A Guide to Festival Camping

In 2013, I decided to go camping at Austin Psych Fest, now known as Levitation. I’m a bad camper. I don’t plan properly, so I’m always uncomfortable. So I asked my good friend Brandon Lemons about it. Brandon used to play bass in the band Co-Pilot with his brother, Derek. The Lemons boys grew up camping, so they are my official experts on camping. Derek made a very thorough guide for me, which I am now sharing with you. If you find this useful, you can pay him back by checking out their albums on Bandcamp.

I’m sharing just in case you’re preparing for the first year of Sound on Sound Fest, happening this November 4, 5, and 6 at the Sherwood Forest Faire. There are some guidelines here, here, and here that you should read beforehand.

Here’s Derek’s advice with minimal edits:


“Things to note — I assume the person using this is bringing standard things (clothing, a toothbrush and other toiletries, shoes, etc) anyone would bring when traveling, so I’m only including the camping-specific things.

Aside — I realize some of this is going to sound odd (especially all of the self-defense stuff), but this is just the list I have come up with after camping a lot and it is all on here for a reason.

Minimum Requirements

  • tent (preferably a dome style, they withstand winds better and set up easily)
  • sleeping bag (the thicker the better)
  • flashlight (get a large maglight because it doubles as a self defense tool and most likely won’t be a banned item at a festival)
  • large towel (good for bathing, sitting on the ground, a sheet, unexpected spills, covering your face to sleep if it is too bright)
  • at least one bottle of water to refill for drinking, brushing teeth, even bathing (depending on the circumstances)
  • snacks in plastic ziplock bags or, even better, small plastic containers (no open food in the tent ever!)
  • at least two large plastic garbage bags: one for garbage, the other for dirty/wet clothes
  • one large freezer bag or plastic container to put all of your electronics in if it starts pouring rain
  • small hand-sanitizer or handy-wipes
  • sunblock
  • extra socks
  • a first aid kit that includes at least band-aids, neosporin, and anti-itch cream

For Better Comfort/Security Add These Things

  • pillow
  • folding chair
  • magnetic or clip light for the inside of your tent
  • lighter (I put it down here because you’ll be at a festival and someone is bound to have one if you really need it)
  • air mattress or extra sleeping bag for ground padding
  • flip flops for use in showers (if there are any) or just easy on/off footwear for getting in/out of the tent
  • hatchet (not allowed, but good for chopping firewood if fires or for use as a hammer or self defense)
  • battery-powered lantern
  • Tinactin in a sprayable form (if you use public showers or for going barefoot anywhere someone else is also)
  • OFF bug spray
  • pain reliever
  • ear plugs (for sleeping if it is too noisy — not recommended if you are worried about safety though!)
  • hoodie (same uses as the towel—less efficient for liquids but wearable if it gets cold)
  • moisturizer
  • a book or magazine (there will be downtime, and a cellphone signal is not guaranteed if you get bored)
  • Swiss army knife with scissors, toothpick, and tweezers. They all have blades, but these are the things you’ll really use.
  • some kind of string or small nylon rope (tons of uses, from replacing a broken tent rope to a clothesline to emergency uses)
  • poncho

Luxury Items

  • small Febreeze (if you share a tent with someone, this could reduce animosity considerably)
  • canteen (to replace the bottle of water — takes up more space but holds a lot more so you don’t have to be as stingy)
  • air horn (good for scaring off critters, including humans)

General Tips

  • It is recommended you take your shoes off while getting into the tent, then knock them together to get excess dirt off, and leave them right next to the tent door on the inside. It gets annoying to do it every single time, but this will reduce the amount of sand and dirt you get in your tent and having that in there is extremely annoying. Also, if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you always know where your shoes are.
  • Always zip your tent immediately after entering or exiting. This will keep snakes and scorpions out and bugs to a minimum. Again, it is annoying to do it every single time, but not nearly as annoying as having a dozen mosquitoes eat you alive while you try to sleep. You will not be able to find them all.
  • If you are entering or exiting your tent at night, turn your flashlight off until the zipper is closed. Again, bugs.
  • Don’t let your feet stay wet, hence all of the towel, hoodie, extra socks notes.
  • Depending on your “weapon of choice”, keep your self defense tool right beside where you sleep. This is why the maglight is so awesome; it is a flashlight (which you should keep beside you when you sleep anyway) but it also contains 3 or 4 heavy D batteries in a metal case with a nice grip. I like to think the best in humanity, but you should still have some kind of protection just in case.
  • Don’t ever leave food open in the tent. If you have to eat inside, be careful not to drop anything and seal everything up immediately after you are done.
  • Try to set your tent up first and throw everything else inside and zip it immediately. I have friends who throw all their stuff on the ground (sleeping bag included), then set up the tent. And they wonder why they get mysterious bug bites during the night.

Hope all that helps!”


See you at the fest!