This weekend I attended my first big music festival, Electric Forrest. I really thought I had packed a prepared everything I need for this almost week-long fest. In the end, I had overestimated the amount of supplies I needed to camp. I also thought I was physically and mentally ready for this festival, and boy was I mistaken. Regardless, I had the time of my life and these were a few things I wish I knew before attending my first festival.
What do I need?
Electric Forrest is a camping festival which means that in addition to packing all my clothes and makeup I had to coordinate tents and gear with everyone I was going with. The only three things you need are a tent, a canopy, and tarps. Everything else is just a tool or extra and shouldn't have to be coordinated with the rest of your group. Rain or shine the combination of canopies covering the entire campsite and tarps or tapestries protecting us from the elements kept our belongings safe and dry. I also feel like it is important to make your campsite a place you want to be. Festivals are full of lots of unfamiliar people, things, and places. For me having the campsite feel safe and secure was a lifesaver when I was overwhelmed or just exhausted.
What do I eat?
I was told many times that I don't need to bring that much food because I will either be too tired or too lazy to make a lot of food. I didn't really listen and I definitely wasted some money just buying food. I would say choose foods that are easy to take on the go. Granola bars, sandwiches, and snacks are pretty much all I ate unless I bought food in the festival. Aiming for about one meal a day at the campsite is the only realistic way to save money when grocery shopping for food.
Water storage is another essential thing to organize in your group. All festivals will provide free water refill stations, however it is not uncommon for those stations to be constantly swamped. So even if your bring a hydration pack (as I would for sure recommend) or a water bottle, you may find yourself wasting a lot of time waiting in line at the water refill. A way to avoid that is to bring water storage. One of the groups at our campsite brought a huge water dispenser but grocery stores all sell plastic water jugs of bottle water for very cheap. The ones with spouts at the bottom are ideal. Every night when we were ready to start winding down someone would be sent out to fill the jugs. So every morning we had water to drink or cook or even take a shower with and no lines.
What do I wear?
This is the big question. With social media what you wear to festivals is now judged by everyone. However, once you go to a festival you realize that no one cares what you wear. Electric Forrest especially had a very supportive atmosphere. It seemed regardless of what I wore I would receive compliments. I had ideas of outfits I wanted to wear were based on what I had seen other people wear to festivals. In the end, I bought just a lot of clothes. Like almost a whole new wardrobe, which I would not recommend at all. Once I got the festival I only wore the clothes I would have also worn at home. Sounds crazy considering what people imagine festival outfits as, but you have to remember that any clothes you get have to be functional or comfortable. Every day I walked around 10 miles and danced for hours on end; so forget the heels, platforms or new shoes, you will not want to wear them.
Check the weather! I didn't check the weather before I packed so I ended up bringing lots of cold weather clothes when it was in the 80s all weekend. Also if you were planning on buying merch of your favorite artist or buying accessories online, don't. Festivals are full of amazing vendors with the most beautiful clothes and jewelry you have ever seen. They are all huge spending traps but if you wait till the last day they all have sales and you can get some high-quality or hard to find pieces for a reasonable price. I'm talking cheap Pashminas, discounts on fans, goggles, pendants, basically anything you want to complete your festival wardrobe.
Who should I go with?
I think most people usually plan on going to a festival with a group of friends and so this probably isn't something you've thought about. However, it is probably the only important thing if you want to have a good time. Camp with people who want to see similar sets and have similar expectations when it comes to, sleeping, cleanliness and partying. You simply won't have a good time if you are constantly stressed about the other people in your group. It doesn't matter where the festival is it is safe to assume that your phones will be practically useless. The only reliable way to see sets together is to either have a totem or set up times and places to meet. We used a mix of that and we were able to bring together the thirteen people from our own camp and many more we knew from other campsites throughout the weekend.
How do I stay safe?
In general, the easiest way to stay safe is to be with at least one person you know and trust at all times. Even if both of you are lost you will feel safer asking for help or just wandering. However, if you are comfortable I recommend spending some time with yourself. Once you feel confident that you can find your way back to your campsite alone I would suggest wandering the campsites or going to after-parties by yourself. When I did this I did it out of necessity. On the first night wanted to go to the after-parties, but, half my friends were already on their way and the people I was with didn't want to go. So I walked over by myself and ended up spending a few hours there by myself.
It was an absolute blast I put on some comfy pants, pulled my hair back and wrapped myself in a soft Pancho and wandered from party to party dancing and occasionally talking to people. Sounds crazy dangerous I know but if you lay out simple rules for yourself you will be okay. Always make sure there are other women around you. Festivals are full of strong, amazing women and regardless of how uninterested they may seem in you, they are looking out for you and will help you if you ask. With that said if you at all feel uncomfortable leave immediately. When you wander by yourself at festivals you get to go where ever you want so if you don't want to be there don't be there.
I was actually incredibly grateful for the rest of the weekend that I spent that first night at after-parties by myself. For the rest of the weekend, the stress of getting separated from my friends dissipated. I knew that even though it would suck I would be safe regardless.
People pay for and attend festivals for music and experiences you simply can not get anywhere else. There are however lots of moving parts and things to think about before you go. My biggest tip is to just go with the flow. You are not in control of other people so don't let them be the reason you are not having a good time. You paid to be there so get your money's worth!