Last weekend I attended Capitol Hill Block Party, an annual three-day festival that essentially shuts down one of Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods with wall-to-wall live music. It was a lot of fun, and I saw some great bands. But by the third afternoon, I never wanted to stand again.
I made a mistake wearing the shoes I did – these thin-soled canvas things I bought for less than $20 at H&M – and after walking and standing all day on baking asphalt, they started to feel like ever-tightening vices on my feet.
If Forrest Gump was right when he said you can tell a lot about a person based on their shoes, then mine unequivocally announced that I am a bad festival planner.
Block Party, though, is surrounded by air-conditioned bars, coffee shops and restaurants to sit down in, and drug stores where I could have easily purchased a pair of comfortable gel insoles. Imagine you’re attending a festival, say, Watershed at the Gorge, which generally requires you to camp overnight miles away from the convenience and amenities of the city. What do you do then?
Festival camping isn’t always ideal – usually you’re pitching a tent in the middle of field somewhere – and it can be made even worse if you’re not at least a little bit prepared. If you plan on heading to an outdoor festival in the remaining weeks of summer, here are a few tips that might make your experience somewhat easier. (And yes, these were all partly inspired by unfortunate personal experience.)
Bring a bag. First things first, you’ll need something to carry sunscreen, extra layers, water bottles and snacks (both unopened) into the festival. Go for something smaller and lightweight – one of those polyester drawstring backpacks will work nicely. Keep in mind, too, that festival security is probably going to rifle through your bag as you enter, so something without a lot of pockets is going to ensure you’ll get through the line quickly.
Pay attention to where your stuff is. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprisingly easily to lose track of where your car and tent are located. There’s nothing worse than wandering back to your campsite in the dark, or searching for your car parked in a makeshift lot, only to discover that you have no idea where you are. When you’re traveling from your campsite or parking spot to the venue, keep track of which direction you’re heading. And if you use a landmark, make sure it’s a permanent one: At Sasquatch 2011, I parked my car next to a red tent, which led to great confusion when, upon my return, I found that 50 more red tents had since been put up.
Don’t rely on your phone. Unless you have some kind of battery-powered charger, try to keep your phone off as much as possible. You likely won’t have great cell service, anyway, and attempting to send text messages that won’t go through will only drain the battery further. If you’re with a group of friends and anticipate getting separated at some point, pick a designated meeting point and time beforehand in lieu of calling or texting them.
Exercise restraint. This is a serious one, because it’s easy to get caught up in the party atmosphere of a festival campground and forgo all common sense. There’s nothing worse than suffering from a hangover. Being away from home, and the heat and loud music are only going to exacerbate your symptoms. Focus on the music instead of the carousing, and if you do partake, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Bring way too much food. It’s better to have too much than not enough, and to assume that festival venues won’t be of much help when it comes to providing your breakfast, lunch and dinner. (And even if they do offer food, it’s likely going to be absurdly overpriced.) Bring a sturdy cooler with a couple of plastic ice packs, cook something filling like rice or pasta at home and store it in Tupperware containers, and keep plenty of dry goods – trail mix and energy bars, in particular – to tide you over.
Prepare for all kinds of weather. It’s going to be hot most of the day, sure, but there’s always a chance that wind, rain or hail could derail the proceedings. Bring a hat or a plastic rain poncho, have a hooded sweatshirt ready in case the temperature plummets after the sun goes down, and be sure all the flaps on your tent are securely zipped up before you leave it.
Oh, and don’t forget a couple pairs of exceptionally comfortable shoes.