Theme Camp Survival Guide

So You Want to Start a Theme Camp

Fantastic! Theme camps are part of the heart and soul of Critical Northwest. You are about to start on an amazing adventure that builds community and camaraderie.  Plus your camp gives you and your tribe a platform to actively participate in, and affect the flavor of, the event.

But, before you run off to buy piles of fun fur to decorate your new geodesic dome, let’s take a few minutes to run through some the things you’ll need to know, and some of the changes for this year.

What is a theme camp?

Theme Camps can be almost anything you can dream up, but the basic definition is an interactive, publicly-accessible art project that serves participants in some manner. Sound camps, tea houses, costume closets, bars, chill spaces, and movie theaters are just a few examples of what participants have brought to past events. Theme camps are the place you go to learn, eat, participate, entertain yourself, and interact with other participants.  You can share an open space designed to be accessible 24-7, or offer more guided activities on a set schedule.

Why should I register my theme camp?

It puts you on the map- quite literally.  Registration means your theme camp will be on the map given to attendees, in the guide book, and on our website before the event.  If you want to make sure people know who you are and what you’re offering, registration is the easiest and best way to do that.
Plus, there’s quite a few fringe benefits.  You will have a dedicated space large enough to suit the needs outlined in your proposal, so no worries of fitting in elsewhere.  You’ll also have access to the power grid where available, to keep those lights shining and the sound pumping.  You and your fellow campmates can can also park as many camping vehicles as needed in your allotted space for free, without the need for additional RV passes.  And, you’ll be given early entry on Sunday before gate officially opens to make sure you have plenty of time to set up and get everything just right.

What does all that mean?

  • Communications– Our communications team will make sure your theme camp is listed on the Critical NW website once approved so you can start generating interest right away.  We also make sure you’re on the paper map handed out at gate so people know where to find you.  And we get you and your activities are in the guidebook, too, so people know why they want to find you.
  • Spacement – The Spacement crew works hard to place your camp in the best place possible at the event. Your placement will be assigned as closely to your requests as we can manage. While being in the forest is awesome, it limits how big and how flat everywhere can be – though we are lucky to have mostly flat space!
    Your placement will be reserved until Wednesday of event at 5pm. By that time you MUST have one person present and the majority of infrastructure in place. If you are unable to make that deadline, your space will be opened up to the general public.
  • Power Distro – 85% of theme camp spaces are guaranteed access to the grid. Sites along the river, with the exception of the beach, have a lovely view, but are not guaranteed power. While there are plans to expand power to these areas, your Production Team is still working on the feasibility of making this happen this year. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • RV/Camping Cars – Does your camp have any wheeled infrastructure? All trailers, RVs, vans being slept in, busses, etc. need to be registered.   However, they will NOT need a seperate RV camping pass.  You can register vehicles on the ‘Logistics’ portion of your application, and you can update the form if things change by emailing
    The first arrivals of your camp will be given all vehicle camping passes associated with your camp during placement. With the exception of special requests granted by space/production, vehicles can not be part of your frontage.
  • Early Access – If needed, your camp can come set-up on the Sunday before gate opens, starting at 12pm. Please remember that early entry is a privilege granted to you to work on your infrastructure. 

Are there any rules or policies I need to know?

Yep, if you’re going to bring out your camp, there are a few things you’ll need to know to help the event run smoothly. There are some rules and regulations everyone needs to follow around setup and strike, sound, fire safety, and serving alcohol.

Set-Up & Strike:

If you need or are interested in extra time to set up your camp, submit your request along with your application. Your Production Team will verify and ask for any changes four weeks before the event.
Once you have accessed your space, no matter what time of the week, you are required to have one person present and accountable for your camp at all times.
Because we want you to be able to enjoy your Saturday and offer up your camp’s full experience to other participants, your camp will be given until 5pm on Sunday July 9th to pack up camp and de-MOOP. Please remember to pack up your personal belongings before bringing individual cars into your camp! You can bring in trucks/trailers for camp infrastructure at any time.

Sound Policy:

If you are a sound camp — aka a theme camp that will have loud music running more than 50% of the event — you must be registered as one!
Your Production Team places sound camps intentionally to ensure you aren’t battling one another for sound. If you are running loud sound, and are not listed as a sound camp,  you will be asked to turn off your system.

All theme camps, whether they are sound camps or not, are required to follow these guidelines:

  • Amplified music hours are from 8am – 12am on Monday – Thursday, and 8am – 2am Friday & Saturday. This is to ensure we limit the sounds carrying to our neighboring communities.
  • During all hours the sound must maintain no more than a 90 decibel (c) rated reading from 20 feet from source. Critical is implementing a Sound Department of volunteers who will have decibel readers to help you find and maintain the right sound levels for your camp.
  • During quiet hours — 12am – 8am weekdays, and 2am -8am weekends — the venue prohibits amplified sound. If you would like to listen to music quietly in your camp, please be respectful of your neighbors, and follow these guidelines.
    • Use a battery powered, single speaker (no subs).
    • Make sure the sound is inaudible 30 ft from source OR 10 ft from camp boundaries. 
    • One speaker per camp only.

If there are any complaints, you will be required to turn off the sound for the remainder of the night. So keep it courteous.

Fire/Fire Marshal Requirements:

Fire code in Snohomish County is much stricter than you may have experienced in years previous. Here are some guidelines to keep you well informed and able to plan your camp accordingly.

  • Each public space is required to have one 5lb ABC rated fire extinguisher in plain sight and accessible to all. If you have two public facing tents, you will need two fire extinguishers – one for each tent.  
  • Communal kitchens must have one 2.5lb ABC rated extinguisher. If you plan on using a deep fryer, you must have a K rated extinguisher.
  • Your cooking stoves cannot be under a canopy or contained within a tent.
  • Your fires meant for warmth (ember or gas)  also cannot be inside/under canopy/tents.
  • Public tents and enclosed structures over 400 sqft, and canopies over 700 sqft must be NFPA 701 rated, and you must have proof specific to that structure – usually sewn into the seam, but certificate is acceptable if an identification number exists on both structure and certificate.
    • If there is less than a 12ft space between two public structures, their square footage is combined, and the rule above applies.
  • Public facing enclosed communal areas must have a plugin exit sign with battery backup hung over the exit.
  • Generators must be placed 20 feet from any structure or vehicle.

If you have any questions or would like clarifications on any of these guidelines, please do not hesitate to reach out to . We are happy to work with you or help with any concerns.

Anything Else I should know?

Most of what you’ll need to know will be in the Critical Northwest 2018 Survival Guide, but here are a couple of theme camp specific things to keep in mind.

  • Traditionally theme camps volunteer to work a group shift together, usually with greeters, gate, or parking. Be sure to sign your group up on the volunteer intake form.
  • Consider offering your space to a workshop. Many workshop hosts need or want a different environment for their workshop then the HUB.  If you would like to donate space contact the Production Team.
  • Your infrastructure vehicles (trucks/trailers used for transportation of Theme Camp structures, not personal tents) still need a parking pass, but it will be free of charge. Production still needs to know you need them, so be sure to list all vehicles in your application.
  • Getting to know your neighbors is helpful for more than making new friends! It’s a great way to pool resources — like extra/not enough space or when you have an excess of delicious treats. It is also extremely helpful if a conflict comes up. De-escalation is the new thing all the cool kids are doing, and it’s way better than getting rangers or production involved.


Still have questions?

As always, your Production Team is happy as hell to help you with any questions, confusion, comments, or assistance in planning your theme camp!