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The outdoor summer festival survival guide

How to prepare for a long, hot day outdoors at one of the upcoming summer festivals in B.C.
 AlisaRut Getty Images
How to pack for a summer festival, from bug spray to cooler bags.

There's still a bit of summer left in Vancouver and multiple festivals, from the Granville Promenade (happening weekly starting August 6) to PNE concerts to the Roots and Blues Festival in Salmon Arm, are scheduled for August.

(Although how much Vancouverites actually enjoy summer events like the Honda Celebration of Lights is debatable.)

Prepping for an outdoor festival requires some planning, from sun protection to ensuring you have a large cooler and the comfiest outdoor blankets packed.

What am I allowed to bring to an outdoor festival?

Well, that depends.

Always start with the event's website or social media page and look for "Plan your trip" or "FAQ" because that is where what is allowed (and not allowed) will be listed. From there, get started on a packing list.

Some venues are pretty restrictive.

For example, the PNE's Summer Nights concert series will be back in full swing in late August. PNE venues like the Agrodome, Forum, Coliseum and Ampitheatre have a pretty strict list of prohibited items, including chapstick (huh?), pacifiers (that seems extreme) and hula hoops (has anyone ever tried?).

There are other restrictions on coolers, folding chairs and food and drink. That's how they move so many corn dogs and lemonades.

Each event organizer and venue has different rules, so always check ahead. Although it seems unlikely that security at any event would confiscate a lip gloss, do leave the hula hoop at home.

What's the best sun shade for outdoor festivals?

Sport-brella with carrying case

Sportbrella

Who it's ideal for: A small group that wants a respite from the sun. This sport umbrella is like a half tent.

Why we're endorsing it: Carrying case, easy set-up, 50 SPF protection, heavy centre pole prevents tipping and can be anchored in windy weather.

Where it could use improvements: This is 8' tall, which might block people sitting behind it.

Size/weight/dimensions: 8’ tall.

Price (subject to change): $59.99 (on sale) at Amazon.

Coleman Compact Shade Shelter

Coleman shade

Who it's ideal for: In the summer, these pop-up tens dot parks and beaches because they offer shade, a napping area and a safe place to store bags.

Why we're endorsing it: Brand trust, zips up for complete privacy, has hanging pockets inside for storage and stakes for set up. If the ground is too hard for pegs, there are small bags that can be filled with sand as an anchor.

Where it could use improvements: Set up and take down might take some getting used to.

Size/weight/dimensions: 40 square feet.

Price (subject to change): $105.89 at Amazon.

Kelsyus Premium Canopy Chair

Canopy chair

Who it's ideal for: Festivals that allow for chairs, but not tents.

Why we're endorsing it: It's sun shade (and if the weather changes, a bit of rain protection) for one.

Where it could use improvements: Supports up to 250 pounds max.

Size/weight/dimensions: ‎37"L x 24"W x 58"H

Price (subject to change): On sale for $81.95 on Amazon.

Consonant sunscreen

There's no skimping on sunscreen – find our guide to the 10 best Canadian sunscreens, a list of the best SPF protection on the market.

What is the best type of cooler to bring to a festival?

Thermos Element5 Cooler Bag

Thermos Element5

Who it's ideal for: If rolling coolers are not permitted, or there's only space for a soft cooler bag, this Thermos bag has a molded liner that won't collapse when carrying.

Why we're endorsing it: Brand trust, durable, multiple size options.

Where it could use improvements: Cans should go into the cooler cold with thin or loose ice packs.

Size/weight/dimensions: Six, 12 or 24 can bags.

Price (subject to change): Six can bag, $24.99 at Amazon.

Hydro Flask Carry Out Soft Basic Cooler

Hydro Flask

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who needs a hands-free way to carry their beverages.

Why we're endorsing it: Cross-body and top handles, sleek design, stays cold for up to 24 hours, fits 38 cans. 

Where it could use improvements: When filled to capacity, could be heavy to carry for long periods of time.

Size/weight/dimensions: 38 cans (without ice).

Price (subject to change): $99.98 at Well.ca.

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Rolling Cooler

Titan Deep freeze

Who it's ideal for: If there's a trek from parking or transit to the venue, count on wheels to do that work. This Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Rolling Cooler is for serious libations: it has a radiant heat barrier, top flap for easy access, exterior drink holders, two wheels, multiple pockets and a pull handle.

Why we're endorsing it: Convenience, user reviews (keeps ice cold up to three days!) and price.

Where it could use improvements:  Limited stock.

Size/weight/dimensions: 60 litre capacity.

Price (subject to change): $144.51 at Amazon.

What is the best blanket for an outdoor festival?

Sunny Life Wash Me Picnic Blanket

Sunny Life blanket

Who it's ideal for: Festival-goers who want a blanket that has the basics (water resistant and easy to wipe down) but is still cute enough for a "don't you have FOMO" selfie.

Why we're endorsing it: Price, machine washable, design.

Where it could use improvements: Should not go in dryer.

Size/weight/dimensions: 69” x55" (unrolled).

Price (subject to change): On sale for $79 at Well.ca.

L.L. Bean Waterproof Outdoor Blanket

LL Bean blanket

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants a nice big blanket (fits four adults) made for outdoor lounging.

Why we're endorsing it: Brand trust, construction, waterproof, machine wash and dry, carrying case.

Where it could use improvements: One pattern available on sale.

Size/weight/dimensions: 80" x 72".

Price (subject to change): On sale for $97 at L.L. Bean.

"Porta potties freak me out" essentials

Long days outdoors means that a trip to a public washroom (hopefully with a flush toilet) is inevitable. Here's how to make that process slightly less disgusting.

JR watkins water free soap

Hand sanitizer is great for germs, but it doesn't make hands feel clean. Hand soap and drier or paper towels often run out at large events, which is when this JR Watkins no-rinse foaming hand cleanser comes in handy. $5.01 at iHerb.

A note on iHerb: shipping takes longer than it would on other sites like Amazon, but it is reliable and stocked with lots of K-beauty and other prominent brands you won't find anywhere else in Canada.

Cottonelle wipes

Although we wouldn't always recommend flushable wipes because of the environmental impact, spending hours and hours outdoors means preparing for every type of emergency. Don't ever worry about an empty toilet paper roll again – throw a pack of these Cottonelle flushable wet wipes are much more gentle than the alternative. $3.92 at Amazon.

mosquito stickers

Finally, don't let pesky mosquitoes ruin a good time – there are multiple mosquito repellent options, from wearable stickers to heavy duty spray.

For more outdoor items for summer, be sure to check out our Amazon Storefront.