DC Music Review Festival Survival Guide

Lockn Festival 2017

Let's face it, there is nothing better than a festival!  

But if you have not been to a festival before or want to get some inside tips from seasoned festival goers like the staff at DC Music Review, look no further than our festival guide to help you prepare and have the best time you can at festivals near and far. 

We are going to skip the basics like "Bring your toothbrush and plenty of comfortable clothing" and will instead concentrate on some essential tips that you may not already know about.

Food & Beverages


What food you bring to a venue all depends on you and what camping (and glamping) equipment you are bringing to your campsite.

We do have the following recommendation - goto a food shopping superstore where you can find food sold in extra large quantities. Places like Costco will save you a lot of money and provide food and snacks in "family size" that will last you any 3 and 4-night events.


Make sure to buy some items in "grab-and-go" packaging. Sometimes you may only have a few minutes to hit a campsite, grab some food and head back to the venue. For these occasions, you may want individually wrapped granola bars or an item that is sealed and can support an "on the go" festival lifestyle.


Make sure to stay properly hydrated during a festival. A music festival is a marathon and not a sprint! Not only should you keep drinking water, make sure to have water in reserves at your campsite.


Do not rely on beer to replace your water. (Even though beer contains 95%+ water, that is not a good substitute!)
Afterall, nothing beats Orange Juice with some coffee when you first wake up on any given day.


Festivals do not allow glass into the festival grounds. This is because glass breaks and can lead to a variety of injuries both during the festival and in the months and years after the festival takes place. If you are going to bring in drinks, make sure you bring your beverages in CLOSED plastic or metal containers.


There are two types of containers you should bring to a festival:

  • Bring an insulated water container. This will keep your hot beverages hot (think coffee in the morning) and your cold drinks cold (think of icy cold water while baking in the sun)
  • Bring a Nalgene container. These hold 32oz, and most festivals provide water stations to refill your water container. On occasion festivals will want you to purchase their container at a nominal fee with unlimited water refills.
Container Maintenance

Every now and again we leave a beverage in our container simmering longer than it should or forget to dry out our metal or plastic container properly. Many of the bottles out there are not dishwasher safe and we found the perfect product to restore your container back to when it was brand new.  After using this product we found that it easily "de-funks" our water bottle and gets rid of any build up that doesn't seem to go away.  Check out more information at BottleBright.

Bottle Bright Cleaning Tablets
Local Beer

One of the best things you can share with a nearby neighbor is a taste of home. For many of us, we have our regional and local craft brewery. We may think that it is available far and wide, but that is the exception. What better way to share a bit of your home area than to swap a beer with your neighbor. Some of our best memories at festivals are the lunchtime beer swaps or 2 AM post-show beer-swap.



We have two major recommendations about tents given our years of usage:  

  • We recommend that you purchase a tent that has ample rain protection and has rain protection that come all the way down to the ground.
  • We also recommend against "instant up" tents. Although they are very easy to pitch a tent with relative ease, we have found that "instant up" mechanisms are prone to failure and usually last 1-2 times before something breaks. These tents also have also been known to have rain issues right at the "instant up" assembly.
Camping Tents


In addition to your tent, you may want to purchase a portable shelter. This shelter allows you to lounge around and most importantly seek refuge from the elements during the day.

TIP:    These shelters go on sale often, especially at the beginning and end of the summer.  Be sure to check Dick's Sporting goods as these tents go on sale often.

Festival Grounds

Lounging shelters are so useful. They allow you to get shelter from the sun and elements while also watching performers for hours.

These shelters are not just for adults. Child size and themed shelters are available. If you happen to be bringing small children, nothing is better than your children being able to rest between running around and having a shelter where they can stay out of the sun.

One manufacturer we like who makes quality lounging shelters is Sport-Brella.


Cold Weather Clothes

Not every climate is like the Chesapeake Watershed where it is 85 degrees during the summer days and 84 degrees at night. Make sure to bring a sweater or some heavier clothing for the evening when it cools off. You should check the forecast and see what the evening temperature is. At some festival locations, daytime/nighttime weather can fluctuate 30 or more degrees.

Wet Weather

The Norwegians say "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices." To that end, be prepared for bad weather on the off chance that it happens. A few good clothing choices and preparation can ensure you have the ultimate time at a festival.


Phish says in their song "Cavern" - "Whatever you do take care of your shoes"

Nothing can be more true than this! And rule #1 about taking care of your shoes is to be prepared for prepared for rain!  Being prepared is key!

There are two types of boot options:

  • Wet Weather Waterboots - Muck Boots, and Hunter Boots come to mind. These are especially useful for May and Early June festivals where rain is not uncommon.
  • Hiking Boots - You do not have to have full on "Where is Noah and his Arc?" weather shoes. If you have a pair of hiking boots, you should bring them along.

NOTE: Try to wear your boots a few days before the event to adjust your body to wearing boots. Make sure to bring band-aids for any blister points. Also, make sure your toenails are properly clipped for boots (e.g.: not too long.)

Wet Weather Waterproof Boots

Hiking Boots


Once again, be prepared for the elements.

You can bring a:

  • Rain Poncho - Depending on the quality this may last one to two times.
  • Collapsable Rainproof Jacket - The only thing better than a rainproof jacket is a jacket that collapses down into a small pouch.  This provides for the best experience and keeps you on the go.

Rainproof jacket.

If you want to travel light, many rain jackets have collapsable versions that fold into compact and easy to carry version.


Navigating the Festival At Night

Most festivals have brightly lit performance spaces. But what happens when the show is over, and you need to get back to your camping area. While some campgrounds have a lot of evening lights, not all do, and they vary from venue to venue.

These headlamps are relatively inexpensive at the low and ensure that when you decide to go back to your tent, you can with the confidence that you can navigate the terrain. Not only this, most of these headlamps easily fold down and fit into your pocket.

NOTE:  Yes, we do know most phones now have a "flashlight mode" but at the end of a day of festival going you may be down to very little battery. Do you really want to make the choice between your phone, your internet, and getting back to your tent?

An alternative to a dedicated headlamp is a collapsible tent lamp that can also comfortably fit into your pocket.

We liked the UST Brand - Spright Solar USB LED Lantern as it easily fits into your hand, your pocket and your tent.

If you go to festivals only once in a great while and do not want to load up on all these individual lights and "camping gizmos," a multi-purpose option like this will keep your total costs down and your house less cluttered.

Lighting inside your Tent

Make sure you bring a flashlight or a camping light.

We liked UST Brands which are available at most camping stores. Their products came in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and purposes.  Feel free to explore their products for comparison and shopping purposes.


Staying Dry and Chaff Free

Let's face it... there are days that you are walking around for in the heat and chafing and sweat gets the better of you! We have used these creams that go on wet and dry into absorbent talc. Not only do we use it, we swear by it for multi-day festivals.

We know you may not want people to share these sort of suggestions, but after Day 4 of a festival, you may be very very grateful that we told you about this clever stuff ahead of time.

For more information please look at FreshBalls or Fresh-Breasts     

Shower / Changing Room

At many of the smaller festivals (sub-2,500 guests), they may not have space or budget to allocate shower facilities. There are times where you may want to have a shower in your camp or do not want to pay the additional fees. You can purchase a small portable shower/changing room and use bottles of water, bathing wipes, or use an outdoor shower system. If you want to be a glamper, treat yourself to a solar portable shower system!

Shower / Changing Room

Outdoor Shower

Portable Shower System.

No Shower Facilities? No Problem!

There comes a time where you may have no shower resources available. There are other times where you are just covered with a little too much sweat and need a quick rinse.

For these situations, we recommend bringing some bathing wipes, baby wipes, and similar toiletries. Note: Be sure to check the travel section of a drug store as these also come in travel sizes & quantities (Just in case you think you need a few days of supplies and not 100-2000 baby wipes.)

Health & Body


Festivals are great experiences and healthy food options are available. However, sometimes there are too many delicious options, especially fried and fatty foods. Not everyone can adjust to festival food, especially several days in a row. We would recommend that you bring some antacids. Many festivals will have these at their general store, however not all festivals have general stores.



Bandages such as Band-Aids serve multiple purposes. We all get some small cuts, but where band-aids come in most handy is to prevent or protect blisters. There is a lot of walking & dancing at a festival, and some parts of your body (especially feet and toes) can take a beating. We recommend fabric band-aids as they last longer and breath easier and dry better than their plastic counterparts.



There are going to be those times where despite your best effort you are going to literally "party your buns (and other things off).  Bringing a travel size stick of Vaseline or petroleum jelly will keep you moving and pain free. This might be the most valuable 1.75 ounces you wind up bringing to a 4 day Music Festival.

Travel sized Vaseline

Things You Never Thought of But Are Truly Valuable!

Ear Plugs - For Music & Sleeping

Not only should you bring hearing protection when you are listening to amplified music for hours on end, but we suggest you wear comfortable earplugs to sleep in. If you plan it right, you can ear plugs that are comfortable enough to suit both purposes.

Going to a festival can be a marathon, and you need your rest. There are times that you are trying to sleep while your neighbor comes back from that killer Midnight - 3 AM performance, or others decide to keep the party going later than you might want. All it takes is one person screaming "John... where are you? Dammit... I'm lost!" to wake you from your sleep! DC Music Review highly recommends Eargasm Earplugs both for listening to concerts and drowning out the noise of others.

Eargasm Earplugs


There are times that you want to carry a water bottle, a set of keys or something else. A carabiner is a beautiful solution to quickly attach and detach items to your belt, purse loop, backpack. These are generally inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles and are quite useful for shepherding your festival gear.

We highly recommend this, but even more, you should also invest in a LOCKING carabiner as there are some nights where you get caught up in the festival fun and forget about an item falling out of the clipping. We know a thing or two about festivals and how you may become distracted and caught up in the moment. You can prevent that, and the loss of something like your favorite festival hat or water bottle.

There are also occasions where you want to dance the night away and attach something to your lawn chair or a fence. We strive to believe that people are honest, but there are occasions where people get "sticky fingers," and a locking mechanism is just enough to deter someone from walking away with something of yours.

Locking Carabiner

Zip Ties

Zip TiesZip Ties

Zip Ties can be invaluable as they are light, easy to adjust, and can mend so many things. We have used zip ties for so many campsite repairs in a pinch, including emergency tent repairs. Be sure to get the heavier gauge zip ties as they are more versatile and can stand up to extended rigors.

Specific Festival Notes

  • FESTY Experience

Lockn - August - Arrington, VA - August Each Year

Getting Around

Lockn is an exceptionally large venue and it may take you 20 minutes to walk from your campsite to the stage.  You have two choices:

  • Rent a 'taxi' (it's a 3 row golf cart) 
  • Bring a bike. You can bike to the venue and LOCK your bike up near the entrance to the venue. PLEASE bring a lock. This may be a festival of love, but fingers may get sticky if you bring a nice bike. For that matter, bring a beater bike that can handle the rigors of unpaved roads and rocks - this is not a place for your Tour de France carbon fiber bike.

Beer is available at many concession stands throughout the venue.  If you do bring your own beer to the venue this venue only allows cans. (NOTE: This is not to be dicks, they don't want glass breaking and then harming others as they walk in the venue.)

Recommended Food & Drink Vendors Inside the Venue
  • If you like mead, you should stop by Black Heath Meadery out of Richmond, VA.  Not only do they have exceptional mead, but they make special meads just for Lockn.
  • If you are looking for some great Australian Pot Pies, look no further than The Pie Guy out of Charlottesville, VA.  They also serve up some delicious vegetarian options including one of our favorite Tofu brands, Twin Oaks Tofu.
Must See Performance

If you have never been to Lockn, the one hidden gem is Keller Williams Grateful Gospel with John Kadlecik. You have never been to a church like this when Reverend Keller performs most of the Grateful Dead's biblically influenced and hymnal music with an organ and several gospel backup singers. 

This performance has been one of the most celebrated performances at Lockn, and that is why year after year Lockn keeps this Sunday tradition going!

Showering Facilities

There are showers available on-site.  In years past these generally cost $10 per shower.

Worth the Stop

If you are coming from the North, be sure to stop in Charlottesville, VA to pick up any and all last minute food, drinks or supplies before heading to Infinity Downs. This college town has so many options available.

Before Or After The Festival

Doctor Ho's Humble Pie

You may not believe us when we tell you that some of the best pizza you will ever have is located a few miles from Infinity Downs. We know what you are going to say "I'm a native New Yorker or Chicagoan... I know what the best pizza is!" We have a few New Yorkers and Chicagoans on our staff and have also wagered with others before their visit. This establishment leaves you with a grin on your face and a belly full of goodness! That and the doubters thank us on their way out.  You will too!

4916 Plank Rd

North Garden VA 22920 (Google Maps Link)

Phone: (434) 245-0000

Menu: drhoshumblepie.com

 Hours 11AM - 9PM (7 Days a week)

Doctor Ho's Humble Pie


Where to Buy

We recommend the following  brick and mortar stores in addition to on-line retailers.

You will be simply amazed at how much festival supplies are available at these bulk stores.  This is an excellent source of NOT ONLY food & beverages. You should be able to find an ample supply of hygene products, batteries and other miscelanious items.

For people who don't frequent this store too much or just stick to the "outside perimeter" is that the store contains a HUGE array of camping eqipment including sleeping bags, tents, shelters, chairs, headlamps , and so much more.  These items may be sold at various times of the warmer months but may interspersed thoughout the season.  Be sure to look and find some great deals on all your camping needs.

When you really need to see a wide range of camping products all under one roof we suggest you go to an outdoor store that has 50 different boots, 40 tents, 100 sleeping bags, and more flashlight and LED accessories than you will know what to do with.

NOTE:  If you are planning to do more festivals, make sure to check out "End of Season Sales." Durable goods that will last you years into the future somehow seem so much sweeter when they are at clearance and bargain prices.

What does Amazon NOT have available for purchase.  This is a great resource for all your needs. For some of the durable goods for your festival experience such as tents, sleeping bags, and boots we suggest you go to a brick and mortar store so you can examine the quality and feel in person.


DC Music Review was not paid, nor compensated to write this review of any of the brands or stores contained in this article. All opinions are based on our staff's first hand experience preparing and surviving music festivals.

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DC Music Review Staff

DC Music Review Staff

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