We all know festivals are environments full of stimulation, where the party goes round the clock until the gates close Monday. There is so much fun to be had it can be a little overwhelming (how do you see two favorite artists on two different stages at the same time?!) After many years of attending festivals, I’ve learned that balance is important. Learning how to party is easy, learning how to party for an entire weekend or more takes some practice. You can go much harder for much longer if you take care of yourself throughout the process.
This isn’t just a self-care lecture, but tried-and-true tips on how to pack tons of fun into one weekend without burning out by Saturday. It’s a little easier to bring some festival spirit back with you if you’re not sunburnt, exhausted and malnourished.
Truth be told, the first time I went to a festival I brought little more than a sleeping bag, change of clothes and a couple of pictures of Andrew Jackson. Roughing it isn’t just possible but also a little fun and good learning experience. After a few years of this, I went to my first event where the weather forecast took a sudden turn for the worst. Without much preparation, we found ourselves setting up tents in the rain. Fortunately, some more experienced friends swept in and saved the day with all kinds of cover and infrastructure. Knowing our weekend had turned from soggy and dreary to one of the best weekends of my life, I started jotting down notes of all the things I forgot and borrowed good ideas from others. Since then, our camp has become more and more prepared every year, so I polled this knowledgeable group festival goers to find their top tips for festival survival.
1. Watch out for each other, especially your friends
A lot of these tips are about taking care of yourself, but it’s also really important to keep an eye on your friends and other people at the festival. Festivals are all about community, together we work hard to build you an amazing event and together we party. One of the most important aspects of a community is helping other people in need. Our little community has been labeled “transformational” by some. While transformation is generally a positive outcome, sometimes the catalyst can be challenging and even painful. Personal responsibility is crucial, but we’ve all gotten in over our heads on occasion. Some haven’t learned their limits or self-care practices as well as others (it can be a very difficult skill, especially when surrounded by others who may not have the same needs.
If you see someone having a hard time, try reaching out. A simple smile or just asking someone if they’re doing alright can go a long way. If you see someone who really needs help, find an Enchanted crew member (with a staff badge & walkie-talkie) and get them some assistance, or see if they need someone to walk them to the Medical tent.
Zendo Project, who provide a safe space at events such as Burning Man for people who are having difficult emotional or psychedelic experiences, has some great tips on what you can do if you see someone going through this.
2. Stay Hydrated and Well Nourished
Remember alcohol, soda, coffee, tea, juice, etc. are all dehydrating! If water is too boring for you, try adding some lemon which is a source of electrolytes (also good for hydration) or coconut water! Minor dehydration can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms including , headaches, muscle cramps and feeling agitated. Major dehydration could land you in the hospital or worse. Laytonville can get very hot in the summer which will make hydration even more important. Our camp brings 5 gallon jugs with a handy pump to keep our canteens full. Water fill-ups are located throughout the grounds and marked on the map.
Food is also really important, all that extra exercise means you’ll be burning more calories. You’re likely to be surrounded by junk food, so try to squeeze in some extra healthy stuff as well. Fresh fruits are a great way to start your day and an easy meal that doesn’t require much effort. I enjoy making my own energy bar type snacks which pack a powerful combo of protein and antioxidants. These can be a lifesaver in the wee hours of the morning when all the vendors are resting and the tummy rumbles.
3. Protect Ya Feet
Your feet are your biggest allies at a festival, you need them to stay happy for all that dancing and walking. I spend way more time on my feet at a festival than any other situation. A nice pair of boots can help you avoid all those prickly things on the ground and if for some reason the weather turns bad your feet will stay dry.
Bring lots of extra socks! when it’s hard to get fully clean, changing into a clean pair can be a real game changer. Try bringing some light ones for when it’s hot during the day and some thicker ones for the night time, which will add a bit of cushion as well as warmth, and your feet will thank you.
Also worth consideration: easy to slip on shoes, for late night bathroom trips. You don’t want to step inside a Port-o-Potty in the dark with no shoes on!
4. …And Ears!
Dance floors are loud! If you value your ears and want to enjoy festivals for years to come, grab yourself a pair of ear plugs meant for listening to music. These are a much different experience than the squishy brightly colored ones you’re used to and let you hear the music well while minimizing the impact on your ears. Listening to loud music for extended periods of time will also make you more tired. Our friend ill.Gates breaks down his favorite pair of music earplugs in this article .
On the other hand, those squishy foam plugs are great for if you’re a light sleeper and want to get some rest when the party is still thumpin’.
5. Potty Time
Some of the best festival stories take place in port-o-potties. Generally speaking, these tales are the type that you can only laugh at with a little hindsight. Even when a festival works hard to keep the facilities clean, with so many people it can get a little unruly at times. Have no fear though, here’s some tips that can help:
Always bring extra TP! Even well stocked portos run out occasionally, an extra roll thrown in your bag will never be a bad choice. If you don’t use it, you could make a life long friend with a simple gifting (more on that later). Carry a single use worth in a ziplock bag and then put that in your day pack so it’s always with you.
Here are some other ideas for a toilet kit:
– Baby wipes (can both help clean toilet seats or yourself)
– Small flashlight (it’s awfully hard to see in the dark!)
– Sanitary toilet seat covers (if you can get your hands on some)
– Hand sanitizer
6. Bring a First Aid Kit
Along similar lines having some basic first aid items can also be really helpful. Beyond your typical bandaid, Neosporin, and bandages there’s a few other things you might consider having with you:
– Instant Ice Packs are great because they won’t melt in the cooler over the weekend and be ready quickly if you need them.
– Microfiber Cloth if you’re a glasses wearer, keep your glasses clean so you can actually SEE your favorite producer.
– Nail Clippers! I’m pretty sure I exclusively get hang nails at festivals. it’s also pretty common to break a nail.
– Chapstick Similar concept to nail scissors, chapstick is not a normal product for me to use but hot dusty festivals have a way of horribly drying your lips
– Eye Mask can help if you’re trying to grab some extra sleep at inconvenient times
– Condoms (Hopefully this is self-explanatory)
– Any medications or other personal items You know what these are, look out for yourself and don’t forget them
– Sunscreen Nothing like a bad burn to put a damper on your weekend
– Peppermint/Ginger/Kava teas are great for calming your nerves or stomach
– Arnica both oral and topical forms can help with muscle aches
I’ve grown to err on the side of over-preparedness. While there are some downsides, it always feels great to have something that others forgot and be able to help people out. Something as simple as a little aloe lotion for someone’s burn, extra toilet paper or lending a corkscrew can be life saving.
If you’re the crafty type, bring a few gifts for new friends, it’s always such a memorable experience to receive such offerings. Again these don’t have to be extravagant expensive ordeals, just little tokens of your gratitude and expression of creativity.
8. Plan ahead…But embrace the chaos!
Give yourself some time to listen to all the artists on the lineup, look over the schedule, maps, and educational offerings. Make some mental notes of your priority “must see” acts and workshops you’d like to check out if things align right.
At the same time, don’t expect everything to go according to plan. You may lose time at camp with new friends, discover unlisted content, or even decide to squeeze in some much needed rest, and that’s OK! The spontaneity of festivals is part of what makes them so much fun and where the magic occurs.
What tips have you picked up over the years to maximize your festival experience? Share them in the comments if you like. We look forward to seeing you next weekend at Enchanted Forest!