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14 music festival hacks that will save your life this summer

Written by
Clayton Guse

Ah, music festival season: the time of the year when you can see dozens of your favorite bands for the price of three. It's a glorious stretch of time when audiophiles of all walks of life flock to expansive outdoor areas for a weekend of grooving out (or bugging out). But going to a goliath festival like Coachella or Lollapalooza (or any of the best music festivals in the U.S.) isn't a cakewalk—any number of things can unexpectedly ruin your day. To keep your fest-going experience as pleasant as possible, here are 14 music festival hacks that you'll (hopefully) thank us for by the end of the summer.

1. Carry at least one portable phone charger

Everyone who's attended a music festival has had that pants-shitting moment when their phone dies and their friends are nowhere to be found. It feels a lot like being a five-year-old lost in a grocery store, except there's no help desk where a clerk can call your parents on the PA system. Portable phone chargers are now a thing, and they're incredibly cheap (ballpark $15). Carry one with you during your next fest excursion and you'll be able to wield your phone with the recklessness of a teenager on Twitter. You'll also be a magnet for the friends in your group who failed to bring a charger, which should go a long way to keeping them from "accidentally" getting separated from you.

2. Bring hand sanitizer

The port-a-potties at music festivals can make that worst toilet in Scotland from Trainspotting look like a goddamn paradise. Urine and fecal matter seem to find their way into every corner of these close-to-airtight compartments, and if you want to get your business done you're inevitably going to have to come into contact with other humans' DNA. That foamy hand sanitizer that the festival provides just doesn't cut it, so you're going to want to load up on Purell beforehand. Also, keep a stash of toilet paper or wipes in your bag (you'll thank us).

3. A balloon or some other kind of unique marker

Finding your friends at music festivals is never an easy task (especially if you didn't follow tip No. 1), especially when they describe their location as "back right of the Blue Stage, by the tree that looks like the one from Pocahontas." But if you bring a balloon or some other marker that can be seen from a distance, you can nip this problem in the bud. If you employ this trick, you can simply say, "I'm by the Pocahontas balloon."

4. If a set doesn't sound right, go stand closer to the soundboard

Quality acoustics aren't a guarantee at most outdoor music festivals, and where you're standing in relation to the stage can have a pretty major affect on how a set sounds. If you're finding that an act sounds sort of crummy, move closer to the soundboard. If the sound still sucks, the band has some larger problems to worry about.

5. Buy some goddamn ear plugs

Listen, your pristine, youthful ears aren't going to last forever, especially if you leave them ringing at multiple festivals every year. Do your future self a favor and invest in some ear plugs. No, they won't impair your ability to hear Thom Yorke's vocals—but they will allow you to hear them better 20 years from now when Radiohead does its inevitable geriatric reunion tour. 

6. Tinder at music fests works

Tinder is normally a godless platform where all hope for love goes to die, but that can be a bit different at music festivals. With the high concentration of potential partners, you're pretty much guaranteed to find a match. The setting is also conducive for dipping out at any point after meeting up with someone if they turn out to suck (what're the chances that they're going to find you in the crowd anyway?). If you do end up hitting it off, you can totally go make out on a blanket while listening to a dope band—all without any strings attached. Whether or not you end up meeting up with your music-loving counterpart is irrelevant—Tindering at music festivals might be one of the most entertaining social experiments the modern Millennial can partake in.

7. Bring layers (and other clothing accessories)

Don't assume that your T-shirt and shorts will be enough to last you through a grinding day of shows and unpredictable weather. You're going to want to carry a poncho in case it rains, a bandana to cover your face during a potential dust or dirt storm and a sweatshirt or an extra layer with sleeves in case the temperature drops without warning. 

8. Stop at as many sponsored booths as possible

Sponsored booths from the likes of T-Mobile and Bud Light can be the best places to score freebies at music festivals. Sure, they might make you download an app (which you'll delete immediately after) or provide your email address, but you'll often have access to free swag, booze or food in exchange. 

9. Wear a pair of shoes that you'd be fine with never lacing up again

A ticket to Lollapalooza or Coachella never includes a disclaimer that you'll be forced to sacrifice a pair of kicks to the festival gods, but it probably should. Be sure to wear a pair of "shitkickers" to whatever festival you're attending—and be ready to discard them after the weekend. 

10. Keep a flashlight on your keychain

When the sun sets, it can be damn near impossible to see, well, anything other than the stage at a music festival. Whether you're trying to read the night's schedule or attempting to pee in the dark (this never ends well), a handy keychain flashlight could save you a lot of pain.

11. If you want to cut through a crowded area, follow a photographer with a big lens

Photographers have the ability to part a sea of festival attendees like Moses—it's amazing. If you're stuck in a densely-packed area or are trying to move up towards the front during a crowded set, try "drafting" off of one of these divine beings (the bigger his or her lens, the better).

12. Preemptively stick band-aids to your heels

By the end of a weekend of dancing, walking, sitting, crying, drinking and whatever else you're up to, your heels and ankles are probably going to be rubbed dry. But if you stick band-aids on those pesky pressure points before heading out each day, you could save yourself a lot of pain (and waddling). 

13. If you're driving, drop a pin when you park

There's nothing worse than leaving a festival and having a legitimate "dude, where's my car?" moment. Rather than spending hours wandering around clicking your alarm button, drop a pin as soon as you park and you'll be leaving all of the suckers who rely on their memories behind. 

14. Bring snacks, lots of snacks

No matter what you're on, or not on, you're going to need sustenance to get you through a day at a music festival. The long lines for food can cause you to miss your next set, and the prices can be a bit outrageous. But if you bring nutrient-rich snacks (think bananas, apples, Cliff bars, etc.), you'll be golden. You also might be able to trade some of your goodies to another stranger for a hit of their...wisdom.

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