The Coachella Valley can really take it’s toll on a person. During the first weekend of Desert Trip 2016, we witnessed plenty of unprepared concert-goers who did not realize the days would boil around 100ºF and the nights would drop into the low 60’s. We’ve attended numerous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festivals in Indio, California, and knew what to expect. If you are planning to attend the second weekend of Desert Trip, here are some tips that can help you, especially if you are car, tent or RV camping.
What to wear on your body
Pack for the cold, dress for the heat. Think of the sun as the on/off switch to the heat for Coachella Valley. It’s a desert, so daytime and nighttime temperatures are wildly different. The second the sun rises, its heat feels like a blast furnace even in the shade. But on the flip side, as soon as the sun goes down, it gets awfully chilly. Layers are key, but you won’t need serious winter gear like gloves and scarves. Make a plan to visit your campsite to grab a hoodie when temperatures start dropping later in the evening. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you might miss your favorite band because you’re too cold.
Also, this is a desert, so the amount of sand and dust that gets kicked up is pretty awful for all human. Bring a bandana or a scarf to wrap around your face to prevent the grit from getting in your nose, mouth and ears. Sunglasses are a must and will protect your eyes from the dust and also the sun.
Be sure to religiously apply sunblock to avoid sun-damaged skin. You don’t want to spend days two and three in pain because you failed to take care of yourself on day one.
What to wear on your feet
Sandals/flip-flops/thongs/jandals are the typical footwear of choice since it’s so hot out. However, I also pack a pair of solid walking shoes that I change into around dinnertime. It’s the desert, so your feet are exposed to sand and the sun all day, which can rub them the wrong way. Changing shoes helps give them a break from the elements and also keeps them warm after the sun goes down. Don’t forget to also pack another pair of flip-flops to use in the shower stalls and wool socks for when you go to sleep.
Sleep like a champ
The green stuff on the ground may resemble grass, but it is closer to concrete when you are lying on it. Make sure you pack something to soften what will become your bed for a few nights. Some options include foam tiles, a camping mat or a blow-up mattress with a battery- or car-powered pump. Make sure to also pack sheets, a blanket or a sleeping bag to keep you warm during the cold nights.
Whether you should opt for a tent versus cabana/pop-up seems to be debatable among attendees. Cabanas fit several people and are more spacious than tents. If you are traveling with a group, this might be the way to go. Tara and I, however, always bring a tent since we go as a couple. We might meet up with friends during the day, but at night it’s just us sleeping at our spot (and sometimes a random passed-out person sleeps by our tires). A two-person tent is easy to set up, manage and break down. The downside to a tent is that they do not breathe well in the hot sun. Unless you have a pop-up tent above your sleeping tent that can give you shade, the heat from the sun will probably wake you up at 8 a.m. or earlier every morning.
Hanging out at your site
Your car camping spot will be your home for 4-5 days, so make it comfortable. Bring something to relax on, like folding chairs, a self-standing hammock, or beanbag chairs. To help you determine what might be best, consider what you’ll be doing while you hang out there (drinking, socializing, eating, playing cards) and also, obviously, what can fit into your car. A small table or folding card table will also be useful, especially if you want to play flip cup or beer pong.
Are you wanting to cheap out and not invest in a cabana? Don’t sweat it – we usually don’t either (It’s not cost effect for us to buy and use for only a weekend). Rather, sun shelters are a quarter of the price and pack up the same size as a large tent in case you opt to bring it home with you.
Additionally, if you need to stay connected and want to take pictures, you have to juice your phone. There are a lot of charging stations around the camp grounds, but sometimes it’s better to bring your own portable charger.
Protecting your stuff
Are people good or bad? Theft may exist in the campgrounds, but in the ten years I’ve camped at Coachella, I haven’t heard of it happening to anyone around us. Leaving drinks out in the open and unattended may seem like an invitation to some, though, so keep that in mind before you leave your campsite. If you are worried about theft, lock anything of value in your trunk.
Protecting your valuables extends beyond theft and, oftentimes, people simply lose their stuff. Tara lost her phone one year and it didn’t turn up at lost and found. However, the amount of items turned in to lost and found is staggering – from smartphones to wallets. To help reduce your chances of losing something of value, I recommend either investing in convertible travel pants/shorts that have some zippered pockets or, if you like short shorts, opt for a travel neck pouch, fanny pack,or small bag. Here’s an option for keeping your beer safe and on you at all times.
Drinking and eating
Every year, the drive into the campground is lined with glass bottles. Glass isn’t permitted inside the camping area, so those who come ill-prepared often rush to consume what they brought or give it away to others waiting in the long, slow-moving security lines. Instead of being forced to give away your three cases of Corona glass bottles, do some research and buy only canned beer (This is a list of top ten favorite canned beers, Coachella tested and approved.) or boxed wine. It’s seriously in your best interest. Waking up and walking on smashed glass in the campsite is not what you want to experience (No kegs, glass, glass containers, wine glasses, beer bottles, etc. Alcohol in glass containers is not allowed and cannot be transferred into plastic containers or any other non-glass container. — taken from Desert Trip’s FAQ.).
Besides bringing glass, the second biggest mistake campers make is not bringing enough water. I recommend bringing a minimum of three gallons of water per person per day. This will allow you to drink comfortably, cook, brush your teeth, wash your hands and not have to worry about trying to find clean water (there are refill stations sprinkled around the camp area and inside the venue) or buying over-priced bottles inside the venue. Bring a Nalgene and have it attached to your hip, and always keep it full. Sunstroke, bloody noses, dehydration and more can all be alleviated by taking care of yourself and staying hydrated. (The dry heat will wick your sweat away before you even know it, so pack sports drinks or some Pedialyte powder or EmergenC to keep your electrolytes at reasonable levels).
You’ll definitely need a cooler or two if you are bringing in your own food and beer, so pack them full with ice before arriving. Ice is in high demand in the campground (and overpriced if you’re forced to buy it there – $10 for 20lbs), so bring as much as you can, however you can. Bags of frozen fruit or vegetables are a good alternative to ice since they can help keep your things cold and you can just eat them as they thaw out. Dry ice is a solid option, though you should be careful when handling it.
You are the master of your meals, so you can bring your own food or buy from vendors if you are camping (there’s a line of them at the campground in addition to tons inside the venue). Some great news for those wanting to cook for themselves: the campgrounds allow propane grills. Whether you need your morning cup of joe (for easy coffee, use instant coffee packets) or feel the need to sear a burger, bringing a grill will give you those options.
In the past, we didn’t bring a grill and probably won’t in the future since we arrive from out of state and prefer not to invest in one for three days. Instead, we pre-cook as much as possible beforehand, such as pasta, rice, quinoa — then we just add canned or fresh toppings when we’re ready to eat. Other easy options are making PB&J sandwiches or burritos. Since eating room-temperature food gets old fast, we do like to mix it up and either buy food from the vendors or go into town and eat at a restaurant. (Free shuttles leave from Companion Parking lot 2, south east corner and run Friday till Sunday from 7am-1pm). Whatever you do, make sure you don’t forget plastic utensils, cups, plates/bowls and napkins or paper towels.
You might get hungry between meals, so load up on filling snacks. Ideally, you should stock up on dry, non-perishable goods that can take insanely hot temperatures. A bag of chips (and salsa!) is an easy choice, but also pack high-protein snacks, like nuts, trail mix and multigrain granola bars. These will help keep you full and your energy high as you move around the venue, and they could double as breakfast as well.
The shower facilities have steadily improved over the years, but they are still not the Ritz. Pack a college-style toiletry bag that has all that you’ll need (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) so you’re not juggling all your stuff in the stall. Don’t forget those shower shoes either. Instead of beach towels, pack quick-dry towels. They will be your friend and usually dry by the time you walk back to your campsite. The shower lines sometimes got long, but not Coachella long (~30 minutes at peak times). That’s what you get included in your car camping pass, but Super Duper Showers are also offered. For $10 (per shower, no discount for the weekend), you can have nice vanity mirrors, electricity, hair dryers, toiletries. They were touting some nice amenities but we were swayed enough to try them out.
As for toilets, there are plenty of port-a-potties to choose from, but skip those in lieu of the air-conditioned bathrooms. Additionally, always have backup toilet paper on you just in case they haven’t restocked. And if you value your behind, bring baby wipes to keep yourself fresh and clean (five days of 1-ply toilet paper is tantamount to torture). Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you may want to also bring baby powder and Vaseline. Also, Tara recommends a glow stick for the ladies, experiencing a port-a-pottie in the dark can be…unpleasant without a light.
The dust and sand will probably make you feel constantly dirty, but resist the urge to shower multiple times a day, as it won’t take long to feel gross again. Instead, stay clean with hand sanitizer and face wipes. You can even give yourself a dry shower with hand wipes. Don’t forget to re-apply sunblock as you wipe yourself clean.
Bring a bike (don’t forget a lock!) or walk. While bikes are not allowed inside the venue, they make it easy to get around the large campground. It is possible to be as far away as a mile from the venue’s gates if you if show up late. Going back and forth between your car and the venue’s entrance will become a chore if you have walk that far multiple times a day.
Not interested in peddling yourself? There are pedicabs everywhere. $10 per person will get you anywhere, so bring those Hamiltons. Of course, remember to tip your driver, too.
Inside the venue
Differing from Coachella, Desert Trip is a seated show in parts and friendly to those with GA tickets who want to sit. You can bring in a low-back chair and enjoy the shows seated. We purchased low-back chairs only to discover they were allowing all types of folding chairs inside (note: not sure if this will change for weekend two).
Your golden ticket
Last, but not least, make sure you don’t forget your wristband and camping pass. If you’re flying, there is no shame in putting it on before you leave your house.