Festival Camping: How To Choose a Tent
It’s morning. Your eyes are half open, your sleeping bag is half on and half outside your tent door. The floor of your tent is both sticky and slippery. Your tent frame is slightly bent and there is evidence that someone or something may have crashed into it at some point in the night. That’s right folks, it’s festival season. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for Camping at a Music Festival.
The Best Tent for Music Festival Camping
The single most important piece of gear to get right at a festival is the tent. Your tent will be your basecamp, shelter, meet up point, and ‘safe zone’. CanvasCamp is hard to impress when it comes to shelters and we take our festivals seriously. Many of the Sibley features are a direct result of our experiences at TomorrowWorld and Burning Man along with additional input from festival goers from around the world. Learn more about why the Sibley is the best tent for festival camping. Even if you don’t go with a Sibley, here is what to look for when shopping for a tent.
Choose a tent that is weatherproof
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Be prepared for hot, cold, windy, rainy, muddy, and sunny. You may encounter a range of weather conditions if you're attending multiple events, or even at the same event over one weekend.
All but the cheapest big-box-store tents are typically capable of handling a light afternoon shower. That’s just not good enough for multi-day festival camping. Before buying a tent, imagine a good hard sustained downpour: the water, the puddles, the mud, the wind, and the force of a storm on a tent. A waterproof canopy is just one requirement to keep you and your stuff dry. Dancing in the rain is awesome, but if you don’t have a set of dry clothes to change into, you’re going to have a bad time.
Make sure the tent is structurally strong enough to maintain its shape throughout a storm. It should have sturdy poles, guy lines, and good tent stakes to hold it down. The floor should be thicker than the canopy and 100% water impenetrable. Bathtub style floors that stand a few inches tall and connect directly to your tent canopy are ideal to protect against puddles and standing water. If your tent does not have a bathtub floor that meets the requirements, you’ll need a footprint. A tent footprint is a waterproof tarp that is cut to fit the shape of your tent. Never use a tarp that is larger than the floor of your tent! Rain will fall on the tarp and pool under your tent and everything inside will get wet.
Don’t forget to consider the usable space you have in your tent in a rainstorm. If you need to hold up for an extended period of time; make sure you have enough space to comfortably kick it and keep the party going. Having enough space for you, your stuff, and your friends is great; offering shelter to new friends and neighbors that didn’t plan for the storm is even better.
Heat and Humidity:
Choose a canvas tent when camping in hot and humid conditions. Canvas is highly breathable (yet waterproof) and regulates humidity very well. Camping tents made from plastic (nylon, polyester) don’t breathe very well and are extremely uncomfortable in the heat. A lack of breathability in a tent fabric traps water vapor inside your tent, increasing humidity and condensation. Increased humidity in your tent means it will feel hotter when it’s hot and colder when it’s cold. If you’ve ever woken up in a tent and felt slightly damp, that’s condensation.
A tent fly is essential for all plastic tents in almost all conditions, and a good option for canvas tents in extreme conditions (heat and rain, cold and snow). A tent fly is a plastic cover that is custom fit to the shape of your tent canopy. The small space of dead air in between the fly and tent canopy acts as an insulator and can help keep your tent up to 10 degrees cooler (or warmer) than the ambient temperature outside.
When camping at any festival it is important to stake out your tent with guy lines. Lightweight aluminum stakes are ok, bigger steel stakes are best. Pound your stakes all the way into the ground or put tennis balls on top of them so no one trips and puts an eye out.
If you are camping at Burning Man DO NOT underestimate the wind! Anything that is not securely tied down will blow away. Rebar stakes are essential on the playa in our opinion. Read up on rebar stakes at BurningMan.org and heed those words!
Ok so bugs aren’t weather, BUT they are part of nature an important consideration when festival camping. Make sure your tent seals up against bugs without limiting ventilation. Look for no-see-um mesh on windows, vents, and even tent walls (ProTech shout out).
Big and Easy Festival Camping Tents
You want a tent that is as spacious and comfortable as possible for multi day festivals. Space varies by event. If there’s open space camping: arrive early, pick a spot on high ground up wind and away from the port-a-potties. High density festivals that sell camping passes typically have the smallest allotted spots; Coachella, for example, is 10’ x 15’ for tent camping. If you have a tent with long guy lines and limited space use Short Guy Poles or make your own to limit your footprint.
Setting up your tent should be fast and easy for just one person. Generally speaking the more poles you’ve got the more complicated the process. Practice setting up your tent before you get to the festival to ensure you know how it works, have all the parts, and nothing is damaged.
Walk in Camping means you’re going to haul your stuff in. Get yourself a rolling cart with good wheels. your back will thank you and your neighbors will love you! A cart is a life saver for packing in, packing out, and resupplying camp during the festival. Unfortunately, festivals create A LOT of waste. Not just trash but abandoned tents and camping gear. Even if you are car camping at a festival; if you can haul gear around with more than two hands, you can take out with more than you came with and do your part to Leave No Trace.
It goes without saying that you want as much space as possible inside your tent if you're camping at a festival for two days (or more). Having the ability to stand up in your tent is a must, even if it’s just to change your underwear. Make sure that everyone inside has enough space to sleep, store their gear, and get in and out of the tent without crawling on top of each other.
Don’t plan on leaving your gear laying around outside your tent when you aren’t there. Keep your cooler in your tent to keep your ice cold longer. Use a luggage lock to secure your door zippers. Theft at festivals is usually a crime of opportunity; keeping your stuff out of sight and out of reach goes a long way.
Festival Camping Accessories
To learn more about essential festival camping accessories, visit our blog: https://www.canvascamp.com/en_us/blog/festival-camping-accessories