Not everyone can pinpoint the exact moment everything changed, but I can: Outside Lands 2014, approximately 11:15am on Saturday. I had just turned 27 and was at a brunch pre-game at a friend’s place. My host was pulling a breakfast quiche out of the oven as her live-in boyfriend tightened a knee brace around his leg; a friend was applying SPF 50 to anything not covered by a floppy sun hat; others were stuffing extra sweaters into their backpacks. Another party-goer was popping Advil -- preventatively.
As I chased a multivitamin with water, I thought to myself: “This is it. It’s all over for us.”
I was wrong -- we had the time of our lives. I have never felt more prepared, more comfortable, and more superior to the shivering crop-top wearing amateurs that made up most of the festival’s crowds. After five years of Outside Lands attendance, we had finally figured out exactly what we needed to survive -- no, thrive -- during three days in Golden Gate Park. Follow my lead with these 12 essential tips if you no longer have the superhero resiliency of youth on your side:
1. A plan
There's a lot to do and see at Outside Lands, but don’t make the rookie/early 20s mistake of spending all day on the hunt for a friend who has lost sense of space and time in the Heineken Dome. (Though, it is worth a spin around this igloo-like dancehall -- especially if there's no line and it’s chilly outside.) Set a meeting place and pick your priorities instead of running from stage to stage -- be an adult and leisurely peruse the smaller stages, experiences, and interactive tents on the periphery of the main stages.
Check out the Gastro Stage -- which pairs music and San Francisco’s food scene -- to hang with a more mature crowd that’s more interested in soaking in culture than pushing and shoving to the front.
2. Braces and athletic tape
Oh, you thought arch support and knee braces were for marathon runners? Well, I ask you, what is a marathon if not three days of festivaling? My personal go-to is KT tape, which offers nice support and pain relief for my arthritic knees, without appearing bulky under jeans.
A pair of gels a day will run you $30 for the weekend, and it will be the best $30 you spend all year.
4. An outfit you can pop a squat in
Once you have to get naked in a porta-potty, you’ll never again choose that cute jumper over the more practical mid-length skirt.
5. A shenis
“What is a shenis?” you ask. Um, only woman’s greatest invention since the tampon. There are lots of variations of what is essentially a funnel that allows women to pee standing up, but reviews note that the pStyle helps to direct the stream away from you and will not overflow. I didn’t have one of these in 2014 (my only misstep), but I sure wish I had as I crouched bare assed in the woods, attempting to time my squat with the beat dropping for maximum discretion.
Has there ever been sufficient amounts of toilet paper at any festival in the history of music? The answer is no. You’re almost 30. Bring your own.
7. SPF 30 and above
By now you should know SF fog is not nature’s sunblock, and anything under SPF 15 might as well be milk.
Scarves, sweaters, vests, shawls that double as blankets -- you can never have enough in this schizophrenic climate. Of course, you never thought you’d be the type to tie a parka around your waist, but that’s just the sort of reality mature adults come to terms with. Yes, you have become your parents, but your parents are not shivering down Fulton St.
Outside Lands has essentially gone paper-less thanks to Paypal’s sponsorship, but the bacon-wrapped hot dog vendors just outside the park (you know, the ones that will save your life and a couple bucks?) are still a cash economy.
10. Hand warmers
While some diehards might be willing to give their right hand to see LCD Soundsystem live, we prefer to keep our extremities safe from hypothermia.
You’re a grown-ass individual with a job and a 401K -- you don’t score drugs in crowded places; you procure them ahead of time and pack them alongside your vitamins and aspirin. And calm down, everyone. I’m obviously talking about legal drugs that will make your time more enjoyable, like Zyrtec-D for your allergies and medical marijuana for your inflammation and lower back pain.
By now you should be an expert at sneaking booze into Outside Lands, but if you’re not here are four ways to do it. Not noted in that list are two of my favorite methods: the baguette method, which involves stuffing a bottle into French bread... and then eating said French bread with the nice triple cream brie you’re obviously also carrying with you. The second method requires wrapping mini alcohol bottles into a large, messy top bun, conveniently still somehow in style. This works best if you are blessed with voluminous mermaid hair and don’t mind feeling like an undercover Chiquita banana.
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