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Enjoy the Music: Top Tips To Survive A Bay Area Festival
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Enjoy the Music: Top Tips To Survive A Bay Area Festival

Picture of Jennifer Beall
Updated: 11 December 2015
There are many tips and tricks to successfully conquer a music festival. Although every festival is different whether it is the people, style of music, or location here is a compiled list of festival tips.
What to Bring | © Jen Beall
What to Bring | © Jen Beall

Before the Festival

The time leading up to a festival has tons of anxious energy and anticipation. There is actually a lot you can do to prepare for the festival, whether it is a month or just a few days before that will make it smooth sailing once the wonderful weekend arrives.

Transportation and Sleeping Arrangements

If you do not live close enough to the festival to stay at home, this is something you are going to want to take care of. While scoring an airbnb months in advance can be awesome, you can also get some sweet deals by waiting until the last minute. You could also stay in a hotel or be lucky enough to have a friend who is willing to let you couch surf for a few days. Staying not in the insanity of San Francisco is also an option. A lot of people stay somewhere in the East Bay and drive in (good luck finding parking – but you can sometimes purchase someone’s driveway parking spot on craigslist) or just do a combo of BART and Muni. Luckily since this festival ends so early it is possible to get home on Bart afterwards. Outside Lands, along with many other festivals, also have shuttles for an additional fee.

What to Bring and Wear

Festival clothing has become the pinnacle of fashionistas everywhere. Whether you plan on going on an Urban Outfitters shopping spree or pulling together stuff from your closet, figuring out what you are wearing and packing your bag the night before can save a lot of time in the morning getting you and your crew out the door.

Being uncomfortable is about the worst thing that can happen during a festival, with that said the 2 make or break items in your outfit are going to be your shoes and jacket. Shoe rules are very simple: comfy, no heels, no open toes. Wearing chucks everyday was perfectly fine, even walking 13 miles each day (thank you iphone pedometer). Make sure your jacket is warm and comfortable. Jackets with pockets that have some kind of closure are ideal, that way there is no fear of your personal items falling out or some curious hands taking them out.

Beyond those two staples is really up to you. Given the unpredictability of Bay Area weather layering is a must. One of the best things to wear at festivals is a pair of shorts with thigh high socks. It is the perfect combination for when it is warm during the day and cooler at night. Find a solid pair of socks and it’s basically like a sweater on your legs. Lastly on the fashion front is a hat and sunglasses. A hat can keep you surprisingly warm at night and sunglasses will help when the stage is facing an unfortunate direction or a stampede of people kicks up a thick layer of dust.

What to bring

Water bottle



Portable phone charger

Bathroom essentials

Bike light/head lamp


*Special note* – do not bring anything you seriously care about, you will be dirty, people do steal and lose things so make sure you are okay with that.

What to Wear | © Jen Beall
What to Wear | © Jen Beall

At The Festival:

Grab your coffee, eat a hearty breakfast, and head into the festival for one of the greatest weekends of your life.


First and foremost, be nice to the staff and volunteers they are your friends. They are working ridiculously long hours, dealing with tens of thousands of people and if you’re nice they are way more likely to let that water bottle of vodka just slip on by.

The staff shirts at Outside Lands specifically had a line on their shirts that read, “you are safe with us.” This is a 100% true statement. Watching people go into serious panics after loosing their friends or maybe taking a little too much of something is hard to witness and the staff will be there to make sure everything is okay.

Second, the medics are also your friends and can be literal lifesavers. You should always be 100% safe and responsible for what you do, but if for some reason something gets out of hand they are there to help you, not get you in trouble. Do not make the mistake of waiting too long to get medical help.

Find Your Squad

Hanging out with friends at a festival is so much fun. Whether you plan on meeting them at a specific location in the park, or stay with them, make sure to hit up your friends before the festival so you know who is going.

If you are going to stick in a large group, consider making a totem, they can be as creative or as simple as you like, the goal is to just follow or find the group in a crowd. On the creative side you could blow up funny faces of your friends that are also great to take pictures with, or on the simple side use the ‘ducks up’ method. The ducks up method is once you get into a large crowd, the leader yells ducks up and everyone puts their duck beak hand position up into the air so everyone knows whom to follow. It is a little more creative they just putting the leaders hand up which can easily get lost in the crowd.

Attempt to have a designated meeting spot within the festival or somewhere to meet after losing eachother. You may also find that your group grows throughout the day as friends of friends and friends of friends of friends get added to the group. Make new friends, and at least be able to recognize the faces, it may be the best way to find your group again.

What to do:

The obvious answer here is “listen to the music of course,” but Outside Lands, as well as many other festivals have become more than just music. Make sure to have some of the amazing local eats, as well as try some wine and beer (if you are of age of course).

Before you even get to the festival have a game plan, but understand that this game plan should be flexible. Rushing from one stage to another is possible, but not very fun, and going to the bathroom can take way longer than you expect. Be willing to see some new people, but also have your must-sees so you can plan accordingly. If there are time slots where you don’t have anything planned consider checking out some new artists, music festivals are the best way to find new music.

There is lots of time spent waiting whether it is for the bathroom, food, water, between sets, whatever so just talk to people around you! You clearly both love music so just talk to people and it will make the line seem like it goes way faster.

Take some time to wander around and take pictures. There is so much art and pretty lights everywhere you’re going to want some pictures to remember the awesome weekend.

By Jen Beall

Jen Beall is currently an undergraduate studying psychology and theater at UC Davis who has a passion for the arts, cheese and puppies.