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Registered: 09/26/03
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Bonnaroo Survival Guide
    #3948827 - 03/21/05 02:31 PM (14 years, 8 days ago)

Good tips for someone who hasn't been before:

Source: http://www.poorvin.com/roo/

Text: (so your lazy ass doesn't have to click)

Bonnaroo "Survival" Guide

I came up with a little guide for the Bonnaroo first-timer. I want to thank all of the folks who have helped me out at festivals, many of the tips here have come from other good folks. Any questions or suggestions lxeop@sxafe-mail.net (remove the x's from the email address). Leo

Getting there

Plan on waiting a long time to get into the site. Last year I came from Knoxville Thursday morning and still waited ~4 hrs in traffic on the interstate. Somebody said the backroads in were better but who knows. Have a decent amount of gas in your car before you get into traffic so that you don't run out while waiting in line. People who came later on Thursday waited more than 8 hrs to get in, so try to get there early. I?m planning on going even earlier this year. Definitely try to get off work on Thurs.


If you've never been to a fest like ?roo, it can be a little overwhelming at first. There is a place to camp in front (or behind) where you park your car. People can get a little unkind in a mad rush to claim space, but you are entitled to the area in front of your parking space. That said, try to get along with your neighbors.

I don't know if they are planning on doing it this year, but the best place to camp last time was the tent only area. It was right across from the stage area (Centeroo) and even Thurs afternoon it was sparsely populated. Some people said that there was a problem with thefts from the tent only area but I didn't talk to anyone who had anything taken. The big negative is that you have to haul all of you stuff from your car but it?s worth it. All the room you want to set up and you are 2 minutes from the stages. Some of the less prime camping spots were at least a 20 min walk from the stages. Thurs night they ran out of car camping places so they started letting cars into the tent only area but hey, I already had my setup. Camping there was great. So, if they are going to have the camping only area (and it?s right by the stage again) you might want to think about moving out from where you park.


A good tent is important. I saw lots of folks with cheapo tents from Walmart get real wet when the skies opened up last year. If you don?t have a quality tent, consider investing in one. I?m still using a ~$110 2-man Eureka Timberlite that I bought before Woodstock ?94. It?s been through countless festivals and lots of backpacking and it?s still holding up great. Better tents also seem to be easier to set up as well.

Before going to the ?roo try setting up your tent in the backyard. This is especially important if it?s a new tent. Much easier to learn how to pitch it at home than at the site, maybe in the rain or in the dark. Even if you've used the tent before, it never hurts to double check that all the hardware is there and everything is in good shape. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE TENT STAKES! More than one tent went airborne in the storm last year. Doesn't hurt to bring a hammer to secure the stakes (although a soup can will work in a pinch).


Folding chairs are key. The cheap ones from Wallyworld seem to hold up pretty good. I also brought a sunshade and I?m glad I did. It?s a decent size, bout 8x10?, ~$15 at the ?mart. Not the sturdiest thing in the world, but it was great to be able to sit back in the shade and not have to retreat into the tent. Keeps light drizzles off as well. It was a pain to set up, so definitely try setting it up before you go.


The single most import thing at ?roo. It was so damn hot last year you had to work at it to stay hydrated. In the stage and camping areas they had water stations. Bring bottles or a camelback. I?ll probably invest in a camelback before I go this year. Just make sure you drink plenty of water. I talked with the medicos working there and they said that heatstroke/dehydration was the most common reason they saw people. I saw a bunch of people hooked up to IV fluids in the med tents last year. Lots and lots of water.


There is plenty of food to buy there but personally I like to pack most of my food in. I bring a mini Weber charcoal grill to make hamburgers and dogs, good energy food. Also a little backpacking stove for cans of soup and morning coffee. If you want to go simple, energy bars are good. Even if you plan to buy most of your food there, it doesn't hurt to bring a little for nighttime munchies.


I?m not espousing drug use nor am I condemning it. One thing I can say is there is a LOT of it at ?roo. I saw more people smoking herb there than all the other fests I've been to (mostly Reggaefests). Good generous vibe going on. Lots of nitrous too. There was some ?shrooms and doses for sale, no idea as to the quality. The police seemed mostly indifferent, don?t rub it in their faces and probably shouldn't be a problem. I heard people saying that they were cracking down on nitrous last year but I didn't see it.


They sell beer at ?roo and it actually is pretty good. They have microbrews (even Magic Hat! First time I've seen it this far south) and the normal domestic pilsners. Not all that expensive, about bar prices. Don?t think they sell anything harder but there were informal bars set up in the tent city. The great thing about ?roo is that you can bring your own beer. They say no bottles but I don?t think that?s enforced very strictly. Just don?t be an asshat and go breaking bottles all over the place. Those foam beer coolies keeps the brew nice and cool in the TN sun. Make sure you drink PLENTY of water if you?re drinking.


This has to be one of the most important things. It can be very very sunny in Tennessee in the summer. I bring SPF 15 to start with and 40 for later in the weekend. Put it on as soon as you get there. I made the mistake of not putting it on until after I got my site put up and got a little red.

Clothes and stuff

It's probably going to be hot. Shorts and t-shirts are perfect. Bring some warmer stuff (i.e. sweats) in case it does get chilly. It may rain so a waterproof shell isn't a bad idea either. Teva sandals are good, be careful with flip-flops though, if it gets muddy (which it will if it rains) it can be easy to lose them. A wide brimmed hat will keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck. Remember the shades as well.


Bring a flashlight (or two), nothings worse than trying to pee in a (potentially extremely nasty) portajohn in the middle of the night when you can?t see a thing. On a related note, cyalume nightsticks are great to bring, they?re cheap, they give off enough light get around, and they?re a lot of fun. I put one or two on my tent and sunshade when I go out at night, makes it MUCH easier to find your way back home, like a much needed lighthouse (especially if you are under the influence of anything that makes to harder to find your way home). I've found that the off-brand ones from Wallyworld don't give off much light, I'd recommend the actual Cyalume brand (made by Omni-glow). If you have a problem finding them locally, you might want to try flashlightsunlimited.com, I've had excellent experience buying from them. On another related note, do something to make your campsite easy to find. One tent among fifty thousand is hard to find. I throw a couple of flags up on the sunscreen, I've seen people float helium filled mylar balloons above their sites, that?s hard to miss. Some people set up flagpoles. There is a link at the bottom of the page with directions to make a portable flagpole.

On the subject of portajohns? well the best I can say is Bonnaroo is better than most fests I've seen at getting them cleaned out. That said, we are talking about piles of excrement stewing in 95+ degree heat. When you can, go for the clean ones. The best ones (when you can plan it) are the ones around the stage in the morning. The ones in the campsites go bad quickly, but they clean the ones in Centeroo in the morning and there are a lot of them. Bring handy-wipes, you?ll thank yourself. Don?t forget a roll of TP or two (in ziplock bags). Those Clorox wipes are nice to wipe the seat down with (I wouldn't use them on skin though).

Here?s a tip on ice to keep your coolers cold. Instead of bringing bags and bags of ice (or paying high prices there) buy a case or two of bottled water (~$0.15 a bottle at the warehouse store), throw it in the freezer and use that instead of ice. Doesn't turn into a mushy mess and you can drink it when it thaws out. The 5-day coolers are very nice, will keep ice all weekend if you don?t open it up every 5 minutes. Joe from the 'roo listserv suggests "Another tip for keeping things chilly. Pick up a pound or so of dry ice, wrap it in an old towel and throw it in the bottom of your cooler. Then throw your frozen bottles in on top of that, (add another towel) then whatever you want to keep cold on top of that. The dry ice will keep the water frozen which will keep the rest of the stuff cold. And it will last all weekend even if you do open the cooler every 5 minutes. Just dont stick your head inside the cooler right after you open it. . . ." If you are having problems finding dry ice (and don't work at a place where you can "borrow" it) try your local welding or gas supply company (like Praxaire or Airgas) or click here.

Get to know people!!! ?roo is one big party, go mingle. Wander up to people and introduce yourself, they won?t mind? really! Help people out. Something that surprised me was that more than half of the folks I met at ?roo had never been to a festival before. A lot of them didn't really know what they were doing. Give them a hand. It?s amazing how much easier it is to set up a tent when you have a new friend or two to help. This is one of the greatest things about ?roo, it?s a little society (albeit a brief one) and you can decide what kind of society its gonna be. And if nothing else, the person you loan a can opener to on Thursday might be the person who runs over and keeps your tent from blowing away when there?s a storm on Saturday.

Bring a large garbage bag or two for trash, it?s amazing how many people just left crap all over the place when they left. Body powder (Goldbond, etc.) will help keep the funkyness to a manageable level. If you are planning on smoking anything, bring lighters. A multitool (like a Leatherman) is nice to have for all those things that seem to crop up. If you are bringing bottled beer, bring an openener (or two), bottled wine of course needs a corkscrew.

There are ATM's at 'roo but there can be hellacious lines and they might run out of money, so it's a good idea to bring any that you need. How much to bring is up to you. I don't think I spent more than ~$60 last year, but I brought most of my own food and beer. The beer and food prices aren't awful, but their not cheap either. There is plenty of official and unofficial stuff to buy there as well.


Go see some of the smaller acts. If nothing else it will get you out of the sun (the arena size stages are out in the open, the club size stages are under tents). Plus you get much closer to the acts. And you never know who you might meet, I bumped into Chris Robinson by one of the small stages after he performed last year.


Don?t bring a dog. It is much too hot. Really, don?t bring the dog, please. Don?t get so fubared that you can?t enjoy the shows. The funniest (or saddest depending on how you look at it) was overhearing someone saying ?dude, we shouldn't have eaten that many mushrooms? at 9:30 am on Friday. Don?t judge people. Don?t worry about that damn cell phone.

Above musings are entirely fictional.  I do not grow mushrooms nor do I associate with anyone who does.


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