The Coachella Survival Kit

Coachella – mecca for both the real and aspirational hipster alike. There is no quicker and easier way to build your hipster cred than to make this spring pilgrimage to the desert town of Indio.

With my layaway ticket fully paid and my RV reservation confirmed, I now turn my attention towards surviving this festival-of-festivals. Coachella is a deceivingly cruel mistress. Ridiculous temperature shifts from blistering hot days to freezing cold nights. Swirling dust clouds coating your body in the airborne filth of 100,000 people. Over-flowing porta potties that make you stop and think, “how did that get up there?” as you force back the vomit filling your mouth.

(credits for photos of sunburn, coal miner, and poop)

This year’s festival will not be my first rodeo. Despite the fact that each of my past two times has been nothing short of being gloriously epic, it is not until the aftermath that you realize how much of your body was sacrificed to the music gods. I had black lung for a week after my first time. There would be several days of blowing out black snot post-Coachella as my sinuses struggled to function normally once more. My eyes would still be raw from my incessant rubbing during the festival.

All of this should NOT deter you from going to Coachella at least once in your life. The potential hardships you may face are relatively negligible when compared to all that Coachella has to offer. Obviously, the music is second-hand to none – in addition to the incredible headline acts and blast-from-the-past reunion groups, the opportunity to listen to hundreds of I-can’t-believe-I’ve-never-heard-this-before bands is something not to be missed. Life does not get better than slowly falling asleep on the grassy fields of the Empire Polo Fields with the eclectic sounds of Coachella surrounding you.

Oh, and the view.

(credit for photos of Coachella beauties here; sunset here)

Ahem.

The spoils of Coachella are yours for the taking! Here’s what to bring so you can get yours and still escape (relatively) unscathed.

  • Sunscreen – you may think that base you’ve been working at for a couple of weeks on the beaches of Santa Monica is enough, but you’ll need some additional protection against the scorching desert sun. I recommend bringing something in the 50-60 SPF range. I’m partial towards the spray variety for easy of application in the field.
  • Sunglasses – rocking Ray-Bans during the day will not only add to your hipster cred but also keep you from looking like Gilbert Godfrey as you make your way from stage to stage.
  • Hat – I went to my first Coachella sans hat – it was the first thing I packed for my second. The sun beats down hard; keeping your noggin covered will keep you cool(er) through the day. Get jaunty and bring a Panama; the wide brim will keep you in the shade wherever you go!

  • Long Sleeve Shirt – I know you want to wear that vintage Rolling Stones t-shirt, but I recommend bringing a lightweight long sleeve shirt instead, if you decide to wear a shirt at all. The sleeves can be rolled up during the day and rolled down as it cools down in the evening. It also helps cover up sunburns and your food-baby after wolfing down those slices of Spicy Pie, all while keeping you looking good and feeling cool.
  • Shoes – you’ll be doing a LOT of walking as you make your way from stage to stage to catch your favorite acts. Bring a pair of something that you’ll feel comfortable in throughout the day. Leave the Rainbows or Havianas for the beach – chances are that you’ll have to fight tooth and nail to get through the crowds to catch some of the bands and you’ll want to make sure your feet don’t get mangled in the process.
  • Sweater/Hoodie – the temperature drops quickly in the middle of the desert and you don’t want catching a cold the first night ruining the rest of your weekend. Deciding on how thick of a layer you want to bring is tricky; if you have a campsite or drove and parked at the festival, you can afford to bring something a little thicker, so long as you are comfortable with leaving the festival to get it. However, if you walked, biked, or took a shuttle over (or if you just don’t want to miss anything by leaving the festival), you’ll probably want to bring something that is lightweight enough to warrant schlepping around with you all day. I think a simple hoodie or cardigan tied around the waist is sufficient for all-day traversing, but it really just depends on how cold you tend to run at night.
  • Cash – leave the plastic at home and come with paper; all the vendors at the festival are cash-only.
  • Water Bottle – luckily, the festival organizers make it cheap and easy to stay hydrated. There are several water refill stations on the festival grounds where you can refill Nalgenes, empty plastic water bottles, or the refillable Coachella bottles, which are sold for $10 each. Bottle water is sold for $2 each as well. Since you’ll be going through gallons of the stuff during the festival, I think either bringing a Nalgene or buying one of the Coachella bottles is your best bet. Don’t bother filling up your bottle before you head into the festival each day; the security staff will dump it out for you (unopened bottles are okay).
  • Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer – this may not seem to be terribly important to bring with you but when the time comes, you’ll be glad you did. The sheer volume of bodies in and out of those porta potties almost insure that the toilet paper will be gone and the hand washing stations will be dry long before nature calls.

For those that are bringing backpacks or fanny packs and have some extra storage room, you may also want to bring:

  • Walkie-talkies – cell phones are completely useless at Coachella; relying on them to rendezvous with friends is a lost cause.
  • Band-Aids – learn from our sisters-from-another-mister and bring a couple of these to patch up any blisters.
  • Flashlight – You’ll appreciate this as you stumble out of the last act. Or if you are forced to enter a porta potty after hours. Ones with a strobe light function are great as beacons for meeting up with friends at night as well.
  • Meds – I don’t know if it’s the grass or the dust, but allergy meds will keep the stuffy nose and itchy eyes under control. Aspirin for any hangover headaches would be a good idea as well. And, depending on which way you want to go, a couple tabs of Ex-Lax and/or Imodium could be a lifesaver.

Hopefully this give you a good starting point for your preparations for Coachella. However, remember not to get too bogged down by the planning or lack thereof. Coachella is all about letting loose and having a great time. A lot of people get away with bringing nothing more than the shirts on their backs and are none the worse for wear.

Happy Coachella-ing!

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