It’s officially Coachella season! The countdown has begun for the biggest and most anticipated music and art festival, which will return to its home at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Coachella rookies and veterans alike will flock to the said venue for a 3-day long weekend filled with fun, music, and art.
As a Coachella “veteran,” I list below everything I learned from surviving the biggest music festival in America.
1) HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! – Coachella Valley doesn’t play when it comes to heat. The Empire Polo Fields are in the middle of the desert around 3-hour drive away from the city of Los Angeles. The climate at is dry and hot and dusty. Hydrate throughout the day with plenty of water – in between alcohol intake, of course. I suggest bringing a Camelbak with at least a 2L hydration bladder just to avoid constantly re-filling, because the lines in each re-fill station will always be long. I personally bring my Osprey Daylite, but almost any small/medium backpack with a hydration compartment will suffice.
*Note: Liquids are not permitted at the entrance, so it’s best to empty out your water bottles/hydration bladders prior to entering the venue. There are multiple re-fill stations throughout the area.
2) PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE ELEMENTS WITH: A BANDANA, LOTS OF SUNSCREEN, AND A CAP. – A bandana is the one of the cheapest, lightest way to protect yourself from the elements at Coachella. Sporadic sand storms are known to occur, and a bandana is an easy way to keep the dust off your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Along with unexpected wind gusts, it’s also constantly HOT during the day. At times, paralyzingly hot. Temperatures can reach up to the 100s. Make sure you protect yourself from harmful UV rays by lathering on sunscreen (at least SPF 50+) and by wearing a cap. If you choose to wear a hat, opt for one that can be secured on your head.
3) PURCHASE COACHELLA MERCHANDISE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. – Don’t be like us and wait until Sunday night before buying souvenirs and t-shirts. By purchasing merchandise early, you will bypass the lines AND have the option of having your size available. By Day 3, most shirts and tank tops were only available in sizes L-XL.
4) HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT. – As soon as the lineup and set list are released, do your homework on Coachella.com and decide which artists you’d most like to see perform. FACT: There is no way you’ll be able to see ALL the performances you want, so think long and hard, and stick to your schedule once it’s finalized. Being indecisive which performer you’d rather see will not reap any benefits.
5) ESTABLISH A DISTINCT MEETING SPOT (THAT’S NOT A MOVING INSTALLATION). – This is important, because cellphone service inside the venue is less than ideal. There are literally tens of thousands of attendees, and getting lost or separated from your group is a very likely occurrence. I recommend choosing a very specific spot from the get-go with your group as a “meet-up” spot in case your friends get separated or lost. Be very exact, and ensure that your meeting spot is not near an art installation that will move throughout the day (ex: Giant Caterpillar circa Coachella 2015). “Meet at the Beer Garden or “By the Sahara Stage,” is not going to help anyone either. Last year, my friends and I established our meeting spot to be under the letter “B” in Besame Mucho.
Remember: Specific. Stationary.
6) OPT FOR COMFORTABLE CLOSED-TOE SHOES THAT YOU’RE NOT AFRAID TO GET RUINED. – There will be walking and walking and more walking, so wear footwear that is comfortable and closed-toe. I remember a day where I logged in 45,000+ steps on my FitBit! The Empire Polo Fields are huge, so leave the high heels at home. You don’t have to sacrifice fashion, either. Flat booties, combat boots, and Chucks are ideal alternatives. Just make sure they are closed-toe because I guarantee you that people will step on your feet more than you’re ready for. Also, the Empire Polo grounds are comprised of grass and dirt (and mushy mud if you include The DoLab), and you’d want your feet dry, clean, and supported. Trust me.
7) LEAVE THE EXPENSIVE SUNGLASSES AT HOME. – Coachella can get pretty crazy and intense, especially if you’re intoxicated or under the influence. Skip the headache and tears of losing your favorite sunglasses, because 9 times out of 10, you will lose it. Or, you’ll drop it and someone will accidentally step on them. Do yourself a favor and purchase $5 sunglasses from gas stations or cheap fast fashion stores.
8) A SALINE NASAL SPRAY WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. – If there is one product I can thank that kept me from catching the Coachella virus, it’s a saline nasal spray. I used my nasal spray about 2-3x a day to flush out any dust/crusting that may build up in my passages, and it made the world of difference. I was the only person in my group who did not catch “Coachella virus,” and I was able to return to work immediately without needing to recover.
9) CREATE A SIMPLE PHONE WALLPAPER OF YOUR FRIENDS’ PHONE NUMBERS. – This is particularly helpful when or if you lose your cellphone. Increase the chances of it being returned to you by creating a wallpaper for your lock screen to show a friend’s phone number. Make the wallpaper simple, plain, and legible. A simple wording could be: “IF FOUND, PLEASE CONTACT (123) 456-8790.”
That way, the finder can simply contact the number on the lock screen!
10) ALWAYS CARRY A PACK OF WET WIPES. – Better prepared than sorry.
ON-SITE CAMPING TIPS:
1) ARRIVE EARLY. – There is no short-cut way or easy route to reach the camping grounds. My friends and I managed to score two car camping spots on Lot 8, by arriving at the campgrounds just before sunrise. We were in line by 6AM to have our cars inspected. (Side note: car inspection is a hit-or-miss. We were lucky because the security we landed on did not want to thoroughly inspect our cars for prohibited items. Some were not so lucky as some of their cars were practically turned inside out.) For more information on car camping rules, click here.
2) FILL UP ON GAS AND STOCK UP ON ICE JUST BEFORE ENTERING THE VENUE. – Make sure you have plenty of gas before arriving in the venue, and stock up on ice. Inside the venue, a pack of ice (2lbs) is sold for $10.00 a pop! #theft
3) IF CONVOYING IN MULTIPLE VEHICLES, NUMBER EACH CAR IN THE SAME FONT, COLOR, AND FORMAT. – Make sure each label is large and visible and placed on the same area for each car (ideally the top right-hand corner of the windshield, where the passenger sits). Example: write with car chalk or print out LARGE numbers in bright colored paper, “1 of 5,” “2 of 5,” “3 of 5” and so forth. There will be multiple cars entering the venue at the same time, and it’s best to let parking attendants know immediately that your group belongs together so stray cars won’t cut ahead.
After each car has been fully inspected, it is very important for all vehicles in your group to enter the campgrounds in ORDER as each car camping spot is filled upon arrival. You cannot “save spots” for friends who may be arriving later. Who you arrive with will be your neighbors for the entire weekend.
4) BRING JUMPER CABLES. – Trust me, you don’t want to be waiting for AAA to rescue you on Monday morning because you accidentally exhausted your car’s batteries after blasting music with your engine off. AAA will not jump start cars on first-call, first-serve basis, but rather, they will service vehicles by row, per lot.
5) CHECK THE FORECAST; IF THERE IS ANY WIND-ADVISORY OR WARNING, TAKE HEED. – My friends and I, along with the rest of campers last year learned this lesson the very hard way. We received a wind-advisory from the Coachella app, warning us to remove our tarps/lower our canopies for a potential windstorm. Did we listen? Of course, not.
We were too lazy to remove our tarps and lower our canopies, so mother nature did it for us in the form of Hurricane Coachella. Learn from our mistakes, folks.
6) SOLAR CHARGERS ARE WORTH THE INVESTMENT. – There’s nothing like harnessing the power of the sun! Although there are multiple mobile-phone charging stations throughout campgrounds, I think you can spend your time participating in more worthwhile experiences than waiting for your phone to fully charge.
7) ILLUMINATE WITH A HANDS-FREE HEADLAMP. – Because the last position you’d want to be in is squatting in a dark porta-potty, compressing your body to keep every body part from touching any part of the said self-contained outhouse, while using your cellphone to light the space.
8) A WATER FILTER WILL SAVE TONS OF WEIGHT AND SPACE. – This year, the group I’m attending Coachella with has doubled in size, meaning double the food, double the gear, double everything! Because we have limited storage and space in our cars for everyone’s stuff, one of the ways we’ve come up with to save storage space is by investing in a Katadyn 10L water filter. I can’t even imagine how much water we’d need to purchase to last 13 people 5 days in the desert. Without our Katadyn, one car would be dedicated solely to carry drinkable water!
9) SKIP THE “VIP” SHOWERS. – The truth is, there is nothing “VIP” about them. There are about six showers per trailer, and water pressure is dependent on how many individuals are showering. So the more people in the trailer, the weaker the water pressure! On top of that, the showers are also manual. There isn’t a knob for you to turn the shower on or off, but rather a lever you have to constantly pull for the water to run. So you have one hand constantly pulling the lever, and the other to shampoo, condition, and soap with. Ridiculous! Save your $10.00, and opt for the regular showers.
10) SHOWER EARLY. Speaking of showers, take it early. Showers are open between 7:00-2:00PM and 8:00PM-2:00AM Friday – Sunday. Shower early to get ahead of the crowds and to make sure there is plenty of water supply.
There are 24-hour showers available between 2:00-8:00PM, but there are very limited stalls, and you can spend up to two hours just to get your turn.
Shower essentials: towel, flip-flops, and cheap sling bag (to hang your stuff in).
For more information on showers for on-site campers, click here.
Press play to watch our video diary from Coachella 2016. Thank you, Justine Mendoza, for editing the video. Make sure to watch it in HD!