Top 10 Music Festival Essentials

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Whether you’re like the Festival Guy, who attended 48 festivals in the past three years, or having your very first festival experience this summer, you’re probably asking yourself the million-dollar question: “What should I bring?”

Compiled from my own experience and that of seasoned festivalgoers around the web, these must-have items will, without a doubt, enhance your festival experience. From necessities to novelties, you’ll be the most prepared person at the festival—allowing you to soak in the music and sunshine without any hang-ups.


1. Camelbak/Water Bottle

Photo by Paul Carroll

Don’t end up in the line of sweaty, thirsty festivalgoers that are pissed because they’re missing Atlas Genius. Coming from my own experience, the only thing worse than waiting in line at the water fountains is buying overpriced water. Save that dough for festival swag and HAIM tees.  

And if bringing a water gun to help stay cool sounds like a genius idea, think again. They will confiscate it. Stick with something like a Camelbak that can also store your stuff.


2. Fanny Pack

Photo by Marsmett Tallahasee

Although we have come to associate fanny packs with embarrassing vintage photographs of our dads in the 80s, these convenient hip pouches are making a comeback—especially in the festival scene.

If I’ve learned anything in my music festival experience, it’s to keep it simple. Pack your fanny with just the essentials–money, cell phone, camera, sunscreen and your keys (if you’re car camping)–so you really can wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

It’s less stuff to keep track of and allows a quick and painless entry experience (security doesn’t have to rummage through your eight pound backpack, garnering dirty looks from your fellow festivalgoers).

Portable Phone Charger

Photo by Peter Wells

Your phone will die at least once over the course of the weekend. To stay connected, bring a portable phone charger so you won’t have to miss your favorite band while frantically searching for your friends (I still have not seen the Postal Service live for this very reason). Cell service is usually pretty unreliable at big festivals, so establish a meeting place and time stamp your texts.


4. Sunglasses & Sunscreen

Photo by Taylor Sloan
You’ll be spending most of your time outside; so prepare to protect yourself from the sun. It’s also smart to create a sun escape with a canopy or large umbrella for your campground. Add a few lawn chairs and a cooler of beer and you’re set.


Check out the Top 10 University Festivals to Crash


5. Munchies

Noshing on corn on the cob that’s bigger than your head is certainly part of the experience, but festival food can get pretty expensive (and unhealthy). Bring some of your own snacks—KIND bars, trail mix, oranges–to keep your stomach (and your wallet) ready to dance all night.


6. Baby Wipes

Photo by Megan Morris

Who brings baby wipes to a festival? You do. Unless you can handle dust caking on your arms and packed underneath your fingernails (gross). Festivals aren’t known for their showers. That’s why baby wipes are your new best friend. Trust me, all the festival novices swear by them.


7. First Aid Kit

First aid kit by Deacon Kevin

Expecting the unexpected is key at any music festival. At the very least, bring some disinfectant and Band-Aids for those moments when it gets too real. Searching for the medical tent is a hassle, especially if all you need is some Neosporin.


8. Headlamp

Headlamp by Jeromie Hamann

While rocking a headlamp might make you look more like a spelunker than a hip festival attendee, it’s worth it. I brought one of these to Coachella last year and it honestly saved my life. I’d snap it on when things went missing in the tent and for those dreaded late-night trips to the bathroom. People will be staring not because you look silly but because they wish they had one.


9. Comfy Shoes

Photo by Amy Mueller

Although you spent months planning your perfect festival outfit, comfort comes first. You’ll be on your feet for hours at a time. Not to mention, no one cares what shoes you’re wearing–they’ll be too busy bouncing up and down to dubstep to be looking at your stylish shoes. I had to learn this the hard way when I thought platform sneakers would serve as practical festival footwear. By the end of the weekend, I honestly just wanted to be walking around barefoot.


10. Bubbles, Beach Balls & Face Paint 

Photo by Thomas Hawk

One of the best parts of any festival is all the weird and wonderful things people bring with them. My personal favorites are beach balls and bubbles. For some reason, there’s something really magical about blowing up a beach ball in the crowd, throwing it high into the air, and watching it float on the fingertips of the crowd. One year I brought a beach ball to an MGMT set and afterwards, saw a girl carrying it proudly with a grin from ear to ear. I beamed with pride knowing that I had provided her with the ultimate festival souvenir.

Playing with bubbles and face paint while you’re waiting for a set to start will keep you entertained while attracting new friends. Painting on a stranger’s face is a surefire icebreaker.

Research what you can and can’t bring, but usually you can get pretty creative. My friends and I brought sparklers to a festival a couple years ago. Hearing them hiss and crackle as we lit them and waving them high in the air while we ran from one stage to another was the highlight of my weekend.

Madison is a senior at San Francisco State University, pursuing a degree in Journalism. College has been her favorite adventure so far. Much like the prolific musician Asher Roth, she’s wondering if she really has to graduate, or if she can just stay here for the rest of her life.

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