Return to Bonnaroo 2011: Lists of Collected Feelings, Experiences and What to Pack

Hey guess who’s hauling ass back to Manchester, TN, June 9-13, for four days of mud, sweat, panic attacks, synergy, breakfast beer and MUSIC! It’s time for the 2nd Annual Autostraddle Pilgrimage to Bonnaroo and this time around, Contributing Editor Sarah and I know what to expect.

See, last year was just a rollercoaster of emotions! First I thought I was going to Bonnaroo alone, and maybe you and I have just met so I’ll tell you a little secret: I don’t like going to new places alone! Throw in camping and the prospect of like, foraging for food in the fields of middle Tennessee and I was thisclose to hiring an escort from Craigslist to help me put up the tent. But then, with less than three days’ notice, Sarah said she could go with me! Sweet glorious relief!

Here are some more ups and downs from our maiden voyage:

+ I couldn’t find the inflatable shark. Technically this happened before I left Phoenix, but I assure you the residual effects lasted for weeks.
+ We waited in line for over two hours to pick up our wristbands. Oh the humanity, etc.
+ All five cars in our convoy managed to park right next to each other for the optimal communal camping experience.
+ I missed Local Natives.
+ Sarah saw Brandi Carlile twice in one day.
+ Romy Madley Croft and I made sex eyes at each other. Just trust me.
+ One of the air mattresses we brought had a “slow leak” and we “found out which one it was” after “waking up” on the floorboard of the SUV.
+ Sarah locked her keys in her truck and sang Lady Gaga songs in exchange for a festival map at the info booth while we waited for the locksmith.
+ There was no internet.
+ There were biscuits and gravy.
+ I couldn’t figure out how to leave Centeroo after the Black Keys set, so I walked in circles and followed random people until one of them happened to be heading back to the campgrounds.
+ We enjoyed the many perks of the designated press area, including an air-conditioned mess hall, cozy sofas and clean(er) portable toilets.
+ The press area was set up in a location that could only be described as “clear the fuck on the other side of the farm.”

[Read more at Bonnaroo 2010: Autostraddle Takes Tennessee]

unflattering photo of laneia is unflattering, accurately illustrates levels of both heat and stress


There were so very many learning experiences and we figured out a lot last year — what’s worth stocking up on and what’s not, the quickest way to eat a breakfast quesadilla the size of your head on the way to Centeroo, how to shave your legs in the front seat of your SUV, et cetera and so forth. Sarah and I are SO READY TO GO BACK and we want to share some packing tips, tricks and feelings that we think will meet all or most of your Bonnaroo needs!


– canned beer, vodka
– water, cranberry juice, Red Bull
– peanut butter
– pretzels, chips
– fruit
– baby carrots
– battery-operated fan(s) + extra batteries
– air mattress + pump
– earplugs
– sunscreen, bug repellent
– chapstick(s)
– bandanas
– reusable water bottles
– antibacterial disposable wet wipes
– toilet paper
– black trash bags + masking tape: for the truck windows
– plastic cups + utensils
– floppy hat
– rain boots
– poncho
– small tarp: for sitting on / sitting your things on after Centeroo has turned into a mud pit (a.k.a. ‘day two’)
– gallon-size ziptop bags: for anything you can’t throw away but don’t want to smell, like those socks you just took off
– Wisps: never leave home without them


image via confessions of a vegan mama


1. Cookies!

Why didn’t I bring cookies last year? What the hell is wrong with me?

2. Moar Water

I need one 2-gallon jug for drinking and another for washing my damn hair.

3. Moar Underwear

I don’t know, I thought I’d packed enough last year? Is this too personal? I just kept wanting fresh underpants.

dress from modcloth

4. Tops and dresses with prints!

Apparently everything I own is solid, neutral-toned, and usually of the heathered variety. Hey, you know what highlights your sweaty torso area really super well? Solids! Lesson learned, oppressive Tennessee heat! Lesson learned indeed.

5. Oranges

I feel like we only took apples and bananas last year. Apples take like an hour to eat and hot bananas are so entirely unpleasant that I refuse to discuss them further. (Wait, I may have additional, more positive feelings re: hot bananas.)

6. Cash

I’m the kind of person who buys a lot of snacks before going on a road trip, only to buy even more food while on the road. I’m not kidding myself this year. I don’t want a turkey sandwich that I’ve slapped together at the campsite — I want some of those vegetarian street tacos from that one vendor over there by that one stage. Yeah.

7. 5-Hour Energy Drinks

Sometimes when it’s really hot and loud and things are so far away from each other, all you can do is just lie down where you’re standing, hope it’s shaded, and start crying. Exhaustion is a real bitch and I’d like to avoid it this year.



1. Expectations

2. Eye shadow

Okay what are we forgetting? What’s your most indispensable camping / festival advice? Are you going to Bonnaroo in an RV and if so, do you have room to let two relatively small people shower and type on computers? Worth a shot.

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Laneia is the Director of Operations and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 930 articles for us.


  1. i had two girls come through my till at value village yesterday who were shopping for bonnaroo outfits. they were loaded with flowy light fabrics with prints, so obvs they knew what they were doing.

  2. TOILET PAPER TOILET PAPER TOILET PAPER is my number one item for achieving overall bonnaroo preparedness. laneia is not kidding about this one, folks. without toilet paper, bonnaroo would just be…i cant even. however many rolls you intended on bringing, add the number 42 and that is how many toilet paper rolls you should actually have. you might think this is an exaggeration, but i do this for your benefit. and have like two rolls on your person when leaving the campground in the morning (esp if you are like me and never go back to camp until really really late).plus its a great way to make friends in line for the “bathroom” at 3am. OH AND A SMALL FLASHLIGHT FOR THE “BATHROOM” AT 3AM wow almost forgot that one. so important. you really want to know what the situation is in there before things get real and there is no turning back. bonnaroo is really like my version of heaven except for the lack of plumbing thus my focus on this particular area. dont let this be an obstacle to the amazing time that is bonnaroo. oh and laneia, you are not going to believe this but, i belief chiffon should be the official fabric of bonnaroo. i wore a floral chiffon tank for two days straight it was so perfect. so breezy! so airy! sounds crazy, but you should look into it! i am going to shut up now thanks! have fun everyone!

  3. HEADTORCH, keeps your hands free for alcohol/camera/food when navigating in the dark! Makes finding your way back in the wee hours easier, you make friends by helping neighbours find that phone or drink they dropped and of course makes night time clothes changing or toilet trips a hell of a lot easier. And of course sun cream.

  4. Thanks for the Atlantic cross translation Palmer. I noticed I said “wee” too, must be Scotland rubbing off on me! :)

    Also keep a smaller plastic/trash bag handy in case of a downpour so you can put it over your backpack, it has saved my camera i dunno how many times, that and one laid at the bottom of it, in case you forget and lay it on wet grass.

  5. I went to Reading Festival last year in the UK (it’s about 80,000 people) and WELLIES are the top of my list.
    Also: deodorant, clothes you are willing to get slightly ruined, lots of socks/tights/underwear, maybe an inflatible pillow. If you’re trudging to a campsite on foot though, PACK LIGHT! You don’t wanna be hauling around a rucksack any heavuer than necessary.

  6. Im’a tell you now that you’re going to need one of those fans that also mists you with water and about 100x changes of underwear and clothes because it’s only eleven AM here in east TN, and it’s in the eighties with like 100% humidity. Also, mosquito spray, in case you didn’t learn that last year.

    • Trying to prevent thousands of people from bringing their own canned beer while camping in the middle of Tennessee in June sounds like the most un-American thing of all. Also a gigantic exercise in futility. They do try and prevent the drugs. It’s roughly as futile.

      • Bahaha they don’t even really try. At Roo’08 they went through my contraband-pouch upon entry and despite finding much smoking paraphernalia/actual smokables, all they confiscated was my glass piece. Which was of course the only thing I would have been upset about losing, it was actually tragic, sentimental value and all that. Their explanation was that they had to show up with something. I bet they kept it for themselves though…. err =[

    • Woooooah – hang on a sec. Is bringing one’s own alcohol against the Euro rules? I mean, I’ve only been to Download, so maybe it varies on country / certain festivals? We brought a fair amount of alcohol w/out smuggling it in and never had a problem.

      And when it was time to leave, we found an abandoned baby stroller (random) and a dolly and ended up carting away far more beer than we initially arrived with.

      …damn…that was a good weekend.

  7. Just this weekend I went camping in a FREEZINGYOURTITSOFF forest in the middle of nowhere, and this list makes me sad because I never get to go camping in the heat, only in the cold. Apparently they are equally as suckish?

  8. Hi there! This post made me more excited than you could possibly imagine! I’m a blogging ethnomusicologist who happens to be queer and this is my first Bonnaroo… I was keeping my fingers crossed that some queer women would be attending. Halle-fu*king-lujah!

    Maybe we’ll cross paths!
    Cheers –

  9. While I will be road tripping from California in a Honda Civic, and not an RV, I can offer the comfort of a Costco size pack of 5-hr energy and copious amounts of vodka. I’ll be at the canopy flying an Oakland A’s & NorCal flag–probs not too hard to locate among tens of thousands of people!

  10. Camel back is the best thing for bonnaroo. You don’t have to remember where this or carry it in your hands, and you can hide beerz in there. Also, if you have a little grill ONLY bring veggie burgers.

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