Eat. Sleep. Rave. Re-dang it I forgot my camelbak.
Music festivals are the bomb. Forgetting things you need and having to buy them there or go without all weekend is not the bomb. If you’re wondering what to bring to a music festival we’ve got a music festival packing list that has you covered. Oh, and if you’re going to a festival where you’ll be camping out, we have a music festival camping list included as well.
Music Festival Essentials
This one is at the top of the list because I would rather go without a phone charger than go to a music festival without a hydration pack…mainly because they do a great job of keeping you from dying. It’s also nice to be able to jump around for hours – something you can’t do if you’re dehydrated.
The majority of multi day music festivals take place outdoors where temperatures can get hot, especially during festivals such as Coachella and Burning Man, that take place in desert regions during the heat of summer. However, lugging around an ice chest or water bottle all day long as you explore the festival grounds and travel from stage to stage, is liable to get inconvenient and annoying (and may not even be allowed).
To avoid this hassle while still staying hydrated, you should include a hydration pack on your list of music festival essentials. Most festivals have free fill-up stations that you can use throughout the day. Hydration packs are convenient to wear and most of the time they allow you to fill up enough water to last you a few hours. This is especially nice if you plan on camping out at one of the stages to get a good spot for one of your favorite DJs.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to enter the music festival with an empty hydration pack, and some festivals have limits on the number of pockets they allow you to have.
Important features to look for in a hydration pack:
- Look for hydration packs with a bladder that holds at least 2 liters (70 oz.) of water
- Make sure to purchase a hydration pack that will allow you to replace the inner lining or bladder. Hydration pack linings can develop bacteria and germs over time. Plus, if you ever break it you’ll be happy that you don’t have to buy a completely new one.
- Make sure your hydration pack’s tube has a bite valve at the end of it to avoid having water leak while you are wearing it or if you set it down. One advantage of buying a big-name brand of hydration pack is that you can easily find replacement bite valves. With all of the jumping and walking around you’ll be doing you’re bound to lose one at some point. It’s happened to me and nearly everyone that I’ve ever gone to a festival with.
- Purchase a hydration pack that is light weight, with solid shoulder straps, that is non-evasive and comfortable to wear throughout your festival stay.
Our Recommendation: CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack
It’s extremely light and holds enough water to keep me bouncing for long periods of time.
Another benefit is that it only has one small pocket (other than the main one that holds the bladder), so most festivals will let you in with it.
If you need to carry around things that don’t fit into the small pocket put them in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and put them in the main pocket that holds the bladder.
Click here to check it out on Amazon.
Portable Phone Charger
No joke – my first time at a music festival my phone died and I spent the entire first day separated from my group. I had fun, but I’m sure I would have had a much better time hanging out with my friends.
Bringing a portable phone charger is a great way to keep your phone charged throughout the entire music festival…so you don’t have to spend it dancing in a crowd of strangers.
Most of the time festivals will let you bring these in, so you can charge your phone during the day. If you’re like me and take a million pictures and videos this will keep your phone going.
If you’re camping out for your festival you’ll definitely want one of these.
Our Recommendation: Anker PowerCore 20100
I bought an Anker portable charger a few years back and love it. This is the newer version of the model that I have. I took this baby to Tomorrowworld (RIP) and it kept me charged all weekend. Not only did it keep my iPhone charged, but because it has two USB slots I was able to help out some of the people camping around me.
Click here to check it out on Amazon.
LifeProof Phone Case
After what happened at TomorrowWorld last year there’s no way that I’ll go to a festival without a good phone case. It rained off and on the entire weekend and worrying that my phone would break the entire time was a bit of a downer.
It’s also nice knowing that if you drop your phone in a crowd and someone steps on it you’re still good to go.
Get a LifeProof case here.
Even if you’re usually fine spending a few hours outside without getting sunburned you’ll want to bring some with you. A small bottle is all that you’ll need for your group to make it through the weekend without frying.
Make sure to buy sunscreen that is non-sticky and sweat proof, such as Coppertone Sport.
Another item on your list of music festival essentials should be sunglasses. You’re going to be out in the sun all day and chances are it’s going to be really bright. Sometimes stages aren’t in the most sun-friendly locations and watching sets late in the afternoon with the sun in your eyes isn’t a ton of fun. It’s a lot more bearable when you’ve got a pair of sunglasses with you.
Don’t bring anything expensive that you’ll be mad about losing. Nearly every festival I’ve gone to either someone in my group or someone else I’ve talked to got their sunglasses lost or stolen.
Buy a cheap pair with UV light protection for the weekend and leave your favorite glasses at home.
You’ll definitely want to check the weather forecast prior to going to your trip and pack accordingly. If you are headed to the desert of SoCal to attend Coachella, do not make the mistake of only bringing shorts and short-sleeved shirts, because desert regions tend to get chilly at sundown. If you will be camping, you do not want to spend the night cold and shivering.
Don’t overpack, but packing one extra outfit is a great idea. If the weather turns bad and it rains you don’t want your only clothing options to be wet and rained on or really disgusting and sweaty from the day before.
The three must have shoes for any music festival:
- Broken in sneakers:
This should be a no brainer. Make sure you bring a pair of shoes or sneakers that you have spent some time wearing and breaking in before the festival. You would hate to have painful blisters when you are jumping, grooving, and moving to your favorite tunes all night.
- Rain Boots/Shoes:
What are you going to do if it is raining when your favorite artist takes the stage for the first time? You had better strap on some rain boots or shoes you do not mind getting ruined or muddy – plus, soaking wet socks and feet feel uncomfortable and gross.
These are a much needed item to include in your footwear inventory. After a long day of moving around, you will want to kick off your shoes and relax around your tent or campsite while donning your favorite pair of flip-flops or sandals. Also, several festivals offer public showers as a commodity to festival goers and require users to wear sandals or protective footwear.
Do not forget to bring your ID. This is almost as important as your ticket because without it they probably won’t let you past the gate. Also – don’t risk bringing an expired license. Festivals are more strict than they used to be about this, and you’re taking a huge chance by bringing an ID that’s expired.
If you don’t have a driver’s license check the festival’s website months in advance to see what they accept as a proper form of identification. That way if you need to order something there is plenty of time for it to arrive before the festival starts.
Rain Jacket / Poncho
You may laugh, but ponchos are the bomb. You can easily store them in your hydration pack and have it available if you end up needing it. They do a great job of keeping you dry and they’re cheap.
Here’s a pack of them that you can bring for your group. Trust me, if it rains you’ll be a hero.
After a few days of loud music your ears are going to be ringing. Protect yourself from ear damage and bring some earplugs. Most people bring them nowadays and they won’t hinder your ability to enjoy the music at all.
Music Festival Extras
Totems (when allowed in) make finding your group really easy. They also allow you to get creative, since you have to make your own and no two totems are the same.
You take a pole, typically a PVC pipe and put signs, cardboard cutouts, or whatever you want on top of them.
Some festivals have rules regarding totems and you’ll want to have something that won’t block the view of the people behind you. You’ll also want to make sure yours isn’t too heavy since carrying it around all day can be really tiring and leave your arms feeling like jello before the weekend is over.
Check out some examples of totems and get steps on how to make yours here.
Make sure to check the festival’s website to see what they do and don’t allow as far as cameras and video equipment. I’ve seen plenty of people inside with GoPros and the footage they take is pretty awesome.
It’s a great way to relive some of your favorite sets and can be mounted to the top of your totem for an even better view.
We’ve heard good things about the GoPro Hero.
Music festivals can be a colorful, exciting, and visually hypnotizing experience. Besides the hundreds of vendors, sponsors, art installations, exhibits, and stages, festivals attract attendees from all over the globe from various cultures and walks of life.
It’s pretty cool seeing all of the different countries represented around you by the dozens of different flags you’ll see. Bringing a flag is a great icebreaker for meeting those around you, but also helps you get found after you split of from the rest of your group.
Flags are awesome, but don’t be a jerk about it. Nothing drives me more insane than not being able to see the stage because a girl is sitting on the shoulders of some guy holding a flag up for the entire hour your favorite DJ is performing.
Definitely show your pride and represent with your flag…but be considerate of those around you.
Glow Sticks / LED Lights / LED Gloves
Even people that have never been to a rave or music festival before are familiar with the concept of glow sticks and LED lights.
One of the coolest uses for LED lights is to add them to your totem or inflatables. You take this thing called an El wire that has a battery pack on it (check the picture out). It lights up and you can easily wrap it around whatever you’re sticking up in the air.
These El wires come in a ton of different colors and often do more than just stay lit. Thy typically have a few options for how quickly they flash.
Diffraction Glasses, also aptly known as Kaleidoscope Glasses make the amazing lights and production of the festival even better. The crazy array and splash of colors you are witnessing is caused by the process known as diffraction, which is when a ray of light or sun beam passes through a narrow grate or aperture causing it to spread out.
A single light source seen through the lenses of Diffraction Glasses becomes a burst of color. Diffraction Glasses can unleash an entire spectrum of color right before your eyes, which makes them so popular in the EDM and music festival community.
This video gives you a glimpse of what lights look like if you’re wearing the glasses. Interested? Grab a pair here.
Not entirely sure what Kandi is? Then that probably means you are not familiar with the EDM scene. Kandi, are bright plastic bracelets, necklaces, cuffs, or headbands made with colorful neon chunky or pony beads. Kandi is often given away or traded with fellow rave or concert goers. It’s a unique and memorable way to make connect with new people.
They may seem like a childish or silly fashion statement to some people, but in reality Kandi is connected to a positive and beloved spirit and tradition. Kandi is all about promoting PLUR which is a sort of mantra for rave goers. It stands for “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect”. Concert goers that practice making and giving away Kandi, are trying to spread the values of PLUR – but they do not just give away or trade their bracelets haphazardly. Each trade should hold a special significance and have thought and meaning behind it.
Ravers put special thought and effort into making their Kandi. They take time creating cool designs and patterns, and usually include some message from their heart or about the event or festival they are about to attend. Kandi bracelets are traded when two concert goers notice each other wearing them.
To trade Kandi, ravers join hands and move their own bracelet onto the wrist of the other. It’s actually pretty cool to watch – see two people do it below.
Typically I would never suggest wearing, much less spending money on a fanny pack, but when you’re at a music festival and nobody judges you for anything you can definitely get away with wearing one.
I’ve seen them a lot. They’re great for holding your things if you run out of space in your hydration pack or aren’t wearing shorts with pockets. I’ve also seen plenty of girls wear them when they’ve got something crazy like a onesie on because those things obviously aren’t made to hold cell phones and money.
Plus, you can position it in front of you so you don’t have to worry about someone trying to pickpocket you. It’s sad, but it happens every year. 99.9% of the people that attend festivals would never do something like this, but there are those that do.
Here’s a sweet D.A.R.E. fanny pack.
Music Festival Camping Checklist
But when you bring one make sure you bring the smallest one that fits your needs. The campground is probably going to be packed and there are always those people who bring HUGE tents that take up a ton of extra space.
Try to keep your tent big enough for 2 – 4 people max. Of course, if you’ve got a huge group you can always go bigger.
Make sure you get one that has the extra covering to protect against rain – like this one.
If you need some more recommendations for tents, check out our list of the best tents for music festival camping.
Canopy and Tarps
As mentioned several times throughout this checklist, weather at outdoor music festivals can sometimes be an unexpected problem. To keep yourself and your campsite safe from the elements, be it heavy rain, wind, or even the burning sun – you need to include some durable tarps and a sturdy canopy.
Setting up a canopy above your tent provides an extra layer of protection, and if you’ve got a tarp spread out underneath the entire canopy you’ll even have some space outside of your tent that you can walk around on that won’t get muddy in the event of rain.
You can also hang the tarps up so that they keep your tent from being hammered with wind and rain.
Be sure to bring stakes to hammer into the ground with rope and wire to easily set your canopy and tarps up.
Sitting on coolers and in the grass is guaranteed to make your butt hurt after a while. Be sure to bring a chair so that you’re comfortable whenever you’re spending time pregaming or relaxing before you hit the festival that day.
This folding chair by Coleman is inexpensive and will keep you comfortable for the time that you’re hanging out at the campground.
Music festivals attract all types of people from all over the world. There is no telling who you may meet or what relationships you may cultivate during your stay. Just in case you meet the man or woman of your dreams, you had better make sure you look and smell your best – because running around and dancing all day, as well as roughing in the outdoors of your campsite, can make anyone smell horrible.
Essential Music Festival Camping Toiletries
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Mouthwash, etc.
- Razor, Shaving Cream, Aftershave
- Q-tips/Cotton Balls
Shower / Bathing Items
- Shower Gel
- Body Wash
- Soap (liquid or bar)
- Shower Shoes or Flip-flops
- Wash Cloth/Shower Scrub
Skin Care Items
- Face Cleanser
- Toilet Paper
- Beauty Cosmetics/Products
- Feminine Products
- Baby Wipes
- Lip Balm
- Bug Repellent
- Eye Drops
- Medications, Contact Lens Fluid, etc.
- Over-the-door Hook
- Toiletry Bag
Air Mattress and Sleeping Bag
The last thing you need is to wake up with a sore back or neck during your festival, so you had better invest in a comfortable air mattress. Look for an air mattress that will fit inside your tent, is compact enough to fold up and fit inside the trunk of your vehicle, and is easy to inflate with a battery or hand operated pump (Electricity may not be available at your campsite).
This one has bomb reviews, so it should work just fine for your trip. Just make sure it fits your tent before you buy it.
No camping list would be complete without a quality cooler to keep your food, beverages, and other perishables cold during the festival weekend. Many music festivals offer ice for sale (even though it can be really expensive).
I wouldn’t recommend relying on the cooler to keep food fresh all weekend, a cooler is really convenient to have for when you want to keep drinks cold.
Make sure you get one with wheels, like this one, so that you do more rolling than carrying. Those things can get really heavy.
It is important that you respect your campsite as well as the festival grounds. You can show your respect my cleaning up after yourself and keeping all of your garbage or waste in plastic, durable trash bags.
Invest in some heavy duty trash bags from any local grocery store. Hang a bag up by your tent for yourself and the rest of your group to use. Pregaming is a lot more fun when you’re not stepping all over people’s trash.
Gallon-Sized Ziplock Bags
They’re great for storing things in your tent to make sure they don’t get wet. They’re also great for holding things in your hydration pack. Don’t forget these at home, you’ll find that you can use them in a million different ways.
Portable Grill / Small Stove
Everyone loves food, so it makes sense that bringing something to make food on will make you the all-star of the group. Food at festivals can be really expensive, so bringing your own is a great way to save money for other things (like…beer inside the festival).
If you’ve got a place to store food sandwiches and breakfast food are great to have. If not, bring cans of soup or food that gets stored in cans that won’t go bad.
This is the stove that I have. It’s pretty cheap and works like a charm.
Battery Powered Fan
It’s likely to get hot while you are camping at your festival, as most music fests take place outdoors during the summer. Temperatures can get over 100° F, especially at festivals in Southern California like Coachella. To help beat the heat you should remember to pack a battery powered fan, such as this one, which includes a wearable lanyard hook and detachable misting bottle.
I love the mist. Jump around for a few hours in the scorching heat and you will too. It’s also great to have in your tent for when you’re trying to sleep. If it does stay warm at night, this thing will keep your tent reasonably cool.
Lanterns make navigating your tent at night a breeze. These ones are cheap and powered by batteries, so they’ll last you the entire weekend.
The golden rule for music festival checklists:
The most important thing you can do to prepare for a music festival is to check the festival’s website. Different festivals have different rules and they can change from year to year.
Trust me, the last thing you want to do is get to the security all amped because you’re about to experience day one of the festival you’ve been waiting for and realize that you can’t even take your hydration pack in because it has too many pockets.
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for check their social media pages. Often times the festivals will start posting weeks in advance and answer any questions the public has about what is and isn’t allowed.
All packed and ready to go? We’ve got music festival pro tips to get you ready. If you’ve never been to a festival before here’s what you can expect at your first music festival.