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The Ultimate Music Festival Essentials List

A music journalist covers how to thrive this season

DoubleBlind Mag

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Ever since the days of the original Woodstock, music festivals have been the ultimate destination for music fans. People travel from far and wide, vans packed to the brim with all of the vital music festival essentials. Modern-day fests like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and EDC Las Vegas bring together tens of thousands of festival goers into one place, where they unite around the power of music, art, and, uh, influencer pop-ups. I’ve been going to music festivals regularly for well over a decade, both as a journalist covering the events and as a ticket-buying “civilian” attending to see my favorite acts. Some festivals I’ve returned to again and again—including Le Guess Who? in the Netherlands and Los Angeles’ iconic-but-defunct FYF. Over the years these events have become institutions, guiding my taste and keeping me connected with friends and peers. 

Attending a music festival isn’t always easy. In fact, some fests are famous for the tests of physical and mental endurance that they put people through. At a music festival, it’s common to spend much hours or even days on your feet, marching from one stage to another, all while subsisting on overpriced slices of pizza. You’re short on sleep, you might be jetlagged, and you have to guard yourself from the outdoor elements. For DoubleBlind, I put together the ultimate guide to getting the most of a music fest—read on for everything you need to know. 

READ: Here Are the Best Places to Rave in the World

Pre-festival prep—what to do before you go

Read the festival FAQ and rules

Music festivals are all about having fun, but it’s important to take care of the boring details first by reading over the festival’s FAQ page and rules just to get a sense of what you’re walking into. The last thing you want to do is go through all the trouble of packing your stuff and getting to the festival gates just to be told by security that your backpack is too big or the $20 worth of granola bars you brought can’t be allowed in. 

Check the weather 

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Image Courtesy of Angello Pro via Unsplash

Some fests are known to become giant mud puddles after evening rains; others take place in oppressive summer heat that leads to bedlam and rioting (at least in the case of Woodstock 99). Before you head out for the day, consult your preferred meteorologist to get the forecast. If there’s a chance that a thunderstorm could break out while you’re rocking out to the Pixies—something that actually happened to me last year—then you’ll need to dress accordingly. 

Look over the schedule

Even diehard music lovers don’t always have the endurance to attend a music fest from the moment it opens until the final headliner’s final encore several days later. To get a handle on scheduling, download the festival’s app and take a look at the lineup of artists, what time they play, and what stage they’re at. 

You’ll want to get a sense of when to show up each day and how long you can expect to be out so that you can catch all your favorite acts and leave room for new discoveries as well.  

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes

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Image Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

Expect to spend hours on your feet at a music fest. You could be spending hours each day walking on red-hot asphalt or trudging through muddy fields to make it to different stages, so plan to dress for the long haul. 

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You’ll need comfy shoes that don’t give you aches or blisters—also, it helps if they can withstand wear-and-tear from a dusty field or rowdy crowds. Combine the kicks with a cute outfit that has some functional elements: think loose-fitting clothing for dancing, lots of pockets for stowing stuff, and hats and sunglasses for the hot sun.

READ: Why Tripping at Raves Can Be Just As Healing as Ceremony

Front-lines fundamentals—what to do inside the festival

Put away your phone

There will be a million things to take pictures and videos of at a music festival—and by all means, you should totally post to social media to show off your über-cool festival ’fit and make your friends jealous. 

But the cellular network is going to be super congested and some fellow festivalgoers may find it distracting if you insist on filming every song in an artist’s set. Take some time to live in the moment and drink in the vibes of a magical experience that doesn’t need to be mediated by a screen. 

Set a rendezvous point for your friend group

You may end up getting separated from your friends, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The best music festivals, like Coachella and Tomorrowland, are controlled environments that you’re basically supposed to get lost in as you explore the amazing installations, food vendors, and merch stands. Spending time apart from the group means you may even end up seeing an amazing set from your new favorite artist. 

To mitigate anxiety and miscommunication, choose a time and place where you and your festival friends can all regroup for a quick check-in. Your group can also bring a rave totem if you’re at an overpacked EDM fest. 

Pace yourself with drugs and alcohol

Technically it’s illegal to bring in drugs at all, and we don’t condone anyone to break the law or violate any festival rules. But if you must indulge (and plenty of people do), microdosing is the safest and arguably most enjoyable approach to tripping at a festival. A festival is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be amazing to let loose and allow for a transcendent experience at the foot of the mainstage while watching Tyler, the Creator. But it’s also smart to stay in control of yourself and aware of your surroundings. 

You may have heard, like I have, amusing war stories from friends about tripping so hard at Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo or some other festival that they started talking like Bob Dole or saw the face of a dead relative in the clouds. All I have to say about that is to remember that you’re in a public place full of thousands of people, including event security and possibly even police. Stay safe and be discreet. 

Be conscientious of others 

There’s no need to elbow your way to the front of the stage if you’re not a huge fan of the music or don’t want to focus on the performance. It’s totally fine to chat and goof off, but remember that fans and music lovers paid to attend the fest so they could see their favorite artists, not you.

Take a look around the crowd and do a quick vibe check if you’re tempted to do anything else that might make others feel annoyed, such as taking your shirt off or starting a mosh pit. If you’re about to light up a spliff, it’s not a requirement to pass it around outside your immediate friend circle, but it would be appreciated. 

Festival finance—How much money should you bring? 

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Image Courtesy of Hamed Taha via Unsplash

Having enough cash on hand is a definite music festival essential. You should budget a minimum of $50-$100 a day to cover expenses when you go to a music festival. Prices for alcohol and food are way inflated at music fests, and transportation costs can skyrocket too if you’re dealing with local taxis or Uber surge pricing. 

Of course, there’s also the merch booth, where festivalgoers can (and should) stock up on T-shirts, records, and other cool swag to support hardworking artists. 

Festivals are expensive, unfortunately. You’re already paying an arm and a leg for the entry fee, and you may even be forking over even more cash for accommodation. Even if you’re on a tight budget, though, it’s important to have some extra funds budgeted to cover ad-hoc expenses: a $6 piece of pizza could be just the thing you need after spending two hours dancing in the EDM tent. 

Must-Bring Music Festival Essentials

  • A small backpack or bag to carry your stuff. Read the rules posted on the festival’s website in case there are restrictions on size or type of bag.
  • Refillable water bottle. Festival water stations can be hit or miss, but they’re better than paying a king’s ransom for tiny water bottles from vendors.
  • Sunscreen. Bring enough for you and your friends. (Half of them will probably forget to bring it themselves, so you win automatic cool points for sharing.)   
  • Fully charged phone and charger cable. You can even bring a portable power bank to skip the crowded charging stations.
  • Ear plugs (for adults). Ditch the cheap foam ones in favor of a pair of high-fidelity ear plugs, so you can enjoy the music without damaging your eardrums. 
  • Ear defenders (for kids). Loud concerts pose a greater risk to childrens’ tiny ear canals, and lots of noise can also make them crabby: invest $10-$20 in a pair of these headphone-shaped earplugs to ensure your 8-year-old can enjoy a tinnitus-free live music experience. 

What not to bring to a music festival

Save yourself the trouble at the security gate. You can look over a festival’s FAQ page to get a rundown of what’s not allowed, but most fests will require you to leave stuff like this at home: 

  • Food and drinks—sorry, you usually can’t even bring in snacks! 
  • Fire dancing equipment, glow sticks, and poi balls. A lot of EDM fests allow stuff like this in, but, again, double-check the rules.  
  • Camping furniture, blankets, or tents. You’ll need to keep this on the festival campground.
  • Pets that aren’t service animals.
  • Glass containers.
  • Laser pointers, drones, and other annoying shit like that. 
  • Professional camera equipment. You’ll need a press pass to carry in a digital SLR.
  • Professional recording equipment. If you plan to bootleg the show, keep any recording devices tucked away when you go in. Except for your phone, of course. 

Knives, guns, and other weapons. Duh.

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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