The official Falcon Ridge Folk Festival web site has a lot of useful information. Read that first, if you're not familiar with what Falcon Ridge is like.
This document started out as a response to a question on the nields-nook mailing list in 1998:
> My roommate Karyn & I are in the process of planning for FRFF. We have > weekend tickets with onsite camping. We just realized that since we haven't > tented it since childhood, we have NO CLUE as to what to pack or bring for > our way-cool weekend camping experience! We don't even have a tent! > > If anyone can help (please please), We'd love some ideas about what > gear/food/etc. is a "must-bring" vs. "should be left at home." For bonus > cool-points you could even throw in some specific wisdom about Falcon > Ridge... Just think: YOU could be our camping guru! Think of the power! The > *prestige*! I'll go for the bonus, then! I go to Falcon Ridge every year, and it's not exactly the same as your average generic camping experience. So this is going to be a very Falcon Ridge oriented list of advice...
After I wrote it up, I posted a copy to alt.music.moxy-fruvous, since moxy früvous were also going to be at the festival that year. I got a lot of feedback from both lists and incorporated it.
In 1999, I posted the updated document to both lists again, and this time also posted a copy to edheads, since Eddie From Ohio were coming to Falcon Ridge for the first time. Again, I got some feedback and incorporated into the document.
For 2000, I converted this list to a web page, and started posting the link to some mailing lists. I made a bunch of changes in spring and early summer of 2000, and mostly minor changes since then. Here are some of the lists I've posted this to:
Because of its origins, this document is oriented pretty specifically towards people who are going to camp at Falcon Ridge for their first time. However, people who have been to FRFF in the past may also find it useful, since it is the collected experience and wisdom of FRFF veterans from several lists. However, keep in mind that it is written primarily from my personal point of view, and my personal biases do show.
Well, first of all, get a tent :-)
Once you get a tent, set it up in your yard sometime, so you know that you know how to set it up and don't get confused when you're actually at the festival. If you've got an old tent, like one borrowed from a parent, it may be very difficult to set up in the dark, so keep that in mind when you make your travel plans! It would suck if you got to Falcon Ridge shortly before sundown and then spent two hours trying to figure out how to get your tent up in the dark. A lot of the newer tents are much much simpler to set up and can be done easily at night.
Bring sleepstuff to put in your tent. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, whatever. It may get very cold at night, so bring enough to keep you warm. Perhaps a foam pad or air mattress to put under your sleeping bag, although a couple of blankets can serve the same purpose if you fold them in half and put them under you.
Make sure you've got tarps. Most tents come with one tarp to put underneath, and a rain-cover that goes over the top. It can be very useful to have an extra tarp, though. You can use it to cover up your stuff outside the tent, or at the mainstage if a rainstorm happens by while you have your blanket and foods all set up.
Also, you'll want some beach blanket sort of things to claim your space at the main stage, and to sit on when you're there. Some people bring lawn chairs and parasols, but you can do just fine without those. You could also bring those foamrubber pad "chair" things. If you want to use lawn chairs down in the main audience area in front of the main stage, make sure you bring the low-back kind. There's an area further up the hill, behind most of the audience, where you can set up sun shelters and other view-obstructing items.
Weather varies. Some years it's rainy and muddy, others it's hot and sunny the whole time, others you get a mix of both. Nights are often cold, and days are hot. Be prepared for all weather. Bring a raincoat / poncho, light clothes and warm clothes (layers are good), a good pair of workboots or similar in case of heavy mud, sandals or similar light footwear in case there's no mud. Long hot sunny days mean you'll probably want to bring several T-shirts (or equivalent) so you can have more than one per day, and also changes of socks in case of rain.
Any clothes you wear at Falcon Ridge will get dirty. They'll get grass and dirt stains, at the very least, and probably also food stains. Don't bring anything that would upset you too much if it got dirty. Also, don't bring anything that isn't comfortable for movement. You'll want to dance, run around, whatever. Don't bring new shoes you're just breaking in; instead bring those sneakers you've almost thrown out because they're starting to get tattered. If you don't have the right footwear for rainy muddy weather and are planning to buy some, buy it now so you'll have several weeks to break it in in case you need to wear it at the festival.
Since there may be a lot of hot sun and you will likely be spending the entire day outdoors, bring good sunscreen! Also a hat. At night, you'll probably want insect repellent, especially since ticks and other local insects sometimes carry nasty diseases. Bring some ammonia to put on itchy insect bites which you'll probably get even if you have repellent. You can usually find small easy to apply ammonia sticks sold as "after bite itch eraser"
You will likely be sweaty and sticky for most of the festival. There are some showers, though lines get long at times. You could also bring some moist towelettes. It's a small thing but it can feel really good when you get up in the morning feeling ickily sticky.
Speaking of going to swim at a nearby stream... Be prepared in case you want to go there. Even if you don't know where it is, someone you know, or a friendly group of co-fans, may lead you there. Bring a swimsuit and towel. The latter could come in useful even if you don't go swimming.
Bring the usual toiletries, toothbrush & toothpaste, any medicine you usually use, etc. Don't forget any regular medication you normally use, including allergy medication. Definitely bring some sort of aspirin or tylenol, even if you don't need it, you will encounter someone who does :-)And don't get stuck without tampons or pads if you'll need them.
Bring a hairbrush and random hair frobs, if you use such things. Also paper towels, or kleenex. A swiss army knife might be useful. Especially one with tweezers, for when you or one of your friends gets a splinter from something :) The festival has first aid people and stuff, but bringing a few band aids of your own is also a good idea.
Flashlights! When it gets dark, it gets dark! On Friday and Saturday, festival stuff goes on well into the night, especially the dance tent and impromptu jam sessions and gatherings. I always bring at least two flashlights, because other people forget to bring them. Make sure their batteries are fresh, 'cause they may be getting a lot of use and you don't want your flashlight to die at 10pm on Saturday. If you're a rural dweller who prefers night vision, you may still want a flashlight because there will be so many other lights around that your night vision will be impaired.
Bring a lot of WATER! Falcon Ridge supplies water from big water trucks, but the lines can get long, their supplies are strained by the number of people, and anyway you'll often want to have water right at your campsite. You'll be really glad you don't have to wait in line and you don't have to lug back all the water you need. Get a few of those gallon things at a supermarket, or just fill up used bottles from your tap. Bring too much, not too little! It sucks if you run out, it doesn't suck if you have extra water at the end of the weekend. I usually bring three or four gallons (for two people).
Bring a portable beverage carrying item: thermos, canteen, squirt bottle - as long as it's not made of glass, they don't like glass bottles. If you are a group of people, bring several. Ice is sold at several locations at the festival, and there usually aren't long lines for ice. You will learn to associate the cry of the ice man ("Aaaaaaaisss! Aaaaaaaaiss!") with mornings at Falcon Ridge.
For food, the best policy IMO is a mix of bringing your own and buying food there. You'll want some cash to buy food at the festival, they have a wide variety of vendors with all sorts of yummy stuff. However, you don't want to totally depend on the purchased food to keep from being hungry, or you'll spend too much money and too much time in food lines. Bring a cooler stocked with things like:Don't forget to get a few of those icepack thingies for your cooler, and put them in your freezer at least a day before you head out to the festival!
No open flames are allowed at Falcon Ridge, but camp stoves are OK. Some people do get ambitious and bring stuff to cook, but unless you're going to be doing it as a family or a large group of friends, I think you'd probably rather spend more time at the stages & booths than at your campsite preparing food. You decide.
You can buy bags of ice to put in your cooler to keep it cold after your icepack things thaw - in typical Falcon Ridge weather, even those blue icepack things won't stay frozen through Saturday. When you buy an ice bag, you can also use it to fill up your thermos with ice, which will quickly turn to water as you wander around the festival with it.
One thing I like to do is bring a few herb teas. I've found that if you fill a thermos with ice, stuff a few bags of, say, Red Zinger on top, and then pour in water to fill in all the spaces between the ice, close it up and by the time you've walked down the hill with it, it will be ice tea. You could also bring a few cans of frozen juice concentrate, and do the same thing with them. I've found that a typical sized thermos requires about 4 bags of ice tea, or about one half a can of frozen juice concentrate (so if you don't bring two thermoses, you'll need to use the concentrate half a can at a time, and might want to bring a tupperware container for temporary storage...)
You can preserve your cooler ice longer if you keep the cooler in the shade. The best way to do this is to keep it inside your tent when you're not there, or to put your extra tarp over it. Trash bags also come in very useful. You'll want at least one for trash, and you'll probably find uses for a few others (say, for used clothes, or to keep things dry when a sudden rain comes). Smaller plastic bags, such as Ziploc bags, are also a good thing to have available.
If you want to take pictures, don't forget your camera (and some extra memory cards (or rolls of film).
You'll probably want to buy music, food, and maybe other things. There are booths selling instruments, crafts, etc. Bring enough money to satisfy your spending desires. Some booths will take credit cards or checks, but some will not, so bring cash.
There are various song circles and ad hoc jamming sessions scattered throughout the camping areas at night. If you play an instrument, consider bringing it, and join in.
Don't expect to get much sleep over the weekend that you're at the festival. As I said, activites go late into the night and you'll probably be really charged up in the evenings and won't want to go to sleep early. But you also can't "sleep in" in the morning, because once the sun comes up your tent will heat up rapidly and you'll want to get the heck out! This usually happens by 8am. So, sleep well before the festival, and don't plan for a very busy Monday after you return. If sleep is very important to you, consider sleeping pills. Some people bring ear plugs in case their neighbors are noisy.
In recent years, cell phone signal has been getting steadily better, and with some carriers (mainly Verizon) it's pretty good. But really, don't plan to be in touch with the outside world much. You probably won't want to carry your cell phone to all the stages and dances and things, and you won't have time to spend on the phone, there's too much happening! Just tell anyone who might want to find you over the weekend that you'll be unreachable.
There's a central message board near the entrance to the main festival area, where people can write notes and leave them for other people, but these days people don't check it as much as in the days before cell phone reception. It's a good place to pin a map to your campsite for people you're expecting to join you later, as long as you tell the later arrivals to look for it there. It's also a good place for looking for rides home. Messages to/from people you know usually happen through SMS now. It's often hard to get good sound quality at the festival site, but texts mostly work - with some delay.
Falcon Ridge got really big in the late 90s and early 2000's. If you care about where you camp and want to have a good choice of spots, you really need to come on Thursday. By Friday, your choices will be pretty limited. If you're planning to go with a larger group and tent together, you may want to plan for sufficient numbers of your group to be there on Thursday to stake out space. For a few years, starting in 2003, the festival began on Thursday, but since the tornado year, it has gone back to starting on Friday.
Arriving on Thursday is a good thing to do even if you're not picky about where you camp. Subjectively, it doubles the length of the festival. There's a big difference between the days you arrive and depart, and the days you do neither. On a day when you wake up at the festival in the morning, and know that you will be going to sleep at the festival in the evening, you do not need to worry about setting up or breaking down camp, and where you've set up is effectively home. If feels like you live at the festival. If you arrive on Friday and leave Sunday, then you only get one such day - Saturday. Arriving on Thursday gives you two of these. It also lets you find your people, and meet some new people, while things are still calm and there are no performances to try not to miss. Once the music starts on Friday, the festival will be a blur of activity.
Depending on where you camp, you will either get to park your car directly next to your tent (lower camping and some parts of the hill top) or at least get your car within a pretty short distance of your tent site. So, don't worry much space and weight. Just be very careful when driving on the hills and muddy roads. If it's very muddy, wait 'til later, or you might get stuck and block the path.
The festival seems to be inconsistent about when they open the gates to the general public on Thursday. Volunteers are supposed to get first choice of camping spots, and there's supposed to be a set time when the rest of the people are allowed on the grounds, but things don't always work out as announced. Although the music ends on Sunday evening and most people leave then, If you get the full festival + camping ticket, and need to stay until Monday, they usually let you remain camped at the festival site on Sunday night. If you really need to know about early arrival or late departure, call or email the festival and ask. See their contact information page for email addresses.
I hope this is useful!