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Festival Season Essentials: A Survival Guide

With the first weekend of Coachella here, the flag for the races has officially dropped. It’s officially festival season. You’ve purchased your tickets and you’ve been eyeing your wardrobe, but now it’s time to take a look at the necessities. At the end of the day, you may want to pack around your Nikon DSLR with detachable lens to make sure you’ve documented the best four days of your life, but after eight hours in the sun, sweating with a bunch of strangers? All that’s going to be is added junk to carry around.

Lucky for you, I’m a seasoned pro. Here’s some absolute essentials to help you get ready for your big weekend.

For your travel bag:

No matter what your festival of choice is, chances are you’ll be traveling. Staying in a hotel, camping or couch surfing with friends can be fun, but your weekend can be ruined quickly if you don’t have everything you need to keep you running smoothly. On top of some super cute outfits, some heavy duty deodorant and make-up, here are some things you don’t want to leave the house without!

1.     Sunblock

Okay, ladies. I know what you’re all thinking. “What is this? Amateur hour?” You’ve been going to the tanning beds for weeks laying on that base tan. When you’re outside, you’re opting for the oil, not the SPF 150. But trust me on this one: I don’t care how deep your base tan is, you’re going to get burned. You’ll tan through the sun screen, you’ll sweat it off and you’ll blister. So thoroughly lather it on and make sure you’ve got enough of it. When I went to Bonnaroo, I had a SPF 30 lotion for my body, a spray can for my face and some Aloe Vera to rub in for emergencies.

2.     Loofa

Listen. When you’ve spent 10 hours under the sun, sweating and burning and getting covered in dust; you don’t want to be without something to do some DEEP scrubbing in the shower. A washcloth isn’t going to cut it here. Bring your best, you go to war the moment you turn on that shower head. Face paint, make-up, dirt, grime, spilled drinks, food, it’s all going down that drain. You’re going to fall in love with this shower accessory. You’ll never want it to leave your side.

3.     Band-Aids

Not only will you want these on your blisters the moment you leave, but they’ll wear off during the day and be essential to pack around in an extra pocket while at the event itself. They’ll save your ankles so many times. I cannot stress the importance of the Band-Aid enough.

4.     Close-toed shoes

It’s a fact of life: if you’re going outside, it’s probably going to rain. This happens every single time without fail. Sorry. You’ll hate yourself if you’re mucking around in flip flops or sandals. Something as simple as a pair of brown ankle boots can pair with almost any festival outfit you’ve got planned. They’ll save you in the trenches that is mud-soaked festival grounds and foot-happy dancers in the mosh pit. Even if you don’t wear them, pack them.

5.     Bug Spray

Festival season is a time for shorts and sandals… and bugs. Everywhere, bugs. You’ll have chigger bites up and down your ankles, not to mention some from the mosquitos and other creepy crawlies hidden in the grass. Even if you just spray it on your legs, I promise it will save you a world of pain. I learned this the hard way at Bonnaroo.

6.     Tylenol

Does this one need an explanation? Your ankles will be swelling, you may or may not have a hangover and depending on how close to the speakers you are, you’ll have a ringing in your ears that lasts for a few days. Take care of yourselves, ladies.

For your satchel:

And it WILL be a satchel. I’m talking bare minimum. The less baggage you’re toting around, the better. Most festival grounds are huge and you’ll be walking stage to stage, squinting at maps that are more stylistically designed than practically designed. It’s all part of the experience, so you’ll truck along, but you’ll want these tiny items to pack into your bag. Lollapalooza even has the options to go “cashless”, which means you can literally load your credit card onto your wristband and pay by scanning it at various places around the grounds. For other festivals, you’re toting that ID and credit card in your bra. The less in your bag, the better.

1.     Kleenex

There are so many uses for this one. Not only are your allergies going to run amuck in the wilderness of a foreign state, but you’ve got yourself covered if you get into a port-a-potty situation that’s a little…. Erm… sticky. You can clean up messes fast and blot that sweat off your face, too.

2.     Portable Charger

I switched out using TWO last year. I literally ran a cord from my bag to the phone in my hand as I took shots of Florence + The Machine. Never abandon your phone anywhere. Don’t pay to use charging stations, don’t sit dejected next to some stranger’s extension cord. Portable chargers save your life and you’ll never miss an opportunity for a fun selfie with new friends.

3.     Poncho

Another multi-use necessity, the great thing about ponchos is that you can wear it when it inevitably pours down rain to save your hair. Not only that, but you can lay it out over the grass when you sit to take a break or watch a band from the lawn. There’s a trend here, as you can see: save your legs. They’re going to be putting in work, so don’t irritate them. Do everything you can to treat them right.

4.     Batteries

If you’re packing a camera, these are something you’ll want on hand. Not to mention if you get really fed up with the heat and pay way too much money for one of those sad portable fans. At least make the most of it by being prepared!

5.     Water

Let me tell you a story about a girl who was fed nine bottles of water throughout a 65 minute set at Bonnaroo. That girl was me, and I’d already had two bottles of water to drink before that. But in 98 degree heat with a crowd of 600+ people pushing at my back, dancing and singing so loudly I felt at one point I might vomit (literally), some security guards saw my face and took it upon themselves to take care of me. I owe my life to those security guards. Good looking out, Bonnaroo volunteers. Stay hydrated! I can’t stress this enough! I want you all to send me Snapchats on the hour every hour of you holding two bottles of water in your hands at all times!

6.     Hair tie

The ultimate. For your hair, for your shirt, for whatever you need it for. Do not let this baby get lost. It is your child and you will protect it as such. If you’ve got your hair styled and it’s down, you’ll ruin it with sweat running down the back of your neck anyway. Make it stylish, but pull it up. Heat stroke isn’t on my agenda for festival season, and it shouldn’t be on yours either.

All photos taken by Hannah Strader, author of this article.


Hannah Strader graduated from the University of Kansas in December 2018 with a degree in journalism and creative writing. She has past experience as both a writer and editor for high school and collegiate level newspaper staff and spent the summer of 2017 in London working with Healthista, an online women's health magazine. Her passions include but are not limited to Harry Styles, Taco Bell, witchcraft and books. She has two cats and can recite all the U.S. presidents in order. She's proud to call herself a Her Campus alumni. Formerly the Editor in Chief, Senior Editor, and staff writer at Her Campus KU.
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