We’ve all been there. Day 3 of a long-awaited summer festival and you feel like the favorite plaything of an outdoor cat: mud-covered, sun-damaged and nibbled on by God knows what. And while you feel like your very soul is sloughing off and sinking into the destroyed turf of whatever park, farm or greenspace these fest organizers have managed to wrangle, you can’t help but notice that there’s people around who are as chipper as you were on day one.
What’s their deal, these almost supernaturally happy humans? Are some people’s reserves of f*cks to give that much deeper than your own? Don’t they know that Sundays are usually weak as all hell? It can’t all be drugs, can it? Chances are, if you’ve come across these folks in your own travels, the reasons for their sunny disposition isn’t some vast reserve of inner strength. More than likely, they’ve just been here a few more times than you and they planned their trip accordingly.
With that in mind, we’ve tagged our festival veterans to give you a list of things you shouldn’t leave home without and tips to become one of those 36 Hour Party People.
A Decent Water Bottle
There is literally only one thing you must bring to a festival aside from your own damn self, and that, my friend, is some delicious, icy cold water. Listen to me — don’t buy $5-$10 bottles once inside. Don’t let yourself pass out or get heat poisoning because you’re too broke or cheap to shell out for that overpriced sh*t. Don’t resent the hell out of everyone around you during even your favorite artist on earth performing brand new material because you’re so parched and miserable you can’t sing along. Be a grown up and procure a sturdy water bottle of your own to bring in empty and refill once inside.
Here’s an example of the perfect option, the insulated Takeya, which costs between $20-$30 and will last you for entirety of festival season, saving you approximately $500 in the process. The insulation means that if you put icy, cold water in, it will stay cold for a full 24 hours. You could trek through Coachella, hook up with a hottie in a mansion in Palm Desert, show up at a set the next day and still be drinking cold water. Technology is amazing. So is hydration. Plus, this thing is BPA free so in case said hottie is environmentally aware, you’ll look even hotter. Stay thirsty my friends. — Caitlin White
A Quality Rain Jacket
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Coming from the Pacific Northwest and marrying someone from England, I’ve been to a lot of festivals and concerts where rain was all too real, even in f*cking summer. So I always travel with a sturdy rain jack, usually Helly Hansen because you want something practical that will last. You don’t want to be stuck getting soaking wet just because it happens to be raining when the band you camped out for for three miserable days takes the stage. — Zach Johnston
Sunscreen And A Hat
As a reformed beach rat, I know there’s few things lamer than stopping your good time to rub some ointment on your body whose smell comes in somewhere between medicine cabinet and coconut air freshener. But as the one-time sufferer of a sunburn so serious that I had to lock myself away like Quasimoto for a week and let my whole skin fall off, I gotta tell you it’s worth it to protect yourself.
Sunscreen and a cheap hat will work wonders to keep you from feeling like a hobbyist’s home-made beef jerky (and will save you from that nasty c-word later on down the line). — Alex Galbraith
Cheap But Comfortable Shoes
We get it: Festival looks are super important, which is why I checked and double-checked that I packed my way-too-big T-shirt of the Mona Lisa but with Mr. Bean’s head for every festival I went to last summer. Still, some fashion-related sacrifices have to be made. Especially when you consider that as a dedicated festival-goer, you’ll be walking at least a couple miles every day, potentially through mud and other dirty conditions. Leave the limited-edition Jordans at home, and rock a pair of cheap and comfortable shoes.
Head to your big box or discount store of choice and look for a $10 pair of basketball sneakers or running shoes from the clearance section. Knowing you’re not looking for footwear built to last beyond a long weekend really opens your options up, and ultimately, you should find some disposable shoes that are fairly comfortable and look decent enough. You’ll thank us when you’re confidently plowing through all sorts of terrain in kicks you’d be fine with throwing away on Monday. No more tip-toeing around used napkins in your all-white Vans. — Derrick Rossignol
An External Phone Battery
Not that you’ll be able to maintain decent cell service throughout a music festival, but really, I can’t think of a more essential item to take with you than an external battery charger for your phone. (Maybe a bottle of water. Also, an actual phone, but that’s it!)
Listen, you’re going to want to take poor-quality videos and pictures of the headliners playing in near-total darkness from a football field away. You’re going to want to tweet and snap everything you see and everything you eat. You’re going to want to text the friends you came with to find out where they are after you peeled off from the group to check out your favorite underground rap artist while they were busy scoping the latest indie rock sensation. And how about locking down the Uber/Lyft home? All that is going to be impossible if your phone turns into a useless, carbon brick before the sun even goes down.
Just don’t forget to bring the cable, too. Been there, done that. It really, really sucks. Also, quick tip, set that thing on airplane mode when you aren’t using it. Saves major battery life. — Corbin Reiff
A Drug Testing Kit
Forget cocaine, MDMA is a hell of a drug. You feel more intact, more emotionally-synced, more you. Remember, this is a chemical compound which is now being pushed for therapeutic use (particularly PTSD) — so to act like the connections forged and the realizations made are all just hippy bullsh*t is absurd.
But any benefits to MDMA are quickly negated when your pills were made in a bathtub with Vivrin, Meth, and some bleach. Here’s advice from a party veteran: Test your drugs. The cost is nominal, the upside is huge. — Steve Bramucci
An Air Mattress
You can head to Bonnaroo with all the comfortable sneakers you want, but if you don’t get yourself a good night of sleep, you’re gonna be exhausted as you try to get up front for Chance The Rapper after your first night of camping. So, assuming you’re staying on-site, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have an air mattress with you.
My brother and I shared a queen-size air mattress in our tent at Firefly last summer, and every morning, we were as energetic as Danny Brown (or as energetic as you can be after walking around in summer heat for 12 hours). We got ours from a Walmart on the way to the festival grounds, but you can find an effective air mattress for under $20 just about anywhere. A quick Amazon search yields a bunch, some with battery-powered pumps and some smaller ones designed specifically for camping.
Whatever variety you opt for, get an air mattress, get some rest, and get a leg up on your exhausted peers who spent last night readjusting themselves in a sleeping bag. — Derrick Rossignol
If All Else Fails, Just Stay Home
Here are some things you will not find in my home: Temperatures approaching 100 degrees, thousands of smelly people in flower crowns, a guy trying to sell you MDMA (which is really just prescription-sized Advil), porta-potties that have been pooped in by millions, and some dude being hauled to the medical tent because they’ve overdosed on whatever they bought on their way to the festival.
And that’s why I will not be attending any summer festivals this year.
“But there’s music!” Yeah, there’s music on my iPhone, too! And I can hear it better! And, if I just watch someone’s sh*tty livestream of the concerts, I can even feel like I’m at the festival without having to have paid for it! And I’ll probably be closer!
“But what about all the friendships you make along the way?” I’ve got enough friends. Thank you. And if I’m going to make anymore, it’s okay if our only shared memory isn’t throwing up behind one of the small stages where a band that will “totally blow up like tomorrow” is currently playing.
“But what about the..” Wait a second, can you order a pizza and have it delivered to you within 45 minutes at a reasonable price? No? Well, then perhaps you should just stay home instead. Looking back on it ten years later, you’ll be glad you did! (Because outside is terrible, other people are terrible, and NOWHERE are people more terrible than at an indie festival all about love and togetherness.) — Mark Shrayber