Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > 12 Tips For 21st Century Summer Music Festival Attendees: A Festival Survival Guide

12 Tips For 21st Century Summer Music Festival Attendees: A Festival Survival Guide

Downsview Park Summer Music Festival Toronto

VELD 2012 far back from Main Stage on Day 1

We in Toronto are in our first weeks of warm weather and with it comes the parade of summer music festivals. I don’t care what kind of music you’re into, for the purposes of this article they’re all the same.

I saw a bunch of similar posts from various outlets and while some of them, like Notable.ca’s “Festival Season Packing Must Haves,” are really great and super helpful there were still a few things I found to be missing so I decided it was time to write my own. Also, I have kept this as unisex as possible although some of these tips do not make for the most fashionable advice the point of this is utility not fashion.

1 . Set Specific Meeting Times/Places To Regroup:

There’s a strong likelihood you’re going to get separated from your friends over the course of the day/festival. Take a look at the festival schedule before you head out and decide on (a) time(s)/band(s) during which you’re going to definitely regroup. When you get to the festival try to scope out a good rally point relative to each time or band and see it in real life. Places that make great spots for this are – for example – a portapotty/bathroom area or one of the booths selling stuff. Don’t pick a tree or bush unless it is REALLY, REALLY distinctive because you’ll never all be able to find it again. Also, choose a spot where everyone who’s still left standing is going to rally at the end of the day. There will be a rush of people trying to leave the festival area as soon as it’s over so unless you have somewhere super pressing to be that night you’re better off hanging back and meeting up with your friends.

2Bring Cash, ID, & Maybe Some Plastic But Leave Your Wallet At Home:

Unless you know for a certainty that they’re going to take plastic at the venue you’re attending I recommend bringing some cash. Don’t go crazy because you’re going to be quite disappointed if you misplace it but remember that there’s a strong likelihood of there being vendors who won’t take plastic and direct you to an ATM which has a long line up AND charges you an arm and a leg for the privilege of taking out some money.

I very highly doubt you’re going to need your pharmacy’s reward card and your movie theater membership while at a summer music festival so leave your wallet at home. You’ll be fine with the cash, a piece of ID like a license, and a credit and/or bank card. The lighter you travel, the better.

3. Wear Clothes With Lots Of POCKETS! (Like Cargo Shorts/Pants):

6 Front Pockets Cargo Shorts

These trusty cargo shorts of mine have 6 pockets in the front and 2 in the back. 2 of the front pockets fasten with velcro and 2 have zippers…talk about secure!

The more pockets you have, the better. You generally don’t want to be toting a bag around with you all day and if you have clothes which have a whole bunch of pockets  you can stay organized and comfortable. The alternative is to be jumping up and down while wearing a backpack, it’s annoying to say the least! Also, it is unfortunate but some people are jerks and try to pickpocket at these kinds of events. Pants/shorts with pockets that close up are going to make it that much harder to become a target and they also make sure things won’t fall out in general.

4. Bring A Portable Backup Battery & USB Charger: 

 Scosche goBAT II with NYC MTA MetroCard for scale

My Scosche goBAT II with Toronto TTC Metropass & NYC MTA MetroCard for scale. (Not pictured, USB cable.)

When you’re at a festival all day taking pictures and videos, tweeting, Instagramming, and texting you’re going to kill your smartphone’s battery in the best of conditions. With 40,000 people also doing the same thing, the cell towers in the area are often strained in terms of capacity and your phone has to work harder to maintain a signal,  draining your battery even faster. Personally, I have the Scosche goBAT II High Capacity Backup Battery which was sent to me by PureMobile.ca and it keeps me connected and charged up in my day-to-day life as well as at music festivals and concerts so I highly recommend you grab one for yourself. Unfortunately, PureMobile.ca doesn’t list is as in stock anymore but there are many similar products on the market.  The Scosche product I have has “5,000 mAh” of juice available when fully charged.

To put this “mAh” thing into perspective: The Motorola RAZR HD LTE (XT925) I currently rock as my regular device has a battery which is 2,530 mAh in size. You don’t have to understand what “mAh” stands for to get that this means I can charge my phone fully just shy of twice with my portable battery (5,000/2,530 = 1.98). To compare this to other devices currently popular and on the market, the Samsung Galaxy SIII has 2,100 mAh battery and the Samsung Galaxy S4 has 2,600 mAh, the iPhone 4S has 1,430 mAh and the 5 has 1,440 mAh, the new 2 BlackBerry 10 devices; the Z10 and the Q10; have 1,800 mAh and 2,100 mAh batteries respectively.

Scosche goBAT II charging ports & on-off button with lights

Scosche goBAT II view of the charging ports & on button with battery level lights.
MicroUSB = charge the goBAT II/power in.
2 Regular size USB = charge your devices/power out.

These portable batteries can charge almost anything that charges via a USB cable (mine can even do 2 at once if you have 2 cables) so they’re perfect for an iPhone as well as for an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. The one I have can even charge tablets, but I digress. The important thing to remember is that you’ve got to look up your phone’s mAh and the battery’s mAh before deciding which one is the choice for you. The $20 one may have an attractive price tag but it likely won’t fully charge your phone even once.

*Note: Battery size info for all phones was taken from their Wikipedia pages.

5. Set Your Phone To Use 2G/EDGE or LTE and Avoid 3G/HSPA:

Remember I mentioned how your battery is going to be strained trying to maintain a signal? The clogging of the network not only depletes your battery faster it also makes it harder to send/receive text messages and phone calls. Last summer when there weren’t as many people who had phones that could use LTE I was at VELD Music Festival in Dowsnview Park, Toronto and was rocking a HTC EVO 3D on Fido and a Sony Xperia ion on Rogers. Rogers and Fido share a network yet my HTC which only had 3G capabilities was having a whole bunch of difficulties receiving texts and tweeting pictures on the clogged 3G network whereas the Sony on the LTE network had absolutely no issues.

This summer, with the arrival of a whole host of LTE phones on the market over the past year I can’t tell you what is going to work best. What I can tell you is that the old fashioned 2G/EDGE network while way, way slower will likely be less used by others AND it doesn’t drain your battery as quickly. 3G networks while they don’t drain battery as quickly as LTE networks do will probably be clogged no matter if you’re with Rogers, TELUS, or Bell. Remember this when you’re having trouble even sending a text message out to friends, 2G/EDGE is likely your best bet, pictures and videos can be uploaded later.

Remember, figure out how to play with these settings and test them BEFORE you set out to the festival.

6. Timestamp Your Text Messages:

As I mentioned above, the networks are going to be clogged. If you find that you’re receiving messages long after they were sent or yours are taking forever to send timestamp them in the text message itself. Example:

“Heading to the South Stage, I’ll be on the right hand side. [11;53am].”

The reason for this is when your friend’s phone (finally) receives this text it will only show her the message’s timestamp for when it came in not when it was sent. Adding your own timestamp ensures that she doesn’t come looking for you an hour and a half after you sent the message thinking you’ll be right there because they now know that message is quite dated.

7. Bring Plastic Zipper Storage Bags:

With all the technology we bring around with us today it would absolutely SUCK if we were caught in a downpour or sprayed by water in some other fashion – and at summer music festivals, these things do happen. Save yourself the trouble and bring some bags with you, they take up next to no extra space in your pockets, have almost no weight and you can even use most touchscreens through them if need be.

8. Buy Cheap Sunglasses:

If you don’t require corrective lenses then go out and buy a pair from your local gas station or discount store. This way you don’t have to worry about them getting scratched up and broken and no need to bring the bulky case your $300 pair came in.

9. Bring Single Use Suntan/Sunscreen Packets:

Various brands of sunscreen in single use packets

You don’t want to be carrying around a bottle of this stuff the entire day but you might want to touch up your sunscreen/suntan lotion at some point which is why you should grab one of these kinds of packets. They weigh nothing and have enough in them for most people’s single use of applying sunscreen/suntan lotion. Of course, you might want to buy a couple of these packets and try out one before you’re on your way to/at the festival and make sure it has enough for your needs in a single packet. Sure some protection is better than none but when it’s so easy to pre-plan this kind of thing, you may as well.

10. Bring A Poncho:

Ponchos one rolled up and one folded.

One rolled up poncho and one folded up and bagged poncho.

Of course I only say this if they’re calling for the possibility of rain. There are many varieties of ’emergency’ ponchos you can buy for yourself…or look around, they might be giving them out as promotional items at some summer events or in your downtown area. Plastic ponchos might not be the height of fashion but they are lightweight and small and they will protect you from the rain if a downpour starts. This means you’ll be able to enjoy the music likely still being played and not trying to huddle with others under whatever shelter that’s available. Of course, if you don’t mind getting rained on as long as your electronics are safely stowed in a sealed plastic bag you have no need for a poncho.

11. Wear Comfortable Shoes/Clothes You Don’t Mind Ruining:

You’re going to be on your feet a lot over the course of the day and you’ll almost definitely get stepped on at some point or another. Because these events are often held on open grass fields you never know what kind of conditions you’re going to be walking on to. Wear shoes that are comfortable that you don’t mind getting filthy because there’s a strong likelihood you will do just that. Last year, VELD Day 2 was supposed to be a rainy one and on Day 1 the tent had a whole area which was just straight mud. Knowing that, I threw all fashion conventions out the window and wore my Crocs and was happier for it. The way I saw it was screw fashion, I was there to have a good time!

Veld 2012 Day 2 with the boys outside the tent

Committing many a fashion faux pas at VELD 2012 Day 2 is me on the left in the bright neon vest, blue wife beater, and camo bathing suit. (I was also wearing Crocs.)

12. All Your Well Laid Plans Will Likely Be For Naught, Have Fun Anyway!

There’s a Yiddish proverb which states: “Man plans and God laughs.” The noted 19th Century German military strategist  Helmuth von Moltke the Elder was known to say that, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Making plans isn’t a useless endeavor, as von Maltke knew, but in order to be effective in your planning you have to be prepared for the many different contingencies an outside force will exert upon your well structured plan. The advice I have given above will help you have an amazing time and be prepared for most things at summer festivals but it won’t prepare you for everything. You have to go there to have fun and don’t be so concerned with meeting that person and staying together with these people in this group. Remember why you’re there (for the music) and enjoy yourself. You’ll probably run into people you’d otherwise be looking for without even trying to as the mass of humanity shifts and moves from stage to stage, band to band, and bathroom line to drink line.

Any ideas for additions to this post? What summer festivals are you planning on going to? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear answers to both of them!

Music festival leave work throw papers



  1. June 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Time-stamping your text messages is genius!

    • June 19, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Thank you very much, Cassandra! Sometimes it’s the simplest solutions which are overlooked. Glad to have brought it to your attention. Enjoy your summer of music! 🙂

  2. Marilou
    September 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Heyy there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

    • September 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      I use the regular WordPress.com commenting system so I don’t have an answer for you Marilou! Sorry.

  3. July 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Dan – Those are awesome cargo shorts you showed in the image. I never saw a pair with front cargo pockets like that. Could you possibly let us know who makes those? Hoping I can find a pair online somewhere. Thanks a bunch!

    • July 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Hi Chris,
      The brand name seems to be “Prefab” judging by the tag on the inside of the shorts. (See image.)
      prefab brand cargo shorts tag
      I have had these cargo shorts for a long, long time and haven’t the foggiest notion where or when I bought them and I have never heard of this brand before I looked at the label of these shorts. I hope this helps though!

      • Christopher Kramek
        July 4, 2014 at 5:22 am

        Hi Dan,

        oh thank you! Yes, this is a big help. I will keep my eyes open for these. I’ll be bound to come across them on eBay or somewhere else, sooner or later.

        Thanks again man,


  1. July 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm

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