The Ultimate Festival Car Camping Checklist

festival camping checklist

You’re heading out to your favorite summer music festival and your hatchback is packed to the max. You have everything you could possibly need for festival camping — until you arrive, and you realize you forgot the cooler. And the can opener. And it’s raining. And plastic ponchos are $11 at the camp store. Son of a…

Here’s a better idea: Print this festival checklist so you have everything you need stashed in your car.

Just don’t be the jerk who abandons all your camping gear at the festival. “Music festivals are environmental disasters when it comes to the amount of trash generated,” Treehugger reports, and that’s mainly because people leave their tents and trash behind. Pack it in, pack it out. Here’s what should be on your festival checklist.

Festival checklist: Stuff to make your campsite homey

  • Spacious tent: Instead of a compact backpacker’s tent, go for something larger that can serve as a hangout space in case of rain.
  • Rain fly and tarp to underlay your tent: There’s nothing quite as dismaying as water slowly soaking your sleeping bag.
  • Stakes or sandbags: Because if the wind gets strong, your tent could fly away.
  • Tent lock: There are bad people even at the most laid-back festivals.
  • Sleeping bag that’s rated for the expected temperatures.
  • Extra blankets
  • Air mattress: If you don’t have any padding between you and the ground, you’ll get a bad night’s sleep. And if you don’t sleep, you won’t have the energy to dance all day. Here are five of the best camping pads.
  • Battery-powered fan: White noise + cool breeze.
  • Weather-resistant Bluetooth speakers for ambient music
  • Canopy or rope/tarp setup for shade
  • Outdoor rug: Take a tip from pro RVers, who roll out the rug as soon as they set up camp.
  • Folding camp chairs
  • Folding table
  • Cooler with ice
  • Healthy snacks and easy-to-cook food
  • what to bring to music festivalCamp stove: Check the festival guidelines first, but most permit a small propane stove. Don’t forget matches if the ignitor fails.
  • Collapsible container for toting water
  • Pots and pans
  • French press or other portable coffee maker
  • Reusable dishes and flatware
  • Plastic bin for washing dishes
  • Biodegradable dish soap and sponge
  • Dish towels
  • Clothesline with clothespins
  • Trash bags: Don’t rely on festival-provided containers.
  • Flashlight and/or headlamp
  • Electric lantern
  • Battery-operated LED lights: Make your campsite festive and easy to find.
  • Portable shower: While many festivals offer showers for a fee, you can bring your own. And you might make some new friends!

Festival car camping checklist: Stuff to keep you clean and comfortable

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baby wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Bandanna
  • Quick-drying clothing
  • Windbreaker
  • Hat and gloves: Even at summer festivals, temperatures can crash hard at night
  • Tough shoes and boots: Think water shoes/sandals for day and closed-toe shoes for night, plus a pair of wellies in case of rain
  • Sunscreen and aloemusic festival packing list
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra eyeglasses/contacts
  • Bug spray
  • High-quality earplugs for day and night
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Shower shoes: A foot fungus is not a great festival souvenir.
  • Prescription meds WITH your prescription: Festival security may not let you bring in crucial medications if you don’t have the paperwork.

Festival car camping checklist: Emergency supplies

Disaster struck the huge TomorrowWorld EDM festival in September 2015, when three days of rainfall and an unexpected shuttle shutdown forced thousands of attendees to march along muddy roads and even sleep in the mud and wet grass. It was a miserable festival experience, to say the least. The lesson of the TomorrowWorld disaster was this: You can’t rely on festival organizers to bail you out if a catastrophe strikes. Instead, plan for the worst and make sure you’ve got emergency supplies listed on your festival checklist.

  • First aid kit: You need more than a handful of Band-Aids. Your car should always have a well-stocked first aid kit with bandages, tape, scissors, tweezers, pain relievers, latex gloves, antibiotic ointment, a thermometer, etc.
  • Waterproof bag for electronics.
  • A compact external battery to recharge your phone
  • Jumper cables: Even if you don’t need them, someone else will.
  • Extra car key: Imagine searching for your lost key in a sea of mud and trash.
  • Cash: Don’t count on cards working. It’s smart to have cash as a backup, even at a cashless festival like Backwoods.

Stuff you definitely shouldn’t bring

Every festival has its own rules, with varying degrees of enforcement. In general, anything that’s loud or likely to start a fire (like fireworks or candle lanterns) is forbidden, along with weapons, drugs, pets and glass.

While Electric Forest in Michigan encourages people to bring personal totems (decorated sticks), it forbids Native American headdresses and clothing with threatening messages. Lightning in a Bottle asks everyone to avoid bringing single-use plastic bottles. Shambhala is totally alcohol-free.

Wherever you end up festival camping this summer, be safe and have the time of your life.

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