Fresh off the heels of my second camping concert at Brewery Ommegang this season, I’m now pretty much a veteran, borderline-expert Ommegang camper and feel obligated to let you in on a few insider secrets that can really make life easier for your next concert camping adventure. Because let’s face it, camping can be in tents. But, so is the drive home from Ommegang, so pick your battles.
The campsites I frequent most tend to be miles away from the nearest vehicle, port-a-potty, or food truck, so I’m used to carrying virtually everything I’ll possibly need, and eat, in one pack, on my back, but man, camping at Ommegang is a real treat!
Sure, it’s got its obstacles, but generally speaking, it’s a great set up and such a relief knowing the car’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away should an important piece of
beer gear be hiding in the trunk, whereas if you’re in the backcountry, you’re just SOL, and probably hangry to boot.
So, while Ommegang is a unique mix of car/festival camping compressed into one 19-hour window of time, max, and I’m going to assume you know the basics, like food, beverages, and shelter, so let’s run down the list of items I consider essential for upping the ante to help ensure the only thing you have to worry about is which beer to drink and which Belgian farmstead vista provides the most viewing pleasure.
This is How I Roll
If you’re rolling into Ommegang without one of these bad boys rolling in right behind you, then just give up because you’ve already got rookie tattooed on your forehead and splashed across your tent’s rainfly.No worries, I made this mistake on my first rodeo, too, but I’m telling you, one of these collapsible wagons is your new best friend and an absolute lifesaver! We were able to tightly-but-neatly pack most of our gear in this mega-tote-on-wheels and cruised through check-in like we were long-lost relatives of Lewis and Clark (the men who led one of America’s greatest expeditions of all time, you history buffs).
Unless you arrive super early (better luck next year!) and get a good campsite down on the flat land, chances are you’re bound to walk uphill, and when you do, you’ll be happy to have this transformer dutifully carrying all the heavy stuff. snacks
As Taylor and the squad illustrated for last week’s Fashion Friday, Fanny Packs are back and here to stay (on our fannies, I hope) for the foreseeable future. They’re a festival fave because they leave you footloose and hands-free, ready and able to Instagram your little heart out, double fist two beers, or boomerang ‘til the cows come home, not to mention providing a safe haven for your wallet, phone, lip gloss, and lifesavers.
I found my first (flamingo) fanny for a trip to Miami two years ago from Ape & Bird, a Rhode Island-based lovable little Etsy shop that has since outfitted my sister, some of my closest friends, and me with several fanny packs super well made and splashed with really fun patterns.
Ape ‘n Bird wants to share the love by offering a FREE SHIPPING CODE – TWOBUTTONSDEEP (thanks, guys!!) to anyone whose bum wants a bag of its own!
Check out their Instagram, website, or Etsy Shop for more eye candy, and for any of you restaurant peeps out there, this is a great alternative to a boring apron! Think outside the box with #nonsweatshopshit (I love their hashtag!)
In Upstate New York, the weather is so unpredictable, sometimes it feels like even your unborn nephew’s due date needs a rain date because there’s bound to be some precipitation in the air; however, despite the weather at Brewery Ommegang, the show must go on, rain or shine.
And just because it’s rainbows and sunshine in the Capital Region doesn’t mean it’s safe to assume that’s the weather pattern in the Susquehanna River Valley; therefore, a word to the wise: anticipate mud and rain and pack accordingly! The Jack White show at Ommegang was so rainy and muddy that my friend equated it to, “walking through a vat of poop.”
Bottom line: this is not a fashion show, people (sorry, Taylor!). For me, I try to strike a balance with a look that’s somewhere between L.L. Bean and a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail – rugged, farm brewery chic, but with all the right gear to battle the elements, because how are you going to enjoy a concert if your feet are cold and soggy?
Ponchos are your best friends (I’m a believer now), and so is a pair of rain boots that you can literally just hose off. I wore a pair of bean boots to one show, and a pair of tall muck boots to the other, and was comfy and dry the entire time.
Stay Hydrated and Wear Your Water with a Camelbak
Ever hear of a Camelback? It’s not a bad idea to bring one with you. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, a Camelbak is basically a water bottle that you wear. It’s a portable hydration system that’s a reservoir connected to a long tube-like straw with a valve on the end that you bite on to release/drink the water.
They come in all shapes and sizes, and fit inconspicuously into most backpacks, but fit even better in those designed to carry them. All you need is a small daypack size, and you can still fit a few things in there, like keys, a wallet, phone, snacks, plus your water, so it’s a great investment IMHO.
Ommegang allows attendees to bring one unsealed water bottle into the concert venue, so I tossed the biggest one I could buy into a small daypack with a 1L Camelbak reservoir and filled it once I was inside the concert venue. TBH, wearing a small back (in addition to my fanny, yes) proved to be super convenient (gotta put those “in case of emergency ponchos” somewhere!), and it was nice to have water at all times, without sacrificing a hand that could be better used to hold a cold one or Boomerang a cheers.
Blinded by the Light
I must be into wearing the elements, because I have water on my back and light on my head. Another life-saving, hands-free happy device to get your hands on (off?) is a headlamp, because you haven’t felt freedom until you’ve strapped that bad boy to your forehead and taken off into the night like a bat out of hell. And who wants to juggle a flashlight in the port-a-potty at 3 am anyway?
Leave a 21st Century Trail of Breadcrumbs
Most fairy tales began as cautionary stories written and told as a warning to encourage children and adults alike to think twice before engaging in risky behavior, and if the Brothers Grimm ever had to drive home from Ommegang Brewery, then I suspect that’s where they got the idea to leave Hansel and Gretel a trail of breadcrumbs, because without a map – or working GPS – if you’re not familiar with the hill towns and patchwork of farms in sleepy Otsego County, then you’re gonna need those carbs. My scorecard looks something like this:
Drive to Ommegang: Katie – 2
Drive home from Ommegang: Katie – 0
I don’t know if Google Maps is trying to play mind games with me or if Brewery Ommegang is in Upstate New York’s version of the Bermuda Triangle, but I have successfully gotten lost twice now on the way home, the second time giving me flashbacks to my amateur map-reading days during the Land Navigation course required for all New Cadets at West Point, only this time I was in a vehicle, not on foot, (thankgoodness), and my map was the digital kind and not the size of a kitchen table (although in hindsight, I wish I had a real map).
I had no service to find a proper route, but miraculously had access to a “live” map that charted my Subaru’s every move with a blue dot on a faint grey line that I managed to read and navigate by twisting and turning through the spectacular countryside. It was then that I realized that it was a silly mistake to not travel with a map of the region, especially when driving out to the boonies where there’s little to no cell phone service.
I wouldn’t dream of going hiking or into the woods without a map and only relying on my cell phone, so why would I make the same mistake here? Lesson learned. Besides, why wouldn’t I want a map of Upstate New York available at arm’s reach every time I’m in my car? You never know when you’re going to want to go two buttons deep and do some exploring.
In closing, Brewery Ommegang has very generously solved the, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here,” quandry and I’m here for it.Sure, it’s a lot of work for one night, but if you do it right, you’ll have the best time and can easily go two buttons deep without having to worry about getting behind the wheel and playing Frogger with countless deer along the way all the way back to the Capital Region. So I raise a glass to the keepers of Ommegang for opening their pastures and allowing us to graze before and after enjoying a night of music in Upstate’s favorite hoppy amphitheater.
If I missed anything that makes your camping experience oh-so-special, then sound off in the comments below! I’m all ears.
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