Camp Shade & The Ultimate Tapestry Hack

 Festival camping often means pitching your tent in an open field, mid-summer, with no shade. You have to make your own! Tapestries are a colorful way to cool your campsite and make it easy to find among a sea of tan and blue pop-up canopies.

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Rothbury, 2008

Do you see any shade trees there? I don’t.

The sun is going shine on your back door at 6am, and it doesn’t care that you’ve only been in the tent for two hours. Your campsite is your home for the weekend, and a little work when you first arrive will pay off in turning your music festival into a vacation.

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Doesn’t that look cozy?

Canopies

Overhead shade is a must. The easiest solution is a pop-up canopy.

You need one, period.

This is the living room of your festival home. Expect to pay around $125 for a basic 10’x10′, which will not include side panels. DO NOT buy anything cheaper than $100. (This is an approximate price, at time of writing. Always do your research and read customer reviews.) The first light breeze or sprinkle of rain, and the “budget” shade will crumble like gingerbread.

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These were all from last weekend. It didn’t even rain that hard.

Of course, the more you’re wiling to spend, the more features you’ll get. At around $200 you’ll get a long-term investment. This may sound like a lot on top of your expensive ticket, camping pass, etc., but if you’re ever planning to camp again you’ll spend that in replacement cheapo pop-ups.

Ease of assembly is nothing to sneeze at either. At one of our festivals last year, we didn’t get into the campground until 11:30pm due to severe storms.  The only available real estate was up a steep hill, and we had to slog our gear up hill in the mud (both ways). After 3,684 trips up the mountain, we were grateful for the simple set-up process our canopy entails. The removable sides pay for themselves during rain, and when closed provide some privacy.

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Home Sweet Home

The problem I kept encountering was finding a damage-free way to hang my cherished tie-dyed sheets. One option I’ve seen suggested is to add grommets, as you would find in the corners of tarps.

giphy7No, not him. These:

Unless your tapestry is a heavy-duty fabric (like canvas), I do not recommend this. Once or twice through the laundry, and the grommets will pop out leaving frayed holes.

Last year, I bought metal curtain rings with alligator clips, and the buffeting wind tore holes where they were attached.

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Oh, the humanity!

Which brings us to my epiphany:

Suspender Clips- The Ultimate Tapestry Hack

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When the idea to use suspender clips came to me, I ran straight to the nearest fabric store and found them priced at $4 for TWO CLIPS (insert Wilhelm Scream here).  I immediately pulled up Amazon on ye-olde-smart-phone and found 30 clips for around $6. Much more do-able, even if I was fidgety waiting two looooong days to test my theory.

How it Works:

My preference are clips with vinyl grips or teeth. These are fairly easy to find as they are popular to use for pacifier clips, and no one wants their clothing (or babies) damaged by metal teeth.

Tie a length of paracord to the loop of the suspender clip, leaving a 4″-6″ tail.  Flip the short tail on to your tapestry, then fold a bit of fabric over the cord.

By sandwiching the paracord tail between the fabric, the clip has something to bite. That sucker’s not coming off.

Because I have done this a few times, I have a stash of clips already tied to ~24″ sections of paracord, which I use for attaching the taps to the canopy.

I keep these clipped to a scrap of fabric, then wrap the tails in the fabric so they don’t become tangled in transit.

Hanging the Tapestries:

Attach the short sections of cord to the upper corners of the sheet, and tie to the canopy frame.

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When we get to the bottom corners, this is where we can get a bit creative.  I leave approximately 10 feet of line so we have options depending on weather.

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Need more shade? Using extra tent stakes, pull the corners away from your canopy footprint, in traditional lean-to fashion.

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This set up gives you another sitting area, and allows for some breeze to sneak in.

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I’m relaxed just looking at this.

We put these clips to a serious test this past weekend.  The rain came in unexpectedly while we were down at the main stage, and we didn’t have the chance to take down the exposed tapestries. How much do you think a rain-soaked, king sized cotton sheet weighs? 20-30 lbs? Whatever it weighed, it was HEAVY, and the suspender clips held on tight!

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Our “Dead Bear” tapestry after weathering the storm.

When you try this (we know you’ll love it), tweet us a picture @FestiCamper. We want to see your beautiful campsites!

Happy Festi-Camping!

Please be Kind to your fellow campers. -KT

None of the above links are affiliates, nor do I get paid if you click them.  So, you know, do what you want. For more info, see our DISCLOSURE  page.

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The No-cook Festival Menu

 

Summertime Festivals can be HOT.

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When I’m hot, the last thing I want to do is stand over a stove to cook, or worse yet- build a campfire. Perhaps you have jelly legs from dancing all night, or a severe case of “couch lock” (camp chair lock?).

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Cooking ain’t happening.

I used to be optimistic and bring supplies for at least one hot meal every fest. Like clockwork, that meal would be carted back home after every festival. More often than not, the food would then get tossed out because it’s soggy, or of questionable safety due to ice shortages.

I stopped wasting my money (and valuable cooler space) during those sweltering months and came up with my simple no-cook menu.

**Shopping list at bottom of post**

Breakfast

Think of it as continental. All of these items are basically “grab and go”, and easy ways to get some energy in you before you’re totally awake.

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  • Bagels and cream(y) cheese- I usually buy the individually foil wrapped, creamy swiss wedges instead of traditional cream cheese. The giggling bovine spread will do double duty in your lunch wraps later, and comes in a variety of flavors.
  • Hard boiled eggs- You will see this on the list a couple of times, as they are good protein boost throughout the day. I always boil a dozen and throw them in this egg keeper:

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  • Sweet bites- Individually wrapped biscotti, muffins, and pastries are a perennial hit. We always grab a bag of powdered mini donuts, but never the chocolate ones! Heat, remember?
  • Fruit- I bring all the fruit I can grab. Festi-favorites are: cherries, grapes, apples, clementine oranges, and kiwis (eat them straight out of the skin with a spoon!).
  • Coffee- If you enjoy iced coffee, the easiest method is to brew a double-strength pot at home, and transfer to a jug for travel. Dress it up to your preference (sugar, creamer, etc.) with half the glass filled with ice.

Except on the hottest of mornings, coffee is my one exception to the “No-cook” rule; I’ll break out the camp stove and boil water for coffee. I’m not equipped to interact with humans pre-caffienation in order to buy it.

I NEED THE COFFEE BEFORE I CAN GET THE COFFEE.

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It’s unlikely (but possible) that you’ll be camped within reasonable walking distance of a decent coffee vendor with espresso drinks.

It’s likely that you’ll walk >15 minutes, then stand in line >20 minutes for coffee made by The-Guy-Who-Sold-You-Grilled-Cheese-at-3am-Last-Night.

It’s entirely possible that when you reach the front of the line, they will have just sold the last cup. Grilled-Cheese-Guy will suggest you step to the side while he brews a fresh pot, in the crusty drip-coffee maker you suspect used to be white. This ancient fire hazard machine shares a power strip with 3 electric skillets, 2 strings of twinkle lights, and a boom box playing “Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits”. While you wait, you try not to notice that GCG hasn’t washed his hands between making change and throwing strips of bacon on the griddle. When finally your cup is presented to you, GCG (Should I ask his real name? We’ve spent so much time together…) chuckles when you ask about cream and sugar.

Nah, man.”

So that, children, is why we always bring our own coffee.

Lunch & Dinner

No Cook Camping Lunch

  • Turkey & Cheese Wraps- I buy several of the small plastic pouches of lunch meat. They usually cost <$1 each, and they’ll stay watertight until opened. Spread the aforementioned creamy swiss on a  tortilla, or add the sliced cheese of your choice. Tomato and avocado are always a fresh note in a sandwich wrap. Tortillas are key here, as BREAD WILL GET SQUISHED in transit.
  • Summer sausage, cheese and crackers- add a fancy flavored mustard for extra kick to this classic. Pairs well with apples or pears.
  • Prepared supermarket salads- Last summer, we happened upon some pre-made salads in completely watertight containers. They were a fresh, self contained meal, and even came complete with its own bowl and fork!

Salad

Snacks

More than likely, your weekend will be sporadic grazing sessions as opposed to formal mealtimes.  My favorites:

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  • Cheese- String cheese and the mini wax covered goudas are GOOD-a. (I can’t help myself.)
  • Nuts- More protien. Trail mix (sans chocolate) is one option, but shelled peanuts and pistachios are easy to share around the campsite.
  • Fruit & Veg- Same list as above; but dip apple wedges into soft cheese, or baby carrots into peanut butter.

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  • Cheese crackers- I love chips as much as you do, but they’ll be a bag of greasy dust by the time you get to camp. So, opt for chips in a can or snack crackers in a box.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs- I told you we’d come back to these. They’re good any time. Be sure to pack some salt & pepper in your kitchen box for these.

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  • Granola bars- An old favorite. Keep a few in your bag for a quick bite of dance fuel between sets.
  • Candy- Red licorice or other candy that will withstand high temps. (Do I have to say, “NO CHOCOLATE” again?) Hard candies and suckers will combat dry mouth, so pack a few when you head down to the stage.

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Happy Festi-Camping! -KT

The Shopping List: (For 2 people)

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Cherries, grapes, apples, strawberries, kiwis and clementines
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tomato or carton of grape tomatoes
  • Pre-made salads (1 per person)
  • Bag of baby carrots

Dairy & Eggs

  • Dozen eggs for boiling
  • Creamy Swiss cheese wedges (any flavor)
  • Sliced sandwich cheese
  • String cheese
  • Baby goudas
  • Coffee creamer (powdered or individual cups)

Meat

  • Single serving lunch meat packs
  • Summer sausage

Grains

  • Tortillas
  • Wheat Crackers
  • Bagels
  • Powdered donuts, indiviually wrapped pastry, or biscotti

Misc

  • Snack crackers or chips
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Instant coffee bags
  • Candy
  • Mustard

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Foil Pack Dining, Three Ways

Foil packs. So warm, so yummy, so deliciously lazy. My kind of cool-weather festival eats. Sitting around the campfire, eating straight out of the sooty metal pouch.

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Bad news for you “Long time campers, first time festi-goers”: most large festivals have banned open fires.

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The good news is: many fests will allow small charcoal grills, which cook foil packs more consistently, anyway. There are many portable and disposable charcoal grills on the market, or you could make your own from dollar store parts.

The Foil Pack Basics:

  • Foil: HEAVY DUTY. Even if you buy the top of the line, ready-to-make-ductwork thickness foil, go ahead and slap 2 layers on that puppy.  The slightest hole will have liquids leaking out of your dinner like tears down the cheeks of a hungry hippy.giphy
  • Steam: The primary cooking mode inside the packet is steam, so keep it sealed tightly! This makes veggies and potatoes cook quickly using their own juice.
  • Fats: I tend to only add butter for flavor, especially if cooking with frozen mixed vegetables or potatoes. When cooking space is limited, and you are forced to put the packs directly on the coals,  you have 2 choices:
  1. Resign yourself to the bottom 1/2″ of your meal becoming blackened crust.

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Or…

2. Install a Bacon Barrier (TM) in the bottom of your foil pack.

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What is the Bacon Barrier (TM), you ask?

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It is the insulation you’ve been looking for. Increased flavor, decreased burn loss. I have yet to find a meal that isn’t improved by a little bacon grease (and side of bacon).*  Which brings us to:

The Veggie Pack:

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Until Bacon Barrier (TM), the asparagus foil pack had an expected mortality rate of 25%. Now? The bacon layer under your veggies makes it 100% edible.  (You’ll have to believe me, the family was starving, and foil pack asparagus is like mana around here…)

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I see you under there, beautiful…

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Yukon Gold is right.  You can see the crispy (i.e. perfect) bacon peeking out near the top.

This only works if the bacon is on the bottom! If you attempt to mix bacon into the middle of your foil pack (the steam zone), it will be floppy, soggy, and possibly under-cooked. 

The Breakfast Pack:

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This breakfast pack contains:

  • Bacon Barrier (TM)
  • Frozen diced hash browns (partially thawed, 1-2 days in cooler)
  • 2 eggs
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Asparagus, cut
  • Salt, pepper, & butter to taste

Place packs toward the outside of the charcoal bed, rotate (but never flip!) every few minutes.IMG_1338

After approximately 15 minutes remove from fire and let stand for 2-3 minutes.

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So. Damn. Good.

Do you see a face in there, or is it just me?

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He’s winking. I think he likes you.

The Laziest Pack

Lets face it. After a long, hot day of wandering around the festival grounds, you’re not going to want a lot of prep or cleanup. That’s the whole point of foil pack cooking, right? By far the easiest prep for the biggest bang, 1 smoked sausage + 1 bag mixed veggies of your choice = 4 to 6 very happy campers.

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This pack used a mixed bag of white & yellow corn, carrots, and asparagus tips. I added salt, pepper, and approx 2 Tbsp butter for flavor.

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That’s some beautiful dancing fuel.

Happy Festi-Camping! -KT

*Vegans: You might ask, “But I’m vegan, I can’t use a Bacon Barrier (TM)!”

To which I reply:

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