Sidelines Guidelines: Bonnaroo edition

2016 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
The logo for the 2016 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (Big Hassle)

Bonnaroo is right around the corner. If this is your first time, or you’re a seasoned veteran, here are some tips to survive four days of glorious music, friends and unbearable heat. Sidelines has you covered with everything from camping to shows.


It’s inevitable that you and everyone around you is going to smell bad at Bonnaroo; four days of sweat and dirt doesn’t look good on most people. You’ll definitely wish you could shower, but that’s easier said than done. There are showers available near the camping pods, but they’re $10 each time and it’s usually for just five minutes in a small tent and the cold water runs out pretty fast. Your best option is to bring a gallon of water, about a dollar at grocery stores, for each day and take a camp shower. You can just bring your own shampoo and use the gallon of water and pour it over your head in the mornings. It’s a great way to beat the early day heat and feel a little bit cleaner. Same goes for brushing your teeth, just use a water bottle and brush your teeth as your normally would outside your tent in the mornings.

Sleeping Arrangements

Sleeping at Bonnaroo is a challenge within itself. Unless you want to find yourself passed out on the grass and wake up regretting having missed that one band you wanted to see, you’ll want to get in as many hours as you can at night. The sun wakes you up at about 6 or 7am every morning and it’s pretty impossible to go back to sleep after that unless you’re one of the lucky few camping in a shaded area. The key is to pick only one or two nights to stay up late in Centeroo, so you can reserve your energy for the next day. If you stay out every night you will end up being too tired to see shows during the day. Your best bet for sleeping in your tent is a cot because they are off the ground, making it a little bit cooler, and surprisingly comfortable. Obviously a sleeping bag is handy too, but if you don’t have either of those, using a cheap pool float and a couple blankets is a viable option.


Packing food for Bonnaroo can be tricky for a first timer, and if you don’t adequately prepare you will be left with food melted in the sun and a hungry tummy. Ideally, having an ice chest and buying ice everyday sounds great, but ice is super expensive on-site and won’t even last you through the whole day because it’s so hot outside. The best things to bring are energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwich supplies, granola, nuts, canned fruits, lunchables, chips, pop-tarts, veggies like carrots and celery in plastic baggies and cereal. If you have a cooler and a grill, bringing lunch meat, burgers or things like chicken salad and bread are a great idea. The most important thing to bring is water and Gatorade. Bring at least a 24-pack of water. There is water in Centeroo but as far as camping goes, you are responsible for your own. You’ll need Gatorade to replenish your electrolytes and give you a boost of energy, especially during a midday slump. Of course, there is food sold in Centeroo. The prices range from very cheap (such as dollar grilled cheese) to mildly expensive. Plan to eat a couple of times in Centeroo because it really is a great selection, some of the best food trucks in Tennessee are there. You’ll be supporting a local business and trying something new out at the same time.


Bring your own toilet paper! There are actually flushable bathrooms in Centeroo this year, but there are only San Jose portable toilet rentals in the camping pods. The toilet paper runs out fast, they’re usually very messy and almost always have a long line out front; be prepared.


Bring a first aid kit. There are plenty of first aid tents set up in the camping grounds and in Centeroo, but it can’t help to be prepared just in case. And of course, don’t forget bug spray and sunscreen! Reapply sunscreen every two or three hours, you’re allowed to bring it into Centeroo and you will most certainly need it.


Don’t be afraid to go to shows alone. It’s almost guaranteed that at some point during the weekend your phone will die, you will get lost from your group, or you and your friends will have a disagreement about what set to see when there are scheduling conflicts. Don’t miss out on seeing that underground artist you’ve been listening to all year just because none of your friends like them or you’re afraid to go alone. Going to a show by yourself can become the highlight of your weekend. It’s a great way to meet new people who have similar interests to you, and you don’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone else so you can truly enjoy the moment.

Essentially the best tip for Bonnaroo is to try and be prepared for anything. Like any festival or event, most of the things sold there are going to be more expensive because of supply and demand. Bonnaroo can be one of the best experiences of your life but it will without a doubt have some low points. In the wise words of Grateful Dead (who you can see members of performing with John Mayer on Sunday night), “every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.” You won’t be able to avoid the heat so dress appropriately and stay hydrated. All weekend, just remember to take the bad with the good and stay positive. Sitting outside in the heat for six hours in the morning may not be very fun, but it will all be more than worth it when you’re standing front row for an artist you love and experience that magical, spine-tingling moment only good music and a positive environment can conjure.

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