December 06, 2021

Ten Days of Gift Guides: For the Festival Lover

Ten Days of Gift Guides: For the Festival Lover

By Marcelo Quarantotto

Enhance the trip: a gift guide for festival lovers.

My first music festival didn’t happen until a third of the way into my 30s. An old college friend and her partner had purchased a bundle of tickets to Floyd Yoga Jam and offered me one of their spots for free.

Lucky lady, am I — but also apprehensive. 

I wanted to bring supplies that served as a contingency plan, should my social anxiety and aversion to both the drug-fueled “wook” culture and the ubiquitous cultural appropriation infamously present at certain music festivals prompt me to isolate: a six-person Eureka tent, a Remington Noiseless manual typewriter, a nylon-string Goya folk guitar, and a handful of literary novels … a veritable camping cathedral, all to myself.

My brand of maximalism (which I won’t endeavor to recommend) might be unorthodox for the typical festival goer. But by going above and beyond, it's easier for me to identify and pare down to a few essentials to get for any of your friends or family who enjoy Dionysian weekends set the thud of thick bass and sidechained compression, so that they may stay connected, hydrated, and comfortable — setting the stage for an even better experience.

Stay Hydrated: GRAYL GeoPress water purifier

A couple of years back, my friend and semi-underground musical anomaly known as Gull invited me to co-direct and shoot a documentary (now in post production) on how the ecological makeup and cross-cultural exchanges of Thailand have shaped the region’s culture and music. 

Despite the nine or so vaccinations I took as a shot in the arm or in pill form, the risk of catching some sort of uncomfortable or even life-altering sickness still existed — most specifically via mosquitos and unclean water.

My partner being the thrifty, hydration-focused, and environmentally concerned maven that they are, suggested I look into some form of mobile water filtration. The best buy I could find, considering the intersection of price and efficacy, is the GRAYL GeoPress water purifier.

As the name suggests, the GRAYL goes beyond simple filtration and actually cleanses the water you’re about to put into your body, such as removing 99.99+ present of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa on top of already filtering heavy metals (lead, chromium, Metallica), chemicals, and particulates through an easy-to-replace filter. The Holy GRAYL, indeed.

Another member of our production crew also brought a GRAYL. Our respective water caddies were almost always clipped to us. Instead of needing to purchase multiple plastic bottles of water every day, we were could fill up at any faucet along the 5-week journey for free without any concern of “paying for it later” by opting to sleep in the hostel toilet stall or contributing to one of the great plastic trash heaps riddled throughout our aching planet. 

Since that production wrapped, the GRAYL has been a repeat adventure companion for me (and my parter) whether I’m out filming, at a festival, hiking, camping, or simply dry on spring water at home. I try not to fuck with tap water for reasons you’re welcome to research, and usually drink water we collect from an underground aquifer south of where we live in Richmond, Virginia, but sometimes it’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m thirsty, and the city water is shitty water.

Stay in the Clear: EarPeace Music Pro earplugs

As a musician who pushes LOUD guitar and other sound machines with (a LOT) of pedals through a mid-1970s silverface Fender Twin Reverb, I’m equally as interested in playing music festivals and iconic venues like the 9:30 Club as I am interested in not getting tinnitus, the body’s reaction after going past your noise level threshold experienced as a ringing in your ears while external sounds seem to be muffled as if covered by a heavy blanket. (These effects can be temporary or … not.)

As someone with ADHD who needs greater stimulation to receive the same levels of dopamine as the average person, however, I’ve a deep-seated proclivity for taking in whatever’s going on around me as raw, unfiltered, fidelitous as available. This presents a quandary. 

On top of that, there’s the not-yet-dead tendency (an American thing? a pseudo-masculine thing?) to disparage protecting oneself (or just opting to harm oneself less) as “weak.” I’m reminded, as an example, of skateboarders who scoff at wearing a helmet and pads despite all evidence that it’s potentially a disastrous idea to not armor up.

Thankfully, EarPeace has precision-developed a variety of earplugs for music with the audiophile in mind. The Music Pro models, for example, are made with patented filter technology that are tuned so that the internal membrane reduces feedback noise while actually helping balance the sounds of your favorite live artists into something that’s not only not muffled but better clarified. Bonkers.

Soooo, maybe let’s not play chicken with our ability to hear (whether a musician or not)? And it makes even less sense to run that gamble when EarPeace makes earplugs that are sound-enhancing, comfortable, and discrete. (Especially when you can buy the Music Pro or Music Original plugs today for about $40 and $30, respectively.)

Stay Powered and Unplugged: Powkey portable power station and solar generator

I know, I know, I know — one great feature of tenting for a few days is ditching devices and immersing oneself in an environment detached from rat race and news cycle stressors. And while I won’t discredit that beautiful notion one iota, the reality is that many people aren’t arriving to a festival with the ability to entirely untether. Some folks work on the road or have family considerations to stay in touch over, and it’s critical to be able to reach out or be reached without much delay (reception permitting).

Sure, many festivals have charging stations, but who wants to stand there getting a juice boost while Moses Sumney is melting hearts? Or anxiously listen to a performance, wondering if someone took their new iPhone Omega Prime (or whatever) when they left their device at the station to get closer to the action? 

Having autonomous access to an unplugged power source like a pocket-sized battery bank solves a lot of this, but their small capacity provides other limitations. Like when you run out of power on the bank, for instance, and you’re back to being at the mercy of the charging station gauntlet. That’s why I recommend the Powkey portable power station and solar panel bundle, which boasts a massive 42,000 mAh (milliampere per hour) capacity, four USB ports, two three-prong AC outputs, one DC output, and a power input that can charge the power station via wall outlet or the packaged solar panel — the latter being the obvious choice when you’re pitching a tent under the open sky.

Having this sort of power bank opens up other possibilities as well. While filming in Thailand, for example, we had three of these among our crew. We used them to charge batteries and power live performance rigs, and were again and again surprised by how much we could supply electricity to and for how long while barely making a dent in the station’s overall capacity. 

So even if your festival lover doesn’t need their phone until they GPS away from the grounds, being able to keep a camera going or power anything that works on a 12V current (laptop, guitar amplifier, campsite lights, electric skillet, boombox, bug zapper, pocket-sized mobile charger, Hitachi Magic Wand, etc.) can enhance any trip.

(And, as an honorable mention under unplugged “power,” consider throwing a shaker bottle and some protein powder their way as well. Sometimes shit’s just too fun to stop and wait in a long food truck line but calorie intake at a music festival is essential.)

Stay Dry: Manduka PROlite yoga mat, towel and Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo backpack

I almost don’t go anywhere for more than a day without these three items: my Manduka Pro PROlite yoga mat, my Manduka yoga towel, and my Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo backpack.

My latest music festival experience was no exception. And given that I tore my right knee’s lateral collateral ligament when I stopped to play at a skatepark while en route to the festivities, tucked away in the lush mountains of Southwest Virginia, the items proved useful for more than their intended function.

The person you’re shopping for doesn’t have to do yoga to benefit from the proprietary gear.  Sometimes you just want to sit down for a moment to take a break or roll a smoke, or roll with a bloke, and keep your ass dry.

Festival grounds can get super wet — whether from rain, morning dew, or spilled brew — if not soggy. Unless that’s what they’re after (and believe me I don’t begrudge a mud bath or a precipitous dance party), having a good quality yoga mat like the Manduka PROlite is a pro move. It’s applications go far beyond stretching and sweating. 

A yoga towel surpasses a regular towel because it’s both highly absorbent and compact. I use mine to get dry following a shower, sure, but also to wrap my lion’s mane of curls afterward, to dry sweat, as extra ground coverage if me and a few friends all want to sit, to wear around my shoulders if it gets chilly and my jacket is back at the tent, or to take a nap in the grass without feeling all the little insects pincers protesting where I chose to do so. 

I mention Manduka here because it’s what I have, but also because of their reputation for high quality products that they back with a lifetime guarantee.

Also due to the company’s long-standing reputation (among bike punks and messengers), I have the Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo backpack, which is a phenomenally spacious and weather-resistant roll top that I use to tote all of the above items (and more). Even the yoga mat can be secured on the exterior seatbelt netting that’s designed to hold a helmet, and is also useful to externally carry wet clothes (or the yoga towel after a particularly muddy show) while everything inside stays dry.

Like I mentioned earlier, I high-key ruined a ligament in my knee (now replaced with a cadaver’s tendon) while on my way to a yoga and music festival, and wasn’t able to do yoga or dance to the music. But being able to portage a small cache of useful items in a weatherproof backpack meant I could still enjoy the weekend while navigating the festival on crutches, and with minimal back and forth to my camping cathedral. 

I hope that your festival fiend friend, family member, or foe doesn’t have any dramatic injuries on their future forays, but equipping them with these gifts will ensure that they can improvise and maneuver to accommodate many activities — unforeseen or planned in advance — and stay in the flow, no matter what foments.

A multidisciplinary storyteller, Marcelo Quarantotto, creates a better future by telling stories about a better now. You can follow them/her on their website, Instagram or Twitter
Marcelo Quarantotto

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