I’m all about minimalism when I go to festivals. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than lugging around an overstuffed backpack in a sea of 20,000 people, so over the years I’ve figured out ways to cut down on what I carry and fit everything I need in a fannypack. Don’t judge me – it’s a pretty sweet fannypack. You’d probably be jealous if you saw it.
The key to my awesome fannypack system is really just a carefully curated collection of smartphone apps that eliminate the need to pack along too much else. Here’s a few of my favorites to help you help you make the most of any festival you attend:
1. The [insert festival name here] App
There’s an app for absolutely everything now, and that includes most major festivals. If you’re heading out to a big-name show, it’s worth a quick Google search to see if there’s an app made specifically for this year’s event. Personally, I hate these things – more often that not they’re made by some third-party event-app company who creates them in a hurry, loads them with ads, and doesn’t give two shits about user experience – but they are good for one thing: live updates.
Festivals are crazy, and it’s not uncommon for performances to be delayed, rescheduled, or moved to a different stage at the last minute. You’ll want to be in the know if this happens, and the best way to stay informed is to check the event app for updates when something goes awry.
This list would be a lot longer if it wasn’t for this app. No doubt annoyed by all the confusing event-specific apps out there, Victorinox (the makers of the original Swiss Army Knife) set out to make an all-in-one music festival multitool for your smartphone. This app is a godsend. It’s got tons of nifty features – a packing checklist, weather updates, emergency medical instructions, and a geotagging feature that helps you keep track of your tent and the whereabouts of your friends. The tent finder function is good enough to be it’s own standalone app, but Victorinox was kind enough to bundle it in with everything else – and it doesn’t cost a dime.
Really, any camera application will do, but not every app has filters that’ll make it look like you’re at Woodstock. Instagram is your best friend at a festival. Easy uploading and syncing options make it a breeze to share your pics online and make all your friends jealous.
If you’re going to be using your phone for communication, camera, compass, and clock, you’ll undoubtedly suck up a lot of juice. Battery life is a precious commodity at festivals, and while it’s increasingly common to see charging stations at large events, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. There’s a zillion different battery-saver apps for Android and iPhone, and most will allow you to save power by shutting off things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, vibration, or GPS. Careful what you turn off though, as it might interfere with other apps you’re using.
Either one will do. It’s really just a matter of personal preference. If you want to know the name of the song that’s playing, just hit a button on one of these apps, they’ll listen for a second, compare the sound to a massive database of music, and send you the track info if/when they find a match. Both apps tend to have trouble with super high volumes and live recordings – not to mention musicians tend to play their unreleased stuff at festivals – but its always worth a shot. I’ve also found it’s invaluable for picking out random songs you hear people playing as you stroll around the campground.
OK, so this one isn’t essential, but it’s free, so shut up. The last thing you want is to feel left out when your favorite band plays that power ballad you’ve been waiting for all day for, and everyone whips out their Zippos but you. Sure, you’ll look like a goofball, but chances are good you won’t be the only one in the crowd using an app instead of the real thing. And really, it’s a festival – if there’s anywhere that being a goofball is appropriate, it’s here.
Not every festival has camping, and when they don’t, hotels near the venue tend to fill up with astonishing speed. When everywhere else is booked up, you can use AirBnB to find rooms that aren’t listed anywhere else. People list all kinds of weird places on the site, so if you blew your entire paycheck just to get tickets to the show, you might be able to save some money by renting somebody’s couch for the night.
If you do plan on camping at the venue, get this app. There’s nothing worse than dancing for twelve hours straight, trudging back to your campsite feeling exhausted, and then not being able to sleep because the asshole next to you think’s it’s a good time to show off his car stereo. The party always keeps on raging at the campsite, and if you’re at a multi-day festival, you’ll want a good night’s sleep to make sure you’ve got the energy to make it through day two (or three, or four). This is where a pair of headphones and a white noise app come in handy. Really, any white noise app will do the trick, but this one is different. It uses produces specific sound frequencies called binaural beats to help lull you into a deep, relaxed sleep. Some people claim this is junk science, and maybe it’s just the placebo effect, but others swear by it.