It may not be pretty, but the Firefly camping experience is one that campers say they wouldn't trade for clean sheets or fluffed pillows.

It may not be pretty, but the Firefly camping experience is one that campers say they wouldn’t trade for clean sheets or fluffed pillows.

“Camping is at least half of the experience. It’s awesome,” said Taylor Hires of Langhorne, Pa. Between tickets, food and booze, the 21-year-old said she spent about $1,000 on her trip to Dover for the 2014 Firefly Music Festival. “It was 100-percent worth it.”

Hires and her hometown friend Kate Mazur spent their first festival experience at Firefly this year and they decided camping had to be part of the trip. But as newbies to the camp-life, they weren’t quite as prepared as Dover residents Eric and Amy Tierson.

The Tiersons have been coming to Firefly since the first music marathon three years ago, and they agree that camping is an important part of the experience.

“It’s like getting together for a big family reunion, but we’ve never met anyone there,” Amy said. Eric said the camping areas are friendly and relaxed, and the couple treats them as a safe house to retreat from the thick crowds and expensive food and drinks when they need a break. They both said gallons of water, five-day coolers, a small grill and a portable outhouse are musts to make the experience comfortable while camping.

It’s also a good way for them to allow their 17-year-old daughter some freedom among a crowd of 80,000 people, with a safety net for her to fall on if needed.

“And it keeps us young,” Amy added.

The Woodlands don’t have on-site showers, and with a long line and $5 fee, sometime it can get a little ugly.

Kyle Nelson, who is also a first-time camper, said being dirty and gross is part of the experience. He showered under a low-pressure drizzle of water and used his boxers as a washcloth, but as long as he was surrounded by his group of friends from Philadelphia, his slackened-hygiene routines weren’t going to dampen the party.

“It wouldn’t be the same if we went back to a hotel,” Nelson said. “[Camping] is the experience.”

Nelson and his crew said that the lack of fresh water and clean sheets weren’t nearly as important as a stocked cooler. The group of music aficionados brought about eight cases of beer and at least half a dozen handles of liquor, which they expect will be gone by the end of the weekend.

While water is a must, liquid preparation isn’t at the top of the list for all campers.

Townsend resident and first-time Fireflier Phil Quinn brought about 4,000 chicken wings to make sure his crew of eight were well-fed. They weren’t roughing it like the thousands of campers spread throughout the Woodlands’ 11 camping locations. Quinn rented an RV, and he recommends RVing over tent camping for any festival.

“It’s definitely worth it to go for the RV versus the tents,” he said. But he’d much rather stay on the festival grounds than travel to a hotel or drive back home.“It’s definitely worth it to come for the whole [four days].”

Whether the festivalgoers who decided to stay on the grounds opted for primitive camping, glamping or RVing, they seemed to agree that there’s a community that forms around their new neighbors.

“You have the freedom to do anything, and the people around are what makes the experience,” Hines said. “It’s awesome that you get to meet so many different people and learn so many different experiences. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.”