The Gateway’s Music Festival Survival Guide

Most of us at The Gateway can agree on one thing: there’s no better way to waste away your summer days than chillin’ at a music festival — what’s better than basking in the sun with friends while listening to sick beats? With only a couple weeks left in the school year, read up on our first-hand tips before embarking on your next musical pilgrimage.

What to wear

It’s 2015. Do we still need to talk about cultural appropriation? Either way, don’t do it. Using items of other cultures to stand out isn’t trendy — it just makes you look like an asshole. Bindis and native headdresses are a no-go, unless you want to be publicly shamed on a Buzzfeed photo essay and suffer a guilty moral conscience.

Don’t wear sandals unless you’re just chilling at your tent. Instead, wear shoes that cover the top of your feet to avoid sunburn and to protect your toes from getting stomped on by dancing bros. Don’t go sleeveless unless you’re wearing a shit-ton of sunscreen (oh yeah, bring a shit-ton of sunscreen). And ladies, avoid wearing rompers, because they make peeing in a port-a-potty really hard.

And lastly, always bring something to protect yourself from rain, because you never know.


Shower once every three days, and go during low-traffic times, like when people are starting to leave for shows. If you’re going to a longer festival, you’ll probably have to miss something to shower at some point. Bringing along wet wipes will help make your showerless days less gross, and are handy to clean your hands with before eating and after using the nasty bathrooms.

Deodorant: wear it. You’re going to be sweating in places that you didn’t know existed. Plus, don’t spend a lot of time in your tent if you don’t have to — you’ll end up just making it smell like feet and B.O., sorry.


Make sure to eat. Some people straight-up forget to eat while at festivals, which is a really bad idea when you’re dancing and sweating the hot summer days away. Nothing puts a damper on music-festival fun like low blood sugar.

Keep your food simple. Don’t try to be a hero and buy a bunch of comfort food. Accept that you’re camping and the things you’re going to want at the end of an exhausting, drug-filled day are hot dogs, buns, peanut butter and chips. Pasta, steaks, eggs, George Foreman Grills, and other bourgeois stuff like that may seem cool, but it’s a pain in the ass. You don’t have to bring your own grill, but it’s a good idea to at least befriend someone that brought one.

If you want above-average food, you can buy it inside the grounds. They’ll probably have everything from chicken fingers, to Chinese food, to vegan fare.


If your festival is in the states, wait until you get there to buy alcohol because it’s way cheaper. And buy way more than you think you need. You’ll probably find yourself downing a beer or two at 11 a.m. when there’s nothing better to do before the acts start. We recommend bringing a box of wine (or five) and you can make sangria once you get there. So refreshing!

But still, drinking at outdoor festivals is hard. Like, it’s easy to bring booze into a campground, because nobody cares, but having a hangover when it’s 36 degrees outside isn’t pretty. If you are one who wants to get white-girl wasted at a festival this summer, invest a lot of your food budget in water bottles and Gatorade.

Save your phone battery

Being stranded in an open field for a weekend will make you appreciate your phone more than ever. Nothing’s more disheartening than having your phone die on you when there’s selfies to be taken and lost friends to be tracked down. Most festivals have charging stations now, but they’re notoriously overcrowded (and, not to mention, boring to stand at).

First, turn off the features you aren’t using. Turn off vibrations, notifications and location services if you aren’t using them. Close apps that you aren’t using. Dim your screen brightness.

You can also consider purchasing a portable phone battery charger, or one of those snazzy cases that doubles as a charger. Think about getting a watch. Thankfully these bad boys are coming back in style, and are a handy alternative to using your phone as a clock.

Print out a hard copy of the festival schedule and map ahead of time. Most festivals have apps now, but they’re a huge battery suck. A lot of the time the pamphlets they give out are way too thick to fit in a pocket. Just fold up two pieces of paper and you’re good to go.

Doing drugs responsibly

Some of the older, more well-established festivals who have no illusions about why people are attending will have tents set up where you can test your drugs to make sure you’re taking what you paid for. If not, buy some beforehand from your friendly neighbourhood source to sneak in. Then you’ll be sure you know what you’re getting.

That said, for the love of god, don’t try to smuggle drugs across the American border. It’s not going to happen and border patrol won’t accept “it’s legal in Washington” as a valid excuse. Many people try to do this each year and fail. Edibles are a lot easier to sneak into the festival itself than joints and baggies of pills. You’ll get a super chill high eating an edible, which is good (unless you eat too many, which is bad).

Other than that, make sure you know your limits. A field full of strangers with 30+ degree weather is not where you want to be having your first bad trip. Stay hydrated and have some friends around for safety. Have a quiet place you can return to and make sure to have a sober friend around.

With that being said, if your friend’s on drugs, don’t be an asshole. Don’t ditch them in the middle of an alcoholic-infested wasteland with nobody to turn to. Take care of them, then never let them forget it when they’re sober.

Camping tips

Bring a lamp. Obviously you’re going to bring a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, all that standard stuff, but there’s generally absolutely no lighting in these areas. If you don’t bring a pretty strong lamp, you’re going to have to rely on the strength of your phone’s backlight, which isn’t pretty. Flashlights are fine, but investing in a powerful lamp that can actually light up an area is better.

Buy more tent stakes than you need and make sure your tent works before you leave home. Sleeping under the open sky without a functional tent may sound romantic, but in reality, you’ll just end up hating all of your friends instead.

How to see your favourite band

You aren’t going to see every band on the lineup. It’s a nice goal, but you’re going to get tired, hungover and hungry. Before getting to your festival, make a mental note of which bands you absolutely have to see, and plan accordingly.

To get a good spot at your coveted show, arrive at the set before your favourite band. Either work your way into the crowd at the beginning or halfway through the set. As the crowd breaks up when the set ends, start moving to the front of the crowd — but don’t be that loser that pushes everyone out of your way.

To get a really good spot, you’ll probably have to split up from your friends. Set a specific meeting point to reconvene at once the set’s over.

Don’t go broke

Public ATMs have steep service fees, so take out lots of cash at your home branch before heading to the festival. Save the $3 and spend it in the beer gardens instead.

If there’s still an opportunity to volunteer at your chosen festival — do it! They usually treat their volunteers really well, so this is a fun way to attend for free. You’ll probably get some free food and merch out of volunteering, not to mention meeting some cool new friends, too.

Which festival?

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