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If you’re attending an outdoor music festival and want to ensure it’s the best time of your life, then read on! Included are insider tips about how to barter for favors, where to set up your tent for maximum fun, and what to wear.

Outdoor Music Festivals: The Insider’s Guide

Outdoor music festivals are the symbols of summer. Songs are sung. Drinks are drunk. Loves are found (and lost). Yes, festivals are glorious. They can also be a little intimidating, especially if you’ve never attended one before. This article will not tell you what obvious essentials to bring. If you can’t remember to pack things like a tent, sleeping bags, and festival passes, then your survival chances are pretty low, and you should probably stay home. If you’ve got a handle on the basics, use the tips below to ensure that you have the best experience of your life—even if you can’t remember it all.


The main currency at a music festival is real money, as in dollars, euros, pounds, etc. There are, however, also secret currencies. The first is alcohol. Though most festivals ban outside food and drink, alcohol is allowed in the campgrounds. By offering cans of beer, shots of spirits, or even your own homemade moonshine, you can barter with people for favors. Are you having trouble setting up the 3 bedroom super-tent that you just had to have? Ask some capable looking campers to help out, and thank them with a few cans of beer. Do you need to borrow a pump from your neighbors so you can inflate your air mattress (that in a moment of hubris you thought you could just blow up yourself)? Offer a shot of tequila. Did you drink too much and are desperate to convince your fellow queue-mates to let you cut the line for the porta-potties? The answer is, of course, booze.

The second secret currency is toilet paper. If the music festival is lasting longer than a day and a night, chances are high that the porta-potties will run out of bathroom tissue. Though it isn’t nearly as highly regarded as alcohol, toilet paper quickly becomes a fairly hot commodity when it becomes scarce. Use it to trade for small favors, like cutting lines, getting closer to the performance stages, and sharing small treats. Trading toilet paper does have its limits; no one’s going to give you their $5 hot dog in exchange for some tissue… unless they’ve already visited the Mexican food vendor.

Location, Location, Location

It may seem trivial, but choosing the right location to pitch your tent is paramount to having a great festival experience. As soon as you arrive at the campground, start scanning the area. If you see a family with children, turn 180 degrees and get as far away from them as possible. Once you’ve separated yourself from the “breeders,” the site is further divided into “amateurs” and “pros.” Amateurs are distinguishable by the slightly manic look in their eyes. They will laugh and talk loudly to prove how much fun they’re having. They’ll drink too much too fast and will peak by early evening. The rest of their night will take place in their tents or the porta-potties, where they will be passed out or vomiting. The pros are often intermingled with the amateurs, but there are noticeable differences between the two groups. The pros are the ones who will make friends quickly, will help you set up your super-tent, and will sit outside at night drinking, smoking, and having fun. They are not trying to be cool; they are cool. You want to be one of them. Pitch your tent close to some pros and mimic their behavior until you are accepted into their group. Don’t feel or act superior to the breeders and the amateurs. Just be thankful that you have been inducted into the highest level of festival camper.


Dressing appropriately at a music festival is the difference between having a good time and being miserable. Everyone has seen the whacky and zany outfits that celebrities wear to Coachella every year, and their fashion trends have slowly filtered down to the rest of the masses. Wearing ripped tights with booty shorts and studded ankle boots is one of the default looks. Fringe, once banished from the mainstream to only appear at rodeos, is also a fashion staple at outdoor music festivals. These outfits are definitely not for everyone. If dressing outlandishly isn’t your cup of tea, don’t feel pressured to parade around in a bikini top and daisy dukes. A good rule to follow is to stay true to your regular sense of style but to inject a bit of flair into it. If you’re normally a conservative dresser, make the festival look work for you. A pair of tailored shorts or capris, some comfy and stylish shoes, and a quirky shirt will allow you to try out the festival style without having to make a full commitment (or looking like you should be committed). Whatever style you wear, dress in layers, wear comfortable shoes, and stow a light rain coat in your bag. You’ll be prepared for any change in the weather and will be able to enjoy the music, instead of being unhappy with sore feet or wet clothes.

The golden rule of outdoor music festivals is that you have to have a positive attitude. Be prepared to be bumped into and hugged by drunks, ripped off by the hamburger and beer vendors, and kept awake by the obnoxious chick who thinks she’s the late-night musical entertainment. Embrace the madness. Everyone is there to have a few drinks, listen to some music, and enjoy a good time. Even if you find yourself surrounded by child-ridden families, you’re dressed like a crack-addicted Pocahontas, and there is no toilet paper to be found anywhere, you can still have one of the best experiences of your life. Just don’t forget the booze.

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