Coachella is here: What to bring and how to prepare to make the most of music festivals

Coachella starts this weekend and it's the start of a very hot music festival season. These live events are great opportunities to make new friends and build a community, but there are a few things folks should know and keep in mind to keep themselves safe so they can have the most amount of fun possible.

"[Festivals] can be great experiences with your friends," said Erinn Robinson, the director of communication of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, RAINN. "But it's really important to balance that with safety so that everybody can have a good time."

Things can easily go awry when you aren't prepared or fully know what you're getting yourself into. These festivals are all day events, sometimes longer, and Robinson said it's important to listen to your body and make sure you're giving it what it needs so you can enjoy the experience as much as possible.

"The number one safety tip is to be in your body," said Robinson. "Be aware of how you are feeling and that really starts with and making sure that you are eating [and] making sure that you are hydrated."

Robinson recommends bringing snacks, a refillable water bottle and electrolyte packs, like ones from Liquid IV or other brands.

And she suggests creating a meeting spot in case phones aren't working and people get separated from their group.

Here are some more tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time at festivals this year.

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Fans of US rapper Latto wait for the start of her performance on the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2023. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
Fans of US rapper Latto wait for the start of her performance on the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2023. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

What should you bring?

Emma Kapotes, an online creator whose content focuses on raves and festivals, said the number one thing she brings is her hydration pack, which is essentially like a water bottle but in a bag form. Her other festival essential is an external battery.

Earbuds or headphones that block out sound are another essential folks should pack to protect their ears, according to the University of Texas Health Austin.

"If you know you are going to be exposed to loud noise, or noise for a prolonged amount of time, you should wear hearing protection to prevent hearing loss," states a blog post from the university.

This is because how loud these events can get. A safe sound is considered to be anything under 80 decibels, dB, but music festivals range from 90 to 100 dB.

Some of the other everyday essential Kapotes brings are:

  • Sunscreen

  • Sunglasses

  • Wet wipes

Drugs at the festival

Folks should never feel pressured or forced into doing drugs they wouldn't normally take just because they're at a festival. Kapotes says a big misonception about music festivals is that everyone goes there just to get high and that isn't the case for many people. People go to enjoy the music completely sober.

However, those who do choose to partake need to take some extra precautions.

  • Test the substances: People need to know what they're taking to make sure the substances aren't laced with anything unknown, like fentanyl.

  • Tell your friends: Both Kapotes and Robinson also advise letting someone in the group know what you're taking or planning to take. It can also be written down on a piece of paper and kept in a pocket in case folks are separated from friends who know what they took. So if there is a medical emergency, a paramedic will have a better understanding on how to deal with the situation.

  • Assign a sitter: Kapotes says having at least one trip sitter, a sober person who looks after others while they trip on drugs, is also important in case something does go wrong. "I've been in scenarios too, where I've been the sober individual and had to deal with medical emergencies," said Kapotes. "Thankfully [I] was in the right frame of mind to deal with that."

Sexual assault or harassment at the festival

It's important for people at festivals to be mindful of what is going on around them. Robinson says that while people can build communities and make friends in these spaces, people can still be harassed.

She says the harassment at these events could potentially range from inappropriate comments and physical contact to physical assaults.

She recommends people first check in with themselves and says that if they're with a group of people or a person that makes them feel unsafe, then their first priority should be to get away and remove themselves from the situation.

"That way you can you can get to a place where you can process what's happened and decide what you want to do," said Robinson.

Robinson advises folks who feel comfortable to look for crowd control, who are "hired by festivals to go through the crowd, keep an eye on people for either overdoses or other things that may be happening and keep everybody safe."

People can also go to a medic tent.

Should bystanders step in if they see someone getting harassed at a festival?

Robinson said those who feel comfortable with stepping in to stop someone from being harassed should do it. But first, they should use the CARE Method.

  • Create a distraction- Distract the individual who is harassing another person

  • Ask Directly- Ask the person at risk what they need. RAINN's website recommends asking the following:  “Do you need help?”, “Would you like me to stay with you?” or “Would you like to get out of here and go somewhere safe?”

  • Rally others- Ask others to help you with the situation

  • Extend support- Ask the person if they're ok in the moment. But, Robinson states the gravity of a situation may not truly hit someone until later. So she recommends checking in on them after the event too depending on the severity.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What to bring to a 2024 music festival: Water, chargers, test strips