Before my Tall Tree days, I wasn’t much of a camping person. I hadn’t really attended many festivals, let alone a camping one. Next thing you know I own a tent and camping gear and am hauling myself up a mountain every June for five years straight. While Tall Tree’s website has a great general FAQ, over the years I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. I thought I’d dig a little deeper and share what I’ve learned. I originally put a version of this list together two years ago when my friend, and fellow photographer Lindsey Blane came to Tall Tree with me. If you’re heading up to Tall Tree for the first time this year and have no idea what to expect, here you go!
DON’T: Forget to fuel up! Be sure you’ve fuelled up your vehicle and/or make a stop in Sooke or Lake Cowichan (depending which route you take). There are no gas stations or no cell reception past Sooke.
DO: Make sure you have enough cash on hand for the weekend. Vendors, beverage garden and food trucks are all cash-only.
DON’T: Forget your I.D.! Tall Tree is a 19+ festival. No I.D., no entry. Be sure to check that wallet before you hit the road!
DO: Expect to arrive on Friday and head home Monday. The festival runs from Friday, June 26th with music starting at 10:30am, and officially ends Monday, June 29th. There is a full night of music on Sunday, so be sure to book that Monday off! (You’re gonna want that extra day to recover anyways.) There is also early entry available on Thursday with purchase of an early entry pass. This allows you advance access to the site for the prime pick of campsites! Last year was the first time I took advantage of this and if you’re able to go up that early, it’s definitely a great option. Instead of missing the bands and DJs that play early on Friday because you’re setting up your tent, you can settle in the night before. If you do opt for Thursday early entry…
DON’T: Party like it’s 1999. Three words for you: Take. It. Easy. You don’t want to wear yourself out before the festival even starts. That being said, Thursday early-entry makes for a great opportunity to get your bearings on the festival site. Take a walk around and explore, pick a meeting spot on the off chance you lose your friends throughout the weekend.
DO: Be prepared to carry all your camping gear to your site. You will not be camping near, or with your car unless you’ve pre-purchased an RV pass (which are limited). Parking is near the bottom of Brown’s Mountain and you will be shuttled up to the festival grounds and camping area, so pack accordingly!
DO: Allow yourself some extra time when arriving. Be prepared to wait for a shuttle, when arriving leaving. I learned this one the hard way back in 2011. If you’re arriving during peak times, you may be waiting a while before you’re finally shuttled up to the festival grounds.
DON’T: Expect to be roasting any marshmallows. There are no campfires allowed, so bring a camp stove or take advantage of all the awesome food trucks.
DO: Unplug for a few days. There is no cell reception or wi-fi at Tall Tree, so prepare to part ways with your cell phone for the weekend. Don’t worry about Instagramming your weekend, trust me, the photo team has you more than covered. We’ll have hundreds and hundreds of photos from the weekend up in our official festival gallery for you to re-live the experience through once you get home!
DON’T: Hesitate to ask the photo team to take your picture. If you see us wandering around, say hi, we don’t bite, and we’ll be more than happy to snap a photo of you and your friends having fun at the festival. You can even purchase high quality prints straight from our official festival gallery! (But please, if we’re nose deep in a camera clamouring around the stage trying to get “the” shot, it might not be the best time for a photo op. :))
DO: Credit the photographer. While we all love having our work shared, there’s few things more frustrating than seeing your photos pop up all over social media with no mention of your name, and no credit. Not only does the photo team work hard all weekend, we spend the following few days working equally as hard to edit and post our work as fast as we can. Our official gallery has easily accessible “share” links which you can use on the web. If you’re on Instagram, handy little 3rd-party apps like Repost App work great too! In short, please don’t steal photos, share them and credit the artist.
DO: Bring some adult bevvies for your campsite. “No Outside Alcohol Allowed” does not apply to the campsite areas. If you plan to partake in the adult bevvies, feel free to stock up on campsite drinks for the weekend. You’re allowed to drink at the Valley Stage as it falls within the camping areas. (Be sure you’re bringing cans or plastic, as there is a “No bottles or glass” policy in place.)
DON’T: Bring your four-legged friends. No pets, unfortunately Rover has to stay home and miss out on all the fun
DO: Take the time to explore the different stages. There are
three four stages, the Main Stage (Tall Tree Stage), Valley Stage, late night Spirit Tent, and new this year, a comedy tent!
Stage Hours (Daily, Friday to Sunday)
Valley Stage – 10:30am – 6:30pm
Main Stage – 11:30am – 12:30am
Spirit Tent – 9:00pm – 6:00am
Stump & Stone Comedy Tent – 10:30am – 3:30pm
DO: Pick a campsite based on your partying style. Looking for a quiet(er) night’s sleep? Setting up camp closer to the Valley Stage (known as Hummingbird Camp), usually means you’ll get a bit of a quieter night’s sleep. Camping near the Spirit Tent can be loud but if you’re looking to party until the sun comes up, that may be the perfect place to camp.
DO: Protect your ears. Loud music for two or three days straight can do a number on your ears, especially for those of you who like to be right near the stage in the action. Ear plugs are your best friend, plus they come in handy when it’s time for bed.
DO: Prepare for all types of weather. I’m sure we can rule out snow, but because Tall Tree is held on a mountain, the weather can vary. I’ve experienced both torrential rain, and scorching heat over the years. If you’re prepared, you’ll be happier for it. A pair of gum boots and a good rain jacket will be your best friends if it does rain. Take the time to water proof your tent when you arrive, if it does rain you’ll be nice and dry. If it’s hot, you’ll have some extra shade to relax in.
DO: Stay hydrated! Bring a re-usable water bottle, as there are water stations all over the festival site.
DO: Take care of yourself. You’re more likely to have a great time partying for three days straight if you’re smart about it. Stay hydrated, make sure to eat, use that sunscreen when it gets hot, get some sleep, squeeze in a nap. If you do overdo it, whether it be too much sun, or too many bevvies, there is a harm reduction tent on site you can visit to get a little extra help. (There is also first aid on site.)
DO: Be prepared to rough it a little. This will be the second year that Tall Tree offers outdoor shower stalls. If you plan to use them be sure to bring biodegradable soap and shampoo. Depending on how many days you’ll be staying there, another great alternative is dry shampoo and baby wipes. I always like to pack a clean outfit and pair of shoes for the day I go home separate from all my festival gear. If you’ve been having baby wipe “showers” for three days, there’s nothin’ like a clean outfit for the drive home.
DON’T: Trip! Make sure you bring a flashlight or two. Making the trek back to your tent at the end of the night will be a little easier this way. On that note…
DO: Decorate your campsite and yourself! Go crazy, have a theme, make signs, whatever! Not only is it fun, but it makes finding your tent a heck of a lot easier. This also comes in handy when trying to meet up with friends who you may not be arriving with.
DON’T: Leave a mess. Have a bag at your campsite for empties and garbage, and be sure to take them to their appropriate locations (or better yet, home with you) on site when packing up. Make sure you take all your decorations, gear and garbage with you to leave Brown’s Mountain clean for us all next year!
Whether you’re a seasoned Tall Tree goer, or a first-timer, I hope this helps!
If you missed my previous Tall Tree Countdown post, hop on over here for some Tall Tree photos over the year and a look at how I got started with festival photography.