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Coachella is done, and if there’s anything to learn — besides the artist set times of course — it’s what to pack to make for a stress-free festival experience.
There were a few things we had to learn the hard way this year at Coachella — namely that larger bags are now allowed, while food and beverages are still not (my pricey protein bars never made it past security, sadly). Another thing worth noting: on-site parking is free, though we had to walk about 15 minutes to get to an entrance. Still, it was way easier to drive ourselves to the festival than to deal with the surge pricing for Uber and Lyft, which ran up to $200 during peak set times.
Staying in touch with friends was also difficult at Coachella — while the festival grounds are a hotspot for socializing, they aren’t exactly a hotspot for WiFi… or any reception for that matter. VIP ticket holders had free WiFi in their sections, but it wasn’t always accessible. And don’t even think about trying to phone a friend while you’re in the middle of the crowds — my phone reception barely got past one bar.
What to Bring to Music Festival: Packing Guide, Checklist
There are a number of “what to pack” lists when it comes to festivals, but while most will include things like chargers and sunglasses, we’ve populated our festival packing guide based on things we saw at Coachella — and things we wished we brought ourselves.
From an old-school way to stay in touch, to morning-after recovery hacks, here’s what to bring to your next music festival — and all your favorite outdoor events this year.
1. Portable Charger
A portable charger is a no-brainer, especially since you’ll be zapping your phone battery with all the videos and photos you take during the day. While Coachella has loosened its bag rules this year (allowing for backpacks and totes), you still want to keep your battery back slim, to avoid weighing down your festival carry.
This one, from Anker, is one of the slimmest and lightest 10,000mAh portable chargers we’ve tested, with enough juice to charge your iPhone more than two times and your Android phone more than 1.5 times. The included micro-USB cable makes it easy to plug into any of the charging stations on site (hot tip: Coachella had charging stations in its VIP section and inside the American Express Lounge, which also has a “hydration station,” exclusive artist merch and a cash bar reserved exclusively for Amex members).
2. Mobile Hotspot
Reception at Coachella was spotty at best, and other outdoor festivals could experience the same connectivity issues. While we were content to wait until we got back to our hotel to post our stories from the day, the bad reception made it difficult to find our friends when we wanted to meet up for dinner or to catch a show.
This portable hotspot gets you up to LTE speeds even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s no bigger than a cell phone and slides easily into your pocket or bag. There’s no SIM card needed and you never need to sign up for a subscription or contract. Simply purchase the device, then go to the GlocalMe website to purchase a data plan to use during the festival. Activate the device when you’re on the festival grounds and it’ll automatically work to find the strongest signal, giving you portable WiFi on the go. The device lets you monitor speeds, data consumption and more, and pairing with your phone is super fast and easy.
3. Portable Blanket
Be warned: it will get cold at night. And your tank-top and shorts may look great during the day, but it won’t suffice to keep you cozy once the sun goes down. Pack one of these portable outdoor blankets, which unfolds to a generous 55 x 60 inches — more than enough to wrap around two people to help you stay warm.
The waterproof blanket also doubles as a mat, giving you a space to sit or lie down in between sets. When unfolded, it can seat up to four people. Once you’re done, just roll it up and stuff it into the included carrying bag, which attaches to your backpack or belt buckle with the included carabiner clip.
4. Sun Hat
It gets cold at night but it’s super sunny during the day. We spotted a ton of these sun hats during the festival, which pull double duty as a style statement and UV protection.
This wide-brim hat keeps the sun away from your face and neck, while the water-repellent material helps wick away sweat and protect you in case of a downpour. Mesh panels allow for moisture and heat to easily escape, while a built-in sweatband keeps sweat from beading down to your eyes and face.
5. Spray Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a given when you’re at a festival — what you don’t want is to have to deal with messy and goopy lotion that you have to apply with your — probably dirty — hands. Pick up a portable spray sunscreen like this one from COOLA, which is made with organic ingredients and comes in an easy-to-use spray can.
It’s rated SPF 50 and is water-resistant (and sweat-resistant) as well. We like that the lightweight sunscreen won’t feel heavy against the skin, while the fragrance-free formula and ingredients like cucumber, algae and raspberry seed oil make it super nourishing and suitable for sensitive skin too.
6. Lip Balm (and Lip Balm Holder)
Look, you’re in the desert for Coachella (and standing in a field all day for every other festival): it’s dry, it’s windy, it’s hot and your lips are going to be chapped. Picking up a couple sticks of lip balm is a no-brainer. What you also need is a lip balm keychain/holder, which will keep your chapstick nearby at all times. Since it doubles as a keychain, you can easily attach it to your car keys or Airbnb keys as well. Or, use the keychain to clip your lip balm to your belt buckle or bag.
7. Walkie Talkies
This might seem like a stretch but hear us out: we saw a number of groups use walkie talkies to keep in touch over the weekend. With unpredictable cell service and spotty WiFi (if at all), the good ol’ walkie talkies have become an easy — and reliable — way to get ahold of your group.
This set gets you a three-pack of walkie talkies that can transmit over more than 20 channels. The rechargeable battery gets you more than 60 hours of talk time, and the micro-USB cable or A/C charger make for easy charging at any charging station (l.e. the Coachella Amex Lounge mentioned above).
Wear it around your neck with the included lanyard, or tuck it into your back pocket. It’s lightweight and portable enough to not weigh you down.
8. CamelBak Hydration Pack Sling
Hydration packs aren’t just reserved for hikers and bikers anymore — they’re also an essential festival accessory. And while there are a number of solid backpack-style hydration packs (this one, from CamelBak gets you a 2L reservoir and 2L of cargo space), companies are also making smaller sling-style bags.
We like the CamelBack Arete Sling 8, which weighs just 13 oz. and has enough room for a .6L Tritan Renew bottle (included) and space for your other essential carry (think sunglasses, wallet, sunscreen, etc.). The sling bag is made with super breathable materials so you won’t be sweating from carrying it on your back. And we like how easy the bag is to wipe clean, especially after a dusty day in the desert.
Keep in mind the Arete Sling 8 doesn’t come with a built-in drinking tube or water reservoir like some of the larger bags, so if that’s what you want, you’ll want to spring for a classic hydration pack.
9. Electrolyte Drink Mix
Liquid I.V. was all over Coachella, and not only because they sponsored one of the hottest parties in town (their “House of Hydration” featured guests like Jack Harlow, Saweetie and Becky G). The popular electrolyte drink mix is a must-have at any festival thanks to its ability to keep you hydrated after a day of dancing, singing and cheering along to your favorite artists.
Each individually-wrapped packet contains five essential vitamins including Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12 and Vitamin C. Pour the contents into a cup or bottle of water, shake it up, and quench your thirst instantly. Liquid I.V. says its formula helps to deliver hydration to the bloodstream faster and more efficiently than water alone — a very important thing to do when you’re outside all day… and all night.
10. The Plug Recovery Drink
We swear by The Plug, which is a recovery drink popularized in Asia to help ease hangovers after a night of drinking and partying. That’s thanks to The Plug’s plant-based ingredients, which help increase the production of enzymes that work to break down toxins. According to the company, that process helps to alleviate nausea and headaches, and in our experience, it really works.
Take one full mini bottle before you go to bed at night and you’ll wake up without that sickly, groggy feeling in the A.M.. As the company says on its packaging, make this your “last shot of the night” and avoid that dreaded morning-after fog.
11. Uber Gift Card
Getting an Uber is difficult enough (side note: it cost us between $50-$100 each day to Uber from our hotel in Palm Springs to the Coachella grounds). What you don’t want is to try to reload your Uber balance or connect your bank account when there’s no service in the area.
The solution: purchase an Uber gift card and preload your account before you head to the festival. An Uber gift card is also a good way to split rides with friends, and an appreciated gift in any festival care package.
Related: It may actually be cheaper to drive to the festival, especially with Uber and Lyft prices surging. Coachella offers free parking (be prepared for a 10-minute walk to the entrance) or preferred parking for a fee. Still, it’ll be more cost effective than paying for a ride share, and you may even be able to get in and out faster too (no waiting in line with hundreds of people trying to search for your Uber driver).
Don’t have your own car? We like Hertz and Enterprise when it comes to car rentals. Both sites let you easily book a car online and they have a ton of availability. Check their respective sites using the links above to see latest pricing.