Festival essentials: what to bring, what to leave at home

You’ve got your tickets bought, your dance moves trained – what’s left? Here’s our list of what to bring to a festival, and what to leave at home.

Summer is finally here, which means it’s that time of year when the fanfare of summer festivals sounds for an explosion of sounds, experiences and spectacle.

In the four corners of the globe, thousands of music festivals fill the plans of avid travelers, adventurous wanderers, serious music fans – in fact, anyone looking for adventure. But before you pitch your tent, you’ll need to know what to put inside!

We spoke with Maddie Rish of the festival discovery site Everfest to bring you this list of what to bring and what not to bring to a festival.

What to bring to a festival… a sleeping bag

Okay, it may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget about this essential piece of gear when on their way to a festival exclusively with camping, as it always comes second to the number one item: the tent. While it’s hard to ignore the need to set it up, the humble cotton and polyester insulating cylinder that you sleep encased in every night is your best bet for a good night’s sleep.

What NOT to bring to a festival… perishable / junk food

It’s tempting to bring large provisions to a festival with camping, but keep in mind that your food will be in the heat all weekend. Forget about perishable snacks. You’ll get upset when you end up wasting them. Forget about ‘junk food’ too. That’s not what you’ll need either before or after a night sleeping on the floor of a tent. Take nuts, fruit and dark bread and the always nutritious granola bars instead.

O que levar… sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

We’ve all had that experience. Enjoying the concert of a lifetime, surrounded by your best friends, good atmosphere, and maybe a drink or two, completely unaware of the sun beating down on your shoulders until it’s too late.

Yes, you’ve heard it once, twice, a thousand times, but it bears repeating: put on sunscreen! Aside from the health benefits, no one wants to be ‘the one or the one’ walking around the festival like a rare steak.

What NOT to bring… glass

If you’re taking alcohol, buy it in plastic bottles. If you’re bringing beer, buy cans. Aside from the non-glass option usually being the cheapest, most festivals have a policy of banning glass, and for good reason. Festivals are a safe space for people to relax and roam freely; broken glass on the floor is a great way to ruin that experience for someone. Take notice of your barefoot festival compatriots!

What to bring… tapestry

In addition to adding some distinctive character (and shade) to your epic camping trip, a blanket – or a colorful quilt – is an essential, multifunctional item to take with you.

Want to take a nap under a tree? Your blanket is your bed. Stay cool at night? Your blanket is a sweater. Want to rest your legs on an area without grass? Your blanket is a chair. It’s a lightweight item that doesn’t take up much space.

What NOT to bring… clothes you’ll regret

This includes anything that is uncomfortable, inconvenient, or offensive. The golden rule when it comes to festival clothing: if you can’t squat decently, leave it at home. Forget the tight jeans and the carnival masquerade. Take light clothes that you can move well in – you’ll thank yourself when you’re dancing, or in the middle of a sweaty mosh pit.

There are advantages and disadvantages to carrying a bulky sweater. Yes, you may want to snuggle up at the end of the night, but it’s not an item you’re going to feel like carting around all day while dancing in crowds. Layers, layers, layers! Get rid of a thin layer when it’s hot, put on a thin layer when it gets cool.

What to bring… wipes and toilet paper

While showers are generally not an option, wipes are the second best option (well, sort of). It’s quite revitalizing to wipe off sweat and dust before you tuck into your sleeping bag at night – even more so in the morning before you start your day.

Portable toilets will have toilet paper … until the sun goes down, if you’re lucky. Either way, it’s not a risk you want to take, so carry a roll in your backpack. There’s nothing worse than realizing there’s no paper when you’re already on it.

What NOT to bring… a good camera

Festivals are a dream setting for great pictures, but they are also a nightmare for great cameras. If you like photography, it might be tempting to bring your XPTO camera along to take good quality pictures of your favorite musicians and dear friends. Unless you have received festival press credentials through your job or freelance, the vast majority of festivals will not allow you to enter with a DSLR or any professional photography equipment.

By the way, be prepared for all the people with credentials pointing the camera in your direction and shooting constantly while you’re in the middle of the rave.

What NOT to bring… valuables

Those gold earrings you love so much? The family ring you inherited from your grandmother? Your new iPad? Leave them all at home. The earrings fall off, the rings get lost, the screens break – it’s really not worth it, and grandma would be very sad.

What to bring… tarp for your tent

Don’t cut corners with this one! Your tent is your best chance to get the sleep you so desperately need, and it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re soaked. Even a little rain can get your stuff wet if you don’t have a tarp to protect you. Also make sure that nothing is missing from your tent (stakes, etc.) before you leave.

What shoes should you take?

If you spend all day dancing around in sneakers, or even galoshes, it will feel good to have a pair of comfortable sandals to put on when you get back to camp. Let your feet breathe! Sandals are convenient for getting in and out of the tent because they are the easiest to put on and take off.

What NOT to bring… an umbrella

Let’s face it, you’re going to be at an outdoor music festival. If it rains, you’re going to get wet. An umbrella will have three results: it will inhibit you from dancing, it will get in the way of the people around you, and it will inevitably hurt someone. The raincoat makes up for the shortcomings of the umbrella…

What to bring… earplugs

Those speakers you’re leaning against? They are designed to reach the ears in the background of a crowd of 50,000 people. Take earplugs! Your future with good hearing will thank you.

They will certainly be available at the festival’s campsite store, and they might even give them to you for free between concerts near the security checkpoints. They are also a valuable item for sleeping through the cacophony around your tent at night.

What NOT to leave behind… plastic bottles

Nowadays, most festivals have a “Leave No Trace” philosophy. In other words, the festival space should be in the same condition on departure as it was on arrival. Plastic is bad for the environment, and only a fraction of all those plastic bottles end up being recycled, so if you take them, be sure to recycle them. Festivals have water stations to a) keep you hydrated and b) reduce waste. Leave the plastic bottle at home and take a reusable bottle instead.

What to bring… garbage bags and resealable plastic bags

Put a couple of large trash bags around your campsite during the festival to minimize the packing needed on the last morning (when you’ll be in zombie mode). Carry two or three smaller resealable bags in your backpack so that in case it rains, you have something to protect your phone and other small items.

What to bring… a portable charger

While you shouldn’t be holding onto it all the time, it’s nice to know that you can take some pictures of the festival or meet up with your group again if you need to. However, you won’t have many opportunities to charge your phone inside the festival grounds (other than the charging stations at some festivals, which tend to be overcrowded and a pain to charge). A portable charger is always handy, but make sure it’s charged before you enter the venue!

What NOT to bring… an itinerary

It’s understandable. You paid good money to see your favorite artists play. But the biggest mistake I made at my first festival was having too rigid expectations about where I had to be and when. The reality is that plans change – often for the better – and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find when you’re not looking for anything in particular.

You should certainly make note of the five concerts you most want to see, but beyond that, a rigid schedule will only result in disappointment. An open mind guarantees more room for those magical moments that make festivals so special.