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Rachel’s Minimalist Camping Festival Packing List

This is the packing list I use for camping festivals while trying to pack light for carpooling or flying. It’s somewhat minimalist and leaves out extras, while still including all of the necessities, and some conveniences and comforts. It assumes you are at a regular camping festival with typical amenities such as water, food for purchase, and bathrooms.

 

I’ve never felt like I was missing anything I needed with this list, and I try to refine it after each festival to remove any unnecessary excess. You may need different supplies for certain specialty festivals, such as those with extreme weather or limited access to standard festival amenities. (For example. Burning Man has an entirely separate list). Read the festival website carefully to see if there are any special concerns or recommendations for that festival.

 

This should act as a starting point and of course should be catered to your own needs. I always recommend traveling light for ease of transportation, set up, and less risk to your personal belongings, however I’ve included certain items like tape and zip ties as “just in case” items that you can probably get by without. 

 

Remember that often there is no way to secure your things at a camping festival and thefts are not uncommon. It can be difficult to keep your things organized, clean, and dry. Do NOT bring anything you’d be upset to get stolen, lost, broken, or damaged. If you came back to your tent and it was gone, would you be upset? If so – don’t bring it.

 

Below you’ll find detailed information on:

 

Packed up for a typical festival camping trip (Shambhala). All of this can go in carry on.
Packed up for a typical festival camping trip (Shambhala). All of this can go in carry on.

 

MOST IMPORTANTLY:

 

  • Tickets
  • Cash (don’t count on ATMs)
  • ID (passport if international)
  • Credit Card or emergency money
  • Photocopies of your ID
  • Confirmation emails for tickets and travel
  • Directions, Addresses, Phone Numbers. (Write them down. On Paper. Not just your phone.)
  • Any other relevant paperwork such as medical or trip insurance, car ownership, etc.

 

Shelter and Sleep

 

  • Tent
    • Set this up at home, BEFORE YOU LEAVE  to ensure all the pieces are there, and nothing’s broken.
    • During the test run, spray your tent with waterproofer and let it dry completely before packing it back up.
    • A rectangular tent will have the most usable space for it’s size, and be easiest to set up. Don’t bother with “instant” tents. They’re too big and heavy (>20lb). If you’re really struggling to set up your tent, someone will help you.
    • A 4 person dome tent (8-10lb) is a good size for 2 people and bags, and will fit in a carry on with room to spare. A 2-3 person (5-6lb) is good for 1 person, depending on your height.
    • Don’t worry too much about quality, as long as it isn’t the cheapest thing on the shelf. A $50 Coleman tent got me through 4 seasons of festivals (including Burning Man).
  • Pegs
    • In most cases, the ones that came with the tent will work just fine.
    • In areas with extreme weather, consider heavy-duty rebar instead.
  • Tarp
    • Should be roughly the same size as the footprint of your tent. Put it under your tent with none sticking out to protect it from sharp rocks or sticks.
  • Sleeping bag
    • Spend some money on a decent sleeping bag to make sure you’ll be warm enough. Most festivals get cold at night.
  • Pillow
    • Consider an inflatable pillow like the Pillow X, or buy a cheap one on the way. You can also use folded clothes in a pillow case.
  • Air Mattress, Sleeping Pad (Optional)
    • I recommend an inflatable sleeping pad over a mattress. They’re smaller, lighter and sturdier. I use the Kylmit Static V, which is comfortable, affordable, extremely light, and folds up to the size of a can of soda. MEC and Thermarest also make great alternatives.
    • A single air mattress is easy enough to blow up without a pump by taking a few breaths here and there while setting up. It’s bigger than a sleeping pad, but will still fit in a carry on along with your tent. I don’t bother with pumps. 
    • Don’t be afraid to ditch the mattress if you have to ditch something. They take up a lot of room and weight unless you spend the money on something light; if you’re good and exhausted when you get back to camp, you won’t even notice it’s missing.
  • Extra Blanket
    • Can go under you for comfort, over you for warmth, or over your tent for shade. I just use a small cheap throw.
  • Seating
    • Standard camp chairs are available everywhere for about $10.  I’ve had no problem strapping mine to my bag and bringing it on board the plane. YMMV.
    • Recently, I found CompacLite chairs on clearance at Walmart for $10. They fold up to 4 x 4 x 12 inches and can fit in the bottom of a backpack, but assemble to the size of a normal chair – they’re extremely comfortable, though not the greatest quality. There are higher quality, lighter, smaller versions like the Helinox if you’ve got the cash to spend.
    • Inflatable hammocks like WindPouch may be a good alternative.
  • Light
    • I bring two:
      • A small, bright, waterproof flashlight on a carabiner – for navigating trails and campsite in the dark, trips to the bathroom, etc.
      • A headlamp or lantern for your tent. Mine is built into my fan.
    • Your group should also have a light for your communal area.
  • Shade
    • I use a reflective blanket designed to provide shade, held right on my tent with binder clips. Spend $5 to get one that won’t rip or crinkle. In my experience, this in combination with a tent fan has been enough to let me sleep through the day at even the hottest festivals. It’s roughly as effective as a canopy.
    • When in need, a blanket, scarf, towel, or anything to block the sun over your tent will make an immediately and noticeable difference in temperature. You can also just escape and sleep elsewhere if your tent gets too hot!
  • Tent Fan (Optional)
    • For hot festivals, I will pack my fan above almost anything else. Most include a light so you can ditch the lantern.

 

Personal Campsite Items

 

  • Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes
    • These will replace showers and sinks for you for the next 5 days so bring lots.
  • Toilet Paper
    • They will run out. Put some in your day pack.
  • Small Towel (Optional)
    • I almost never use this, unless I’m showering in cold weather.
  • Ziplock Bags
    • Great for keeping things organized and clean.
  • Garbage Bags

 

Other Misc Items

 

  • A test kit (I can’t personally recommend flying with this, but you may choose to)
  • Rain poncho
  • Safety pins, duct tape, carabiners, zip ties (Optional)
    • A great idea to have, but something you’ll probably make do without.
  • Camelbak (Optional)
  • Sharp Knife and/or Scissors
    • If you’re flying, don’t put this in your carry-on luggage.
  • Watch
  • Notepad and pen
  • Foam earplugs
    • The campsite will never be quiet, so you’ll want them for sleep.
  • Good quality earplugs (Earpeace, Downbeats, Dubs, Faders, etc)
    • Some stages can be very loud. It’s better to have a pair of earplugs and not need them than to need them and not have them.
  • Phone charger
  • Extra batteries for your devices (lights, fan, pump, etc)
  • Lighter
  • Hula Hoops, Poi, or other flow toys you want. Again, I’ve had no problem walking on the plane with my hula hoop.
  • Tealight candle (Optional)
    • For use on stuck zippers (tent, boots, bags)
  • Extra Shoelace (Optional)
  • Small luggage lock (Optional)
    • Lock your tent for peace of mind that some drunk person won’t stumble in – but don’t trust it to protect your things.
    • Combo lock is easier – no keys to lose.  
  • Screwdriver or multi-tool (Optional)
  • Hot Hands (Optional)

Loaded up and ready to go. Hoops and pickles are necessities.
Loaded up and ready to go. Hoops and pickles are necessities.

Food/Snacks

It’s up to you how much you want to bring. I bring plenty of snacks (preferably ones that don’t need to be kept cold) and buy about one meal a day, depending on the festival. I don’t bring cooking gear – I’ve accepted that I just won’t use it, and it’s a waste.

Click here to view my list of no-cook no-prep campsite food suggestions

  • Set of reusable cutlery
  • Reusable cup
  • Reusable plastic plate or bowl
  • Water container for campsite
    • Almost every festival provides free water (check first). Filling a container there means you don’t need to carry it with your gear.
  • Mio, electrolyte mix, juice powder
    • Some places don’t have the best tasting water, and electrolytes will replenish your salts. Bonus points if it mixes well with alcohol.
  • Gum
  • Cooler (if buying perishables – why not pack your gear in one?) (Optional)
  • Insulated bag for food storage (Optional)
  • Caffeine
    • If you usually have caffeine, make sure you have a way to get it. Caffeine pills are the easiest. Withdrawal is no joke – going cold turkey will make you feel like absolute garbage, and the lines to get coffee in the morning are often lengthy.
  • Bring what you’ll actually eat – things like bagels, sandwiches with bread, or granola bars are all classic camping foods, but I find I never want them. I always want chips, fruit, and cheese. Health food is great and all, but there’s no sense bringing it if you aren’t actually going to eat it. 
  • Pack a few snacks in your bag if you have room. Just in case.
  • If you’re planning to cook – frying pan or pot, tin foil, tongs, and dish cloth. Remember to have a way to clean up. I never bother with this – let’s be real, I’m far too lazy.

 

Toiletries

Your needs will vary. Anything more than basic first aid supplies can be obtained at the med tent and most festivals have a well-stocked general store.

 

  • Medications – Most festivals require it be in the original bottle and match your ID. Don’t bring too much – a month supply of adderall may get confiscated if you’re at a 3 day festival.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
    • DO NOT SPRAY BUG SPRAY ON YOUR TENT. It will not keep bugs out and it ruins your tent’s ability to repel water. 
  • Standard toiletries: Shampoo, conditioner, soap, (or all in one), deodorant, lotion, q-tips etc.
    • Many people prefer dry shampoo for short trips.
    • Some small festivals don’t have showers, or you may choose to forego showering for baby wipes. If so, you can leave shower things at home.
    • If you are planning on showering at the festival showers, make sure you have a bag to hold your stuff. You don’t want to have to put your toothbrush on the shower floor.
  • Solar Shower (Optional)
    • Cheaper than festival showers, and without a long line.
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair Elastics
  • Glasses, contacts (and extras), and contact solution
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, floss
  • Razor
  • Lip balm with SPF
    • Even if you don’t usually use it – being outside so much can dry out your lips.
  • Hair products
    • Remember that you may not always get a shower to wash it out, so go minimal. Girls – it’s very rare for festivals to have a place to plug in a curling iron or hair dryer. Leave them at home.
  • Eye Drops/Visine
  • Nail clippers or file
  • Tampons, even if you don’t think you’ll need them, ladies.
  • Condoms
  • Makeup – make sure you have a way to get it off your face, too
  • General OTC medicine such as advil, aleve, allergy pills, tums, pepto, and imodium
  • Basic first aid such as gauze, tape (also great for blisters), bandaids, and polysporin (go to the medical tent if you need more first aid supplies or to clean up any wounds)
  • Vicks, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil
    • Will help with breathing if you’re stuffy, and great to put in your bandana if you’re around smelly people or portapotties
  • Note: Avoid heavily perfumed as they can attract bugs

 

Clothing

Your needs may vary, check the weather before you leave, and bring clothing for warm, cold, and rain. Don’t bring too much “extra” – even packing light, you’ll likely bring too much. Opt for clothing that is comfortable and functional; especially pieces that can be layered. If you’re planning to rewear the same two shirts all week, opt for neutral colors. Also consider that the terrain may be grassy or muddy, so long pants or skirts that drag are not always ideal. 

 

  • Bandanas or scarves
    • Something over your face will be invaluable if the festival gets dusty, as many do. Can also be used to wipe your hands, provide sun protection, etc.
    • You may wish to bring an actual dust mask for some overly dusty venues.
  • Socks and Underwear
    • Bring extras of these. Changing your socks a couple times a day is nice.
  • Bras/Sports bras
  • Bathing suit
    • You may wish to shower in this. Not every campsite shower offers good privacy.
  • Shorts or skirts
  • Long pants
    • Bring pants that can be layered on cold nights. Tights are a great option and can be worn as pants, or as a layer under something else.
  • Shirts
    • Bring a variety. I usually live in crop tops or bikini tops, and add a sweater later in the evening. I’ve learned that I rarely wear regular shirts, so I leave them at home.
  • Sweaters
    • and/or long sleeve or other insulating layer. Something thin but warm is ideal, so you can carry it with you into the festival before you need it.
  • A jacket – yes, it might get THAT cold
  • Shoes
    • You’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Bring comfortable shoes. Hiking boots that can withstand mud as your main shoes are ideal.
    • I always bring two pairs, even if one is cheap throwaway. It’s nice to switch it up, especially if you end up with wet shoes.
  • Flip Flops or sandals
    • Wear these in the shower. Trust me. Just do it.
  • A clean outfit for the ride home
    • Leave it in the car.
  • Pajamas (or not…)
  • String backpack, fanny pack, camelbak, or utility belt to carry your things.
  • Sunglasses
    • At extremely dusty venues, you may want to opt for goggles to keep the dust out of your eyes.
  • Costumes
    • Remember to keep them comfortable. If they’re uncomfortable or annoying, you probably won’t want to wear them.

 

Want Rachel to preview/review your event? Got an idea for a great guide? Please forward all media inquiries to racheldoesfestivals@gmail.com!