By the Festival Lawyer //
With Festival Season starting, I decided to ask my Twitter and Facebook followers (and of course some of my favorite “Festie” writers and bloggers) the following question:
“What one item did you not know to bring to your first music festival that you always bring now?”
I took the best of their advice (and a few of my own tips) to give you the following ten items that are guaranteed to make your next festival safer, more comfortable and more fun.
A few years ago, I stood about 3 feet from Dave Navarro’s amp for an entire show at the Roxy in LA. For several weeks I had massive ear ringing and buzzing. I also said, “What?” so many times my friends were at the, “Say what again, say what again. I dare you, I double dare you, motherf*cker” level of exasperation with me.
Fortunately, my hearing returned. But ever since then, I’ve considered earplugs an essential festival item for both safety and comfort. Most people who say they “don’t like” earplugs have only tried those cheap drug store foam ones. Those don’t do much more than muffle and muddy the sound.
High quality earplugs (I personally like @earpeace but there are lots of choices) are only about 12 to 15 dollars. They provide a nice level of hearing protection without feeling like you’re missing the live sound experience of the show. Believe it or not, at certain shows earplugs make the sound better.
2. FANNY PACK
One of the most common issues at festivals is how to transport your needed gear easily. I asked Molly Kish (Artist Relations Manager, Showbams) what makes her such a “fan” (see what I did there?) of fanny packs.
Fanny packs are the quintessential festival must-have. Trumping the bulky backpack or burdensome purse, fanny packs are the hands free alternative to carrying around your belongings all day and keep you from becoming the resident mule amongst your festival going friends. Allowing enough room for your wallet, camera, phone, sunscreen, chapstick or any other personal items you’ll want within immediate reach, fanny packs keep your possessions conveniently stationed on your hips throughout the day (becoming nearly unnoticeable by the end of your festival experience).
Like the fanny pack, a Camelbak is another easy way to store your keys, wallet and other valuables at a festival. It also has the added advantage of keeping you hydrated while avoiding long lines for refillable water or the high cost of bottled water. Dehydration can turn from a comfort issue to a safety issue really quickly. This is especially true at music fests where people are partying hard or are dancing in the middle of the desert in the afternoon.
There are entire reddit threads and message boards devoted to arguing the topic of which Camelbak is the “best” for festivals or raves. This should come as no surprise since the internet was pretty much invented for people to have a place to argue with ferocity and utter moral certainty about things that are subjective opinions. I won’t enter that fray except to say that this model of Camelbak is super popular.
4. ITEMS TO FIGHT PORTA POTTY HELL
The average festival porta potty looks like something they would show Piper on the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” to scare her about how awful prison life is going to be.
Because of this, a lot of folks wrote me to remind people to bring things like baby wipes, packs of tissue, hand sanitizer or their own toilet paper to try to make the situation better.
(Bonus tip for the ladies: Cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices lets women go to the bathroom standing up. Find them here.)
5. ITEMS TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Tucker Gumber, aka “The Festival Guy”, attended something like 20 festivals last year. I figured he would be a good guy to ask the “things to bring to a music festival” question.
People go to festivals to hang out with their friends while enjoying world class music. The more festivals you go to, the more friends you make, the harder it is to see everyone. There is one thing that will determine your ability to meet up with whoever you want, whenever you want. Your cell phone battery. If your phone dies in the middle of the festival you will often find yourself searching through thousands of people looking for your crew. (PS: always set a meeting point) This frustrating situation can be easily avoided by carrying a cell phone power bank (I recommend Mophie). When you carry extra battery life you will not only avoid the stress of having a dead phone, you will now have the ability to help other people whose phone has died. Cell phone service is not perfect at festivals (although I did have service at 16 of 20 festivals I went to last year with Verizon) so make sure to be very precise with meetup locations and time stamp your texts.
(Bonus Tip: Tucker and the rest of the Festevo crew are only weeks away from their Festival App “Festevo” going live. When it does, it will DEFINITELY make this list. Find out more about their app here.)
6. ITEMS TO KEEP FROM GETTING FRIED
A lot of festivals take place in crazy hot environments where shade is at a premium. Sunscreen, sunglasses and chapstick are all “musts” at these kind of fests.
I asked bloggers and festival experts “The Festival Twins” if they had any other tips for folks trying not get “fried” at a music festival.
If it’s a camping festival, a canopy is an essential addition to your campsite. We learned the hard way, showing up to our first Coachella without one and paying the price for it. Shortly after sunrise the inside of our tent was super bright and roasting (no sleeping in!). During the day when we were at our camp we would all huddle under a small blanket we had strung up between our car and tent (we didn’t all fit underneath it).
Canopies not only offer shade from the sun and reflect heat, they also shelter from the rain and wind, and offer privacy. They are also a great way to distinguish your camp site from those around you, by attaching siding to them, adding a sign or flag to the top, or simply just by color (Hey! We’re the blue canopy between the red and white one!).
7. ITEMS TO KEEP YOU MOVING
Most music festivals involve a ton of walking. Probably THE most common items that people recommended were worn in, comfortable shoes. I asked Pete Mauch (Staff Writer, Showbams) if he had any other tips to keep a long day of walking from turning into a disaster.
At Bonnaroo 2005 in Manchester, Tennessee on the fourth and final day, I was hobbling around like I had been riding a horse for weeks. From that day forward I swore to myself that I would never go to a festival without my precious Gold Bond. Being able to walk long distances comfortably is key to having a great experience at a festival, especially a larger scale one like Bonnaroo or Coachella where you could be walking for a good while between stages and your campsite. I’ve helped out many aching friends who were not as prepared so please share your Gold Bond with others.
8. ITEMS TO KEEP YOU SAFE
I highly recommend you keep a few “safety” apps on your phone. Since there isn’t a “Festival Lawyer” app (yet) I highly recommend you download and bring the DanceSafe app. Tons of great drug safety tips and emergency care information are available there.
9. ITEMS TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS
One of the easiest ways to make new friends at a music festival is to share an item your festival neighbor forgot to bring. (a lighter, handwipes etc.) Personally, I like to hand out candy or gum. There are certain fests where dust is everywhere. When your mouth is dry, your lungs are uncomfortable, and your breath is questionable, someone handing you a stick of gum is sort of your new hero.
I also love to give away cheap “fireworks” (refraction) glasses. It’s a close call between cats and myself about who likes lasers more. Fortunately, man has again defeated the animal kingdom by inventing this new technology. (These diffraction glasses make lasers look freaking great is what I am saying.)
You can find cheap paper diffraction glasses or nicer ones here.
10. GET INTO CHARACTER
I’ve written before about how much more fun your festival is when you spread positivity and good vibes to your fellow audience members.
One of the absolute best ways you can spread the good vibes is by wearing a funny t-shirt or something else that says, “let’s party”. But if you really want to take it to the next level you can wear a memorable costume. I asked Eamon Armstrong (Social Media Manager – Fest 300) for the origin story of “Purpleganda”
In 2006 I went to Coachella in a baseball cap and a polo shirt. I thought of it like a concert where you go with a friend to watch other people play music. Eight years later festivals have become an immersive experience for me and how I present myself is part of how I participate.
A memorable outfit isn’t just an upgrade for you, it upgrades the whole festival. Your style makes the atmosphere of the fest more alive for your friends and other festies. Your silliness makes you more approachable. People want to compliment you because you look awesome. You say thanks, making them feel great. I personally love to just walk around the grounds telling people just how terrific they look!
From some funky tights to a full DIY light-suit, your costume makes the surreal world of the festival that much more magical. Plus if you ever get overwhelmed by the experience you can simply retreat into the role you’ve created. In fact, sometimes the costume makes you free to lose your mind a little.
Okay festies! What other festival items do you now consider “essential”? Be sure to let your fellow festivalgoers know in the comments section about any other festival “upgrades” that you love and want to share.