It’s the beginning of October, and for San Francisco that means Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is here! This unbelievably cool, completely free music festival is held every year in Golden Gate Park, and it is one of my favorite weekends in the city. I’ve seen Glen Hansard, The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Calexico, The Civil Wars, and more in the past few years of attending. Now, the park is pretty amazing on its own, but add lounging on a blanket with a small picnic, lovely warm weather due to our Indian summer, and awesome jams? Yes, please and thank you.
I’ve attended enough music festivals in my life to know that no two fests are ever the same. Even Hardly Strictly is different every year, and not just because of the lineup. Before you go, it’s always a good idea to check the official website and talk with people you know who have attended to figure out what to bring. To help, I’ve put together a packing list for those day-long music fests!
___ Your ticket, if you’ve been issued one. This sounds like a “duh” thing to say, but triple checking never hurt anyone. Before you leave your home base, take a selfie with your friends all holding your tickets. That way, you’ll know you have them and you’ll have a fun photo.
___ Water, or a way to stay hydrated. I ❤ my Camelbak. It is no effort at all to drink water throughout the day with one of these puppies. The people who organize these events don’t want people passing out all over the place, so there’ll likely be an easy way to get water if you’re not able to bring it in yourself. I know that Camelbaks aren’t exactly “festival style” but they are a practically foolproof way to make sure you don’t dehydrate. If bringing in your own water or containers isn’t possible and you have no choice but to cough up cash for bottles of water, do it right when you arrive.
___ Your ID. If you want to drink adult-flavored non-water.
___ A fanny pack or small bag that zips. No one wants their wallet to fall out of their pockets when they’re crowd surfing. (Obviously, if you go the Camelbak route, you’ll already be covered!)
___ Sunscreen. I plan on spending all day tomorrow in the sun, soaking in as much of it as possible, but I would never forget the SPF. I recommend at least SPF 30, if not higher, to keep your skin safe.
___ A blanket you don’t care about. Of course, this depends on the festival. Hardly Strictly is a perfect fest to sit out in the grass and relax, but this really isn’t the scene at every festival you’ll attend. If you decide to bring one, be prepared to drop it in the trash on your way out (RIP my purple polka dotted sheet, 2011-2012. You are sorely missed.).
___ A light long-sleeved shirt or jacket. I’m always cold, and I live in the Bay Area, so I’m used to always having something on hand for when temps drop. Wrap a light flannel/shirt/jacket around your waist and use it when the sun starts to set and it gets cool. Or, if it’s a thin cotton shirt it’ll actually work well to protect you from the sun — think of it as your own personal shade structure!
___ A few snacks. Festival food leaves much to be desired, but it’s part of the experience. When faced with the decision of seeing your favorite band or getting a hot dog, know that you can have both. Your snack (granola bar, trail mix, or my personal favorite, fruit leather) will just keep you going until you’re able to buy something more for yourself.
___ Sunglasses! Obviously.
___ 1-ply toilet paper. You don’t have to take a whole roll, but bring a little bit in a plastic baggie. By the end of the day it’ll be hard enough to find a clean port-a-pottie, good luck finding one with some t.p. in it! Oh, and if you’re a lady, do yourself a flavor and get a Shewee.
___ Hand sanitizer. Since we’re talking port-o’s…yes, some come with a hand sani pump inside now, and sometimes festivals will get hand-washing stations to place by the restrooms. But just in case, have a small bottle.
___ Eye drops for contact lens wearers. After about 8 hours wearing my contacts, my eyes get super dry and fuzzy. Since you don’t necessarily know where the day will take you or how long it will take you to get back home, these will keep your peepers hydrated after a long day of rockin’ out.
___ Your electronics in plastic bags. People might be spilling beer on you, it might rain, you might get into a mud fight. Who knows? Keep your phone, camera, and other electronics in ziplocks to keep them safe.
___ A mini portable USB charger for your phone. I’ve never personally packed this and probably never will. I just put my phone in airplane mode to save battery. But if you absolutely have to stay connected and are worried about your battery draining quicker than normal, then this will give your phone a second wind.
___ Chap-stick with sunblock. Again with the SPF. I promise your mom didn’t make me say it!
Would you add anything to this list? What festivals have you attended, and what items made a big difference for you? Is there anything you recommend leaving at home?