My Coachella Camping Experience

coachella camping experience

coachella camping experience

As we entered the main gates I made a mental note to scratch the Coachella camping experience off my bucket list.

I ducked my head out the window and breathed in the warm valley air, surrounded by a sea of other cars. We’d arrived to my first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, what would ultimately become one of the most unforgettable trips of my life.

My brother sat behind the wheel, systematically easing his foot off the gas pedal as we made the crawl through the security line. Sitting in the passenger seat was his girlfriend, a former east coast girl who had yet to experience what this sweltering weekend in early April had to offer. Sitting in the back alongside me was my girlfriend of one year. It’s one thing to attend one of the greatest music festivals, it’s entirely different to attend with the person you love the most. As she smiled at me, I couldn’t help but wonder if that endearment would fade due to the lack of sleep and excessive heat.

Just beyond the security line was the lusciously green polo field I remembered so vividly from the previous year. As Coachella takes place across two weekends, parts of the sprawling field in the distance were discolored and worn down. We’d found our campsites.

When our car rolled into our designated spot I got my first sense of how much space the four of us would be sharing for three days — it wasn’t much. It wasn’t long before the other hundreds of cars filed in around us, marring any sight of the entrance. We were packed in like sardines, a bunch of 20-something kids on vacation with little more to do than drink beer and amass rival sunburns.

After proving less than helpful when it came to setting up our tent, I grabbed for the cooler and found a mercifully shady spot to set it. We pulled out a round of beers and toasted to the Indio sun — standing next to my girlfriend as the light crested over my shoulder, there was virtually nowhere else and nobody I’d rather be with in that moment.

After the first night of Coachella, we limped our way back to the tent — our legs worn down from marathon sessions of pretending we knew how to dance. The Coachella grounds are even more beautiful at night. Huge columns of light stretched forever upwards into the western sky, a chorus of stars twinkling around them. After spending some time admiring the view, exhausted, I reined in for the night. Despite the pulsating bass just outside the tent flaps, I managed to grab a few hours of sleep.

Camping at Coachella is not for the faint of heart as waking with the sun in the early morning hours is certainly no picnic. My best advice for any first-timer is to spend those hours getting yourself hydrated. You’re essentially facing 16 hours on your feet the moment you leave your campsite.

Ultimately my favorite memory from camping at Coachella was leaving the festival crowds behind to return to the campsite with my girlfriend. It looked like a zombie apocalypse had struck only hours earlier; so many deserted campsites around us. With Bon Iver playing audibly in the distance, it was just me and the person I loved the most in the world.

Tyler Thursby is the head writer for Travel Hymns, a travel blog dedicated to music festivals.

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