Everything You Need To Survive Summer Festival Season

I’m not the most fashionable person in the world (just ask my sisters, who are often embarrassed by what I’m comfortable wearing when I leave the house), but I am a pretty avid concert-goer. And in my last decade (yikes) of concert experiences, I’ve pretty much nailed down a routine/rulebook for attire at summer concerts and festivals. There are so many concerts and festivals making their way through the Chicagoland area that it’s nearly impossible to go a summer without attending at least one show.

My concert wear usually has to pass three tests:

1. Is it comfortable?

2. Is it realistic to get sweaty/sunburned in?

3. Is it low-key cute?

From there, I focus on footwear, because there is quite literally nothing more important to me at a show than to have my feet feeling comfortable, safe from Toe-Crushers, and protected from Beer-Sloshers.

Then there’s the factor of what to bring. When it comes to other concert-goers, it seems like there are two distinct ends of the spectrum: There are the people who bring everything and look as if they’re moving into the venue for good, and then there are the people who bring as little as possible. I fall somewhere in between that spectrum—my priority is to be comfortable, prepared, and hands-free.

If you’re into being both comfortable and prepared for your future summer concerts and festivals, look no further for my tried and true advice on what to wear, what shoes to rock, and what things to bring.

Single Concert

As fun as festivals can be, there’s something wonderful about attending a show where you’ll get to see a few bands over a few hours and then call it a night (or maybe that’s just the anxious introvert in me talking?). It seems like summer is one of the most popular times for bands and solo artists to go on tour. If you’re attending a single show, keep it simple. This is a great opportunity to look cute without the stress of a full day of sun.

What To Wear: The options are basically endless! Is the show outdoors at night? Rock a cute sundress and a light jacket. Planning on rocking out and jumping around? Go with jean shorts (or overalls, which seem to be making a comeback) a comfortable tank top. My go-to for concerts is usually jeans and a neutral tank top. If the show is at night, I’ll bring a flannel shirt to tie around my waist as temps cool down.

Shoes: If you’ve got seats and you like dressing up for shows, sandals are the way to go! If you’re in a General Admission pit, go for something with a little more stability, like Toms, Converse, or Vans.

Must Brings: Keep it simple and bring as little as possible—you’ll only be at the show for a few hours! Generally speaking, I’ll bring a water bottle to down while waiting in line to get into the venue, as well as:

  • A small drawstring bag or purse (baby’s gotta put that merch somewhere)
  • My wallet (with cash, one card, and my ID)
  • Cell phone
  • A pack of gum
  • A hard copy of my ticket

One-Day Festival

After my recent Warped Tour experience, my love for one-day festivals has been reignited. It’s a whole lot of music packed into one day, but come on—that’s the dream. If you know you’re going to be spending the day outside, check the weather in the days leading up to the event (though, let’s be honest, it’s rarely accurate until the day of). As you pick something to wear, be practical! Will you be comfortable all day long? Will you be able to shed or put on another layer in the evening? Will you care about bizarre tan lines in that top?

What To Wear: Assuming you’ll be spending the day outside, keep in mind my three tests (comfortable, sweat/sunburn-proof, and low-key cute). If there’s a chance of rain, wear something you won’t mind being wet in (i.e. lightweight tank top, casual shift dress, etc.)—and if possible, bring a light rainproof jacket. If you know you’re in the clear and it’s sunny (or overcast) skies ahead, plan on some weird tan lines and make comfort your priority. Don’t feel like you can’t dress cute for this kind of festival! A light cotton dress or jean shorts with a flowy tee or tank top are low-key cute and high-key comfortable.

Pro-tip: Wear a swimsuit as your undergarments for the day. They’re literally designed to get wet, so through sweat and rain, your swimsuit will be significantly more comfortable than a set of cotton undergarments.

Shoes: Rain or shine, outdoor day-long festivals in the summer are best for bringing out your most comfortable sneakers or slip on shoes. I find that Converse and Vans hold up pretty well through rain, shine, dirt, and beer. Toms are another good option here, assuming you don’t mind the inevitable tanline.

Must Brings: Start with a lightweight bag or a fanny pack (say what you will, but fanny packs and cheap drawstring bags are perfect for this). Then grab:

  • A reusable or unopened water bottle: Check with the venue/festival beforehand to make sure they’ll allow this in and to confirm they’ll have water refilling stations. Nobody likes paying an asinine amount of money for water they could’ve gotten for free.
  • Sunblock: Put it on before you leave and bring a travel-sized bottle with to reapply throughout the day. And seriously, reapply it often.
  • Cash: Many venues/festivals may not be credit card-friendly
  • Your ID (especially if you plan on having a beer or three)
  • Band-aids: Seriously, they’re a must. Your blistered feet and wait-how-did-I-get-that scratches will thank you later.
  • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner and/or wipes: For the sake of your health after using Porta Potties and just generally getting dirty.
  • Something to cover your head/scalp: Bring a hat (baseball, straw fedora) or a bandana (cute, yet functional to keep flyaway hairs out of your face and sunburn away from your hairline)
  • Sunglasses: Bring a pair you won’t mind getting dirty, scratched up, or lost.
  • A small snack: Be it a bag of almonds, a granola bar, pretzels, or an apple, bring something to hold you over when you don’t want to wait in line for overpriced food or lose your spot in the crowd.
  • A hard copy of your ticket

Multi-Day Festival

This type of festival can be broken down into two categories: the multi-day festival where you leave and return the following day(s) or the multi-day festival where you are essentially camping out for a while. If you know you’ll be crashing at home between festival days, use my “One-Day Festival” advice with one little tweak—use the first day as a sort of trial-run. If something doesn’t work on day one, make an adjustment for day two (and so on!).

If you’re going to be camping, plan ahead with your group to know who is bringing what. Pack light, be practical, and make sure you cover all your bases by thinking long-term. The earlier you can accept that you’re going to be dirty, sweaty, and smelly for a few days, the better! In the meantime, read on for some tips on what to wear and what to bring:

What To Wear: Comfort is going to be key here. Nobody at a multi-day festival is there to look glamorous—pack layers and consider bringing things you won’t mind re-wearing. Of course, you’ll need to bring options and changes to cover a few days. Be prepared for any disasters that will render your clothes too dirty/wet to be worn comfortably again. This is a great opportunity to wear comfortable running shorts, jean shorts, or fabric shorts (even lightweight fabric pants!) and a variety of loose-fitting tank tops with bandeaus or bralettes. For evenings, bring a lightweight jacket, hoodie, or flannel.

Pro-tip: For real, swimsuits make for great underwear and bras. Plus, you can always shed layers and rock a cute swim top as part of your outfit.

Shoes: Think mud-proof, beer-proof, rain-proof… or you know, at the very least, pick a pair of shoes that you’ve already broken in and you don’t mind getting dirty or wet. Bonus points if that pair of shoes dries quickly. Double bonus points if they’re you’re ugliest, oldest pair of shoes but you know they’ll be comfortable so you pick them anyway.

Must Brings: If you’ll be sticking with one stage, bring a blanket and stake out a spot. If you know there will be trees, consider bringing a hammock. For your campground, bring a canopy for shade, a tarp to put under your tent, a cooler with tons of ice, a portable grill for making legit meals yourself, a number of gallons of water (for drinking, toothbrushing, and cleaning up), and a flag to mark your area from afar. As far as what to carry on you, think hygiene, hydration, and comfort.

  • Bring literally everything listed above!
  • Portable phone charger: It’s worth the extra weight in your bag to have a way to charge your phone on the go
  • Basic toiletries, such as: tons of sunblock, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, dry shampoo, baby wipes for makeshift showers, makeup wipes to clean your face
  • Backup clothes: Trust me, there’s nothing worse than wet clothes. Especially socks. And if you’re stuck in one place for a few days? Backup clothes are a must.
  • Light jacket for evenings/rain/etc.
  • First Aid Kit and Advil (because you never know)
  • Plastic baggies for your phone (to protect it from dust, dirt, rain, beer, etc)
  • Flashlight: For those nighttime potty runs and just general being able to find your way around at night without wasting your phone’s battery.
  • Portable speakers and portable games (i.e. frisbee, bags)—for in-between bands and hanging out at your campsite, because why not?

Do you have any summer concert/festival tips? Any items you can’t attend a festival without? Share them with us in the comments below or tweet us @litdarling!

Image Credit: Eva Rinaldi

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