Some things are best enjoyed during the summer: popsicles, beaches and, of course, outdoor music festivals. With Bonnaroo approaching this weekend, I’ve found myself getting in a preparatory state of mind. There’s a ton of thought that goes into preparing to attend a summer music festival or outdoor concert, and it’s important to plan ahead so you’re not scrambling for equipment or the right mindset at the very last second, or even worse, at the concert or festival. There’s no reason to freak out when you should be having fun.
Here’s a list of the most important things to think about when preparing for a music festival — like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Chicago’s Lollapalooza, the classic Vans Warped Tour or the new Firefly in Delaware — to help you get relaxed and ready for a great time.
This is easily the most important thing to remember — and the easiest to forget — when preparing for an outdoor music marathon. It’s summer, and it’s easy to get dehydrated even if you’re not busting out your greatest dance moves onstage. It’s essential to make sure you have a steady source of water at all times. For festivals, where you’re not always going to be near a source of water, aCamelBak hydration pack is a great investment. Not only will it hold all the water you’ll need, but it also provides storage space for things like your wallet, phone, camera — buy a disposable one so your nicer cameras stay safe — and whatever else you need. Plus, you can wear it on your back, so your hands are free. Another popular option is bringing a small satchel or fanny pack and storing a water bottle in there, but make sure you’ll be able to refill the water bottle when it’s empty.
Everyone knows the sun is extremely hot and bright in the summer, and you’ll be under it for hours at a time. Obviously, sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin from the sun without covering it up completely, but it’s an easy thing to forget. You’ll regret leaving this essential at home: You’re going to want to be wearing as little as possible to keep cool.
In order to keep your life as stress-free as possible at the festival, print out a schedule of who’s playing and at what time before you leave, and mark which sets you’re going to see. Compare notes with your friends to coordinate — but if nobody else wants to see your favorite band, go alone. Just be sure to have a meeting place and time so you’re not separated forever.
It’s also a good idea to schedule in some down time when you can just hang around with your friends, give your feet a break, cool down and eat something. When you’re at a marathon-type festival like Bonnaroo, where sets go from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., it’s important to give yourself some rest. It will be hot, and the sun will take a lot of energy out of you. Take the time to review and tweak the rest of your schedule as well as to recount the sets you just saw.
Keep your hunger satisfied, or your energy levels will fall fast. Most festivals won’t let you bring in lots of food, so opt for snack foods and power bars. Cliff Bars, Chewy Bars, nuts and dried fruits are a great way to get some nutrients and stay satiated throughout the day without breaking the bank on festival food. If you haven’t packed enough, the food provided by different vendors should be tasty, if overpriced.
Make sure you go over the festival rules. Know what time doors open and close, how often you can exit and reenter, what you’re allowed to bring and how you’ll be expected to behave while at the venue. It’d be a shame to get kicked out because you didn’t bother to read them, so go over the rules a few days before you head out so you can change your plans if need be.
6. Check the web
It’s always a good idea to check online forums dedicated to your festival before you go. You never know what other people will have to say, and often you’ll get some great ideas from seasoned music festival veterans. Their advice will come in handy as you scramble to get ready.
7. Don’t be afraid of the authorities
At music festivals, medical tents and cops are usually not there to get you in trouble for bending the law. At Woodstock in 1969, medical tents treated dozens of people experiencing “bad trips.” While the guide doesn’t condone drug use, if you find yourself in a bad situation, don’t be afraid to approach the authorities. They are not likely to get you in trouble if you need help. The medical tents and personnel are there to help you, so if you get sick, don’t hesitate to go get yourself fixed up.
8. Pack light
For music festivals, it’s important to bring what you need — and only what you need. You don’t want to get to the venue and realize that you can’t keep track of everything you brought. Look up packing lists on Internet forums or through the website of the festival for suggestions, and ask around if you know people who have gone in the past to see what they usually bring.
Most vendors won’t take credit or debit cards, so make sure you have cash on you at all times. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s always a good idea to carry a little just in case; you never want to be stuck in an emergency. Food, drinks and souvenirs are all up for grabs, so make sure you have enough cash to be able to get whatever you want from these festival vendors.
10. Make friends
Music festivals are a great place to meet people and make new friends. Whether it’s at a set, hanging out in between shows or at the campgrounds, festival-goers tend to be some of the friendliest people out there. Strike up a conversation with a group, invite them to come hang out with you and make new connections.