As the old RV rolled in front of my friend’s Seattle home, I picked up my bags and tried to contain my excitement for the weekend to come: a four-day musical extravaganza complete with carefully plotted outfits, a strategically packed cooler and a backpack full of wine. In the larger group of University of Washington students, there were three of us graduates – old hats at the music festival game and looking forward to a break from our nine-to-fives. We had done our due diligence: requested time off, mapped out our meals, drawn up a schedule, listened studiously to our playlists.
In short, we were ready.
A caravan of cars began to pull in behind the aptly named Jamboree and suddenly, after months of Facebook planning and judicious budgeting, we were off – careening down I-90, Snapchatting each other and blasting the Sasquatch setlist from the weathered speakers. We were excited, this much was evident. But as we rolled into the campgrounds teeming with beer bongs and chanting frat boys in short shorts, we stared, dumbfounded, and realized that we were something else, too.
Amid a group of energetic college kids, the three of us stood like a very small, very responsible island in a sea of people who could drink all day and wake up the next morning without a hangover.
We huddled in our hastily constructed tent that night and asked what any newly minted Millennial adult would ask: what now?! We had just recognized that we had paid good money to sleep in a field surrounded by spirited youths, endless cries of chug! and an unrelentingly blazing sun with no access to running water, Wi-Fi or a way to chill our $10 pinot grigio (because we’re adults).
After our initial panic, though, we took a sip (read: huge gulp) of our ten dollar wine and came up with a comprehensive plan on how to survive a music festival as an adult. Let my being here to write this serve as a testament to its success:
1. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
After my ten-day backpacking trip comprised entirely of freeze-dried meals, I will never again underestimate the power and necessity of good food. Luckily, my friends were on the same page as me – we ate like kings: hummus, pita and vegetables, dark chocolate bars, rice bowls, burritos and a cornucopia of fruit and trail mix made our meals enjoyable and luxurious. Just a touch of planning and preparing makes for an exponentially better festival experience. Main thing to remember: pack more than you think you need. Trust me on that one.
2. Shower Before You Go
Okay, that one’s obvious, but I’m using it as a jumping off point to talk about festival hygiene. We left on a Thursday and came back on a Tuesday, so one shower is supposed to last for five days. Yikes. To offset this, we brought a ton of baby wipes, which we diligently used each morning and night, extra water to douse ourselves in on day three and a lowered set of expectations for our inevitable Honey Bucket experience. That last one’s important. Remember: breathe through your mouth in there!
3. Midday Naps Are Essential
One upsetting thing to discover on the first night was how grouchy and tired we got once the clock struck eleven. No matter how much we ate and wore to stave off the hanger and cool desert nights, we had forgotten that we were adults now, which meant that, by law, we couldn’t stay energetic for more than eight hours at a time. The next day, we took a nap in the balmy sun, outstretched on the Gorge’s spanning green lawn. We nervously waited for the grouch to set in later that night, but were overjoyed to find that our fervent planning had worked: we had never jammed harder than we did that night for M83.
4. Take The Freebies (And Know When To Treat Yo Self)
At music festivals, free swag abounds. By day two the grounds are swarming with temporary tattoos, matching bandanas and cheap sunnies. As young adults, we took all the free swag that we could pack into our day bags. As working adults, we decided to take a closer look at the places behind the free stuff. This led to one of the best discoveries of the festival: Kola House, a popup bar with terraced views of one of the big stages, a large cozy couch and refreshing cocktails. While the college kid of years past would once have run faster than you could say thirteen dollar drinks, the working women that we were knew that a cool cocktail was a fair price to pay for spectacular views and seating that wouldn’t have us picking dead grass off ourselves all weekend long.
5. Plan Outfits With Both Comfort And Style In Mind
Tevas are cool, guys. Even though festivals are half for the music and half to show off to your Instagram followers how well you dress, there is a way to outfit yourself in a way that can appease both your fanbase and your creaky adult body. By sticking with an athleisure style slant and a comfortable pair of strappy sandals, I managed to dress myself for four days of sweaty weather and stay comfortable. Really. Staples like sporty skorts, flowy kimonos and jersey dresses kept my style game strong and my rapidly deteriorating adult body happy.
Pro tip: bring a big comfy robe. Your campmates will laugh, your unfrozen limbs will thank you.
6. Do Your Research, Stick To Your Guns
Know who you want to see, when they’re preforming and if you want to mosh in the pit or sway on the lawn. When I attended festivals in college, I was more concerned with appeasing the larger group than being confident in seeing my favorite band even if nobody else wanted to. Not this time, kids. Before we left, the three of us plotted out which bands we were set on seeing, where we wanted to be for the show, when we would take naps. Though we were part of a bigger group, we were comfortable breaking off into small trios or pairs to see who we came there to see.
7. Have Fun!
Come on, you saw this one coming.
That last morning, as we packed up our tent and heard the then familiar chants of chug! and the perplexingly energetic youths still at it with their drinking games, we wondered if we had outgrown Sasquatch, camping in open fields, not showering for four straight days. We wondered if we’d be back next year. We wondered if this was the last time we’d be packing up our trusty tent, preparing to pull an all-nighter for the drive back to Seattle later that night.
But as we danced and napped and swayed that day we knew that it wouldn’t be our last time in that dry field overlooking sweeping hills and deep gullies. Armed with a bounty of food, a refuge of couches and feet strapped with Tevas, we knew we could ‘Squatch again.