Surviving the Elements: My Bonnaroo Redemption Story

June 15-18, 2022

4am, sweating violently, dirt in my pores, semi-reclined in the passenger seat of a Ford Fiesta that’s not mine, the distant sound of the bass from Chris Lake’s sunrise set testing my sanity.

record scratch You’re probably wondering how I got here.

Last year I received last-minute, free tickets to (what would be my first) Bonnaroo. When you get free tickets to Bonnaroo, you go to Bonnaroo, no questions asked.

Author’s Note: That’s the rules. I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.

Before making my trek from New York City to the sticks of Tennesee, I conducted some research on what to bring. Deep dives into sparse Reddit threads were unhelpful. Quora posts from 2009 were dated and left me more confused than when I started. Acquaintances I spoke with that had gone in the past had rented extensive gear, which my minimalist spirit could not be bothered with. Albeit my honest attempts to draw up a plan, I ended up flying blind and ill-equipped.

So, there I was, naive as could be, teeming with excitement, driving to the farm from Nashville, solo. I had no tent and no idea what I was doing. In “my” car (a girl I had not seen since college let me borrow her vehicle for the long weekend) was a backpack of clothes, several bananas, a few gallons of water, and RX bars I snagged during a pitstop at CVS. I was comically underprepared. “Surviving” Roo ’22 may read a bit dramatic, but it’s not hyperbolic, it’s accurate of my experience.


Photo: Taylor Regulski, courtesy of Bonnaroo

Each morning, I would wake up sore as could be, malnourished, and plain miserable from my limited REM sleep. During the day my scalp peeled, becoming painful to touch, thanks to the nonstop UV ray exposure. Meanwhile, my feet became increasingly decorated with blisters from walking miles upon miles in beaten-up Vans skate shoes. At night I would get chilly in Centeroo, only to toss and turn in a pool of my own sweat when it came time to sleep. It. was. brutal.

Fortunately, my campsite neighbors, comprised of newcomers and tenured Bonaroovians (ex. a man with the epithet “Rusty”, who was perpetually shirtless and had been to every Roo but one) took notice of my lack of adequate bedding, rations, and general camping acumen. They quickly took me in as family, offering me food, shade, beverages, advice, and rich festival lore. It was during these morning breakfast shares and late night, whimsical conversations that I learned about the importance of putting Liquid IV in one’s Camelbak and the necessity of getting reps in with a Neti Pot post-Roo to avoid contracting Wook flu.

These campsite-adjacent peers furnished my car door with a cardboard and sharpie welcome mat, perfectly showcasing that I was living in squalor to all passerby. In true, last-minute DIY fashion, the sign read, “Wel” then, “come!” on a second line where there was more space for large, messy handwriting.


While I only combined for a few hours of sleep total and fell ill the days immediately following Bonnaroo, I can say without a doubt, that my 4-day stretch on the farm was the single most fun weekend of my entire life. So, naturally, I’m returning to the farm again this year for another epic round of Fun — Capital F Fun. But this time will be different. I am going with a group and will be fully prepared for whatever the elements throw my way. Step aside, Bear Grylls.

For Roo ’23 I’m in a Groop Camp with festival goers I’ve befriended, am shipping camping gear (think tent, sleeping mats, non perishables) to a friend’s place in Nashville to pick up on the way down to the farm, and am carpooling with folks that will be supplying other nice-to-haves like coolers and canopies. Oh yeah, and I’ll have high SPF sunscreen on me at all times. Sleep at night instead of midday catnaps under the trees in Centeroo? Sign me up!

If it’s your first Roo, here’s my 30-second, not-so-pro list of camping Do’s and Dont’s:


  • Sleep on a cot (I’ve also heard many success stories of hammocks). You want to be comfortable and cool.
  • Have a warm outfit to wear at night if the temp drops (for me, that means sweatpants and a hoodie)
  • Wear shoes that are meant for exercise // walking
  • Ensure that your tent (or choice sleeping arrangement) is equipped with a rainfly


  • Think you’re invincible (4 days of nonstop sun, exercise, and lack of sleep WILL catch up with you)
  • Skip on sunscreen
  • Bring snacks as your only form of sustenance
  • Sleep in a car (unless it’s your only option, in which case, make sure you leave the windows ajar)



While my spontaneity and barebones approach to Roo ’22 may have been a bit bold, the “live and learn” aspects of my experience are something all too commonplace to first-time camping festival goers. Hopefully, my story lets you avoid some of my first-timer mistakes and serves as inspiration that you can (and will!) survive what the farm throws at you, even if you’re not as prepared as you could be.

This year, I am ‘ready’ for Roo, or at the very least, am more ready than last year. Here’s to more learning — hopefully, not the hard way — and optimizing my festival camping experiences.


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