2016 Bonnaroo Survival Guide

By Amber Donoghue 

June 7, 2016

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, happening this week from June 9-12 in Manchester, Tennessee is a test of the human condition. This eclectic music festival with a carefully curated lineup of bands, artists, and comedians hosts over a 100,000 people in the peak of the summer season on “The Farm” in a small city called Manchester. Hot, unshaded long days makes for a marathon of fun so to speak. Just add dancing, high fives and the music. It’s a festival for the veteran, the educated, and the willing. Over the years it has been boiled down to a science: the survival of Bonnaroo. Here are a list of things to help you get through the four days of sweltering temperatures, long lines and unadulterated fun this week. 



Camping is fun but packing for a camping trip is not! The best way to camp at Bonnaroo is with an Eno hammock. It’s small and portable, the accessories are amazing, and it doubles as a chair and bed. You can also take it into Centeroo with you for shaded hangs at the main stage. Packing a bunch of stuff is overrated. Eno is the only way to go.


Your feet are your vehicle for the weekend. Hustling from show to show then spending hours dancing around can really take its toll. Chucks, Rainbows and gladiator sandals are for festival goers that came to be be seen. If you want to get in the thick and have a dance off with 30,000 of your new best friends in That Tent, hiking shoes are the way to go. Look into Clarks, Teva, Keen, or New Balance. You’re not trying to make a fashion statement here, you’re trying to have the time of your life. So what if you have old man shoes on? Seeing 32 shows in one day is more than enough bragging rights to make up for your orthopedic footwear.


Bonnaroo 2015
Zach Galifiankis at Bonnaroo 2015. Photo by Richard Groves for CLTure

Bottles of water are pricey at festivals. They also create more trash. H2O backpacks are great for hydration, storage and keeping rubbish off the ground and out of landfills. Don’t try going without one… it’s not fun being “that guy.” Plus, dipping out of that Lucius set to water up is for amateurs.


Its Tennessee in June. Cover your head for temp and sun control. Ask your ginger friend how cool it is to walk around with a burned scalp. A hat will help keep sun off your face, shoulders and neck. Just remember that no one else is going to think your oversized hat is cool but you when standing front and center for The Wood Brothers. Think function not funny.

Meeting Place

Bonnaroo 2015
Photo by Richard Groves for CLTure

This is not a tangible item but still a must for your festival experience. If your phone dies and you are separated from your “croo” a designated meeting place is key. Carrying big totems with Go Pros and stuffed animals or celeb heads is not for everyone. Designate a place to catch up during the event in case you are broken up by the madness of ‘Roo. But also remember that if you do part from your campmates you are still surrounded by fam. Maybe a little solo time will lead you to experience a part of Bonnaroo that you would otherwise have missed. Pro Tip: don’t be like everyone else and make your agreed-upon spot the ever-busy Beer Tent. You’ll never find your room pack in that mob. Think Post Office, Ferris Wheel ticket tent….

Positive Vibes

Also not something you can pack in a bag, but perhaps the most important thing you bring to Bonnaroo. There are people from all walks of life on the farm. It’s a hot, primitive, uncomfortable setting. We are used to creature comforts of the modern age. Keep a positive mind while on the farm. Look out for your fellow Bonnaroovian. See someone in need of some sunscreen? Offer a spray to your fellow music lover. Perhaps someone decides to take it to the paint on Thursday at 4:00pm. Pass on a sip of water and a reminder that Bonnaroo is a marathon, not a sprint.

Here are also a few things you may not have checked off on your ‘Roo To Do list:

Really Savor That Shower
The last real shower before you go is truly religious. Keep in mind that it will likely be your last. There are “showers” on the farm but really, why bother? Sweating out to a Lucious set after a rinse in a hanging garden hose does not make you any more hygienic than the next hippy. Showers are for sissies. Let it go.

Look In Your Bag Again
Keep your bag small. You don’t need that much with you for this festival (see The Bonnaroo Survival Guide) but you should make sure you have what you need. Halfway through your trip down I-40 you don’t want to remember that you didn’t pack a jacket. You know what you want to bring in your mind but whether or not it made the bag in the rush of the excitement is another thing. Check your bag.

Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches
Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches performing at Bonnaroo this year. Photo by Kim Casanova for CLTure

Car trips can be harsh. Why not make it a part of the festival experience? Spotify a dope playlist to get you through the long ride. Note that first and last song choice is crucial, and make time for overflow with traffic. Also– don’t be that guy who plays the music you are going to listen to through the weekend. Bonnaroo past performers, oldies but goodies and that new jam is where you are looking to aim. While sitting in that line to get in you’ll be grateful to have the tunes.

Change Your ETA
One hundred thousand people flood into Manchester, Tennessee on opening day of Bonnaroo. It’s a small town that grows within mere hours and the roads aren’t designed for the heavy traffic coming through town. Everyone wakes up in the morning and leaves around the same time. Be a part of the solution: shove off in the middle of the night. You don’t have to deal with traffic, the line to get in is significantly shorter, and you can set up shop and catch a nap before the festivities commence. Pro tip: Don’t announce to the world that you are headed to Bonnaroo by decorating your car with painted phrases and symbols. You will likely be searched on the side of the road.

Don’t Look Down
This is a tip for your return. After having been in the wilderness for several days the circle ends where it begins…. the shower. Wash away all the sweat, rain, people, dust, beer, and bad decisions. Just don’t look down. Also, don’t bother cleaning your bathroom before you leave; amateur mistake. Do treat yourself to a clean set of sheets before you head out for the weekend so you can slip into the crisp bedding while drifting off with sounds of the weekend in your head.

CLTure Team at Bonnaroo 2015

Bonnaroo is a music lover’s rite of passage. It’s a weekend that we carry with us through the year when we need reminders of why we do the crazy adult conformist crap that we do when we are not on the farm. We all ‘Roo our own way. These are just a few humble suggestions to help you make it through your journey. See you on the farm, Bonnaroovians!

More info on Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2016 


Read next:

In this article