How to Survive an Epic Coachella Weekend

The Coachella Music Festival is the sweatiest, sandiest, most exhausting battle you will ever fight. But you will miss every moment of it once it's over. Going to Coachella is like going to a whole other planet, your wristband serving as your passport. I am telling you right now, the desert is your greatest opponent. It will make your skin burn, it will make your head feel dizzy and it will make you sweat like you never have before. Trust me, girls who "don't sweat," you will. So if Coachella is such a rough experience, why am I going back for more? Because it's epic! And if you employ a few tricks, you'll be able to dodge some of Coachella's biggest obstacles. This advice is geared towards those who are car camping, but there's also a lot of helpful info for people who aren't. The following information is what you won't find in your Welcome Guide.

Considerations in the week prior to Coachella:

  • Have Collins pack food for you. If you talk to them ASAP and provide them with all the ID numbers of the people in your group, Collins will pack you a cooler full of food like sandwich fixings, bagels, chips, etc. I'd suggest you bring some snacks to supplement what they give you. A Costco run to get Gatorade, bottled water and granola bars is a smart idea. There are tons of food trucks and stands for food inside the venue, as well as a Farmer's Market and other food sources outside by the car camping area. Unless you get a free voucher for those places, I'd stay away because they are insanely overpriced and the lines are long.
  • Rent camping gear from On the Loose (OTL). The Claremont Colleges' outdoors club allows students to rent camping gear for free. Head over to their location in the Outdoor Education Center at Pomona ASAP to get yours before they have all been rented out.
  • Bring clothes you're comfortable in. There will be people covered in elaborate paint designs. There will be people wearing fur vests and boots. They are all crazy. Wear materials that you feel comfortable sweating in - like cotton. Wear shoes that won't give you blisters if your feet are sweating. Girls, no matter what they say about Coachella fashion, don't wear your nicest dresses. You will have sweat and grass stains all over them by the end of the day. This is a promise. Speaking of sweat, bring remedies, whether it is spandex or Gold Bond.
  • Leave Claremont early. It is about an hour and a half to get to Indio, and once you're there you will wait in line for another hour and a half to get into the parking lot, which opens at 9:00 a.m. You want to get in early enough to be able to set up your camp and head over to the venue before it opens at 11 a.m. Honestly, there's no such thing as leaving too early on Friday morning. Some people even leave Thursday night and camp out in the area.
  • Arrive in a caravan of cars. Figure out who you want to camp next to and meet at a gas station or restaurant in Indio and drive in together from there. The order of camping spots goes according to the order of the procession of cars. It is way more fun if you are camping in a big group than if you are all spread out, so make sure to organize that ahead of time.
  • Shade, shade, shade. Make sure you have enough shade when you're camping. You will be dying for a comfortable space, and by Coachella standards, that means shade and only shade. Bring a tarp or some form of canopy other than a tent. During the day, the tent with be too stuffy and hot to hang out in.
  • Bring more than one set of keys to your car, if possible. You will want to keep your valuables inside your car, and people in your group will want to have access to the car at inopportune moments. Some people hide their keys under their tires or in other places, but I'd rather stay on the safe side.
  • Pack toilet paper. The porta potties run out often and if you're car camping, they are your only option.

Tips for when you're at Coachella:

  • Stay hydrated. The sun is your biggest enemy. As someone with fair skin and a hereditary predisposition to fainting, I cannot stress this enough. You won't be able to bring water into the venue (they probably suspect it's all vodka), but there are water fountains available to fill up your bottle inside. You can also buy water bottles in the venue, but again, they are insanely overpriced. My suggestion is to hydrate as much as possible while out at your car, then bring an empty bottle with you into the venue.
  • Don't forget to eat. It sounds ridiculous, but it happens so often. Coachella is a world with no schedule other than the band lineup. They don't schedule "lunch time" into your daily activities, and you'll be so amped on music or something else, that you will forget. And the moment you realize you forgot to eat is five minutes before you pass out. Between the desert sun and the copious amounts of ecstasy, Coachella has seen many people pass out. Don't let that be you. With the exception of a few health conditions, passing out is completely preventable if you stay hydrated and eat throughout the day.
  • Give in to consumerism. Earlier I mentioned food vouchers... You will quickly notice the juxtaposition between the "Almost Famous" lifestyle and the exorbitant amount of consumerism at Coachella. Even the most anti-consumerism Coachella-goers find themselves herded into the traps of giant companies because the benefits of participating in their little marketing ploys are far greater than the costs. For example, last year, State Farm had a tent set up in the car camping lot where you could get rides on a golf cart to and from the venue if you signed up to receive promotional info. They would also enter you into a lottery to receive free meal or general store vouchers, and the odds were highly in your favor. The State Farm tent was a Coachella game changer, to say the least.
  • Use a group texting app to communicate with friends. It is really handy to be able to communicate with your whole group at once, to plan a place to meet up or to find out if a set being played across the venue is worth leaving the one you're already at. My favorite thing about the group text was the sentimental messages sent on the way home, departing notes from friends who had just shared an epic weekend. The most memorable sentiments from last year's group text: "When I die, I want my ashes to be buried at Coachella." As it says in the Welcome Guide, Coachella is promoting GroupMe as the app to use, and Voxer is also an option.
  • Be smart with your phone. The cell reception in the venue is often shotty because there are just so many people. Also, there are various charging stations in the venue and in the parking lots, but there is usually a long line for them. To beat this, change your settings so you don't waste so much battery life. If you have a smartphone, turn off your 3G/4G and your cellular data. Also, bring a car charger.
  • Shower at night. In the car camping lots, there are shower trailers that aren't so bad if you know what to do. First of all, wear a bathing suit and flip flops. Second of all, don't be a dummy like everyone else and try to shower in the morning. You will spend hours waiting in line just to get extremely sweaty right away. Try to shower at sunset, when it's still light out but the temperature is cooler. There will be absolutely no line at all, and you won't feel gross immediately after showering.

Finally, I have two more pieces of advice that I think are most important (other than stay hydrated!).

  • Have the experience you paid for. Go to see the artists that you bought your ticket to see, regardless of what your friends are going to. For the really big sets, like the Black Keys or Radiohead, it is probably best to have some buddy system in place. But for the most part, be smart and do what you want to do. Right away you will realize how many personal needs you have (you drank so much water and now you have to pee; you're dying of thirst; you are starving for food; you need to go take a nap back at the campsite; you're going to punch someone if you have to listen to any more dubstep). Listen to those needs.
  • Don't do anything you don't want to. Contrary to popular belief, Coachella is not a good place to try something new. If you've never done something before, the best place to do it is not in a crowd of hundreds of people with the desert sun beating on you as you jump up and down. Those who know me would attest to the fact that I am never one to shy away from a party. But last year, Coachella was the most fun weekend of my semester, and it was absolutely my most sober weekend. Don't think that you're not getting the full experience if you're not doing some kind of crazy substance. Coachella is a world entirely of its own, and the way to make the most of it is to just do you.

#ClaremontCoachella2012!