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Bonnaroo, returning full speed as music festivals in the U.S. tentatively move forward, is kicking off the condensed festival comeback season this year in the last few weeks of summer. While you may already be starting to pack your bags and figuring out what you need for your campsite (or glampsite), it’s best to take some extra precautions and coordinate a plan (which we assure you, is necessary).
The annual fest returns after Bonnaroo postponed and then eventually cancelled its 2020 event due to Covid-19, missing a year in Manchester, Tennessee at the now renamed “Bonnaroo Farm” for the first time since 2002. But with a surge in Delta variant cases and vaccine hesitancy, it’s hard to imagine The Farm packed with hundreds of thousands of attendees again this year, even after fans sold out the majority of VIP packages.
Bonnaroo 2021’s update to its health and safety policies seems to reflect a growing trend in the festival circuit, with organizers urging attendees to meet certain Covid rules and regulations before they are allowed entry (Lollapalooza enforced many of the same rules at its festival in July).
What Are the Covid Rules and Regulations for Bonnaroo 2021?
Just like many upcoming festivals (such as Summerfest), Bonnaroo’s Health and Safety policies require proof of full vaccination, so remember to bring a printed copy of your vaccine card or vaccine record with you. Not fully vaccinated? You can also bring a negative Covid-19 test result from within the past 72 hours of attending the fest.
If you are unvaccinated, you’ll also have to wear a mask throughout your time onsite. Once you’re at the event, bring a valid ID and vaccine card, or negative Covid test, to any campground medical tent to receive a Health Check Wristband. The Health Check Wristband will allow entry into Centeroo along with your festival wristband for the duration of the festival.
Bonnaroo will also help you out if you forgot your vax card or test results (it happens). Covid-19 Rapid Antigen testing will be available at Bonnaroo at any Plaza Medical Tent for $40. Upon receiving a negative test, you’ll get your Health Check Wristband.
Do I Have to Wear a Mask at Bonnaroo?
Based on the latest advice from the CDC, Bonnaroo will also now require masks in any indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. That includes the General Store, Plaza Barns and all other enclosed events. But out in the open, Bonnaroo will just have to trust that you’ll keep that mask secure all weekend if you are unvaccinated. By taking the right precautions (like getting fully vaccinated before you go), you can still mitigate your risk and have a rocking time.
The good news is that with the success of the mandaten requiring visitors to present vaccine cards or provide a negative Covid-19 test beforehand, the spread of the Delta variant at Lollapalooza was mitigated somewhat—according to Chicago’s health department, there were only 203 confirmed cases out of nearly 400,000 attendees.
How to Buy Tickets for Bonnaroo 2021
While VIP passes and packages for Bonnaroo are mostly sold out on the official site, don’t panic and go to a sketchy website or hit up your cousin who totally “knows a guy” for tickets. Vivid Seats is the place to buy Bonnaroo tickets online, with everything available from four-day passes, single-day passes, and even VIP tickets. Vivid Seats guarantees the authenticity of its tickets or your money back, and you can find tickets right now for as low as $93.
Remember that no matter the purchase method, these are physical wristbands that will be mailed to you, so plan for shipping time in advance. Be sure to activate your wristband before heading to The Bonnaroo Farm for entry, but also to make cashless purchases at the fest and upload your emergency contact info. You can head over here to activate your wristband before the fun starts September 2.
Bonnaroo 2021 Lineup and Basic Info
So you’ve got the wristband in hand, and it’s been registered online — here’s what you need to know for the 2021 festival. First off, the event will be taking place over four days, from September 2 through September 5 in Manchester, Tennessee, just about an hour outside Nashville. The campgrounds, however, will be open to people with the proper passes from Tuesday before the festival all the way to Monday morning after the festival.
Foo Fighters, Lizzo, Tyler, the Creator, Megan Thee Stallion, Tame Impala, and Rüfüs du Sol are still scheduled to headline Bonnaroo after a recent headliner change. The performances — which mark the 20th anniversary of the summer festival — also includes acts like Run the Jewels, My Morning Jacket, Lil Baby, Glass Animals, G-Eazy, Deadmau5, Young Thug, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Phoebe Bridgers, Incubus, Leon Bridges, Brittany Howard, Jack Harlow, and more. The Thursday night festivities will be led by a Grand Ole Opry showcase featuring special guests.
You can find the current map of the festival on their site, as well as information about reserving Vip and Platinum campground spots, as well as the new JamTrack campground tram system implemented this year. The weekend lineup has been officially posted here, although that may be subject to change.
What to Bring to Bonnaroo 2021
Even with concert venues and music festivals across the country slowly returning, safety measures may mean a few changes to what you’ll be schlepping. Note that what you can bring into the ‘Roo campgrounds and Centeroo is different (there are fewer items allowed in Centeroo, the main concert space). But we’ve got you covered from clear bags to portable grills and everything beyond — here’s what we recommend you pack for Bonnaroo for jamming out and camping, all festival-approved in accordance with their 2021 guidelines.
1. Clear Festival Backpack
Festival rules about bags oftentimes widely vary from venue to venue, so it’s best to check beforehand so you don’t show up at the gates and get anything confiscated.
Bonnaroo requires that when you enter Centeroo, your bags be made of clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC and don’t exceed 12″ x 12″ x 6″. We like this clear backpack because it’s made specifically with festivals and stadiums in mind. It’s more structured than a drawstring bag, and less cumbersome than a tote, so you get more room to keep essentials like keys, phone, and extra cash secure. It’s even got mesh pockets for your water bottle (no backpacks with secret pockets here, sorry). Even though it’s durable, it’s lightweight and easy enough to carry that you’ll want to wear it all the way back to the campsite.
Besides clear bags, Bonnaroo will also allow small clutch purses up to 4.5″ x 5.5″ and waist and fanny packs. Empty hydration packs with up to two pockets will be allowed, so we suggest getting a funky one meant for festivals rather than a rugged, outdoorsy pack.
2. Tent or Shelter
Trying to improve your camping experience? Bonnaroo is tied as much to the musical performances themselves as the campgrounds and community surrounding them. Bonnaroo will allow you to bring a ton of camping gear, and we’ll get more into that later, but if you’re going to be roughing it this year you’ll need to start with an appropriate tent first. We suggest you read the full guide on the Bonnaroo campsite here, which covers RVing, car camping, vehicle passes, rentals and more.
Coleman’s Sundome Tent is a tried-and-true option, with welded corners to prevent leaking in the case of a downpour, ground vents to circulate cooling air at night, and is rated to withstand up to 35 mph winds. We like that it’s available in multiple sizes (two to six people), which makes it a great option regardless of your festival group. The tent sets up fast in ten minutes, too, which is ideal if you’re planning on breaking it down and pitching it every day of Bonnaroo. There are two mesh pockets to hold your belongings, and an “E-port,” which allows you to snake an extension cable for your generator directly into your tent (yes, generators are allowed).
3. KN95 Face Mask
While it’s true that Bonnaroo takes place out on an open farm, there are still plenty of indoor activities that will require masking up before you head in. That doesn’t mean you’ll be aware of others’ vaccination status, or that your fellow attendees will always follow social distancing and mask protocols. Try to maintain a reasonable distance of six feet from your fellow concertgoers outdoors, even while vaccinated (save the crowd surfing for another time). There isn’t zero risk, especially with Delta-fueled cases on the rise, so we still suggest you pick up a good, rugged face covering that can hold up to standing outdoors in the hot summer air for hours.
One of our favorite protective face masks is this KN95 mask from BlueBear. You could pick up any other disposable mask, but this one has four fluid-resistant layers that filter 95 percent of particles for up to 12 hours. It’s also lightweight and breathable, making it super gentle if you’re going to be showing up for the entire weekend-long event (although, if you want something more sustainable, Blue Bear also has great reusable masks).
4. Point-and-Shoot Camera
Venues can get really finicky with the cameras they’ll let you take in, even if the tech on your phone lets you get some pretty good shots. Bonnaroo’s rules are pretty standard — point-and-shoots only, or anything with a detachable lens less than two inches. Action cameras like GoPros aren’t necessarily banned here, but GoPro sticks aren’t allowed, so we advise not bringing either this time. If you don’t want to risk the memory of a lifetime getting ruined by an unintentionally grainy, blurred-out zoom picture from your phone, a point-and-shoot is your best bet.
We really like the accessibility and 4K quality of the Panasonic Lumix LX10 — if you need a portable way to capture your festival experience with the least amount of effort, this is the one you should get. The Lumix LX10 shoots in crystal-clear 4K at 30 fps (frames per second), and with DFD (Depth From Defocus) it’ll quickly establish a focus lock on faraway, moving subjects, you’ll get actual usable footage when you’re being jostled around by a raging crowd.
5. Portable Grill
Bonnaroo won’t allow grills in the main festival area, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks on pricey festival eats (and also make new campground friends) a portable grill is the way to go. In terms of fuel, you’re allowed 40 pounds of charcoal per grill, per vehicle (no grill, no charcoal). Or, you can bring a small (20 lbs or less) container of propane for a portable grill. Note that small, green Coleman-type propane tanks are limited to 2 per grill.
Weber’s Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill is compact enough to bring to the campground, yet roomy enough on the inside to feed all your new festival buddies. They hold a reliable amount of heat with their porcelain-enameled lid and base, with dampers that allow you to easily adjust the temperature. A big bonus over other “portable” grills is that you can lock this one into place with the pivoting legs and carry it around with one hand. The cooking area is 160 square inches, enough to hold six burgers.
6. Water Bottle
Hydration is a must, full-stop, no questions asked. While some festivals might make you suffer through sipping warm water all day from plastic bottles, Bonnaroo is letting you bring in one empty reusable water bottle per person (or sealed, purchased water under 1L). You’ll get the day-long, icy-cold crisp water from this Hydro Flask, and since there’s no volume limit, you can fill up at the water stations with a hearty amount to keep you well-hydrated.
This double-walled, vacuum-insulated bottle’s proprietary TempShield technology means your beverage will stay cold for 24 hours under the hot festival sun. A worthy concert companion, you can either get a quiet sport cap for one-handed drinking or the standard twist-off flex cap. It comes in a wide-mouth option as well as a variety of colors, bonus: it’s also BPA and phthalate-free.
You’ll need a way to power your campsite and electronics up after spending all afternoon walking around and using up precious battery life. Any generator smaller than 4 KW (4,000 watts) is allowed onto the campgrounds, although it’s limited to one generator per vehicle. You can bring along two 5-gallon gas cans or 10 total gallons per generator to help you stay charged throughout the whole weekend.
This portable 2350-watt generator has an automatic fuel shut-off, which is a neat feature if you want the most bang for your buck. The generator actually uses up the remaining fuel from the carburetor before automatically shutting down. This’ll expand the generator’s lifespan far beyond festival season. The 39-pound body and compact design also make it to move this generator from your car to your campsite.
If you want to vibe out to Bonnaroo’s lineup without suffering from that ringing in your ears for days afterward, protecting your hearing is as important as packing the best sunscreen.
Consider springing for these high-fidelity earplugs from Vibes, which are designed with live music in mind. These earplugs reduce damaging decibel levels in noisy areas without hurting sound quality, so you won’t have to sit through a muffled version of your favorite songs. Made of form-fitting silicone, these are also more comfortable (and less bulky) than typical earplugs.
9. Cooler (and Beverages)
Bonnaroo is one of the few music festivals that will let you crack open a cold one with your buddies on the festival campground site. In fact, they even suggest you bring a cooler to enjoy some pre-performance tailgating with fellow attendees (ice is available to purchase on the campgrounds). Alcohol-wise, you’re limited to two cases of beer per person, and two boxes of wine and 1-1.75 L of hard liquor per person, per car. We have our own recommendations on beers and canned wines, but you’re going to need to carry them somehow.
Yeti’s Roadie 24, is a highly-durable cooler, and while it isn’t the largest hard-sided cooler you can get, it’s still work for your festival weekend, or even on your road trip to the campground. The PermaFrost insulation means that fruit, snacks, bottles of water and yes, beers, stay cold for days without needing any extra ice. It’s still small enough to fit in the back of your car and sturdy enough to stack all your other camping gear on top — no leaking or damage here.
Blankets, sheets, towels — good news for you, Bonnaroo allows them in both Centeroo and the campgrounds. Of course, you’ll want to be comfortable no matter where you park it at an outdoor festival, but you also don’t want to look like you just grabbed your bathroom towel before heading out the door. Slowtide’s Haven Blanket is the answer, especially for this music fest.
The two-person blanket is made with microfiber, so you won’t get to sweat spills, and there’s a bottom DWR layer for laying down on everything from grassy patches, to slightly muddy hills. But Slowtide is a real festival winner because of its storage capabilities: you can easily fit your phone, keys, or sunblock (non-canned, 3.4 ounces, according to the rules) within the blanket’s corner pockets. The Haven also comes with a convenient carry bag for travel.
Other approved camping gear: There’s an extensive list of what’s allowed for camping on their website, but some notable inclusions are sleeping bags, lanterns and flashlights, camping chairs, camping tables, rain gear, biodegradable plastic bags, toilet paper, small luggage locks for your tent, portable speakers, and radios.
What not to bring: Bonnaroo does have some hard “nos”. For Centeroo, that includes weapons, selfie sticks, single pocket drawstring bags, outside alcohol (Centeroo), inflatable couches, wagons, chairs (Centeroo), bikes, scooters, or skateboards, strollers with pockets. For the campgrounds, they’re not allowing glass, wood fires, kegs, drones, fireworks, bicycles, professional cameras, pets, glow sticks, box trucks/tractor trailers, laser pens, or non-camping tools.
How to Stay Safe at Bonnaroo: Rules, Restrictions, Health Checks
You might be anxious getting back to being sweaty around thousands of strangers for the first time, and your concern would not be unfounded. According to CovidActNow, the Coffee County area currently only has a 40.7 percent vaccination rate (of at least one dose), and the Covid-19 risk level is classified as being “severe” right now. That being said, if you’re currently vaccinated, you have a much higher protection level than someone unvaccinated. Travel is explicitly discouraged unless you are vaccinated.
Harm reduction is the name of the game here, and there are steps you can take to make sure that you lower your risk. First thing’s first, you should make sure it’s been two weeks since your second dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine before traveling to Bonnaroo (the cut-off date for full vaccination by the festival was August 17).
The CDC just announced new guidelines that even if you’re vaccinated, you should still be wearing a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Continue masking up if you’re going to be tightly packed in next to others for a long time, like an artist’s full set. Try to maintain your distance while you’re walking the grounds, since the rate of infection is lower when you’re outside and moving around.
But Covid-19 isn’t the only health concern with going to a big festival, since you might have to contend with the usual incidents that come along, like sunburns, heat exhaustion, cuts, burns, food poisoning, etc. Bonnaroo will have trained medical staff at two medical tents located in Centeroo and others in the plazas too.
In addition, Bonnaroo will have increased hand sanitizer stations on site, and cleaning crews that will do frequent cleanings in high touch areas. If you do get sick, you’re just a few miles away some local hospitals, including Unity Medical Center and Ascension Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. Many are hospitals in the area are currently feeling the strain of reduced bed spaces due to Covid-19, so keep that in mind.
One way to give yourself some reassurance is with a little travel insurance: AXA Assistance USA is a service we like that provides coverage so you can prepare for the unexpected. Their insurance plans, depending on the tier, can include benefits such as trip cancellation, emergency medical expenses, accidental injuries and illness coverage, and baggage delays to help give you peace of mind before and during your festival excursion. You can get a quote or file a claim on their website here.
Of course it goes without saying, but if you are experiencing any severe symptoms, you should always go see a doctor or head to the nearest hospital to get checked out.