There are a bunch of music festivals happening in the next few weeks, and right now a whole lot of people are preparing for them. I myself am going to Bonnaroo next month and it's my first festival, so I've been doing a lot of research into what I need to bring, know, and do. I've seen a lot of the same tips coming up for Bonnaroo, but many of them make sense for people attending any festival this summer or fall.
Drink plenty of fluids
This is the most important thing to remember out of all the items here. As it's the summer, it's going to be hot anywhere, but especially if the festival you're going to is in the south. Don't take a chance on this one—keep hydrated, and keep hydrated a lot. Most festivals have somewhere you can fill up a water bottle for free, so it's not something you need to worry about. Just don't have so much fun that you forget to drink the water.
It really can't be emphasized enough. There's no need to have a great time turn into a bad time, so fill up those water bottles and drink from them often.
Know the weather before you leave
Depending on where your festival is held, you may experience extreme heat, extreme chill, or both (depending on the time of day). For example, Manchester, TN, where Bonnaroo is held, tends to get very hot during those early June days. However, another festival may have completely different conditions. Quincy, WA, where the Sasquatch Festival is held during Memorial Day weekend, is chillier due to the northern locale of the venue.
So be sure to find out what the weather is like during the festival, and then pack appropriately for it. Weather Underground is a pretty good resource for seeing what the weather was like during previous years. There is also information about any precipitation that can be expected. Also be sure to seek out discussion of past festivals to see what veterans say about the conditions.
Bring appropriate footwear
Festivals tend to be pretty big places, whether it's the boardwalk at The Bamboozle or the farm grounds at Bonnaroo. Appropriate footwear is necessary, as you'll be doing a lot of walking. This is true at any festival, but especially if you're at one that does camping.
Something comfortable is a necessity, but there are other considerations to make. Will it rain? Is there a possibility that it might rain? Then something a little more durable, like boots, might be called for. After all, there is nothing worse than getting mud in your shoes because your foot sank into soft ground while you were racing to the next set.
Don't forget the essentials
Water bottle. Sunscreen. Hat. Sunglasses. Food. Something to beat back the sun from your neck. Regardless of where your festival is, there are plenty of things that you'll need each day, and you don't want to forget them. For example, you won't want to get stuck at the festival without sunscreen and get burned or have to buy an expensive bottle at the general store.
If you're camping, you'll want to bring things to make your life easier there, like a tent, sleeping bag or inflatable mattress, camp stove (if you plan to cook), and something to keep you cool during the day or while you're sleeping.
Have somewhere to store the things from above
Whatever is it you need to get through the day, you'll need somewhere to store it, because you can't carry everything. And while you're jamming to your favorite artists, would you want to? Of course not, so you need something to put all your stuff in. A couple months ago we suggested one way you might achieve this, along with the things you can carry in it. However, if you're too cool for a fanny pack, most festivals allow non-framed backpacks, which give you plenty of room to store everything.
Know where the facilities are
Whether you're camping at your festival, or just attending day-to-day, it's a good thing to know where the facilities are, as you'll probably need them at some point. I'm not just talking about bathrooms, though this is certainly a good thing to know. I'm also talking about food stalls and any available water fountains.
The location of water fountains is especially important to know in case you forget your water bottle at camp. You probably won't do that because you read, and took to heart, the first tip above, but in case it does happen at least you'll know somewhere else to get hydrated. Also, it's wise to find out where the health booth/tent is in case you get hurt, especially if you're camping.
Get to places as early as possible
Attendance of events at festivals—and the campgrounds for the ones that have them—are largely first come, first served. If you want to get close to anything, whether it be the facilities or the artists, you'll need to arrive early, because you can bet everybody else also wants to get close. So be sure to make plans to leave for the next set as early as possible, as well as arriving to the venue as early as possible in the case of campgrounds.
Decide how you're going to eat
You're going to get hungry at some point, so food will be a necessity. For non-camping festivals you'll have to buy food, but when you can camp there are other options, like bringing a camp stove. I've seen a variety of opinions on what to do for food at festivals that allow camping. Some people prefer making their own food, while others prefer getting food in the common areas, given how far away things can be from the campsite. What you decide to do is ultimately up to you, but you might want to pay attention to the next tip.
Bring some extra cash
As with water, cash will be a necessity, whether it's for food or because you want to clean up (events like Bonnaroo charge for showers). For those festivals with campgrounds, you might simply not have enough time to trek back before the next band gets on stage, so you'll have to stop by a vendor to get something to eat.
Though the costs for food are definitely going to be high, it's better to bring some extra cash for it. That's because you're also going to lose salt and sugar in the oppressive heat, and water isn't going to replace them. Better to get food from a vendor than risk not having it while running around to different sets and getting hypoglycemia.
Make friends while there
If you're new to a festival, you probably won't know where everything is or when it's happening, even if you remember to bring your schedule. So make some friends—not only will you get to know some new people, you'll also probably befriend some veterans, who will be able to help you out if you have questions.
Keep all of the above in mind as you go through each day of your festival. Keep safe, drink lots of water, and most importantly, have fun!