Festival Season Is in Full Swing
Here’s what to bring, what to avoid, where to camp, and most importantly, expert advice on how to embrace the chaos.
1. Nail Your Camp Spot
You might get lucky sometimes, but don’t count on it. The more research and prepping you do, the more likely you’ll secure a sweet spot. Visit the festival’s website to explore your options. Some, like the Gulf Shore’s Hangout Music Festival and Atlanta’s Shaky Knees, don’t offer official camping, while others, like Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, have multiple options, from VIP camping to a family-friendly area that’s a bit quieter and caters to parents with small children. “If you’ve got options,” says Eric Bach, co-founder of Hipcamp, a one-stop source for securing a spot in the nation’s campgrounds, “look for a flat spot that offers some shade (for your tent) and sun (for your chairs). If you can’t escape the sun, definitely invest in a sun shade.”
2. And Make It Homey
Since you aren’t hiking into the backcountry and optimizing for weight, Bach says you can get a bit more “glampy.” “Don’t be afraid to bring the full air mattress, the Pendleton throws, and down pillows.” Bach also recommends a few other essentials to trick out your base camp: a little string of cheap battery-powered LED lights; a battery-powered fan; a Yeti cooler, which keeps drinks cold for days; and, if you didn’t opt for the family camping area, a good set of ear plugs and eye mask.
3. Go Light and Fast
At all costs, avoid lugging around a big backpack all day. “A fanny pack is actually pretty good, because when you’re jumping around, things tend to fall out your pockets,” says pro surfer Luke Davis. Depending how far you are from your campsite or home base, you might also want to bring a headlight or flashlight, refillable water bottle, sunscreen, and a hat. “Bring your favorite hat, or maybe your second favorite,” says pro surfer and filmmaker Leah Dawson, “because some things you take to festivals don’t always make it home.”
4. But Bring Enough Food to Share
You can eat and drink like a king at many festivals. Bonnaroo, for example, has more than a hundred food vendors, including Baconland for swine lovers, and more than 25 brewers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have snacks on hand. “I like to pack a cooler with salads, veggies, and fruits,” says Dawson, who spent time touring with and filming musician Michael Franti. Most important, she advises packing more than you think you might need: “You never know what’s going to be offered to you in exchange.”
5. Take a Hike, Literally
Besides eating healthy, getting in a good workout is key. Many festivals hold group yoga classes every morning. You can swim and run along the beach at festivals like Hangout, which is held on the public beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. Bigger festivals like Bonnaroo have their own fun runs and even “dancercise” classes, described as “hybrid dance-fitness freak-outs.” Carter King, of Georgia-based indie band Futurebirds, recommends taking a mountain bike and checking out the nearest rivers or trails, often located just a stone’s throw from some of the best outdoor festivals around the country, even if they’re located in a big city. Take Shaky Knees, for example, which is held in downtown Atlanta: The Atlanta BeltLine, a network of multiuse trails, is just over two miles from the venue, and the Chattahoochee River (trout fishing, rafting, and cliff jumping) is less than 20 minutes away.
6. Dress the Part
When it comes to attire, pro surfer and festivalgoer Bruna Schmitz says plan for comfort and function. “For women, flowing skirts and breathable, lightweight tops are my favorite. It can get really hot in the summer months. It’s nice to have a little shoulder and chest coverage, and a scarf or cover-up always come in handy.” For guys, Sean Spellman, lead singer of the folk-rock band Quiet Life and an ambassador for online retailer Huckberry, advises bringing clothes you can wear for the longest time possible. “A drummer friend in another band turned me on to ExOfficio boxer briefs, which are designed for camping and traveling, so you can wear them multiple days at a time. They don’t smell, and you can clean them under a faucet. I literally traveled for months with only three pairs,” he says.
7. Wear the Right Sandals
“If you’re going to wear sandals,” says musician Lindsay Perry, “definitely wear styles with straps that stay on or you will be shoeless by the end of the night.” Teva’s Original Universal in Ombre (women) or Brushed Canvas (men) comes in fresh styles that will go with everything in your festival wardrobe, and won’t fly off your feet when you’re dancing—or, worst-case scenario, get sucked off your feet in a mud pit.
8. Shoot Like a Pro
When it comes to documenting the experience, photographer Chris Burkard uses a small mirrorless camera at festivals. “They’re tinier and lightweight by nature, and you can move around while holding it,” he says, adding that Sony’s A6000 or A6300 are his current favorites. “The best thing is the screen on the camera flips down, so you don’t have to put your eye to the viewfinder. You also get an extra three feet to shoot from above, avoiding those terrible shots with other people holding phones in front of you.”
9. Embrace the Chaos
“We’re often eager to get away from the crowded aspect of festivals,” says Burkard, “but if you include what’s going on around you, that will capture a better photo in the moment. Or staying in the way back, you can capture a beautiful perspective of the whole venue and landscape, especially if you are at a place like the Gorge.” At night, Burkard suggests getting a low-light camera, like the Sony A7S, that can function well at a high ISO. “That way, when it’s dark and everyone else is struggling to get great pics, you can crank up your ISO and get stunning images.”
10. And Always Remember to Go with the Flow
Plans change rapidly, and having your mind blown by a band you’ve never heard of is a beautiful thing. Which is why it’s always a good idea to take a detour to the side stages. “I like checking out the smaller, more intimate side venues with lesser-known bands,” says Perry. “It’s a more authentic experience, and you get to discover some great music.”
Teva’s Original Universal sandal is the perfect footwear for music festivals—comfortable enough to wear all day, secure enough to dance to the music in and available in a variety of bold styles so you can stand out in the crowd. Check in with Teva all summer long to follow the beat of the music festival scene.