All of a sudden, it’s the season to travel to remote locales and brave the wild in order to catch the latest music darlings and the recently reuniting bands—and deal with smelly crowds, frequent bartering, sleepless hours, and dirt and filth and mud. So much mud. In simpler terms, music festival season has arrived. Here’s a few things that’ll lend a bit of sanity to whole mad scene.
1. Tensile Connect Tree Tent, $450; 2. Rumpl Deepwater Puffy Blanket, from $65; 3. Laybag, $89; 4. Igloo Trailmate Cooler, $300; 5. Helly Hansen Midsund Boots, $60; 6. goTenna, $199; 7. PackTowl Personal Towel, from $10.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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As alluded to in the intro, campsites at music festivals often—and quickly—transform into a swampy morass of mud, rain-soaked grass, and beer-soaked everything. Tensile lets you rise above it all at the most vital time: when you're seeking shelter. Try the Connect Tree Tent, a two-person four-season model that can be suspended from three trees, or any other large anchors like columns, trucks, or boulders. Pitch the tent high enough, and you can string a hammock underneath, or peg the rainfly out onto the ground to create a covered porch area. You may have to get to the event early to claim your real estate, but you're sure to be the envy of all the ground-dwellers around you.
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Dubbed a high-performance blanket, Rumpl offers ample comfort and a dry place to sit when all you have is the cold, wet earth. Crafted just like sleeping bags and puffy coats—but with a cool wavy quilting pattern, the blanket uses 20D ripstop nylon treated with DWR water repellency to encase its synthetic down insulation. And they're machine-washable, making the transition from festival ground to your bed a breeze. Go with the Deepwater, which comes in sizes that range from 30x40 inches all the way up to king size.
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Mesh lawn chairs are for suckers. This inflatable sofa looks like a swollen kayak, but it may be the most comfortable way to lie back and catch a show. It inflates in a heartbeat: just open the bag, drag it through the air to inflate, and then seal it up like you would a roll-top dry bag. When the show wraps, deflate and store in the carrying sack. It weighs just over 2.5 pounds, is made of durable ripstop nylon, and can handle all comers, from rocks and sand to snow, grass, and water.
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You're more likely to find Pavement on stage than anywhere on the festival campgrounds, which is why you need to Trailmate. Its ten-inch "never flat" all-terrain tires will conquer grass, sand, and mud, with a telescoping handle that cuts the lifting effort in half. It keeps ice cold for five days (read: longer than you'd last at any festival), a butler tray gives you a quick-access service surface, and twin bottle openers are at your fingertips. The water-resistant storage section at the front is a great touch, and bungee tie-down loops let you strap the rest of your kit to the top for each car-to-campsite transport.
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Mud dominates all elements of this round-up—and with good reason. Even if you don't have to endure a thunderstorm, you'll still contend with water, spilled beer, and a whole mess of other stuff that makes every festival campsite a swamp. Rather than hop-scotch through the muck in a pair of flip-flops, stomp through everything in a pair of Midsunds. The all-rubber boots boast a gum-rubber outsole for solid, treaded purchase on the slick stuff, and easy on/off lets you escape their confines once you've reached your shelter. Bonus: they're half off right now on Helly Hansen's website.
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Leave the spotty cell reception and fickle WiFi hotspot behind with goTenna, a system that generates an off-the-grid network that lets you communicate with your friends via text. Just wirelessly pair the device to your Bluetooth-enabled device and you can send messages and share your location with others in the same network through the goTenna app (and you can also broadcast emergency signals to those outside your network). Its applications naturally extend beyond festival-going, especially for those who brave the backcountry, or for groups who hit far-flung cities and don't want to pay a premium for international coverage to stay in touch with fellow travelers.
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And now, the least sexy—and arguably most essential—pick. Packtowls' Personal line of micro-fiber towels will let you wash yourself, even if it's a quick face splash from a water jug, and dry off without having to carry a bulky cotton towel into the "wild." It absorbs four times its weight in moisture, and dries 70 percent faster than cotton, so you also won't have to wait to re-use, or pack away what would otherwise be a mildew-ridden throw-away piece of cloth when you finally get home.