11 Things You HAVE to Take to Bonnaroo

Since this year was our first year at Bonnaroo, I decided to write a few posts dedicated to sharing what we learned. We had a good time, but next year, we’ll definitely be more prepared, and hopefully what we learned can help you too. So, here’s my first installment of helpful Bonnaroo posts. This one talks about important stuff that you need to take with you when you go. Most of the items on here are things you HAVE to have, and some of them are things that you don’t NEED but that you will really regret not having with you. I hope this list makes your Bonnaroo trip safer and more fun!

1. Water YOU MUST STAY HYDRATED!! I can’t emphasize this enough. You’ll be wandering around in the sun for 8, 12, maybe 16 hours a day for 4 days, and you run the risk of heat stroke when you don’t drink enough water. It’s pretty serious stuff – people have died at Bonnaroo from heat stroke because they didn’t drink enough water. And yes, it needs to be WATER. Not soda, not beer – water. You can drink those too, but agua is your best buddy out there in Centeroo during the day. The nice folks who put on the festival every year have free well water there, you just have to bring an empty bottle to fill up. It doesn’t hurt to being plenty of your own water too. The well water there is kind of hit-or-miss. Sometimes it’s delicious, and other times it’s full of sulfur and smells like rotten eggs. Also, it’s not a real great idea to drink a lot of alcohol while you’re there. My husband found this out first hand. He drank about 6 beers after we got our camp all set up on Wednesday night, and the next morning he had a terrible hangover because he got hot and sweaty (read: dehydrated) while we were sleeping. He was pretty miserable the next day. So bring and drink plenty of water!

2. Sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat Yes, these two items count as one thing. While a lack of sunscreen/hat will not kill you (at least not immediately), a rough case of sunburn will ruin your whole weekend. This is a lesson I learned during Senior Week at the beach after I graduated from high school. You DO NOT want to be battling second degree burns while sleeping on the ground in a 110 degree tent. Cover yourself and your friends with LOTS of sunscreen, and then put on a hat, preferably one with a wide brim. The hat is a necessity if you have close-cut hair (like a buzz cut), a stubborn part that makes itself apparent even when hair is brushed back into a ponytail (I think I’m the only person with this problem), or ears. If you do not have any of these things, feel free to skip the hat. Sunscreen is not optional, regardless of whether you already have a tan or not. Peeling, blistered skin is not cute, and neither is skin cancer.

3. Appropriate clothing For women, this pretty much means bikinis and a loose, short skirt (knee-length or higher is the most comfortable). This is no time to be self-conscious about fat calves or jiggly thighs. I had a pair of guys swim trunks that I was wearing the first day, and I gave those up pretty quickly for a $20 skirt I bought at a vendor and wore for the next 3 days (Gross? Yes. But I was cool and comfortable!). Also, bring a t-shirt or thin long-sleeve shirt in case you start to get sunburned or for when it cools down at night (60 degrees feels pretty cold after being in 100 degree heat all day). For guys, my husband recommends thin, lightweight t-shirts that fit close around the neck to prevent sunburn on the upper chest. Oh, and kilts. No, I am not joking. We saw several guys in skirts and sarongs, and they were not exactly the cross-dressing type. You want as much airflow and circulation in the uh, basement as possible because a) it’s hot as crap and b) you’re probably not going to be taking many showers, so smell is kind of a concern. He is planning to buy a sport kilt for the next time around. Leave anything at home that you don’t want getting trashed. Ladies, it’s not a bad idea to leave any valuable jewelry (including wedding and engagement rings) at home so they don’t get lost. Other things you DO NOT want to wear: jeans, anything black, furry Santa suits, Santa hats, trenchcoats, sweatpants, etc. Yes, I saw people wearing all of those things. I damn near had a heat stroke just LOOKING at them.

4. Appropriate footwear In order to really cover your bases here, you need 3 types of shoes: Flip-flops for playing in the fountain and wandering around Centeroo, tennis shoes for walking to and from your camp and for Centeroo when your feet get tired (and they WILL get tired, believe me!), and rain boots for when the farm turns into 700 acres of mud. It almost always rains, but amazingly it didn’t rain this year so I didn’t need my rain boots. It WAS crazy dusty though, and our shoes got pretty gross. Don’t take a brand new pair of white Nikes out there and expect them to come back in good shape, because they definitely won’t!

5. Toilet paper I have to give props to the Roo staff and organizers – keeping enough port-o-johns stocked, serviced, and (relatively) clean for 80,000 people is no easy feat, but they did a pretty good job. Even still, you are going to want to take your own toilet paper with you for several reasons. You may end up in one without toilet paper (not a fun situation when you’ve already sat down to do your thing and you realize there’s no tp), the toilet paper might be wet (yes, it IS urine, and it is so gross. Come on guys, aim a little bit better please), and frankly, port-o-john tp is not the softest kind in the world. Your butt will thank you for providing it with softer, gentler toilet paper.

6. Baby wipes These things are BOSS when you can’t bathe for a few days. We would get back to our camp at night and use these to wipe all the dust and sunscreen off our arms and legs. They also freshen up the nether regions quite nicely. It’s not a full shower, but it beats the heck out of going to bed with crusty feet and stinking arm pits every night. You definitely need to take these with you when you go!

7. Canopy/tarp to go over your campsite I saw this listed on a few other packing lists for Bonnaroo, so I asked my husband if we had a canopy to take with us. He said no, but he didn’t think we would need to get one anyway. This was a HIGHLY regrettable decision. Your tent is going to be approximately 110 degrees F by 8 am each morning, so sleeping in isn’t really an option, and there’s not much going on concert-wise until 12. Basically, you’ll be sitting at your campsite eating breakfast, cleaning up, getting your stuff together, and just relaxing for a few hours. Unfortunately, without a canopy, you will be doing your “relaxing” under a boiling hot sun. On Friday morning, we went to the Camping World store they had set up there and bought a canopy. It was MUCH more comfortable after that. Added bonus: you can move it over your tent at night and it helps keep your tent cool in the morning.

8. Camera You are going to want to remember this, trust me. And you will especially need photographic documentation if you are, shall we say, in an altered state of consciousness for most of the festival. If you are prone to losing stuff, I recommend taking a disposable camera; that way if you lose it, no big deal.

9. Sheet/blanket/low-sitting chair This is for sitting on in Centeroo during concerts or when you need a break and you want to park your carcass under a shade tree (if you can find one) and have a snack. I went with a sheet because it was easy to fold up and stuff in my backpack. It didn’t rain this year (amazingly), so my sheet didn’t get all muddy. If it’s been raining, you might want to take a chair. The downside of the chair, however, is that it’s bulkier and harder to carry.

10. Flashlight/headlamp Centeroo is pretty well-lit and so are most of the campground areas. But the one area that is NOT well-lit is the port-o-johns. Believe me, you are GOING to want to see what is on those seats before you sit down. Like I said, they do a pretty good job of keeping up with the cleaning and pumping of the toilets, but drunk guys have bad aim and… well… I’ve found some other incredibly gross stuff on the seats of pot-o-potties before. Just trust me on the flashlight. You will be SO glad you brought it.

11. Bag or backpack You’re going to be lugging a lot of stuff to Centeroo each day (sunscreen, water bottles, shirt, money, toilet paper, etc), and you’re going to need something to carry it in. I recommend a backpack because it zips and it spreads the weight evenly over both shoulders.

Next time: A list of things you DON’T need, but that you think you will.

Bonnaroo 2011

This past weekend (well, really from Wednesday night until Monday morning) my husband (Sloth), my best friend (Z), and I went to Bonnaroo for the first time, and we had a blast. We saw some great bands, ate some tasty food, and got super freaking dirty. I went back and forth between really looking forward to it and then dreading it. I knew it was going to be outrageously hot, and since I’m a pasty Irish kid I tend to roast like a Thanksgiving turkey if I set foot in the sun for more than 10 minutes. Excessive heat and second degree burns did not sound like a terribly fun experience, so by Tuesday (the day before we left) I was having some serious doubts about what I was getting into. We only live about 2 hours from Manchester, TN (official home of the Roo), so we spent most of Wednesday getting packed up and running some last-minute errands.

We left about 9:00 that night, and made pretty good time getting down there. We were cruising down I-24 East, and when we got around Exit 110, our hearts sank – there was a line of cars as far as we could see on the other side of the road. We kept going and noticed that all of the exits on our side of the road were blocked off. Finally we saw a sign that said “Bonnaroo traffic use Exit 127.” I’m not even joking – that traffic jam on the other side was backed up for SEVENTEEN MILES. There were a few different entrances though, so we ended up going through some Deliverance-worthy back roads until we got to the back of the farm. We got parked and started setting up our camp, which didn’t take long. It was just 2 tents and a little area for our chairs. We didn’t really get unpacked and settled in until about 2:30 am, and at that point I was pretty tired. I laid down, but it was pretty loud because everyone was partying and setting up their camp, so I really didn’t fall asleep until close to 6. Sloth and Z stayed up and had a couple of beers and met our neighbors, and they also went to bed around 6.

Our neighbors seemed pretty decent, though after the first night we didn’t really talk much (probably because our little group didn’t smoke weed, and their groups did). On one side, we had 2 girls and a guy who were all really quiet, and on the other side we had 3 guys who seemed really outgoing. Mellow stoners and party stoners, respectively. Anyway, we went to sleep around 6, and like I said, it’s so hot in your tent by 7:30 or 8 that you can’t sleep, so I was up at 7:30 thirsting to death. We got up, ate some breakfast, and then went to Centeroo when it opened up at noon. There wasn’t a whole lot going on yet, because most people didn’t actually get to the festival until Thursday night and there weren’t many shows yet either. We just checked out the vendors and food and the mushroom and waterslides, then we went back to our camp.

On Friday, we saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Z saw Matt & Kim, and then we met back up for The Decemberists. I left my indie kid companions to their show and I wandered around Centeroo. I caught the end of Atmosphere, and then we met back up for My Morning Jacket and Primus. Primus was pretty awesome because in the middle of the show they had parasailers fly overhead and drop glitter on the crowd. After Primus, we went to What Stage for Arcade Fire. That was my husband’s favorite show of the weekend. After Arcade Fire, we went back to camp.

We started Saturday off with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, then Z went to see The Low Anthem at That Tent. Sloth and I went to see the “You Choose the Cover” Rolling Stone showdown between Lelia Broussard and The Sheepdogs at This Tent (I liked the Sheepdogs best – Canadian Southern Rock? Yes, please). After that, we got some lunch and played under the mushroom for a few minutes, then we met back up with Z at That Tent for Portugal. The Man. My two indie friends were all excited about The Black Keys, so I went over to What Stage with them for that, but left early so I could get a good seat for Buffalo Springfield. I really enjoyed them. After they went off, I met Sloth to see Dr. John. Z had already gone back to camp, and after Dr. John ended, we went back too.

On Sunday, Sloth and I went to see G. Love and Special Sauce, while Z went to The Head & The Heart. G. Love did a good set and we had great seats, so that was a fun show. We met back up with Z, got some lunch, and saw Aunt Martha at the On Tap Lounge. Then Z and Sloth went to see Cold War Kids and I went to see Gregg Allman. He did a good show, but he came on kind of late, and I had to leave early for Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. That show was good too, but I had to leave early for Superjam. That was pretty frustrating, because Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, The Strokes, Explosions in the Sky, and Superjam all overlapped. Sloth wanted to see Explosions in the Sky, but Z and I convinced him to come to Superjam, since it’s a Bonnaroo staple. After Superjam, we headed over to What Stage for Widespread Panic, the last show of the festival. That was pretty awesome – jam band music, LED hula hoops and girls with crazy hula hoop skills, light shows, etc. After Widespread Panic, we were pretty exhausted and surprisingly chilly, so we went back to camp and went to bed.

We left Monday morning, and I was a little sad. Bonnaroo is fun because it’s so divorced from reality. It’s full of music, shiny lights, glitter from parasailers, and the childlike joy of Ferris wheels and waterslides (and also drugs, if you choose to partake). It’s a little sad to come back to reality, but reality has indoor plumbing and air condition, which is nice. It’s definitely a fun experience though, and we’ll probably go back next year.