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Survival Guide: Cold-Weather Festivals

posted by Rose Mardit on February 10, 2012

Thick crowds. Searing temperatures. Strange (and often skimpy) getups. Too-bright sunlight. Skin sticky with sweat. Anyone who has been to a summer festival knows these images well, and most will say, with conviction, that any discomfort is well worth it once their favorite band or DJ takes the stage.

But winter festivals? A whole different animal. Most people don't have experience going to outdoor festivals during the colder months, because there simply aren't very many around. So whether you've never seen snow and need a crash course in winter survival, or you grew up dealing with the cold and want a reminder, here are a few tips for staying comfortable when the temperatures drop, from a Detroit native and winter-weather veteran.

For the Body
One word: layers. A heavy jacket is a good place to start (look for one with Primaloft or down-fill insulation), but don't think it will be enough to keep the chill out. Layers will make all the difference. Also, pack waterproofs if you are expecting snow; at the very least, buy a jacket with a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating.

For the Feet
Thin socks aren't going to cut it. Invest in a few pairs of heavier-knit ones (I like Smartwools, because they also wick moisture) to keep your toes toasty. Be sure to have waterproof snow boots as well.

For the Extremities
Don't forget your other extremities! Wear insulated gloves or mittens, and keep the ears covered. Hand and toe warmers are also great to bring along, as they are cheap, portable, and very effective. Follow the instructions on the packet (it's usually as simple as pinching the bag and rubbing it in for a few minutes) and drop them inside your boots or gloves/mittens.

For the Skin
Cold air is rough on skin, particularly if it's windy, which means a lip treatment and lotion will be helpful. Aquaphor is the best product out there for chapped or cracked lips, and a simple moisturizer should be sufficient to combat any dry skin at the end of the day. Though the number on the thermometer might be low, it is still possible to get sunburnt, so slap on some UV protection every few hours to the exposed parts of your body.

Do not let fears of the cold keep you from enjoying an outdoor festival this season. It is easy to stay warm if you winterize your suitcase properly - it'll mean more chances to experience music in new ways. Remember to take breaks from the cold when possible by heading indoors for a few minutes by the fire with a mug of cocoa or cider. See you on the mountain!