Your Expert Shopping Guide to Surviving a Summer Music Festival

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April 23, 2019

Planning for my first music festival was less than breezy. Being vigilantly Type A, I spent months researching, organizing and — to their misfortune obsessively texting my friends to make sure I'd be prepared. And of course, I still wasn't. Every music festival is different, and the only way to really know what you need is through experience. But now that I have over five festivals worth of experience, I can at least try to help prevent you from showing up with a bunch of stuff you don't need.

Get Ahead[light]

If you’re new to music festivals, you may be wondering why your season crew is laser-focused on leaving the night before the festival starts. Trust your friends not only are you more likely to get a perfectly centered camping spot, but you’ll also avoid the meltdown that is setting up camp at high noon in the middle of the summer. The tradeoff, while totally worth it, means you’ll be working in complete darkness. And over the next 3 – 5 days you’ll find a quite deal of your time is spent shuffling around in the dark. Aren’t you glad you bought that headlamp?

Beat the Heat

Empty fields are great for music festivals. Not so much for camping. As the sun rises over your unshaded campsite, your tent will quickly turn into a sauna. You'll wake up drenched in sweat and begin desperately trying to free yourself from the tent, which will be difficult because any bare skin will be stuck to your air mattress. Determined to catch up on sleep, your friends will find you an hour later in one of three places: sleeping on the ground under the EZ-Up, under a tree somewhere inside the festival grounds or in your car (with the A/C on). Mother Nature is a cruel mistress.

Prepare for Rain

Summer rains, you can never predict them. Just ask TomorrowWorld 2015.

Don’t Forget a Hydration Pack

Camping festivals are less like camping and more like being on an episode of Naked and Afraid. It’s critical you stay hydrated. Be an oasis and buy that hydration pack.

I also recommend blending up some low-sugar, high-fiber smoothies then storing them in freezer bags at the bottom of your cooler. Trust me, you're going to want the smoothies.

The Eatssentials

Do you smell that? That's the sound of your neighbors cooking breakfast on a grill that you deemed unnecessary at the store just two days ago. After passing it up, you walked down the sporting goods aisle and bought a $30 fishing net to use as a totem. Who needs a homecooked breakfast after a night of partying, anyway? (You do.)


Staying clean at a music festival doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. A portable shower will completely change your experience. Make sure to keep hand sanitizer and wet wipes on you at all times. You’ll also be revered as a saint if you carry around a roll of toilet paper.

Pro tip: They typically clean the porta potties right at dawn, between 5 – 8 a.m.

Wear Real Shoes

I cannot stress this enough. You’ll be walking upwards of 10 miles a day, and standing for hours on end. Pretend like you’re running a marathon and invest in a good pair of shoes with a thick sole. Your feet will thank you.

Fanny Packs Are Back

But really, they never left. Now they come in a variety of wild colors, sizes and designs so you can go hands-free in style. It’s also the smart choice: Due to safety concerns, many festivals have enforced bag policies that limit you to small, single-pocket bags. It’s safer for you, too, since a fanny pack’s design keeps your valuables front and center, and closer to your body. You can also shove an open beer between the strap and your body for an impromptu cupholder. Can your backpack do that?

Tapestries Aren't Just Hippie Wall Hangings

Tapestries don’t get the respect they deserve. They’re blankets. They’re scarves. They block out the sun. They make perfect flags for when you lose your friends at the main stage. And they fold up and fit in the palm of your hand.

Music Festival Horror Story

It’s dark. It’s loud. You start screaming, but your friends can’t hear you. You begin to run, but you can’t seem to find them.

You’re not being haunted; your phone just died at the main stage. Don’t let it happen to you. Bring along a couple of spare battery packs and chargers cables, and store them in a plastic bag, so nothing gets wet.

Bonus Points

These aren’t essentials, but it is a music festival, after all, so we had to include some random stuff just for fun. Fly that freak flag (or giant pinwheel) high. But not too high – some of us in the back can’t see the stage!

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