If you've ever gone on a backpacking trip, you know that you have pack differently - really differently - than you do for a festival. Everything you need has to fit into a 20-40 pound backpack, so you can only bring the true essentials. We really enjoy being prepared (wonder why we started Equippr!?) so we had to work extra hard to not over pack. What seemed to help a lot was to concentrate on bringing the absolute lightest versions of the camping gear we had like flashlights, toiletries, and food.
Though it took quite a bit more effort prepare, backpacking was refreshing because we had everything we needed in one compact place. Compared to the typical way we arrive at festivals, which is usually with a carload of our own stuff and a whole general store in the trunk, we go to thinking - what about trying a lighter packing approach for the next festival we go to?
We've compiled a short list of the things we found to be the most essential camping gear that can work for backpacking or an "ultralight" festival camping experience.
1. Packable Rain Jacket
"Packable" is key here. You just need something that will keep off the rain and will *pack* down to a small size. We recently tried out several jackets in the sub-$50 range from Amazon, and the Paradox Men's Waterproof & Breathable Rain Jacket was the winner. The material is surprisingly sturdy for the $37 price tag, and it has a handy zipper pocket on the front for your cell phone (complete with a hole for headphones). All of our festival kits also include a rain poncho which will work in case you forget a jacket.
2. Backpack Cover
Few backpacks are truly waterproof and if a downpour should come your way, you will need your pack to stay dry. Backpack covers are really cheap and help keep the important things inside of your pack protected. They can also help keep your bag a little cleaner when you have to set it down on dirty or wet ground.
3. Pocket Stove & Fuel
Buying all of your festival food from vendors is expensive, but it can really boost your mood to have a hot meal. Of course, when backpacking, the only hot meal you get will be one you cook yourself. Our best advice is to purchase a pocket stove. Not only are they ridiculously small (it really does fit into a pocket), but you'll get some super quick hot water for the ramen or coffee you've been craving on the trail all day.
We found this Generic Backpacking Stove from Amazon worked surprisingly well. Purchase a canister of isobutane fuel at your local outfitter, screw it on, and you're good to go. Don't forget to pack a lightweight cooking pot!
4. Throw Pillow
It's really important to sleep well, especially if you're hiking or partying all day. We spoiled ourselves by bringing along a couple of throw pillows on our hiking trip - much more compact than a full-size bed pillow, but with just as much comfort. If you really want to keep things light and tiny, get an inflatable camping pillow!
5. Ground Cloth
Your tent is pretty much the most important thing you'll bring with you on a backpacking or festival trip. While nobody can prevent "tent-tastrophies" like leaky rainfly's and broken poles from wind gusts, you can at least keep the floor from getting torn up by bringing a ground cloth to put underneath it. No need to get fancy by buying a special one from the manufacturer - just get a cheap tarp from your local dollar store or Walmart. That will protect against rocks and sticks that would rip and ruin the bottom of your tent. Our Summit Kits also include a more robust tarp that works perfectly for a ground cloth.
Are there any other essentials that you'd recommend for an ultralight festival camping experience? Let us know!