by Linda Sager Kazalski

It is officially festival and camp season again. I want to share some practical advice to make your festivals and campouts safe, comfortable, and fun.

My qualifications are these:

I have been to many festivals over the last 30 years or so.
I am a Girl Scout outdoor educator.
I was a Girl Scout and attained First Class, the highest rank possible at that time.
I am the daughter of an Eagle Scout.
I have been camping since I was a toddler.

Pace yourself. If you go full speed all the time, you will crash hard.

Get enough sleep. Expect to wake with the sun or shortly thereafter. Tents do not have blackout blinds.

Stay hydrated. Seriously. Drink LOTS of water, even if you are not thirsty. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Bring sunscreen (50 SPF baby sunscreen works for face and body, so you do not need two products) and USE IT. REAPPLY OFTEN.

More people end up at the Medic Tent for sunburn and dehydration than anything else.

Bring and wear a hat (I usually bring a knit cap, even in summer it can get cold at night depending on location, and a ball cap or cowboy hat) and at least one bandana. Sun, rain, or cold can be brutal. Depending on the site, you may not be able to wash your hair for a couple of days. Bandanas are useful for LOTS of things (washcloths, dipped in water they will cool you off, bandage, sling...)

Get as much information about the site as possible ahead of time. This helps you pack appropriately.

Minimize your electronics. You will not use them much, if at all.

Bring a pen and notebook to take notes for workshops. I like to keep all the notes from a festival in one notebook, at least until I can transcribe or scan them.

Treat your clothes with Permethrin and let them air out well. That will keep off the bugs (and ticks). This treatment will last through a couple of washings and does not stink once dry.

Plan to graze and nibble rather than have big meals, except for supper. Cheese and crackers, sandwich stuff, fruit, hummus, granola. Eat reasonably healthy food or your guts will fight back. If you have a touchy system, think about bringing bottled water to drink. (If a site is 'primitive', figure on 3 gallons of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. I add an additional gallon per trip by rule of thumb.) Workshops tend to get in the way of regular meals and everyone's schedule is different at festivals.

Wait to do the grocery shopping (other than for pantry items, spices and the like) until you get close to the site. No need to waste ice.

WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE: Even if you do not expect to menstruate, bring feminine sanitary supplies. Festivals often throw menstrual cycles out of whack. If it does not throw yours off, you may be able to help someone else. Even post-menopausal, I keep a couple of pads in my comprehensive first aid kit - they are useful for wounds and serious burns.)

Make sure you pack plenty of any medication you take semi-regularly (Ibuprophen, Excedrin, Imodium, Benadryl, allergy meds, etc.)

If possible, get your doctor to write you a paper prescription for any prescription medications you take, and keep it/them in a Ziploc in your glove compartment.

Pack your clothes in extra-large (2-gallon) Ziploc bags, one bag per outfit. Even if it does not rain - and it has rained at nearly every festival I have ever been to - things get damp. Dry clothes are not only more comfortable, they to prevent hypothermia. Packing in the Ziploc bags helps keep things organized. Bring at least two extra outfits to keep in the car and plan on layers. Bring comfortable clothes - and sparkly extravagance, too, if that is your thing.

If you have sarongs or tapestries, bring them. They are useful as curtains (shade and privacy are at a premium) and decor as well as for clothing.

Bring extra batteries and/or rechargeable batteries for anything battery driven. Use solar powered lanterns etc., whenever possible.

Whenever possible, make sure that there is more than one use for anything you bring. For instance, baby wipes are great for waterless wash-ups and makeup removal (if you do makeup) and save lots of water. There may be showers but conserving water is a good thing!

Give yourself a day to decompress, come back to mundane life and do laundry before you go back to work, if possible. For that matter, leave your house in good shape so you do not come home to dirty dishes or laundry.

My checklist looks huge. The thing to remember is that I do not pack big amounts of anything. I repackage most items so they pack smaller. The small tubs that I use for the maintenance and kitchen tubs are the size of shoeboxes. All of my gear fits in the cargo area of a 2004 Forester (small SUV), leaving room for four adults. I can pack for four adults for 4 days in that car using a rooftop carrier for clothing and sleeping bags, etc. and still have room for people.

My daypack is an 18-quart (small) hydration pack that holds a 2-liter water bladder.

I may not use everything I take every trip, but Daddy always told me that it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I have found this to be very true.

If you are interested in more information, feel free to contact me. Here is the link to my camp list. If you use it, please make proper attribution.

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