Music Festival Packing Guide: What to Bring and What to Leave at Home

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Since the days of Woodstock, crowds have flocked to open fields in droves in search of musical mind-expansion. These days, some 32 million people go to music festivals each year, making them a summertime rite of passage for many music-lovers. But today’s well-booked festivals aren’t just about flashy headliners and never-ending crowds of fans. They’re also about art, community, food and being outside. Whether it’s Coachella or your local jam band festival, if you’re embarking on your very first fest this year, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for whatever the weekend might throw your way.

What to Pack: Music Festival Must-Haves

The following list includes all of the most basic and essential items required for most music festivals. If you go with nothing else at all, make sure you pack the following six items (plus a smile, of course).

  • A Comfortable Outfit—Most festivals take place in big, open fields and vast campgrounds. Case in point: This summer’s Woodstock 50 will be held at the Watkins Glen International Speedway, which spans over 1,300 acres (compare that to the 330-acre polo club where Coachella happens). All of this to say: wear comfortable shoes, because you’re going to be walking a lot. You’ll also want to wear your most comfortable, moisture-wicking clothes because things can get really hot in those big crowds.
  • A Portable Phone Charger—Though some of the bigger music festivals now offer phone charging stations peppered throughout the facility, long lines are to be expected and you don’t want to miss a single show. Make sure to pack a fully charged portable phone charger. Keep in mind, if you’re camping somewhere primitive, you may not have access to power at all. Think about bringing a solar-powered portable charger with multiple ports for all your devices.
  • Your Vape + Charger—Make sure to pack your favorite vape if you plan to puff a bit while you’re at the festival. Vapor is much more crowd-friendly than plants because it’s less triggering to those with allergies and it barely smells. You may want to consider wearing your vape on a chain so you don’t have to worry about dropping it or carrying it in your pack. Some of these chains also look really cool to boot and add to your festival-inspired look. Make sure to pack your portable vape charger and/or a backup battery, too.
  • A Backpack with Comfortable Straps—More than likely, you’ll be posting up in the main festival area for the majority of the day, even if you’re camping nearby, so you want to make sure you have a comfortable option for carrying your stuff. Backpacks are always the ideal choice because they provide good weight distribution and are comfy enough to wear for longer periods of time, but a cute fanny pack or crossbody will work fine, too (if you don’t have that much cargo).
  • A Blanket—No doubt about it: You’re going to want to pack in like sardines as close to the stage as you can get during some acts, but others may call for more of a sit-in-the-grass-and-chill kind of thing. For these scenarios, and anytime you just want to post up on the grass for a bit of a break, a picnic blanket will come in handy. Blankets are a whole lot easier to carry in your backpack than folding chairs!
  • A Water Mister and Water Bottle—Since most music festivals are held outdoors in peak summer, they can get really hot. If you’re camping, you will have few opportunities to get a respite from the heat throughout the weekend, so you’ll want to pack a few items that help you keep cool. Water misters and hand fans can help. Just make sure to empty your water mister before entry. You should also pack an empty water bottle and fill up once you get inside to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the weekend and aren’t forced to pony up for $6 waters. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

What to Pack: Music Festival Nice-to-Haves

Though not essentials, the following items will help improve your music festival experience and make it especially memorable. Note that some festivals prohibit some of these items, so be sure to check with the festival to be sure.

  • Glow sticks
  • Hula-hoops
  • Glitter
  • Face paint
  • Positive vibes
  • Sunglasses
  • Instant camera
  • Selfie stick
  • Earplugs
  • A rain poncho
  • Fanny pack
  • Lip balm
  • Lawn chairs
  • Frisbee
  • Hackie sack
  • A hat

What to Skip: Music Festival No-Nos

While the majority of festivals will have similar rules regarding what you can and cannot bring in (including many of the off-limits items listed below), every event has its own set of rules. Make sure to reference the event’s official rules page to know what you can and cannot bring into the venue. DON’T attempt to sneak in anything. Many festivals have attendees pass through security checkpoints, sometimes with metal detectors, before entry.

  • Firearms 
  • Knives
  • Ammo
  • Tasers
  • Pepper spray
  • Alcohol 
  • Valuables
  • Air horns
  • Animals
  • Coolers
  • Outside food
  • Outside beverages
  • Narcotics
  • Fireworks
  • Liquids
  • Drones
  • Professional cameras
  • Umbrellas
  • Flags

Enjoying the Experience

As you pack for any music festival, make sure to remember that your ultimate goal is to soak up every little bit of the experience and enjoy it to its fullest. Within reason, whatever you can do to make that happen is worth packing. Something as small as a nagging blister from the wrong pair of shoes or a phone with a low battery could harsh your mellow and distract you from the joy of the event, so taking a bit of extra time to formulate the perfect packing list is well worth your while. Enjoy it!