After the unfortunate monsoon situation at Phish a while back, I decided to give you guys some advice on surviving the rain at a music festival. I found myself completely unprepared at the show, and life would have been so much more lovely if I had taken a few steps to avoid this, so let my follies be your victories this festival season.
First of all, check out the weather report before you head off on your travels. It only takes a few seconds and once you see what is predicted you can better pack your gear for the weekend. If there is any sign of precipitation in the forecast, just err on the side of caution and bring rainy weather stuff. It is much better to have it and not need it than to need it and wish you had packed it.
Rainy weather stuff is a little vague, so let me elaborate. The most useful items to have in the rain, by far, are plastic bags. These can be small bags to hold your cell phone and other valuables, or large plastic bags which can protect your bedding, clothes, or any other big items you want to keep dry. Stashing a few small plastic bags in your daypack when you head off to the shows only takes up a little space and can prove very helpful. Trash bags can also be a convenient substitute for a rain poncho if they are not available.
Of course, ponchos, ponchos, ponchos, and trash bags are not nearly as useful as a rain jacket, so if you have the means you should pick yourself up a good one. You can usually find them at a camping supply store or sporting goods place. It’s a good investment, and once you have one you will never again be completely miserable in the festival rain.
Another useful clothing item to bring is waterproof boots or shoe covers. If it is still warm outside when it rains then it is okay to have on sandals, but flip-flops and slip-on shoes can be hard to keep a hold of on the slick ground, and downright impossible to keep up within the mud. If it is cold outside then having waterproof shoes to put on can make you much more comfortable.
Either way, take care of your feet! If your feet spend too much time soaking wet you can develop some gnarly health problems as well as making your awesome festy weekend kind of suck. Change your footwear frequently to keep your feet dry and avoid the issues the rain can cause.
When you do change out of wet clothes and socks, it is a good idea to put them into a trash bag until it stops raining. This will keep your tent from getting too smelly, and when the sun comes back out you can hang them up or drape them over the car to dry out before you have to pack them up. If you pack a little bottle of febreeze you can spray down the clothes, hang them out to dry, and wear them again if you need more dry clothes.
When camping in the rain, there are a few things you can do to ensure your tent stays pretty dry. First, when picking your tent’s location, take note of where you are setting up to avoid putting your tent at the bottom of a hill or a drainage stream. It’s bad enough to navigate the rain but the bummer is compounded when all of the groundwater is funneling right into your tent.
When you are setting up your tent put a tarp under it to avoid groundwater seeping into the bottom. If the tarp sticks out further than the tent, fold the edges under (facing the ground) so that the tarp does not become a place for rain to collect, having the opposite of desired results. Also make sure that you properly place a rain guard on the top of the tent. These are designed to be pulled away from the tent, deflecting the water. If you don’t stake the rain guard down properly it won’t help keep the tent dry. If the festival is hot and you want to take the rain guard off to cool off the tent, make sure to put it back on when you head off to the shows. Even if it doesn’t look like rain, that shit can sneak right up on you, and you will be forced to come back to a lot of wet bedding and nowhere dry to sleep. When we were at Wakarusa it was blazing hot all weekend so almost everyone had their rain guards off. Then a storm suddenly rolled in out of nowhere the last day, and I found myself running through a campsite full of open tents, just getting drenched. I felt bad for the owners of those tents so don’t let this be you! Again, it’s better to be prepared than be pissed off!
Once the rain begins, putting all of your bedding, clothes, and valuables in the middle of the tent can be helpful. Rain usually accumulates on the edges. Do not put anything up against the sides of your tent. Tents are designed to let the rainwater run off in a certain way, so if your stuff creates a bump in the side it may cause rain to pool up in the wrong places. If it gets too wet, I like to put my clothes and bedding into the car, ensuring that I always have dry blankets at night and dry clothes to change into.
Also, if it begins to lightning make sure you are not camping under a tree. Trees attract lightning, but also the branches of even a strong looking tree can come down if the wind and lightning become too fierce. If the rain turns into a full-blown thunderstorm, or worse, just use some caution and common sense. I know everyone is trying to party through the rain, but if it becomes a dangerous situation listen to what festival security is telling you to do. There are very rarely a lot of sturdy buildings around so sometimes you have to improvise. The first year of Rothbury my friend and I arrived early because we were doing Work Exchange. A terrible storm began and at first we were bummed, but then we quickly became terrified as funnel clouds began to form and the afternoon sky turned black. All of my tornado experience told me to look for sturdy shelter but alas there was no shelter to be found. We watched as tents flew through the air with rapid speed, and lightning struck the nearby trees. We were at a loss for what to do because nowhere seemed safe. The car? The tent? What do we do? At one point the winds at our end of the field were blowing in sideways, while the wind at the other end of the field were blowing the complete opposite direction. I just knew at any second I was going to see Dorthy flying by in a house. The best idea we could come up with was (if things got too ugly), to jump the chain link fence, run as far into the woods as we could, get as low as possible, and hold on tight to the sturdiest tree we could find. That’s right, hug a tree. The irony is not lost on me, I assure you. In the end we survived, but the point is to be as prepared as possible and make the best plan you can with what you’ve got.
Rainy weather can make your mood heavy, but only if you let it. Dance in the rain and embrace it, because you can not control the weather, but you can make an effort not to let the weather control you!
For a full list of gear you need for your next music festival adventure check out our Music Festival Camping Checklist!
Best of luck to you all! Have a good (dry) show!