It was around 2am at Symbiosis, I was not sober and it was time to make a pee break. As usual for a festival by this time, the portos had run out of toilet paper. That didn’t matter to me, because I was a prepared festie! I always carry on my trusty utility belt a small packet of tissues and hand sanitizer for this very reason. I came out and someone spotted my tissues and asked for one. So I gave it to them, then next thing I knew everyone was coming up to me one-by-one to take from my tissue packet, and as I handed out my very last one I shouted “FESTIVAL 101 GUYS! Always carry tissues and hand sanitizer!” So with Desert Hearts coming up, I felt it necessary to give you guys my comprehensive packing list can really apply to any festival for seasons to come.
First thing you want to think about when heading to a campout festival is where you’re going to decompress and change costumes! And maybe sleep. Maybe. For this you’ll need the following:
Tent: Honestly any 4-person tent will do if it’s just you. That’s enough space to house all of your stuff and sleep. If you’re going with a partner you’ll just have to cuddle extra close. A wool blanket is great to cover the bottom of the tent to keep heat in, and any extra blankets on top of both sleeping bags always help when you want to bring one outside.
Tarp: You’ll need one for the ground and an extra for on top in case it rains. Having an additional shade structure over the top of your tent is definitely a plus especially if the festival doesn’t have much tree coverage. This will help you sleep in longer when the rays from the sun poke through.
Sleep Aids: Ear plugs, face mask and melatonin. I like to get the emergency packets that have melatonin in them – get your electrolytes and a healthy sleep inducer.
Bed: Two, preferably, one for the bottom layer and one for the top. At least one pillow, an air mattress, foam topper, or I use a self-inflating camping pad; not as cozy as an air mattress, but way easier to set up and no need to worry about it deflating.
Lighting/Decor: Solar-powered lights to decorate your tent with, so you can find your way in the dark back to your tent. Lantern for the inside so you can see what you’re changing into when it gets cold and dark. Decorations for your tent such as fake flowers or a tapestry to make finding your tent for yourself and your friends easier.
Toiletries: You’ll want to bring what you would have at home with you such as toothbrush/toothpaste, lotion, face wash, makeup remover and sunscreen. To lighten the load and streamline your bathing, I suggest dry shampoo, Dr. Bronners (will be the only soap you need if you make this investment), baby wipes (ESSENTIAL – it’s very likely you won’t be able to shower more than once during the weekend) and a microfiber towel (dries super quick).
On Your Belt, Utility Belt that Is
A belt is the most common thing that first-time festies don’t really think about – like what would we need to carry around with us all the time? Well, it’s more of a thing where, having some of these essential items on you at all times will make your experience much, much easier and therefore more enjoyable. Let’s go over different belt options first:
Army/Navy: Probably the cheapest option, and what’s nice is they are customizable! Not exactly the most fashionable, but what you want is durability and usability. You’ll end up getting a canvas belt as your base and then you’ll have any number of pockets to choose from. Small ones perfect for your iPhone, larger ones perfect for moleskin, and even one that fits a 2L canteen! I have a silver cup that actually fits around the canteen so I don’t need an extra cup for when I find myself offered a drink.
Etsy: There are countless utility belts available on etsy. Canvas, leather, teal, earth tones… I like the belts with snaps as opposed to zippers because they’re less likely to break on you. Also canvas isn’t as affected by the sun as leather is so it’s less likely to burn you when it gets hot out.
Podbelt: For those with a little more cash to burn, I highly recommend the Podbelt. It’s fully felxible for your needs and each item is durable and will last you for years of festing to come. Designed specifically with the most dedicated of burners in mind this belt offers retractable lighter holders, canteen holders and varying sizes of pouches – and all on sexy black leather material.
For the little pockets: Butt container – that’s right MOOP (matter out of place) means cigarette butts too! An empty mint container or even an old pill bottle works great for this. Chapstick – preferably one with SPF 20 or higher and eye drops!
For the Portos: As suggested by the beginning of this article, a little packet of tissues and hand sanitizer! Your ass will thank you.
Phone: Although you may not have cell reception, having your phone on you is great for the other things you can do with it, like capturing memories and writing down quick notes and exchanging contact info. If you’re not the photo taking type, I recommend a small moleskin and pen. I actually prefer this because then I have a little diary of everyone I’ve met from that event by the end of it.
Little Gifts: The purpose of gifting at a festival is really to bring about the spirit of contribution. If we all bring more than what we need for ourselves, there will always be a bounty. What’s really nice about this is that after you meet someone you get to seal that connection with a token of esteem that they can take home with them, in addition to the wonderful memory. This can really be anything, so long as it isn’t very “moopy.” I like to give away an essential oil blend I made a big batch of, or flourite. My first burn I put a drop of lavender essential oil on epsom salts and wrapped it up into a bunch of little pouches which I gave to people to soak their feet with at the end of the week. I’ve received countless theme camp necklaces, friendship bracelets, kandi, crystals, granola bars and probably my favorite gift was from this girl Erin whom I met Tuesday night of my first burn. I couldn’t find my pack of American Spirits for the life of me and she decided that her gift would be to bring extra everything, in case someone forgot something. So, she had an extra full pack of cigs to give me!
Cup on a Carabiner: Why? Desert Hearts has a few camps from Burning Man that pop up at the back of the dance floor with open bars serving up booze, tea and other things. But you’ve gotta bring your own cup to partake so as to reduce moop. Most transformational festivals have an environment like this where there might be a bag of wine being passed around, or someone invites you into their camp for some champagne… So be prepared and bring your own cup, and it’s easier if it’s just hanging off your belt!
Water Container: Something to carry at least 2L of water in! You’ll go through it fast and water is the will prevent a visit to the medic tent. It’s easy to forget to hydrate so make sure it’s accessible on a 2L canteen on your belt or get a hydration pack. To amp up the hydration add Emergency to your water. This will add electrolytes and prevent you from getting sick in an environment where it’s really easy to spread germs.
Other Essentials: Sunglasses, headlamp, bandana!
Camping Stove: I used this one at the burn and I LOVED IT. It uses denatured alcohol which is much cleaner than alternative fuels.
Kitchenware: Reusable plate, fork, knife
Washing: Kitchen towels and a washing basin
Waste Management: Trash/recycling bags, bucket for grey water: because pack it in, pack it out, bitches!
Cash Money: ATMs are harder to find and the fees are HEFTY. Think about how much you’ll need for 3 days of food, gifts and other things for extra-curricular activities.
Basically anything that is vacuum-packed or dried is your best friend because the less you have to worry about getting ice everyday, the more fun you’re bound to have. There are plenty of delicious food vendors at Desert Hearts, but if you want to save some money and snack in between, or even perhaps after some vendors are closed. So here’s what I recommend:
Hard-boiled eggs (these lasted me 4 days at Burning Man and I only had to buy ice once), cuties, cliff bars, hummus & carrots
Bread, PB&J: basically, if you’re a filmmaker, think of anything that you like to see at the crafty table
Oreos, gummy bears, dried fruit
Instant iced coffee. Hack: Get those instant iced coffee packets from starbucks, put it in your water bottle in the morning, shake it up and boom! Decent coffee.
Coconut water, red gatorade. A gentleman helping me at B&H Photo and Video could tell I was hungover when trying to get something fixed, and insisted that I needed to drink 2 red gatorades. I had to make sure it was the red one. I did this and it has been my hangover cure ever since. Why red? No idea.
Boxed wine: take the bag out, smack it and pass it! Champagne, because essentially festivals are all celebrations. Whiskey – for those brisk nights.
On Your BOD
Warm-ass jacket, leggings, long johns. Layers, motherfucker: it’s going to be 36 degrees farenheit at night for this Desert Hearts
Gloves, spirit hood: fuzzy AND fashionable! Hack: remember your favorite childhood jewelry store Claire’s? THEY HAVE MOCK SPIRITHOODS FOR LESS THAN $20, as well as fluffies, flower head pieces, and cute caribeener wallets. Basically Claire’s is just grew up with us.
Tights, leg warmers, garter belts, thigh highs, harem pants, wings, onesies, funky hats, nothing – whatever the fuck you want
LEDs!!! It’s dark out at night and you want people to see you, right? EL Wire is the way to go.
Jewelry, makeup, glitter, sequins
Keep in mind the porta potties when deciding on your costume selection.
Flow toys, tarot cards, crystals, camera gear, gifts
A good attitude
Most important, come prepared to contribute, discuss boundaries, meeting places, be responsible for yourself and care about each other!
That about sums it up! Anything to add? Comment below!
This post reminded me why I love festivals so much. I was starting to feel out of touch with the experience. I’ve been so focused on paying bills, my health, getting my career on track and my relationship that I completely lost track of my spirit. And in loosing track of my spirit, the rest is following.I’ve been noticing some pretty scary patterns come up in my life that only I am responsible for.
When I’m focused on my art, and given lots of opportunity to create art, those patterns disappear. When I have a lot of free time and am going through something really emotional, I get really focused on meditation and learning. When I feel like I’ve fucked things up so bad, I leave where I’m at to attempt a new beginning. Hoping the past stays in the city I just left.The hard truth is, I’m the common denominator. If I’m only trying to save myself when I realize what my patterns are costing me, they will never go away. If I keep leaving my problems in another city, things might seem new for a while, but it will creep back in again once challenged with what I was challenged with before. If I’m only creating the art that is given to me, I will never show the world what’s truly in my soul and thereby withholding gifts from it that it very well may need.Resistance has taken over my life.
My ego is latching onto what it needs to believe so I don’t crumble from the weight of the responsibility I’ll have to take on from recognizing my own problems. We cannot rest our laurels on “triggers.” We all have them. If we constantly use the trigger excuse, we never have to take responsibility for our own growth.So there’s the first step. I acknowledge that I have a very, very long way to go in my growth. I accept my self-sabotage, and want to stop. The only way to stop is to put in the work, every day, even when things are good, because this is a lifetime of bad habits that I have to overcome. I see this in myself, and hope I can be forgiven, and use this knowledge to forgive others.
Desert Hearts will be my first festival of the season and it couldn’t be more perfect, as the lessons this community have taught me, are all centered and grounded in love. My new new year is spring, when festival season starts. As every event I go to shows me myself at my greatest capacity for love, my greatest capacity for wisdom and compassion and my greatest aptitude for just letting everything go and exploring as though I were a kid again. I can witness myself there at my best, and then remember that my perception of life is a choice. Life can be a festival if I want it to. It might be scary to be that vulnerable and that authentic and that trusting all of the time – but in the end, we are here to evolve. Evolution takes a lifetime, not just a few weekends a year.