This is part 3 of our Vibes Life Essential Guide to Coachella , for the full guide click here
Camping at Coachella? Do it right!
Camping at a festival is a right of passage for any adult let alone teenager. There’s not a festival campsite in the world that doesn’t have that lawless, “Mad Max” feel about it. A place where spontaneous riots/parties erupt out of nowhere and everybody you meet is a potential “new friend for life”. Festival stripes are awarded to those who elegantly (and painlessly) navigate through 6 inches of mud to their camping spot. Armed with nothing but a rickety sack trolly, loaded to breaking point with 3 crates of beer, 2 sleeping bags, 1 tent and a pot noodle.
As much as I can laugh about it now, I’ve been close to tears stuck in some festival queue’s. Especially one that has moved 6 inches in 3 hours. Stood there buckling under the weight of my rucksack and beer crates, I’ve often had to go to my “very happy place” to prevent a “very public emotional breakdown”. It’s never nice to see a grown man cry, so imagine our delight when we arrived at our first Coachella to find you park right next to where you sleep.
If Carlsberg did camping!
We’re not sure where it started or where it originates from, all we know, is that it completely melted our brains when we saw the concept in the flesh. Try to picture if you can, rows of cars that act like a barrier, and hiding behind the privacy of those cars in the back to back 10x30ft! camping spots you’ll find some of the most pimped out supercamps you’ve ever seen in your life!
Contrary to every bleeding festival in the UK, gazebos ARE allowed. In fairness here, they’re verging on a necessity. During the day they save you from the searing desert sun and by night they provide that bit of shelter from those valley sand storms when you just need to get a bit of shut eye.
Wait! What did you say?
I’m joking of course, you didn’t come here to sleep, you came here to party! Don’t panic! So did the guy with a cocktail blender, turntables and a swimming pool. Party you shall! Those with reputable social skills can attend a different camp party every night, with different guests to meet, and a different drinking game to badly lose at.
Watch out for the Infamous Sunday night “blow out” partys. A final purge to squeeze every last drop of vibes from the weekend while making sure no “consumables” go to waste. One year me and Keeley got caught up in “the mother” of all blow out parties instigated by our neighbours for the weekend who happened to be the legendary festival/lifestyle/music bloggers Betty & Kora. A night that ended with me dropping lyrics to a crowd of chella ravers from the top deck of the Bugaloo bus. You can read their take on that crazy night in the post: Betty and Kora Love Keeley and Pete the Tale of The Bugaloo Blow Out
We’re Gonna Rock Down to Electric 8th Avenue
The camping lots at Coachella are split into streets and avenues, just take a walk around any of the lots after the sun goes down to see how much effort people have put into creating the ultimate three day chill space. We once saw a camp with a full PA system and dancefloor, but it didn’t end there. The gazebo next to it was a full on chill out space with beanbags, backdrops and mood lighting. It’s probably one of the best uses of a “camping space” we’ve ever seen! To really make the most of car camping go in a big group. Let’s say you have six cars, thats six camping spots! Realistically you’ll probably only need two for everyone’s tents, so thats four empty camping spots where you can create the hareem of your dreams.
But where do people sleep if they genuinely DO want to sleep? Good question. Some people sleep in tents, some people sleep in trucks, some sleep in hammocks, and others just, well sleep wherever they fall. It’s all about priorities, and whats more important? Hosting the greatest after party of the whole weekend? or catching up on some much needed rest? If your a vibes chaser like us I think I already know your answer to that question.
This couldn’t be any cooler, could it?
Well actually! if your planning to travel before and after the festival, get a mini camper which is just inside the (10×30) permitted size by Coachella. Sleep in that and make use of your whole camping spot behind to create your ultimate day club/afterparty venue. The van we hire from Escape has everything needed for weekend survival; bed, cooker, sink and even a fridge. The only preparation required is to go to Walmart and fill three trollies with booze, munch and glowsticks.
You get to lock yourself away from the sand storms at night which pretty much guarantees you a better sleep than a wind battered tent. Draw your curtains and you’ve got full privacy should you need it. No! Not for that, you filthy swines, save that for a hotel room.
Sold! Put me in the rowdiest Coachella camping lot of them all.
Ok then, you’re gonna have to plan your arrival time. Consider exactly which lot you want to be in. The festival opens a whole day early to car campers. When the gates open at 9am on Thursday, lots begin to fill in numerical order. The higher number lot the further you will be from the main stages. If you plan on being in lots 1-8 you need to be there dead on when it officially opens but be prepared, this is where you will face Longest queues and the toughest searches.
Ok, turn up when it opens, surely thats common sense?
If only it was that simple. The problem is it’s almost impossible to arrive at 9am on the dot! This is an issue because the staff are not about to just let you start queuing on the surrounding residential roads, and will likely turn you away. This means arrive too early, and you could find yourself curb crawling around the polo ground until they start to let cars in. Arrive too late, and you have no alternative but to join a slow spirit crushing convoy of cars inching their way towards the entrance. Complete catch 22 really.
On a bad year it can take anything up to 4 and a half hours to go from arrival to your camping spot. If like us, long waits give you major anxiety, you can try turning up later where you find a lighter queue. You’ll have a slightly longer stroll to the main stages but you could also be nearer the activities tent, silent disco and general store.
In our opinion late afternoon is one of the best times to turn up, the initial surge of festival goers are already inside and the 9-5ers are still catching up on a weeks worth of e-mails. Previously we’ve turned up anywhere between 3 to 6pm, and have rarely waited on the roads outside. On more than one occasion we’ve rolled straight off the interstate, and into the field where car’s line up to be searched.
Right, I know when to arrive. What happens when I get there?
When you arrive you’ll be directed into a queue consisting of about 10-15 (maybe more)rows of cars. The atmosphere is off the scale, an obvious mix of anticipation and excitement. All this fuelled by spontaneous games of slap the bag and beer pong tournaments, that automatically move with the queue. Coachella encourage car sharing through their “Carpoolchella” competition. The rules state that you must have a minimum of four in a vehicle and display the word “carpoolchella” (Full rules here). You’ll spot a lot of these as you arrive. With a grand prize of lifetime Coachella passes, you’ll see why people go “balls out” to decorate their car. A sure way to get noticed by the prize giving secret spotters.
The search is akin to that of a military checkpoint. After being instructed to get out of your vehicle and open all doors, you get the pleasure of watching every inch of your ride get fingered by the search team. It may seem intrusive, but we live in a time where public safety at music events cannot be overlooked. A quick body search and you are welcomed through, given your welcome pack and of course a high five.
Tell Me More, I NEED DETAILS!!
Once you’ve parked and unpacked you can start exploring. The general store is a yearly fixture. Aside from supplying every essential you could ever need, it’s a massively entertaining place to visit in the early hours. Some how the most care free, lively and intoxicated ravers wind up wandering aimlessly around the store. From talking to shelves to dancing to an imaginary beat, you’ll see it all here. For avid people watchers this is literally heaven.
If you love festival merch, don’t miss out on the vintage Coachella T-shirt sale on the Thursday! Rummage through boxes and boxes of past designs but make sure you’re quick cause sizes go fast.
We love the activities tent! Why? because there’s always something going on. DJ’s, talent contests, bingo, twister, and pinball tournaments occur daily. Add dance battles, giveaways, giant Jenga, or connect four, and you’ve got a non stop source of campsite entertainment.
Perched on the same small hill you’ll also find the the famers market, vintage clothes stall and food vendors galore. Directly opposite that there are games of dodgeball, human fusball, and three legged races. Creative minds should look out for the arts & craft tent. Usually open until midday you can customise clothes, make masks or just listen to the DJ.
Although located in the Californian desert Coachella 2014 hosted its own snow ball fight (Snowchella) on the Thursday night! It will be hard to top that for “random sights we’ve seen on our travels”
You’re going to miss 3 days in the Gym, But……
For those who treat their body as a temple there is daily pilates and yoga. We’re often found dragging our stupidly hungover selfs to the early morning sessions. It’s a good way to start the day for those in desperate need of an energy rebalance. Followed by a fresh smoothie or some coconut water from one of the many organic food stalls. This whole area becomes a gathering spot for those wounded from the previous night. It’s also a quality place to go if you just wanna lie back with your sunglasses on and catch rays.
Keeley and I after many years finally got around to getting our hair did on site. I had a full trim up in a pop up barbers, whilst Keeley got some festival braids.
Any last things to look out for?
In the past JBL have had some pretty cool charging stations located within the campground. Complete with games consoles, Air conditioning, hammocks and chair swings they are perfect for afternoon chill outs. . Check the Coachella website in March, for the final list of onsite amenities. Be sure to check back on the Coachella website then to see exactly whats on offer.
Last but not least we cannot forget the all important silent disco. It isn’t always silent you know. Infact right up until the time of Coachella’s music curfew, it has heavyweight DJ’s banging tunes from its mighty soundsystem. It’s a great place to warm up before heading off to see the closing acts. Rave the night away under the illuminated dome, after the main stages are done. The crowd don headphones, leaving the Coachella valley residents blissfully unaware as the party rolls on.
Coachella is yours to explore
There is one bit of advice I think every person that has attended a Coachella would give. Get out there and explore! You’ll be spoilt for things to see and do. Time slips away so easily when getting stuck into campsite antics, that its very easy to lose track. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your watch to avoid missing some good sets. So you could say there’s fair bit going on. We could write a book on the things we’ve seen, but there’s only one way to feel the real vibes. Get on your mingling shoes and see it for yourself.
Got any Coachella tips? Leave them in the comments below, and we will try check them out this year.
Thats all from this part of the guide. Next in line we have the all important, Part 4 Daily Vibes – The Main Event. Keep em peeled for when it drops, and subscribe to be the first to read it when it does.