Outdoor Music Festivals: What to Wear and How to Prepare

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Music festival


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Outdoor music festivals have always been a rite of passage for young adults. Flower children in the '60s packed their bags and headed to San Francisco. Twenty-somethings from across the country hopped on Greyhounds and traveled to Catskills for Woodstock in the summer of '69, while Deadheads roamed across the country well into the '80s. With the '90s came a surge in well-organized, blockbuster music festivals outside of major cities in the US, which were embraced by yuppies, grunge kids, and new hippies alike.

Today, music festivals are more common than ever. The first weekend of Coachella in California has already passed, but there are dozens of festivals scheduled this summer across the Midwest and the south. Earlier this week, we told you about Bonnaroo, Hangout, and the Electric Daisy festival, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. From Kanrocksas to Wakarusa, Lollapolooza to the Gentlemen of the Road tour, the options (and locations) are plentiful.

If you're on the fence about shelling out the cash for one of these, think of it like this -- you're never going to be younger, have more energy, or have fewer responsibilities than you do RIGHT NOW.

These tickets are not cheap, but -- to me -- they are totally worth forgoing a few weekends out, skipping some trips to the mall, or picking up a couple of extra shifts at work. An outdoor music festival is something that you will remember and tell stories about for the rest of your life. And let's face it -- once you have a full time job, a pet, and a family of your own, you can't exactly skip town and go on a three-day camp out as easily as you could before. Embrace your youth and seize your summer. Do something awesome and memorable now while you still have the chance!

Music festival crowd


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Although I've already been to several music festivals, this summer will be the first time I really get the full-on experience of sleeping in a tent, waiting in line for a shower, grabbing veggie burritos from food trucks, and being in sort-of seclusion from the rest of the world. I'm kicking off the summer with Wakarusa in the Ozark Mountains, then catching a rare Mumford and Sons show in Guthrie, Oklahoma (note: how random!) for the Gentlemen of the Road tour in September. I could not be more excited for either of these adventures!

Being the thoughtful planner that I am, I've done lots of research over the last month to make sure that I'll not only be safe and comfortable, but will have as much fun as I possibly can at these events. I've compiled it all, and am thrilled to get to share with you some of the best tips and suggestions for enjoying an outdoor music festival.

At the end of this post, be sure to comment -- especially if you have experience with these sort of concerts -- and give some good advice to your fellow CF gals. We're a community here, so don't hold back if you have an awesome story or some good advice to share!

6 Packing Tips and Considerations for Outdoor Music Festivals

Rain at music festival


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1. Be prepared for all kinds of weather.

I know this probably a no-brainer, but I can't think of an easier way to ruin your trip than to not have the right clothes with you. I know you smart girls will obviously check the weather forecast, but be sure to bring a pair of leggings, a hoodie, shoes that won't get ruined in the rain, and an anorak. That way, you'll be covered for any sort of surprises.

Also, sunscreen is completely non-negotiable. Oftentimes, the days with the most perfect, breezy weather lead to the worse sunburns because you don't feel the sun roasting your skin. A swimsuit, flip flops, and a wide-brimmed hat seem like good ideas, too!

2. Have a plan for looking fabulous.

Sure, I understand that at these festivals, you spend all day (and possibly all night) outside. That said, ignoring my hygiene and appearance for four whole days is more than I can handle. Here are the best tips that I rounded up for staying fresh at festivals:

  • Bring cash for showers. A lot of campsites have locker room-style showers you can use for $5-$10 a pop. I don't know about you, but to me this seems totally worth the cash. You might want to wear a pair of flip flops and your swimsuit while you shower too, just in case!
  • Pick up some bio-degradable shampoo. I've heard that at some nature-centric shows (like Bonnaroo and Wakarusa) you're allowed to wash up in swimming streams as long as your products aren't toxic to the environment. Sure it's not ideal, but it seems like it could be an awesome way to freshen up greasy, sweaty hair in a pinch. Add some leave-in conditioner or scrunch your hair with salt spray, and you'll be ready to go!
  • If you hate going to bed feeling sticky, baby wipes will be your new best friends. They're the perfect way to swipe the grime away from your neck, underarms, forehead, feet, and more. Bring a full pack to leave at your campsite, then pack a few singles in plastic baggies to bring with you during the day.
  • This sounds pretty crazy, but seems like it's worth a try. If you want to wash your face, but don't have access to a sink, pour water into an upside down Frisbee and use it to rinse. Genius! Also, I'm sure that you could probably get away with brushing your teeth using a water bottle to rinse as well.
  • Remember your old standbys from home, dry shampoo and make-up primer. Dry shampoo will make even the dirtiest hair last another day or two (see our post on the best dry shampoos), while a good make-up primer will keep any make-up you have on from melting all over your face. I know some gals love to go make-up free, but I'm just not one of them!
  • While we're on the subject of makeup, leave as much at home as you possibly can. You want to stick to things you can apply quickly and easily, and not bring anything that at high risk for melting. Personally, I think I'm just going to try to survive the weekend with Chapstick, highlighting powder, and waterproof mascara and eyeliner, but to each her own!
  • This is obvious, but double check to make sure you have hair ties, deodorant, contact solution, and any other essentials you think you might need.
  • Again, do not forget sunscreen! This will probably be the most important thing you pack all weekend.

Although I did plenty of research, I'm not an expert on this subject by any means. If you have any good music festival beauty tips to share with the rest of us, please leave a comment and the end of this post and tell us!

Music festival fashion


Photos Courtesy of ELLE

3. Pack smart.

Now isn't the time to bring that Vera Bradley duffel you got for graduation -- fancy or designer items will make you and your campsite a target for theft. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Only bring clothes that you wouldn't be devastated if you lost or accidentally ruined.
  • Be sure to think about comfort first. I know that you want to wear that adorable crocheted halter top you just bought, but would you really want to spend all day tugging at your uncomfortable strapless bra?
  • Double check that your shoes won't give you blisters, your shorts don't chafe your legs, and the tops your wear don't require constant adjustment.
  • It would probably be a smart idea to have bandages, feminine products, aspirin, granola bars, Gatorade, and a couple extra water bottles tucked in your bags as well.

4. Have your essentials with you at all times.

Carry a small backpack, a cross-body purse, or even a fanny pack with you during the day and use it to store your cell phone, camera, cash, ID, keys, and anything else that's crucial with you. Your regular purse won't work -- you'll want to have your hands free, and not risk accidentally setting it somewhere and forgetting about it. I hear that these concerts are generally very peaceful and safe -- most people are just there to listen to music and have a great time. But, at the same time, it's important to be prepared and cognizant of the people around you. Speaking of which...

Group of girls at music festival


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5. Safety first!

Any event that draws thousands of people will attract a handful of shady characters, but you're at an even higher risk considering that many of these shows are overnight events, and, well, many people you encounter will be using alcohol or drugs. It's super-important that you use the buddy system and stay very aware of your surroundings. Here are a few general rules to follow:

  • Concert festivals are a great place to meet people, but don't go back to another person's campsite without one of your friends.
  • Be careful about wandering too far away from main areas, and schedule specific meeting times for your group in case your cell phone dies.
  • Don't carry too much cash with you, and be sure not to flash it around at vendors.
  • Don't accept food or drinks from people you don't know. If you start to feel weird or sick, tell a friend or security guard immediately and have them take you to the first aid tent.
  • Remember that it's always better to be safe than sorry!

6. Embrace the experience.

You'll never be able to duplicate an experience like an outdoor concert festival. Be sure to explore all aspects and really soak up the whole event. Meet new people. Join a yoga session or Frisbee game. Participate in an interactive art expo, learn to play hacky sack, or enjoy a hippie drum circle. We're young and fun, and need to do these cool things while we still can. Don't worry about how you look or what people will think. Just squeeze the juice out of your weekend and make this experience the best it can be.

Outfit Ideas

Of course, your ideal outfit for these festivals will depend on the temperature, location, and even the genre of music found at the event. Consider these looks as a good starting place to get you inspired!

Look 1:

Music festival outfit 1


Romper, Shoes, Backpack, Necklace

This outfit would keep you cool and looking cute all day -- and all night -- long! Assuming there's a private place the use the restroom, a simple romper is an awesome and easy outfit to wear to a concert. It would look especially cute as a swimsuit cover-up if you happen to be wearing one. Canvas sneakers are comfy and practical, while this necklace adds some extra flair. Stow your essentials in a backpack and you're ready to go!

Look 2:

Music festival outfit 2


Tank, Shoes, Shorts, Fanny Pack, Hairband

This ensemble would look particularly amazing at a dubstep or electronic music concert of sorts. Jean shorts and a fun tank make a great base, while a neon fanny pack and old school Nike Dunks will give you a cool retro vibe. Finish with a neat hair band.

Look 3:

Music festival outfit 3


Dress, Shoes, Bag, Hat, Salt Spray

This look reminds me of something a celebrity would wear to Coachella! A high-low dress like this is sexy, comfortable, and perfect for a concert setting. Flat sandals will look chic, but won't hurt your feel. Add some salt spray to your hair, then let the textured strands peak out from underneath a cool hat. Finish with a cross-body bag.

Stories or Tips? Please Share Them!

What music festivals have you been to before? Where are you going this year? What unusual items did you wish you packed, and what did you pack that you ended up not using? What is the best live show you've ever been to? How did you keep smelling fresh and looking great over the weekend?

We want to know any tips or tricks you might have for us newbies. Please leave a comment and tell us your thoughts on summer concerts. Can't wait to hear what you girls have to say!