important thing you bring. If your feet start to go down-hill, your whole weekend could be in jeopardy. The shoes must be vented, breathable things. Or you’ll find your feet on fire with heat and sweat rash at the end of day 1. Even a kind of sandal that ties or secures is ok, just NO FLIP-FLOPS. They will disintegrate before your eyes, and your feet will ache like the dickens. Sneakers are cool, just wear those wicking socks. Some folks recommend you bring goloshes or boots for when the rains come, and the fields turn into tar pits. I say a junky pair of sneakers could work just as well. Just tie them securely, or they’ll get sucked right off. Feet are precious things. They will carry you to the bathroom, they’ll bring you to the wonderful music, but if you don’t treat them right, you’ll be going nowhere.
– Shirts/Tanktops (6 trashable)
– Shorts (3 pairs)
– Shoes (Junky sneakers or securable sandals – Rain boots if you’re inclined)
– Bandanna/Big Ass Hat (remember, the sun is your enemy)
–Sunglasses. Junky, effective ones.
– Bathing Suit(s) You’ll be begging to get wet at some point in your day. Mostly all of it. So wearing something made for water is a great way to cool off, and dry off quick.
For the most part, you’ll want to bring your own food. If you don’t, you might find yourself looking for dinner 10 minutes away from a show you’re dying to see. When that happens, you’ll discover just how expensive Festival food can be. The cheapest meal in the Roo grounds is a $5 slice of pizza, and it can go all the way up to $20 for the more extravagant choices. Towards the tents, folks will be selling goodies everywhere. Though it’s frowned upon by Festival staff, you’ll always have some sort of entrepreneur two campsites away, selling Bloody Marys, Grilled Cheese or Breakfast Burritos for five bucks. And when it’s convenient, it’s very tempting. That’s why it’s best to bring easy to prepare, easy to carry things you can munch on between the concerts you’re dying to see. It sounds like something your mother would say, but replenishing those vitamins and minerals each day is essential to a happy you.
– Fruit. If it comes in its own wrapper, it’s good. Apples, Oranges, Bananas. These are great snacks on the go.
– Sandwiches. Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cheese, Meat – slap it between two pieces of bread and it’s a nice quick meal.
– Granola. Bars, trail mix or oatmeal squares – They fill you up and they’re nutritious.
– WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER. For every alcoholic beverage you consume, you’ll want to drink two equivalents of water. One to negate the dehydrating effects booze can have, and one to keep up your body’s need. Many, many attendee’s festival experiences have been ruined by suddenly waking up in the First-Aid tent and being told you collapsed of dehydration. You’ll be kept for hours of observation and rehydration. It’s a pain. SO! Drink LOTS OF WATER. You could bring a barrel of your own water, or you can bring two big jugs to refill. The water sheds are located everywhere around the campsites. It’s never much a walk.
– Ice. It won’t last long, and it’s fairly expensive there. But it suuuuuure is nice to have for just a little while.
– Booze in plastic bottles. If you do bring alcohol, it MUST be in a plastic/metal container or it won’t even make it onto the farm. Glass of ANY kind is not allowed.
– Cooler to bring it all in.
Odds are you’ll forget some sort of item you’ll want for your sanitary comfort. It always happens I know I’ll probably forget to mention one even after I write this. But the difference between a GRRRRRRREAT day, and a terrrrrrrible one, could be remembering to bring toilet paper. There are some items you JUST WANT to have with you. Any civilized person would.
– Showers will be optional. At least for most. They cost a whopping $7 if you want a proper one, and the annual Mushroom Fountain doesn’t pump in fresh water. So by day 2 it will be completely funkified. Rinse-less shampoo and body wash, along with sanitary wipes can be a very nice substitute. You won’t feel fresh as a daisy by any means, but feeling semi-clean is fantastic compared to feeling broke and completely awkward. Plus, your mock showers can be done right at your campsite without any towel or indecency involved.
– Forget shaving. Girls I’m talking to you too. People really won’t care if you’re a little prickly. Though, if you plan on wearing a bikini……nuff said.
– Brushing your teeth is necessary. Do it. You’ll be standing next to/behind hundreds of people singing and shouting things. Don’t hiss swamp breath all over people.
– Deodorant (won’t do much, but it’s a start)
– Sun block. Holy hell bring sun block. SPF 2000 if you can find it. Remember, sun block doesn’t keep you from getting a tan. It’ll happen, I promise. It keeps you from getting baked like a stuck pig. Sunburn can RUIN a great day anytime. Don’t let it happen. Bring sweat proof/waterproof sun block, and use it often. Sun is your enemy blah blah blah.
– Bug Spray. I’ve been told the hippie stank that will develop over time actually keeps the bugs away. I’m not so sure that’s reliable, but everyone I’ve talked to seems to believe bug spray is just not necessary.
– Toilet Paper. Sure there’s some at the Porta Potties, but there’s always some jokester that pees on the whole supply just for yucks. Bring your own supply. Three rolls oughta do. It will be your friend, and your tissue.
– First Aid Kit. Band-Aids and Mole Skin. Things to douse those raging blisters.
– Antacids can be the cure-all for a bad diet. Too many helpings of that vegan chili can wreck a man.
– Hand Sanitizer. Can I mention that without sounding like a nancy? It’s good to have germ-free hands once in a while.
– Trash bags. Because…Mother Nature loves you.
And here’s where everything else falls. You’ll be tempted, just like I am now, to bring EVERYTHING you THINK you might need. Because once you get there, you can’t go back right? Wrong! Well…right in a way, but mostly wrong! It works the other way around too. If you bring too much extra stuff, you’ll just have that much more to carry around, pack up, get stolen or lose. It is true that once you enter the farm, it is damn near impossible to get back out. Most Bonnaroo staff that catch you trying to sneak back onto the grounds after a shopping run will turn you away. You’ll be outta luck. SO. Bringing just the right amount of surplus goods is a veritable master skill. Once you discover the secret, you’ll be set for anything life throws at you.
– Camp chairs. After standing, walking and laying all day, you’ll want something to rest your keester on. a nice chair (with arms) is faaaaantastic.
– Watch. You can’t rely on your cell phone for everything. Batteries are finite. A watch will make getting to that show on time a cinch.
– Fan. A battery operated fan in your tent/campsite is a GODSEND. When there’s no air circulation to be found anywhere, the whirling blades of paradise can make you many friends.
– Plastic baggies. If it rains, you’ll want to stick your camera/phone/camera phone into something so it won’t get drownded. Some goes with your cash and credit cards. You’ll be tempted to dump whole jugs of water over your head. Just remember to waterproof your valuables before you do.
– Camp Flag. When you are crawling back to your tent after a 3 a.m. Phish blow-out, you’ll be facing a very dark sea of foreign oddities. Even in broad daylight, a marker, or some sort of indicator to where your friends are is a great thing to have. Plus, you can decorate it and showcase your swell art skills if you’d like.
– Misting Bottle. Speaking of friends, if you want to make a bunch of them, bring a spray or misting bottle (same thing?) with you to your shows. You’ll find everyone around you won’t mind if you squirt them right in the face with water. In fact, people will be begging you for it. See that? That group of sad girls/guys over there? They could use some refreshment.
– Radio. WFTZ 101.5 Radio Bonnaroo is a fairly cool station to listen to on your off time. They preview artists, provide news on schedules and events, and they typically play pretty good music too!
– Camelback. These backpack/water jug hybrids are a great way to carry your water with you. A bottle or a jug can become a pain to keep track of, so why not combine the need to store your water convenience? Plus, most Camelbacks come with extra pockets and pouches. It’s not necessary, but it’s a nice thing to have.
– Flashlight. Um. Because. It gets dark. And you’re gonna have to pee.
– Pen and paper. For jotting down numbers, times, and set lists.
– Table. Your cooler could suffice, but having a table to set things on is very handy. If you want to play cards on those long mornings, or make a meal, a table will do it for you. But this is last on the list for a reason. They take up space, and they’re easily substituted by laps and car hoods.
There are other things we could mention, like a camera and your phone, but you’ll most likely remember those on your own. Leaving the extra junk from your wallet behind is good too. You won’t need everything in it: just cash, debit card if you must, ID and your medical insurance card will do while you’re inside the festival grounds. Oh, and a pre-planned list of the shows you want to catch is great too. There’s hundreds of performances all over the place. You’ll want to know where you should be at certain times to get that primo spot in the front row. It often requires waiting through the show that goes before the one you want to see.
That’s it! That’s everything I can think of! I’ll be sure to add more as folks and readers mention them, but if you pack smart and try your best not to kill yourself, you’ll be all set to have the best time you’ve ever had at a music festival called…BONNAROO!