Summer is coming, and with all that beautiful hot weather comes an inevitable seasonal ritual: the outdoor music festival!
From Coachella to Bonnaroo, Electric Forest to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, music festivals offer a chance to commune with fellow fans and also enjoy a giant weekend-long party (or longer). But while it is possible to just show up at the front gate and hope everything will fall into place, you’ll have a much better (and healthier) time if you plan ahead – beyond just what amazing T-shirt you’ll wear every day.
Book a hotel
There is something to be said for pitching your tent alongside dozens of others, but sanitary conditions quickly go downhill over the course of 72 hours – and if it rains, everything else may start sliding downhill, too. Find some place within walking (or safe hitching) distance of the festival, and feel comforted knowing your valuables are safe, you don’t have to fret about parking, and you can escape whenever you feel like it – including for an afternoon nap that’ll leave you ready to tackle the all-night outdoor festivities. Cost a factor? Split with friends!
Prepare to be hot, and baked
Summer equals hot, at least in most parts of the country. So dress appropriately and wear a hat (we’re sure you can find one that makes you look extremely cool in more ways than one). But even more importantly, regardless of whether the sun is out, sunscreen the heck out of yourself. Think about reapplying every three to four hours (don’t forget exposed scalp areas), and carry some spare with you to reapply throughout the day – hey, you might even make some new lobster-colored friends by sharing some of your extra.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (and maybe bring some snacks)
Remember that heat we just mentioned? You’ll want to carry your own water bottle (see if you can find one that clips to your belt loops) and keep it topped off. If you happen to be in a hotel room, fill it up the night before and see if you can bring it in frozen from your suite’s refrigerator – that icy center will keep your drinks chill all day. (Note: Alcohol is not meant for when you’re thirsty – it’ll dehydrate you further.) And remember about food: vendors at festivals are often outrageously overpriced, so think about carrying in your own snacks.
Speaking of alcohol ….
Moderation is best. Music festivals are full of chances to drink yourself stupid (and many have chances to get high), so while there’s nothing wrong with having a good time, bear in mind you may be surrounded by people who don’t have your best interests in mind. Stay in control and don’t take (pill-shaped) candy from strangers.
Not the drinking kind, the Wi-Fi kind. Many festivals have poor to no cell phone reception, as by their very nature they’re out in the middle of nowhere. If you must carry your smartphone, put it in something that can weather being beaten around – and is waterproof. You also may want to invest in a personal solar charger, since Wi-Fi charging stations, if they exist, may have long lines. But this time around it’s probably best to leave the smartphone home and wear a watch and coordinate with your buds – without texting. Plus, you won’t feel a need to film half of the festival.
What to wear
It’s hot, so sandals and flip-flops might seem to be an excellent choice. Wrong! If you’re caught in a throng of happy music fans pogoing and thrashing around, your toes are going to take a beating. And if something has broken on the ground – like a glass bottle – you’re less likely to end up bloody if you accidentally step on it. As for clothing, bring layers: nighttime may prove to be much colder than the heat of the day, and you’ll want to be able to bundle up.
Various and sundry
You’ll want to travel as light as possible, but investing in a small backpack you can wear from campsite to campsite is the way to go. In addition to filling it with the spare snacks and sunscreen and hat we suggested earlier, here’s what else you’ll want to pack: hand sanitizer (portable toilets, particularly after a few days, are a true test of mettle); a small pack of tissues; a spray bottle (for cooling your hot self down); a bandanna (wetting one down and wearing it around your neck is a sure-fire way to cool off, and the cloth has many other uses); aspirin (never hurts to have some, particularly if drinking is part of your plan); a headlamp (if you’ll be wandering around at night, or camping); bug spray (obvious); and Ziplocs (for keeping things dry).
Get some zzzs!
Sleep is the hardest thing to come by during a festival, and while it’s OK to decide you won’t want much of it for the duration, don’t fear the nap. If you miss a band or two you aren’t fond of, recharging with some sleep (try earplugs if it’s noisy) will mean you’ll enjoy the rest of the fest even more.
Have fun, and rock on!