Traveling to Northwest String Summit, Made Easy
By Anj Way, a five-time NWSS attendee, and ambassador
Have you always wanted to go to String Summit but think you’re too far away? I have been traveling from Illinois for the past five years with no plans to stop anytime soon. You can easily make the trip reasonable by following these helpful suggestions from a five-timer (arrow down)
String Summit offers base camping, which includes tents and camping areas fully set up for you! Depending on what you need, there are different camping area options and price packages. This option also includes lanterns, chairs, cots, and even ice and coffee—this is the way to go if you don’t want to hassle with setting up and tearing down camping gear. You can find all the details for base camping, and figure out which package works for you here.
If base camping isn’t in your budget, here is what I do:
Fly on out (South)West!
If you can, fly Southwest! Southwest includes two checked bags per person in your flight cost. This means you can pack all of your camping supplies and bring them with you. I use one bag to pack my tent, air mattress, and blankets and then still have another suitcase for clothes and other items. It may seem a little more expensive when comparing flights, but once you factor in luggage and camping, the cost is considerably less. Personally, I’ve never had anything but top-notch service flying Southwest.
Pro-tip: you can even use a cooler as one of your checked bags. Fill a cooler full of your items, tape it shut and then you have a suitcase and a cooler once you get to the festival. This is really convenient if you can make it work. Flight costs vary, but you can track flights and buy as soon as the price drops. Make sure to use those rewards points if you can! This may not apply to everyone, but it helps tremendously if it does.
Get a van and pack it up!
Now here is one of my biggest money saving tips—are you ready for it? Instead of renting a car, rent a U-Haul van! Again, I swear I’m not a traveling influencer (lookin’ at you, U-Haul). A friend of ours actually did rent a U-Haul our first year and at first, we thought it was crazy, but it worked so well. Grab your crew and split the costs of the van and you’re set. There is plenty of room for all of the luggage and it sits at the fest all weekend. Carpooling also offers great environmental benefits—plus everything is more fun with your crew. But be warned, the back is open, so folding chairs for the win here. If you don’t want to rent a U-Haul, there are plenty of rental options you can easily pick up at the airport. You can check out rental options here.
Timing Is Everything
I always recommend arriving a day early and then finding a store to go stock up on groceries. I buy a cooler (usually splitting the cost with a friend) and we share food and essentials you can’t pack. Grab a $5 folding chair and pillow, and that’s all you need for the weekend because you packed everything else. Then, make some local friends at the festival to give the cooler and chairs to when it’s time to pack up (please don’t leave them behind at Horning’s!) I love getting to know my neighbors. It’s our own little community for the weekend—and it’s not like making friends at Summit is hard!
We find a reasonable hotel to split for the night and are up and ready to go when the gates open. There are a lot of options and splitting a room is not only economical but also entails a mini pre-party with your friends. If a hotel isn’t in your budget, find a camping area to stay at. Oregon is so beautiful and provides amazing camping weather. It’s refreshing to not wake up baking in your tent like Midwest summer festivals where I live. Either way, you get an extra night with your friends in a beautiful location!
Roll with it
Pack things with wheels! Whether it’s a suitcase, cooler or a wagon (if you can get one) and bring bungee cords to strap things down. This will make setting up camp easier. String Summit has a lot of hills and wheels are essential. But they also do offer the festy taxi to help haul your luggage. This was new last year and we loved it! We used it for our really heavy stuff like our coolers.
Pro tip: grab your tent first and leave everything else in the van when you first get there. Finding a flat spot is key with all the hills. Get your tent set up with your crew, then go back for everything else. Make sure to bring warms blankets and layers. The weather is usually warm during the day (very little humidity, yay!) but it does get very chilly at night. Sleeping bags, hoodies, and leggings to layer are key! As long as you are prepared you will be fine. Once you get set up, you’re golden for the weekend. You can relax and enjoy those amazing Oregon trees, prepare yourself for some of your favorite bands and take a walk through the beauty that is Hornings. I remember the first time seeing the bowl and walking around the pond and out on the island (dreaming of it now).
This will be my fifth consecutive year traveling from the Midwest and I hope to keep the streak going! It was a bucket list festival for me, and after the first year I knew it was truly magical and there is a reason they call it “going home.” I am pretty biased as it’s for sure my favorite fest because nothing else I have ever been to even compares. I can talk about it all day long, but it’s really something you have to experience for yourself. Don’t let distance be a factor to keep you from going! Hope to see some new facs from the Midwest (or even further) at Summit this year.
If you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them the best I can—but experiencing the magic of Northwest String Summit for yourself is so much better!
Want to connect with Anj? Follow her on Instagram at @bluegrassin_anj