September 29, 2023
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How to Survive Your First Gathering

Let’s start with a little story.

My Lo and I went to our first Gathering in 2009. To say that we we unprepared is a major understatement. That year there were four of us: me, my Lo and our two homies. We loaded up the Mustang a day early with a shit ton of Faygo, our bags, two tents, one loaf of bread and a Lunchmate cooler filled with ham, cheese and Lunchables. By the next day, the bread was flattened, our homies ditched us, half of the campsite we claimed was taken, and our food was starting to go bad because we couldn’t keep enough ice in the tiny cooler. After a full day in the heat, we realized that we didn’t pack any water.

We wound up spending most of our money on ice and water, which are both pretty expensive from vendors. We were broke and hungry for a while, but we met some awesome homies that looked out for us, made sure we didn’t starve and taught us how to do it right the next year. Thank goodness for those ninjas. I haven’t been able to find them since, but I keep hoping we’ll run into them one of these years.

Fast forward to today. We’re now getting ready for our sixth Gathering. We’ve learned a lot and now I’d like to pass some knowledge down to you, First-Time Gatherers.

Rule #1: Pack WATER

It seems silly that something so simple could get forgotten, but it does. You would not believe the number of ninjas that come loaded down with Faygo but not a single bottle of water. You’re going to basically be living in the open for a few days in the middle of summer. Stay hydrated! Without water, at mildest, you’ll be hella thirsty but you could suffer from dehydration or even heatstroke. We can’t have the family miss the reunion for getting sunsickness. Depending on how many people are in your crew, you may need a single case of water bottles or a couple gallon jugs. I’d recommend bringing at least a case. If you have extras, you can take them home with you or sell them for a buck. If you run empty, you can always refill at the campground’s bottle filling station.

The rest of this list isn’t really in any particular order. Consider that emphasis on the importance of rule number one.

Be prepared to stay up late.

On day one, scheduled events start at 6 p.m., but I guarantee you the homies will be getting live long before that. Ninjas are always coming up with something to do to have a great time, regardless of what time the schedule says shit should go down. With that said, the schedule runs noon to 5 a.m. most days. Everybody has their own methods for staying awake. I recommend the camp-in-the-shade-and-sleep-in technique, but that doesn’t always work out. Pack some Spazmatic, Monster, energy shots, NoDoz, or whatever works for you. You’re gonna need it.

Wear sunscreen.

You’re going to be spending a few summer days in the woods. It’s going to be hot, so you probably won’t feel like wearing long sleeves and jeans. You have never felt a sunburn like the one you will have if you forget the SPF for even a day. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who can soak up the sun and wake up with a glorious tan, wear sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. You’ll thank me later.

Bring enough food/cash to eat all week.

It’s cheaper to bring your own food, but I understand that sometimes space is limited and you’ve gotta bring cash. Maybe you hate cooking and don’t want to pack a grill. Whichever way you decide to go, just make sure you have enough of something. With your own food, you can just grill something or make a sandwich or whatever whenever you get hungry. If you plan on buying from the vendors, expect prices to be like buying food at the local fair. One meal could easily be $10-15. Another option is bartering with other ninjas in need. Say you’re broke and hungry. The ninja next to you is selling water and hot dogs. He might be willing to trade you that dope ass hat on your nugget for something to eat.

Pack enough clothes.

You will get dirty. You will sweat. No one wants to smell your funk; they are funky enough on their own. PLEASE have a few costume changes prepared. But in all seriousness, it’s dangerous to spend a week in the woods in the same clothes. Your feet will get wet and not changing out of wet socks is begging for a foot fungus. Wet clothes can make you chafe or hold your body temperature too low, which can make you sick. If you’re worried about catching anything from the shower floors (I never have.), pack a pair of flip flops to take in there with you. A change of everyday shoes is also a good idea. Same concept as the socks–wet feet=foot fungus or worse. Wet shoes can rub on your feet, with all the walking you’ll be doing, and can cause blisters. Blisters burst, become and open wound, and then you’re back to begging to catch something.

Prepare for rain.

Packing enough clothes is only one part of preparing for rain. If you have any tarps,stick-in-the-ground umbrellas or canopies, set those babies up sooner rather than later. They’ll be awesome for shade and they also make some pretty decent shelter. Waterproof your tent, if you can. You may want to bring an extra blanket in case yours gets soaked in a midnight storm. Pack a raincoat or some ponchos. Getting wet means getting cold and can lead to getting sick (see above).

On another note, when it rains you need to get to events even earlier for a good spot. When it rains, ninjas head for cover. Guess where the best cover is: under an event tent. So, if the skies look rainy and an event is starting soon, you can bet your ass that front row seat you wanted is long gone.

Ward off the Gathering Plague.

Unless you take precautions, once you get home you will have a case of what we call the Gathering Plague. It’s usually a cold type of sickness that lasts about a week but could get more serious. The best way to combat it is staying warm at night and keeping yourself fresh and dry. Try to keep as clean as possible. Use the showers; they aren’t that bad. Stay hydrated and consider bringing something like Emergen-C. It’s high in vitamin C to keep your immune system at its best. If you’re not already on a multivitamin, I’d suggest starting one early (like, today!). While at the Gathering, if you get to where you don’t feel well in any way, don’t hesitate to stop by the medical tent.

Port-A-John/Shower Tips

  • The earlier the better
    Showers and port-a-johns are cleaned in the mornings, so there’s a window when they’re nice and clean. Take advantage of it. Remember when I said that the sleeping in thing doesn’t always work? If you are up early, take advantage of the cleanest time of the day and clean yourself.
  • NEVER go into a dark port-a-john.
    Take a flashlight with you when you must go in the dark. You don’t want to sit blindly. They can be extremely dirty my midday and unthinkable in the wee hours of the morning.
  • Protect yourself from germs.
    Granted, you can’t kill all germs in public showers and port-a-johns, but every little bit helps. Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes with you when you go to the bathroom. When you head for the showers, be sure to bring your own towel. You may also want to bring some flip flops if you don’t want your feet touching the shower floors.
  • The shower water will be cold.
    Stepping into a cold shower isn’t as bad when you expect it. It can actually feel pretty good when it’s hot out.

Don’t ride dirty.

Most of us come a long way for this family reunion every year and spend a ton of money between gas, tickets, car passes, supplies, etc. You don’t want all of that to go to waste while you’re sitting in lock-up because a cop found your stash somewhere along the way.

Have extra cash on hand, if possible.

The Gathering is an awesome place to find great deals. Some ninjas go with the intent of selling shit, while others decide on a whim to sell what they have to get gas money to make it home. You’re going to run into people selling hot dogs and bottled waters for a buck. There are ATMs on the grounds, but who needs those fees. It’s much better to make like a boy scout and be prepared.

For tent campers:


Find shade before you set up camp.

You’re going to be staying up very late at the Gathering. Scheduled events start at 6 p.m. on day one (noon every day after) and run past 4 a.m. You’re going to want to sleep in as much as possible and camping under shade will keep your tent cooler. A cooler tent means longer and better sleep, which means more energy. If you have tarps, canopies or any other shade-making devices, bring those and make your own shade.

Consider your surroundings.

I’ve talked about how awesome shade is for sleep, but there are a few more things to consider about location. More direct sun on your camp is going to melt the ice in your coolers faster, so plan on checking on that a few times during the day. Think about how far your spot is going to be from rides, stages and event tents. The grounds may not seem that big, but once you actually start hoofing it it’s going to feel much bigger. Remember, you’re going to be walking everywhere, so keep any limitations you may have in mind. Check the ground for lumps and dips before you set up your tent. You’re going to be sleeping on that ground, unless you have an air mattress, so make sure you’ve got a comfy spot.

Last but not least

Expect the unexpected.

If you’ve never been to a Gathering, this place is about to flip your wig harder than anything you could imagine. Nothing I can say here can fully prepare you for this mind-altering experience.

 Don’t be a dick. Theifs_Car_Remains

Back in 2012, some prick decided to steal from his neighbors. They found his car loaded up with all sorts of stolen shit: merch, electronics, etc. This dude was chased all the way through the camp ground by people whooping his ass. His car was destroyed and also dragged around the camp ground as a reminder to anybody with similar ideas that it’s really not a good idea to mess with the family. What’s left of the wreckage still lives at Hogrock, where that year’s Gathering was held. Hogdaddy himself told me that he had no intentions of getting rid of it and wanted it to serve as a deterrent to future thieves. I saw another guy get his ass kicked for repeatedly trying to talk to a juggalette who had repeatedly told him to fuck off. Karma’s a bitch. DON’T provoke her.


Just remember, we’re all family. We’re all going to the same place for the same purpose: to chill out away from it all with good people and good music to make some of the greatest memories of our lives.


Got any other tips? Leave them in the comments!





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