A (hopefully) USEFUL and (possibly) HUMOROUS GUIDE to TENT
CAMPING, VAN CAMPING and VOLUNTEERING
at the PHILADELPHIA FOLK FESTIVAL
VAN AND LIGHT TRUCK CAMPING
The Philadelphia Folk Festival has two distinct areas for campers: Light (or tent) camping and Heavy (or vehicular)
As with the variety in light camping, you will see in heavy camping everything from a pickup truck with a cap (Minimum
8' bed! They enforce this!) up to and including a tractor-hauled 42' house trailer, with the interim speckled by vans,
Vanagons, pop-top trailers,small camping trailers, mobile RV's from Class "c" thru Class "a" ; large tour busses,
converted school busses und so weiter.
I fully expect to see one day a converted 737 fuselage trundling thru the gates.
All these things (except the 737) have one thing in common: they're on wheels.
They get towed or driven into the campground and arranged in (somewhat) neat lines and they DO NOT MOVE
AGAIN until (earliest) Sunday Night.
(TIP: If you MUST leave on Sunday be SURE you TELL THE PARKING PERSON at the gate when you arrive AND the
parking person who is actually parking you.)
If you take a walk around Heavy Camping on Saturday morning and look at the great job they've done of getting all
these disparate vehicles in and lined up in ANY semblance of order, you will appreciate the truly extraordinary effort that
the Parking Committee's Volunteers put out.
If you've never done this before (van or RV camping), I suggest you surf the web a bit to pick up some hints on what's
As far as specifics to the Folk Festival, they're pretty basic.
a: Heavy Camping is what is known as a "rustic camping" site. There are no hookups for power, water or sewage, nor
are there parking pads. You will be parking in a double line of vehicles, nose to tail and with about ten feet between lines
(sufficient to put out an awning from the side of your camper and have a little living area for cooking and the like) of
vehicles. You will be parking on UNEVEN ground, so be sure to bring WHEEL CHOCKS and LEVELING
EQUIPMENT (wood blocks and the like) to level off your camper. Most of the heavy camping area is 'fairly' level, but
there are a few spots (like where I was two years ago) where the tongue of my pop-top was digging into the dirt and
I STILL wasn't really level fore-and-aft.
Be prepared for a slope. (That's why the CHOCKS.)
b: If you have any doubts as to whether your pickup truck/cap combo is OK for camping at Festival, email the Festival
Parking Committee IN ADVANCE of Festival to be sure. The restriction on length is to prevent people with Subaru
station-wagons from bopping in and then trying to set up a tent next to the car. For some very good reasons, there are
NO TENTS allowed in Heavy Camping, nor are there any VEHICLES allowed in Light Camping.
Again, if you have a special case, email or call IN ADVANCE (215)-242-1300/1301 but this is pretty much "written in
c: Minivans, if equipped with "tailgate" camping pop-out shelters are usually permitted, but you must let the Parking
Volunteer who is 'spotting' you know approximately how much linear room you will need to access the entrance, else
you may find yourself bouncing off the grille of the RV parked behind you! Vanagons with top-mounted tenting are also
d: When parking, be sure that the side door of your (whatever) is facing the lane, not the RV which is gonna park beside
you! Climbing out the driver's side door is a real pain after a few days.
e: Cooking: Pretty much the same restrictions that apply to Light Camping also apply to Heavy Camping: no ground
fires permitted but you will have the advantage of being able to easily transport a 20# propane bottle and a gas stove or
the like, along with a large cooler, so cooking shouldn't be a big problem. Don't bring the entire kitchen with you; a few
nesting pots and a frying pan should suffice, unless you (as do several Heavy Camping groups) want to bring tables,
chairs, candelabra, napkins, and tablecloths! Use paper goods and plastic flatware (remember "So's Your Mom's Law":
the better the meal, the more forks you broke!) for meals and plastic (or- if you absolutely must - styrofoam) cups for
So much for all that:
Now for a couple of ideas for those who want to use a standard van or small truck for camping:
LAY OUT THE VAN IN ADVANCE! Practise setting it up for camping and don't forget to allow for the fact that
you may either be nose up or tail up on a slight slope! A slide-out plywood bed with adjustable legs is fairly easy to make
and install/set up and will give you some foot room for sleeping.
REMOVE ALL UNNEEDED SEATS while at home and store them there. If you are the only one coming up in this
monster, why do you need two sets of bench seats?If you're bringing a 'commercial' panel-van, be sure that you sweep
it out prior to packing!
IF YOUR VAN HAS WINDOWS (and it's kinda hard seeing the road without them!) you'll want to block off the
windows at night for privacy... get a parking sunshield for the front window, cover the side facing the window with a
"space blanket" or aluminum foil (to reflect the sun out) and just leave it in place for the weekend.
For the rear and side windows you can get some velcro at a hardware store with a sticky-back and put it along the top
of the interior windows and cut some cloth for curtains. Put the cloth on the other piece of velcro sticky and Bingo!
To carry this a step further, cut some screening and do the same thing.
Screened windows...No bugs....Ventilation!
(If you do this, put the screens in first then put sticky velcro either ON the top edge of the screen or on the wall above it
to mount your curtains.)
Bring at LEAST TWO cans of "Fix-A-Flat" type tyre inflators. The Parking Committee goes over the area each year
prior to Festival to check for glass, nails, etc, but they can't get 'em all, and for approximately five bucks (MAX!) you'll
be sure you can get out when the time comes.
Peace of mind is worth a couple dollars.
Don't forget to bring a gas lantern or fluorescent camp lantern (and batteries!) as well as folding chairs for 'just sitting
around' times at the Ol' Camp Site. Folding tables are another neat idea!
Two Magic Words much beloved by Garrison Kielor of Lake Woebegone Fame: DUCT TAPE. Get a roll at your
local hardware store and keep it with your camping stuff. You can make a fairly waterproof awning with a 10 x 12
plasticized (not canvas) tarp and some duct tape to seal it to the top of the van. (Be sure it's YOUR van, though! Rental
companies and friends can get real pissy about left-over adhesives on their paint jobs!)
Bring a couple of adjustable awning poles (or three) and about 100' of small strong nylon line and something to cut it
with so you can tie off your awning. The best kind have a one or two inch 'nipple' at the top to fit thru the grommets on
the tarps. DO get tarps with grommets in them! DON'T expect a painter's drop-cloth to do the job. Trust me, it won't!
Most folks will have no objection to your using their vehicle to tie off a guy line or two, but ALWAYS ask FIRST!
The floor of a van (even if it DOES have a plush carpet) is gonna get real hard on your back by Monday, so be sure to
include an air-mattress or (if you have the room) a regular mattress to sleep on. (an aside: several years ago, some folks
showed up with a 28' commercial-type truck. When they opened the tailgate, they revealed an entire apartment, with
couch, easy chairs, king-sized bed, stove, refrigerator, toilet, sink and shower! The whole thing was fitted out to run on
propane and 12v DC power, provided by a six-battery installation inder the truck bed. After they had bought a used
truck, upgraded it and done the conversion, they sat down and figured that they had saved about $9,000.00 over the
cost of buying an equivalently equipped R.V.) (but it sure was ooogly to look at from the outside!)
Well, what can I tell you... they run from "C'mon over and have a (soft) drink" to "I Vant to be alone". Make the best of
what you've got around you. I have yet to have an unpleasant neighbor experience at Festival, but I suppose it's a
Be the best neighbor YOU can be and it'll come right back to ya'!
As it says in Mathew, 13:34, "Thou shalt cast thy bread upon the waters, and it will become soggy and sink."
As always, if you have ANY questions or concerns about what is or is not an acceptable camping vehicle, or need
suggestions as to how the entire megillah runs, EMAIL the Festival IN ADVANCE (WELL in advance would be my
suggestion, since if you have to make adjustments, it's not like running over to the sporting goods store for a larger tent!).
Please Note: If you intend camping with other vehicles, you MUST ALL show up at the same time! Parking cannot
'reserve' a spot for Fred, who will arrive tomorrow! If Fred can't make it up with you, well, you can go visit HIS site and
meet all HIS new friends! (Once you FIND his site!) A great place to meet is at Renninger's Market, about four miles
south of Schwenksville on Route 29. They have an ENORMOUS parking lot and you'll be able to pick up your
last-minute perishables and ice there if you wish!
Incidentally, the 'lanes' between parking lines are not only your living area, they are also the access-ways for folks to get
from the roads to THEIR camps, so keep 'em as clear as possible to prevent trips and falls. You'll also meet some more
people this way from seeing them over and over again. Keep your guy-lines high enough to prevent 'clotheslining'
someone passing thru and - if you have to stake out - put a few strips of white cloth on your guy lines at 1', 3' and 5'
above the ground for visibility. (Prevents accidents AND having your awning ripped out of it's socket!)
I'm ABSOLUTELY sure I've missed just about everything important to tell you about living in Heavy Camping, but if
there's anyone out there with a website devoted to this sort of thing,
let me know and I'll link to it!
Be a good neighbor, have a real blast and try not to condescend TOO much
to those poor unfortunates down in the Tent Camping Areas.
They just don't know any better. (Well, neither did YOU until this year!)
HAVE A GREAT TIME AND HAPPY FESTING !!!
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