(photo credit Keith Griner)
[This blog was originally penned by Camp Counselor Alex in 2021]
Whether it’s your 22nd Summer Camp or you’re very first camping festival, it’s time to consider what the heck to pack. I embarrassingly admit one year I forgot shorts (face palm). Lesson is: I don’t care how busy you are, please DO NOT wait until the final minutes to pack your damn bag. Plan ahead! ‘If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail,’ or so the jocks say. For the sport of Summer Camp, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
(photo credit Jay Miller)
Getting there is the first step. Ensure your vehicle is in good driving condition, obviously. Double-check that your car is insured and the plates are currently registered. Triple-check that all of your lights work (front, rear, brakes, blinkers, license plate). Obey all traffic laws to a T (ie: if the speed limit is 25 in Chillicothe, you drive exactly 25). PRO TIP: Pack the car low. For optimal driver safety, nothing should be above the windows for clear vision and an unobstructed view. This includes taking off anything hanging from the rear-view mirror. Everything should be cleared and low. Get gas well before getting into the Peoria area. Stop and fill up when you are 30-60 minutes away… that way come Monday morning you can also leave Chillicothe as swiftly as you arrive.
Camping and parking is separate. If you have the extra money, gaining entrance into the grounds is a much quicker process if you purchase VIP. Many SCamp vets arrive Wednesday night for a big sleepover in the line. Be aware that sometimes getting inside can take hours! Also be sure to double-check the prohibited items list; specifically, NO GLASS!!! Not just for alcohol; think of your kombucha, jelly, pickles, mason jars, etc..
(photo credit Austin Friedline)
This list is for the minimalist. Great for anybody coming in on a plane, or perhaps the Sunday Funday campers. The Essential List is great for the SCampers that don’t spend a significant time at their campsite because they’re out and about dancing to the fine fine music, engaging in the Soulshine Experience, and enjoying the tasty vendor foods, or who knows what else. Remember that many items can be acquired at the general store on-site if you can’t pack it in.
- TICKETS, VALID ID, CASH & CREDIT / DEBIT CARD. I once drove across state to a Phish show… without my tickets. Never again. Also emphasis that your ID should be valid (temporary or expired IDs could get denied).
- CELL PHONE & PORTABLE CHARGER. Although there are some outlets, they are sporadic and difficult to lock down and trust. High demand for the portable charging station(s) make it tough to rely on. PRO TIP: Ditch the phone and immerse yourself within the magic of the moment. Use your soul phone to connect with your friends. 😊
- TENT. Ensure the zippers work, you have all the poles and stakes, and a rain fly. Include your pillows and blankets. PRO TIP: Minimalists may consider swapping the tent for a hammock (with appropriate covers for bugs or rain).
- FLASHLIGHT / HEADLAMP. *Especially* if you camp in the woods. It ain’t easy getting around in the dark (or in a porta potty after sunset).
- ZIPLOCK BAGS. To keep your phone, wallet, and pocket festival guide dry in case it rains. Don’t rely on your jacket or backpack alone.
- REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE. Limit your plastic & stay hydrated, fam. Bonus points if your bottle is BPA free. But above all, STAY HYDRATED!
- PROTEIN BARS. Or any sort of small, easily packable food that’s filling and nutritious. I usually bring one or two 24 packs and share with my crew. If you’re camping light, you probably don’t have a cooler; dried fruits, nuts, protein bars, even bagels, can probably fit in a small bag and stay good throughout the weekend. PRO TIP: From a general health perspective, try to keep your festival routine as close as possible to your daily routine (consider what you eat, the time you eat, etc). This will allow your body the best chance to not only get through the weekend, but avoid the festival-hangover.
- VITAMINS. It’s 2021, there are plenty of supplements that can alleviate hangovers such as Emergen-C, the “Party Aid” beverages or “Afterdrink” pills. The common phrase “your body is a temple” doesn’t cut it; include your brain too!
- BABY POWDER, WET WIPES & HAND SANITIZER. Enough for 3-5 days (including the voyage home on Monday… unless you’re cool with driving home feeling dirty & sweaty. To each their own). They call the wet wipe bathing a “hippie shower” for those opting out of the long line and extra dough to use the on-site showers. PRO TIP: Free showers are included in VIP packages.
- TOILET PAPER. It’s hard to trust the porta potties will be adequately equipped at all times, especially come evening and late night. You’re welcome.
- SUN SCREEN / LOTION / SUNGLASSES / HAT. Getting a sun burn might not ruin your weekend, but, it probably wouldn’t make it much better (if it’s your first SCamp, the main stages don’t have much shade). PRO TIP: Bring an extra pair (or two) of sunglasses.
- HYGIENE / EYE CARE / HAIR PRODUCTS. Toothbrush, toothpaste, tongue scrapper, deodorant, soap, lotion, hair ties, glasses, contacts, contact solution, contraceptives, etc.. PRO TIP: Cut your finger and toenails before the weekend.
- CHANGE OF WARM CLOTHES. It could be blazing hot in the day, and cold AF after sunset. You know the drill. Socks, jeans, hoody, jacket, etc. As my grandma would tell me: ‘you can put on what you have, but you can’t put on what you don’t have’.
- CHANGE OF LIGHT CLOTHES. To wear when it’s hot (remember how I forgot shorts one year?) These days I’ve just been wearing a swimsuit…
- COMFY SHOES. I know it’s tempting to wook out and go barefoot all weekend, but unless you have Hulk feet, you’ll be treading and dancing across a variety of surfaces over the weekend, and sore feet don’t equal happy feet. Whatever you do, take care of your shoes!
- SPARE SOCKS. You know what they say about extra socks? … me neither. But bring them anyway.
- BANDANA. Or really alternative face-covering. If it’s not rainy at Summer Camp, it’s sunny. Sunny = dusty. With the heavy foot traffic across a plethora of woodchips, dirt, and who knows what else, you often end up walking through literal dust clouds to traverse between areas, and you’ll want to cover your mouth and nose to avoid breathing in dirt and obtaining black boogers. Seriously.
- EAR PLUGS / SLEEPING MASK. Especially if you camp in the woods, there’s activity happening around the clock; ear plugs and some extra darkness can make a big difference in your ability to Rest between the Rage and Repeat.
- WRISTWATCH. Many of us come to festivals as a way to unplug from the matrix… many of us also wanna catch your favorite band on time. Watches help. Either way; be here now.
- FANNY PACK. If you opt out of the backpack and don’t have pockets. Fanny pack is clutch to hold your schedule, flashlight, sunglasses, lighter, etc..
- BACKPACK. To store the aforementioned list (toilet paper!).
- DUFFLE BAG. For the extras. One arm is for your tent and the other is for your duffle.
- RAIN JACKET / PONCHO. It’s easier to stay dry than to dry what’s already wet.
- TOWEL. Not going to insert a cliché South Park joke. Nope. Not going to.
- PILLOW / SLEEPING BAG. To make your sleep as comfy as possible.
- FREE SMILES. 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
(photo credit Doug Fondriest)
This list is for the seasoned SCamper that takes a little bit of pride in being prepared. A list for those who probably spend a little more time at their campsite and want their campsite to feel more like home. After all, it is for the weekend. 🙂
- ALL OF THE ABOVE, PLUS…
- WAGON. What makes Summer Camp truly special is that camping and parking are SEPARATE. So once you’re in, YOU’RE IN. It’s a whole new world, a cosmic community where everyone is just fucking happy and you’re on vacation. Be prepared, because you don’t have the luxury of accessing your vehicle whenever you want. Therefore, the wagon is nearly ESSENTIAL if you have anything more than a backpack (which you probably do). It’s a long haul from the parking lot to wherever you end up camping, and you don’t need to drain extra energy lugging things around. Note: this doesn’t apply to those camping in the RV lots. PRO TIP: I’ve seen people use garbage bins and sleds in a pinch. The sturdier the wheels, the better..
- BUNGEE CORDS / ROPE. It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. These can come in handy loading up your vehicle, your wagon or for use hanging things at camp.
- MULTI-TOOL. Most regard this as a “Swiss Army”. This tool typically contains everything you would need to setup a basic camp.
- TARPS. Put one underneath your tent. This is a life saver if it rains; if it rains, this will keep the wet ground from making the bottom of your tent wet. Bonus points for laying down a second tarp inside your tent.
- GARBAGE BAGS, PAPER TOWELS. Like Bigfoot: leave no trace… PRO TIP: keep your feet dry with a garbage bag over your socks and in your shoes. It looks silly, but wet feet lead to itchy feet and there’s no recovery there. Also… a very large trash bag can also serve as a rain coat if you poke holes for your head & arms.
- LANTERN. For the campsite at night. Better for groups settings. PRO TIP: Your cellphone light, headlamp or flashlight placed underneath or next to a water bottle can serve as a Macgyver fashioned lantern.
- FIRST AID KIT. Basic safety. You can find them in wallet to shoe box sizes.
- BUG SPRAY. Scratching from skeeter bites is nobody’s idea of a good time. Shield yourself.
- FLAGS / TAPESTRIES. To mark your site and add some flair to your home for the weekend.
- COLLAPSABLE TABLE. For your campsite planking needs.
- LAWN CHAIRS. One general rule of music festivals is to bring your own chair! Don’t be the person sitting in someone’s chair when they get back to camp and need to relax. Some SCampers even enjoy taking their lawn chairs (and coolers) from stage to stage and hang out in the back for maximum viewing comfort.
- HAMMOCK. Weather permitting, I usually sleep in my hammock instead of the tent. Although the bigger stages may not be hammock-friendly, there’s some prime real estate if you’re savvy enough. PRO TIP: Add a bug net or rain fly if you can swing it.
- AIR MATTRESS / COT. Once you sleep on one, it’s hard to go back to the rough ground.
- COOLER. Sturdy wheels and handles are at a premium.
- WATER. Stay hydrated! I usually bring 2 5-gallon jugs to share with my campsite homies. Especially when it’s hot, drink water. PRO TIP: Get a pump for your 5-gallon. Or go all out and bring a sports sized water cooler for your camp with a daily bag of ice added to it.
- FOOD. You also hydrate with your food. Bring fresh fruits & veggies for the cooler. An extra bag of non-perishable snacks, such as nuts, seeds, and canned food, is also a plus as the weekend goes on.
- MIRROR. I like to write affirmations on mine. 🙂
- PASHMINAS / SCARVES. Is it a festival without one?
- BOOTS / SANDALS / EXTRA CLOTHES. Warm clothes, cool clothes, jacket, hoody, bathing suit.
- UMBRELLA. Dual purpose here; may protect you from rain or excessive sun.
- EXTRA BLANKETS / SHEETS. Could wear one for warmth at night or lay it down in the stage area to mark your territory.
- FLOW TOYS. Some of you are probably upset this isn’t on The Essentials list
- YOGA MAT. Even if you’re not a yogi, it could at least serve as a softer alternative to the ground.
- FOOTBALL / FRISBEE. “How much you wanna bet I can throw a football over those mountains?”
- PORTABLE SPEAKER. Not that there isn’t any shortage of music happening…
- LIGHTERS. Everyone has that one friend who walks away with a lighter. If you don’t know who that friend is, it’s you.
- CAMERA. Some moments are worth capturing.
- SPARE KEYS. Keep these separate from your first pair. If one set is in your backpack, the other stays in your tent.
- ACTS OF KINDNESS. Show love, spread love. Say hello to your neighbors. Offer to help whomever didn’t read this list and doesn’t have a wagon to carry their stuff. Assist with someone’s tent. Don’t fight over the rail… unless it’s for Billy F*cking Strings (I’m accepting bets on who he sits in with, find me on Venmo).
(photo credit Tony Vasquez)
The Extras are for the full-send camping experts. The glampers. The moms and dads, both literal parents and the festi parents for their crew. SCampers packing like this are often considering other people’s needs as well as their own. These are the things that you may find yourself not using at all depending on each person’s individual camping experience. You can survive without this list, but you’ll sure as hell have a lot more fun with some of these bonuses.
- ALL OF THE ABOVE, PLUS…
- CANOPY / SUN TENT. If you camp in the field, this can be a life saver for shade.
- EXTRA TARPS. To serve as a makeshift rainfly above your hammock, or to share with your friends. 🙂
- CAMPING TOOLS. Mallet, stakes, duct tape, zip ties, superglue, scissors, waterproofing spray, etc..
- INFLATABLE FURNITURE. Take off your coat and stay a while, don’t ya?
- POOL NOODLES. Protect tent lines, support puddling canopy tops, impromptu sword fighting… use your imagination.
- MOON MAT / CARPETS. Can be a nice alternative (or addition!) to the air mattress, plus this can be carried around to stage areas for a nice spot to lay down. 😊
- EXTRA CHAIRS / HAMMOCKS. Just remember to bring them back home with you.
- LED / SOLAR LIGHTS. Might as well make your campsite festive! Can also serve as a beacon to locate your campsite after dark.
- PORTABLE FAN. Can be really clutch in a hot tent.
- POWER STRIP / EXTENSION CORD. If you’re trying to do electrical stuff and need more power.
- HANGING SHOE RACK. Not just for shoes. In the woods it can be easy to hang on some branches.
- PROPANE GRILL / COOKWARE / CUTLERY / PLATES / CUPS. For the festy chef. Always remember to take out what you take in.
- BIODEGRADABLE DISH SOAP. Be kind to the woods if you’re cleaning your festy kitchen.
- FOOD TO COOK & SHARE. The food vendors are great! It’s part of the experience to find a vendor to support. However, eating out 2-3 times a day for 3-4 days adds up. PRO TIP: Precook burritos and wrap in tin foil. Should be able to eat cold; add a little hot sauce to “warm” it up and you’re good to go.
- ICE. Look over there! This is a tricky one as the weekend progresses. Budget your wallet to buy ice in the latter half of the festival from the places at the festival such as the main stage bars. PRO TIP: Bring frozen water bottles for extra ice. As it melts, drink!
- ELECTROLYTE DRINK. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. “It’s got what plants crave.“
- KOOZIES. Really easy to forget. Really nice to have.
- BUTTSCRATCHER. Maybe even two… probably don’t want to share yours.
- PORTABLE SHOWER. We found a way to clean the hippies. You can purchase these from most camping stores or you can create your own shower by cutting off a garden hose and then attaching that to one of the water spigots on-site.
- WATER BACKPACK. Papadosio approves.
- EXTRA SHOES / CLOTHES / BLANKETS / PILLOWS / TOWELS. Leave some of these in your car. In case of an unexpected rain, you will have dry gear ready to save your weekend.
- RAGE STICK / TOTEM. Controversial post (pun intended). If you bring this in the concert area, stay behind the soundboard, please, so that those behind you can see the stage.
- COSTUMES. Be fearless & play! Strut your stuff on the catwalk or in the pit.
- BIODEGRADABLE GLITTER / FACE PAINT / GEMS. I personally LOVE doing some face paint and gems. It’s time to play!
- INFLATABLE / STUFFED PETS. Everyone needs a mascot. If you listen close enough, they may even speak to you.
- LED TOYS. Everything from whips and hoops to the classic glow stick. Some people may argue this belongs on The Essentials.
- CARDS / GAMES / KITES / INSTRUMENTS. For the campsite or the back of the stage lots. I’ve seen people playing Magic the Gathering, poker, chess, checkers, etc.. Flying whales, lizards and phoenixes take to the sky. Musicians jam on the trolley and deep in the woods. Just have fun with it. 😛
- JOURNAL / SKETCHBOOK / ART SUPPLIES. For the artists and writers. There will be an abundance of inspiration here. 😊
- POWER INVERTER / ROAD SAFETY KIT / JUMPER CABLES. Just in case.
- GIFTS FOR STRANGERS. Clothespin messages, kandi, free hug coupons, etc.. You get what you give. Give love.
(graphic design by Robert K. Multimedia)
What’s the worst part about a music festival? When it ends, of course… BUT as Micky Hart advised when Fare Thee Well concluded, “Be Kind…“ thus ~ PLEASE CLEAN UP YOUR CAMP SITE. Sort your garbage from recycling and dispose of them properly. If you brought it in, take it when you leave (the Big Foot rule…)
AND THERE WE HAVE IT! The most comprehensive packing guide (and list) in the 20+ year history of Summer Camp! How did people even show up to the festival without this? I fall more on The Basics list here myself. I find comfort with a little assurance that I have everything needed, but also understand there could be more (such as The Extras). I’ve done festivals bringing just The Essentials, and that can certainly be a great route to take for the easy-going optimist who can roll with the ebbs and flows of a jam-packed festy weekend.
I know sometimes festivals can be stressful. Friends may be going through some drama, there may be conflicting set times, weather may not be as predicted, and who knows what else what, but that’s part of the adventure. Remember to breathe, maintain your heart center, and have fun 😊
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where before there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell.
What do you think? Any good tips? Did I miss anything?
Thanks for reading & HAPPY SCAMPING!
Camp Counselor Alex 🙂
THE UNINVITED (prohibited items list)
- Campfires or open flame
- Guns or weapons of any kind
- Illegal substances
- Outside alcohol
- Powered vehicles of any kind
- Laser pointers
- Water Guns
- Fire Lanterns / Chinese Sky Fire Lanterns / Sky Candles / Fire Balloons
- Any item deemed dangerous by security
- Bad attitudes