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.