With the Official Bonnaroo 2024 lineup dropping tomorrow, I thought I would put together a Bonnaroo survival guide based on what I learned during my first time attending in 2023.

My 2023 Experience Was Epic

My croo and I attended with Wednesday entry last year. Once we got camp set up, we wandered to Where in the Woods and we knew then that we would be back in 2024. Roo was everything I had heard it would be and so much more! There was definitely much to be learned, and we will be tweaking our camp setup and packing list accordingly, but I wanted to share with you what I found to be beneficial as a first-time Bonnarookie.

2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 2
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Preparation is Key

Planning and preparation will go a long way in making your Bonnaroo experience the best it can be. Being neurodivergent, I spent a lot of time researching and planning. We made spreadsheets, shopping lists, packing lists, etc. in preparation. After all, we were going to be living in the middle of a Tennessee field for nearly six days. We wanted to be sure we were as prepared as we could be.

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Pace Yourself

Bonnaroo is a marathon, not a sprint. It is days of walking and dancing, days of heat, and days of co-mingling with thousands of other festival goers. Pace yourself so you can make it through and enjoy the entire festival.

Give Your Immune System an Advanced Boost

Boost your immune system in advance. The Bonna-flu is real. Between the dust, and all of the people and surfaces that you will come in contact with at Roo, making sure you show up with a strong, well-functioning immune system will be a tremendous help in preventing the Bonna-flu. Give your body its best chance at fighting off any germs you may encounter by boosting your immune system before you go. Take some vitamin C and zinc in the weeks leading up to Bonnaroo, and don’t forget to hydrate.

Photo by Houston Max on Unsplash

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Hydrate in advance. You cannot show up to Bonnaroo dehydrated and expect to drink a ton of water while you’re there and be ok. Proper hydration takes time and consistency. Do your best to arrive at Bonnaroo hydrated. It will make it easier on you all the way around.

Get Up and Get Moving Now

If you are sedentary at work like I am most days, get up and get moving now. Get yourself conditioned to being on your feet and walking long distances. The distance from your campsite to Centeroo might be a short walk, or it might take you 30-40 minutes to get there. I have started my gym routine now to ensure that my body doesn’t betray me and suck all the fun out of the festival for me.

Take Care of Your Feet at Bonnaroo

Walking more now will also help condition your feet but it will also give you the chance to break in any new shoes you plan to wear at Bonnaroo. Do not show up in new shoes. Your feet will pay the price. So take care of your feet: Good shoes. Broken in and comfortable shoes. Extra socks. Seriously pack more socks than you think you will need. You will need them. Elevate your feet at the end of the night and pack some moleskin to help avoid blisters - In a pinch, duct tape will work too.

Set Up a Trial Camp In Your Yard

Test run your camp set up before Roo. This will give you the chance to make sure all of your gear is in good working condition before you go. It also gives you the chance to test out new gear to make sure all parts/pieces are there and work like they are supposed to. Plus, by opening everything at home, you won’t have the cardboard and trash to litter up the farm.

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Photo by frame harirak on Unsplash

Pro Tip: Waterproof Everything

While you have everything set up for your test run, waterproof your tents. You can buy waterproofing spray at places like Walmart or Amazon. You’ll likely need more than one can but it is invaluable to have your tent and campsite stay dry if/when it rains. The storm that came through after the Foo Fighters set in 2023 was no joke, but our tent did not leak and we stayed dry.

Test Run Loading Your Gear Into Your Car

You may also want to do a test run of fitting everything into your vehicle(s). Make your 10x10 pop-up canopy one of the most easily accessible items when you load the car. This way it can be the first thing you take out and set up. The heat and sun can be brutal so having some shade while you set up the rest of camp will come in handy. You will also want to be sure you pack your cooler so it is easily accessible for the security checkpoint.

To Tent or Not to Tent at Bonnaroo

There are some mixed opinions on the use of an actual tent but I didn’t feel like I would feel secure enough to actually rest under just a pop-up. We chose to use an 8-person darkroom tent with a 10x10 over top. We also placed it on the west end of our site, farthest from the point of sunrise. We had a total of four 10x10s. One over our tent, two as shared “living space” in the middle, and one on the east end of camp where my daughter and her friend slept. (Keep reading to learn how we secured our campsite against the weather and wind.)

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Air Mattress Was the Way for Me

Likewise, there are mixed opinions on air mattresses. Personally, I wanted to be able to sleep next to my partner and not do it on the ground. Eventually, I would like to invest in one of the elevated airbeds, but for now, we have a double-tall queen-sized air mattress.

To prevent the usual deflating issues, I aired it up in advance at home in my basement and left it for several days. Occasionally, I would go down to add more air because it was new and I wanted to give it a chance to stretch itself out. I purchased a USB-rechargeable pump from Amazon and once inflated at Roo, I only had to top it off with a little more air once or twice. I was also sure to use a tarp as a footprint under my tent, and another on the floor of the tent. The “grass” at Bonnaroo is very sharp and pokey. I wanted to avoid any accidental holes in my air mattress. Other good options recommended by others are hammocks and cots.

Wristband Etiquette

Do not put your wristband on until you get close to Roo and whatever you do, do not put it on and tighten it when you first get it in the mail! They don’t come off once they are tightened without some serious effort and there is no guarantee it will work. Speaking of wristbands (and car camping passes). Make sure you put these in your glovebox or pack them in the one bag you know you absolutely will not accidentally leave behind at home. Triple-check before you leave for Roo that you have them with you.

Photo by Thomas Lardeau on Unsplash

Traveling to Bonnaroo

I’ve heard it from every seasoned Roo goer – don’t decorate your car. Take anything you may have hanging from your rearview mirror down. Make sure the gear you’ve packed doesn’t cover your windows, and drive like a good, law-abiding citizen. I have heard horror stories of festival goers having their vehicles unpacked on the side of the road. It’s best not to give police a reason to pull you over in the first place.

Gas It Up Before You Get There

Come into camp with as close to a full tank of gas as you can. Stop about 20 miles outside of Manchester before you get there to top off. Getting out on Sunday night or Monday morning can leave you idling in standstill traffic. You won’t want to be worried about running out of gas.

Prechill Your Coolers

If you have the room, pack two coolers: one for food and one for drinks. This will keep your food cooler colder longer because you won’t be in and out of it as frequently. Keep both coolers in the shade if you can and/or toss a reflective emergency mylar blanket on top! Some folks recommend dry ice – we chose to not go that route because of the risks and our lack of experience with it.

What I did do was freeze water bottles, and use those to pre-chill the coolers. I put a case in the freezer, and once frozen moved those into a cooler for pre-chilling, and restocked the freezer with more bottles. Once those were frozen, I swapped them with the previous batch in the cooler so they would freeze solid again. This gave us pre-chilled coolers which made our ice last longer, and gave us a bed of mess-less ice to put everything else on top of.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Get that Good Hydration

Pack lots of bottled water and hydrate while you are there. I know I talked about hydration earlier, but it is so important that we are going to talk about it again. You have to hydrate, especially if you are drinking alcohol or taking any other substances. Even some prescription medications can dehydrate you so this is incredibly important. I used a hydration backpack anytime I left my campsite. There are a lot of different brands and price points online. Find one that works for you and use it, or at the very least have a reusable water bottle for Centeroo.

Don’t Forget the Electrolytes

A lot of people recommend using electrolytes and I will echo the sentiment. An electrolyte imbalance will not make for a good time at Roo. However, many people suggest using the packets that you add to your hydration packs. A lot of those contain sugar and/or preservatives that I didn’t necessarily want to have to worry about rinsing out of my hydration bladder. I ended up buying electrolyte capsules from a reputable supplement brand and everyone at camp would toss a couple back with our morning water. It helped aid our hydration without gunking up our hydration packs.

Stake It. Stake It Good.

When it comes to securing and setting up the campsite, pop-up tents, etc… I thought I may have been overprepared, but honestly, I am grateful that I was a bit extra when it came to staking down our campsite. We bought screw-in stakes like you would use for a dog tie-out – one for each of the four corners of our campsite, plus one for each “joint” where the legs of two 10 x 10s met. We then used ratchet straps to secure the canopies to the screw-in stakes. This added stability and security, and using the screw-in stakes, we didn’t have guy lines to trip over or encroach on anyone else's campsite. The video below is the reference I used for doing it this way.

Proper Staking Techniques Are Important

If you use straight stakes, be sure you put them into the ground the proper way: at a 45-degree angle, with the head of the stake farthest from your canopy leg or tent. Cheap solar lights from the dollar store are a great addition to mark your stakes so you don’t trip over them or their guy lines at night.

Meet Your Neighbors

Radiate positivity and say Happy Roo! You might even make a new friend for life! Seriously, being friendly with your Roo neighbors can really pay off, especially if someone has some nefarious intentions. Neighbors look out for each other.

Stand Out

When your campsite is complete, you will want to make it stand out in some way to make it easier to find in the sea of Tent City. We used a custom-made flag, but you could use anything from tapestries to inflatable balloons to make your site stand out. We also took a photo of the area marker nearest our campsite as well. Some folks recommended dropping a pin on your maps app on your phone to log your GPS coordinates too.

2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 4
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Keep It Cool

Take breaks in the shade if you’re out during the day. Cooling towels kept in your drink cooler are really nice for camp and can be taken with you when you venture away from “home.” I loved my giant hand fan too and it came in really handy when we encountered a festival goer on the ground having a hard time.

A Few Extra Things

Don’t forget your sunscreen! A sunburn will on Wednesday or Thursday will not make for a fun time the rest of the week.

Duct Tape: you will need it. Your neighbor will need it. It is incredibly versatile and useful in any number of situations.

Sleep is important to recover from a day (and night) full of adventure. A sleep mask and earplugs are key to a good, restful sleep.

Rather than the usual bag chairs everyone uses for camp, we brought our tri-fold loungers. These were great at camp to chill and elevate our feet too.

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Keep It Clean

Buy a solar camp shower. They’re cheap and make it easy to keep yourself clean. Toss on a swimsuit or some undies and scrub-a-dub-dub. Pack baby wipes for in-between showers and quick clean-ups. For our group, this was a much more economical way to practice good hygiene as opposed to buying shower passes. We set it on the roof of the car when we were ready to use it. Don’t forget some travel shampoo, conditioner, & body wash too.

Hauling with Ease

A wagon for hauling water and/or ice may seem like a silly thing, but there were four of us at camp and between dishes from cooking, and our shower bags, we hauled a lot of water. A folding wagon made navigating to and from the water station a breeze.

The Friction is Real

Goldbond, Anit-Monkey Butt, whatever brand you choose, bring some powder, and maybe an anti-chafe stick too. The friction is real, and your thighs (and buttcrack) will thank you!

Clean Up Kit

If you are packing a camp grill like we did, and plan to cook and eat “at home,” don’t forget your dish soap and sponge to clean up the dishes. We ate quite a bit at camp but also bought some yummy things from the food vendors as well.


Stay Organized

Keep everything organized with one of those over-the-door shoe organizers with plastic pockets. This was a great way to keep shared, communal items accessible to everyone in our croo and in one spot so they were easy to find.

Compression Bags Save Space & Keep Things Dry

I cannot recommend using large compression bags (sometimes called space bags) enough. Not only can you squish your blankets and pillows for easy and compact transport, but you can put those things back in the bag when you leave camp for Centeroo so when you return “home” for sleep, they are dry. The Tennessee humidity makes for a pretty high dewpoint and you don’t want to come back, exhausted and ready for sleep only to find your bedding and pillows are damp.

Stop by the Jesus Tent

There is a tent on the Farm called The Jesus Tent. It is a large group of ministry volunteers from several different churches in and around Manchester. They aren’t pushy with their message, and they have all sorts of things you might have forgotten at home or found yourself in need of like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and other travel-sized necessities. They also offer free snacks and drinks and free phone charging stations too.

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Extras to Bring into Centeroo

Sanitizer wipes in your fanny pack. For your hands. For the porta-potties. For everything. And speaking of fanny packs (and/or hydration packs). Here are some other things to have on you: lip balm, mylar emergency blanket (great to sit on or wrap up in if you’re cold), hand sanitizer, toilet paper and/or baby wipes (you are very likely to encounter a porta-potty with no TP), earplugs, a small flashlight or cheap headlamp (great for porta potties in the dark so you don’t have to use your phone), battery pack + cable for your phone, small first aid kit…

Trades and Making New Friends

Bring something to trade… I have never made kandi before but I wanted to have something to trade or hand out to make friends so I brought Dum Dum suckers and stickers. If I like your outfit or your vibe, I offered you a sticker or sucker. It was a great way to make new friends and spread positive vibes! For 2024, I want to set a “Take One, Leave One” box out at our campsite.

What to Wear at Bonnaroo

Wear what you want! Seriously, wear whatever brings you joy and as much or as little of it as you choose. The positivity radiated at the Farm was immaculate, and it included body positivity too. Want to dress in rhinestones? Do it! Want to wear a onesie? Do it! Want to run around with your “rave booty” out? DO IT! Anything goes at Roo and it is beautiful!

Clothes Packing Hack for Roo

Pro tip: When you pack your clothes, pack each outfit in a ziplock bag. That way, there’s no searching for the socks you want to go with your fire ‘fit when they are already all together. Plus, it will help keep everything dry from the dew I mentioned earlier.

Photo by Ali Pazani on Unsplash

Stay Warm

It can get chilly at night in the middle of a field in Tennessee so do yourself a favor and pack some sweats or a jacket too. Your pashmina alone may not be enough to keep you warm while you’re waiting on that sunrise set.

Bonnaroo Phone Safety Tips

Keep your contact info or the contact info of a friend on your lock screen in case you lose your phone. Do not keep it in your pocket or your hydration backpack. You want to keep your phone in a front pocket or better yet, zipped in your fanny pack in front of you so it is not an easy target for pickpockets. You can also get a “phone leash” to tether it to you if you’d like.

Keep Valuable Out of Sight at Roo

Speaking of safety – keep anything valuable locked inside your car when you are not at camp. More specifically, lock it in the glovebox or trunk. Keep it out of sight.

Watch the Weather

Keep an eye on the weather during the festival. We knew we were in for some potentially serious weather Sunday night so we broke camp down to just two pop-ups and our darkroom tent and lowered the canopies to their lowest settings before we headed to Centeroo. I am so glad we did because when we woke up on Monday morning to leave, the number of mangled, broken, and wind-tossed canopies was astounding.

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Kat Mykals

Totems at Bonnaroo

Not everyone likes Totems. I get it, but I wanted one for my first Roo so our Croo could spot each other if we got separated. Plus, it was a huge conversation starter with strangers. (Heeeeey! “Sexy Patrick!!”) We 10/10 plan to do it again in 2024 but here’s what I learned with my first totem: Avoid the security hassle. Make sure it doesn’t exceed the height limits and is made of approved materials. The combined height of the totem and the pole when fully extended cannot exceed the guidelines set by Bonnaroo and security will enforce it.

Others had much taller totems and flags than I did, but have no idea how they got them into Centeroo. I was fortunate that I had made mine using a paint roller so I was able to remove it from the extending pole that I had planned to use. I had to leave the pole behind with security so I didn’t miss the artists we were wanting to see just to walk the pole back to camp. I won't make that mistake again.

The Other Side of the Bonnaroo Experience

Look, I’ve been sober since 2013, so I don’t partake in that side of the festival scene, but if you do, be smart, be safe, and know your legal rights in case you get busted.

Have a Plan but Be Flexible

There were a ton of artists that I wanted to see but just didn’t get to. Over 200 artists are performing at Bonnaroo plus there are all of the art installations and activities in Outeroo too. There is no way to do and see it all so just roll with it.

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Kat Mykals

Try Something New at Roo

There were a lot of firsts for me with my first Bonnaroo, but one of my most memorable moments was biting into a Wookie-Dog for the very first time. I was not prepared for just how good it was going to be! I also tried the Spicey Pie and several other food vendors too, but my first Wookie-Dog was life-changing!

Bonnaroo Will Be What You Make It

Have fun and radiate positivity! Roo will be what you make it. There are always some bad apples in every bunch, but don’t let their ick keep you from having a good time. No one can steal your vibe unless you let them.

Take Care of Each Other

If you see someone struggling with the heat? Offer some water, loan your fan, call for a medic… you get the idea. At the end of the day, we are all just walking each other home and it’s our job to take care of each other.

2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 3
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Clean Up After Yourself

This may seem like a no-brainer, but after my first Roo experience, I feel like it needs to be mentioned. Pick up your trash. Don’t leave anything behind when you break camp. Leave the farm like you found it when you got there.

Bonnablues are Very Real

Have a plan for the Bonnablues. The crash from all of the serotonin and dopamine of Bonnaroo is real. Relive your memories and take care of yourself, including your mental health post-Roo. Good nutrition and hydration should continue after the fest is through.

If you’re still reading, I hope to see you on the farm! If you see "Sexy Patrick" say hi! ❤

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will take place June 13 – June 16, 2024, in Manchester, Tennessee. Learn more about Bonnaroo including Centeroo and Outeroo details by visiting Bonnaroo.com.

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Gallery Credit: Danielle Spence

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