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30 Things You Can’t Leave Home Without*: Our Essential Music Festival Survival Guide

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*I just realized after writing and rereading this article, most of these things are applicable to any outing: a road trip, a weekend hike–even an all-day amusement park visit. Apply accordingly…

After a cold, cruel winter–thank you, Polar Vortex 2014–spring is finally here (March 20!) and music festival season is right around the flower field. But before setting off on your mystical, magical adventure, be sure to check this stellar lineup of day-of festival essentials.

1. Tickets, Wristbands, and IDs
Everything else you can pretty much figure out when you get there, but you can’t forget your tickets. Think ahead and have them waiting for you at will call–one less thing to potentially lose. Photo: Coachella

2. Your Health Card
Heaven forbid you need to use it, but if you do need medical aid for whatever reason, you have the important info in your wallet.

3. VIP Upgrade Options
Some festivals have sweet upgrades available like VIP lounges (Lollapalooza’s is seen above) with all-inclusive food and booze, shuttles throughout the park, and air conditioned bathrooms. Before investing in these pricey perks, consider how much time you’ll actually be VIP lounging. How far is it from the closest stage? Can you bring your vodka soda outside of the VIP area? (Probably not.) What are the food options? And how much free Vita Coco can you really drink? Lots of variable pros and cons to consider with the VIP upgrade. Photo: Lollapalooza

4. A CamelBak for Your Water
Don’t end the weekend overheated and hooked to an IV. Staying hydrated is crucial for maximum festival endurance. CamelBaks are allowed in most all-day events (as long as the bag is empty upon entering the venue) and leaves hands free for other stuff, like dancing, and beer. Match it will your bandanna and you might actually pull this look off. Photo: Buzzillions.com

5. Festival App + Map
Most major festivals have apps with details on who’s playing what stage, set time reminders, maps and other helpful information–download ahead of time! It might be easier to reference the printed map in your back pocket instead of looking it up (and draining battery) on your phone. And printed maps make the best, lightweight souvenir. Photo: myCoachella

6. Locate The Restrooms
Don’t start looking once you already have to go. You’ll probably have to wait at least another 10 minutes in line once you get there. Also, see #16. (This is where VIP upgrades payoff–the lesser-used VIP Port-a-Potties.)

7. Hand Sanitizer
Three hyphenated words: Port-a-Potty. See photo above.

8. Smartphone Charger
I’ve already mentioned your smartphone–it could be the most important thing you bring with you, but it’s worthless when the battery dies and it will die at an all-day event. This portable power station can recharge a normal smartphone up to two times.

9. Sunscreen
Applying sun protection before you get there is easy to remember. It’s the re-application that gets neglected. Stash a travel size sunscreen in your fanny pack. Apply. Re-apply. Repeat. This can not be stressed enough.

10. Bug Repellant
Create an all-natural force field between you and those nasty blood suckers waiting in the grassy field.

11. Old School Canteen
If a CamelBak just doesn’t go with your crochet fest dress, a ruggedly cool camping canteen most certainly will. They seem to be making a comeback in a big way. Again, you’ll have to bring it in the venue empty. Photo: Etsy/PsychicCremonies

12. Essential Oils
After a long day dancing under the sun everyone begins to ripen. Dab on essential oil and you’re good to go. These potent potions are a lot less bulky than a stick of deodorant. I hear patchouli is popular among the “earthier” music aficionados.

13. Large Wrap or Sarong
This multi-tasking must-have can be used as a scarf, skirt, shoulder wrap, blanket, and it’s a lot less bulky than a beach towel. Looks like guys can wear ’em, too.

14. Cash
Don’t depend on ATMs. Figure out how much cash you’ll need for a day’s supply of $8-a-slice pizza and beer, and stash it someplace safe. (Snake money clip optional.)

15. Bandana
A lightweight denim bandana pairs well with everything, especially the natural festival elements like rain, dust clouds and sweaty dance tents. You will get sweaty in the tents.

16. Dancin’ Boots
Your shoes will be doing a lot more than dancing. Can you walk in them all day in 100-degree heat? Will open toes be trampled in the party pit? Will suede or leather boots ruin in mud? Think of the elements you’ll encounter and choose wisely. Booties and desert boots are a popular pick, as are a classic pair of waterproof Wellies.

17. Ear Plugs
Protect your drums with reusable ear plugs designed for loud music. They’ll thank you in the morning.

18. First Aid Essentials
Your friends will tease you for being “too prepared” (you can never be) when they find out you brought a first-aid kit… until they need a Band-Aid, Ibuprofen, or allergy medicine. Make your own or find one of these travel-size first aid kits.

19. Extra Glasses/ Contact Lenses
Or make a backup pair with inexpensive frames like these. Glasses tend to get “lost” pretty easily after a few hours under the sun after a beer or two.

20. Leather Utility Belt
Functional and chic, a vintage-inspired leather belt is reminiscent of the original festival scene. Or just go old school with a fanny pack–remember fanny packs?

21. Cheap Sunglasses You Don’t Mind Losing
Your favorite daytime accessory is also one of the most common to lose or break in a crowded dance pit. Wear an inexpensive pair like these that you’ll love to remember in photos, but could easily replace when you get home. Photo: Hipsterrunoff.com

22. Flair
Have fun. Be creative. Get decked out in body paint, sparkle and matching tattoos with your friend tribe. Looks like Hayden Panettiere got the Lollapalooza memo.

23. Self-Filtering Water Bottle
If public water freaks you out, and waiting in line/paying for bottled water bums you out, then bring your own bottle with a built-in filter. A genius idea, really.


24. Bright Mid-Size Backpack
Be the leader of your pack with a sunshine yellow bag that’s easy to follow and outfitted with secret pockets and adjustable closure.

25. SPF Lip Balm
Between the sun, daytime drinking and singing, you can’t imagine how parched lips can get. Protect them with an SPF balm.

26. Field Notes
You’re going to meet lots of new friends. If your phone runs out of battery, or if you decide to unplug for the weekend, carry a small, flexible notebook to remember names, numbers, and dreams. Photo: Field Notes

26. Peppermint Gum
For slow jams at sunset, and for settling tummies after weird combinations of food and drink, peppermint gum is crucial.

28. Designated Landmark
When you lose yourself in the music, sometimes everything else gets lost too – your phone, your friends, your left shoe. Plan a meet-up spot at a designated time to regroup. Pick a landmark that’s easy to find and locate one another, like the Buckingham Fountain at Lollapalooza.

29. Pre-Plan a Ride Home
After an amazing day of music and sunshine when you’re finally ready to call it quits, thousands of others will feel the same. If you’re not staying on site, figure out options for a ride back to the hotel: shuttles, cabs, trains, pedicabs, etc.

30. Take Monday Off
Some of the best acts and surprise guests happen on the last night–usually Sunday night. All of the worst traffic happens the next morning. It may be worth it to stay a little longer, relax, recuperate and maybe take advantage of discounted festival merch as vendors break down their booths. Photo: Imgur

Nicole Reed is the founding editor of Lincoln & Rose, sharing stories behind the storefronts. Her published work comes in print, pixels and all shapes and sizes. She lives in Venice, California and she’s a music festival veteran.

Photos: Getty Images unless noted

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