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11 must-have Coachella essentials to pack for a weekend in the desert

Photo of Chloe Caldwell
Are you prepared for Coachella?

Are you prepared for Coachella?

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Going to Coachella for the first time was a wondrous yet rude awakening. After catching a serious case of FOMO during weekend one, my best friend and I decided to buy last-minute tickets for weekend two. Did we have a place to stay or anything to wear? No. Were we ready to dance to Ariana Grande and Bad Bunny? Absolutely. 

While the spontaneity of it all made it that much more memorable, I definitely learned the hard way about what you need to survive (and thrive) during a weekend in the desert. From the fluctuating temperatures and wind to the strict security protocols, there are a few items that can make your festival experience run smoother. 

What to bring to Coachella 2023

A reliable portable charger 


There’s a reason they call Coachella the “Influencer Olympics.” Snapping pictures left and right is part of the fun, and the world deserves to see your perfectly curated festival ‘fit. However, documenting your style and favorite music acts, not to mention trying to get ahold of friends you lost in the crowd, will drain your phone battery quickly. Avoid the “low battery” notification panic attack with the help of this Anker Portable Charger. It provides over two full charges so you’ll have plenty of juice to last you a full day (recharge it in the mornings if needed). Plus, it’s compact and easy to fit in your bag or even in your pocket.

A roomy fanny pack 


Not only are belt bags a trending fashion accessory, but they’re also great for carrying your belongings hands-free. This option from Amazon (which is similar to the highly coveted lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag but with a smaller price tag) features an adjustable strap and a zipper pocket. So you can keep the essentials — like your Airbnb key, phone, sunglasses, and credit card — safely organized. Plus, fanny packs fit within the festival's safety guidelines, as no purses larger than 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches are permitted. 

A functional mini backpack 


If you prefer to wear your stuff on your back rather than on your hip, go with this mini backpack by the popular luggage brand, CALPAK. It will give you a little extra room to carry larger items like a jacket and water bottle while still following the Coachella guidelines — backpacks must be no larger than 18 inches x 13 inches. x 8.5 inches. It comes in seven different colors, from neutrals to bold hues, so you’re sure to find one that fits your festival aesthetic. 

A protective yet stylish face covering 

I had heard about the wind and dust at Coachella, but I definitely underestimated it. When the dust kicks up, whether it’s from the wind or thousands of stomping feet, you’ll want to have a face mask or bandana handy. Otherwise, you might be left with a sore throat. (Although, after belting lyrics of your favorite songs all weekend, there’s no guarantee you’ll avoid it.) You might as well make an accessory out of it and go with this sparkling rhinestone fringe option from Etsy. Available in an array of colors, you can get one to match every outfit. 

Long-lasting sunscreen 

My biggest mistake at Coachella was not wearing enough sunscreen. I don’t typically burn easily, but the desert sun is blazing and bright. Pack a high-quality sunscreen that will protect your skin from hours spent in Indio’s harsh UV rays. EltaMD’s lightweight yet hydrating SPF 50+ formula, made with zinc oxide and other vegan ingredients, resists sweat for up to 80 minutes while protecting the skin from sun damage. The best part is that its sheer finish works well for all skin tones, leaving no trace of white cast or residue. 

A light jacket

Don’t let the daytime desert heat fool you. It gets significantly colder once the sun goes down. But between dancing to the headlining performances and being surrounded by crowds of people (hello, body heat), all you really need is a light jacket to fight off the wind chill and nightly temperature drop. I made the mistake of thinking I could tough it out and was instead forced to purchase an overpriced poncho from a festival vendor. This hooded rib sweatshirt (also available in Zara men’s styles) is easy to roll up in your bag or tie around your waist during the day, and its neutral color options go with just about any outfit.

Hydrating electrolyte drink mix

With the fun of festivals comes the inevitable morning headaches, and Coachella’s dust and heat only exacerbate the issue. No matter how much water you drink between cocktails, standing up to the dry desert climate is no easy feat. Come prepared with Liquid IV to combat the effects of dehydration (trust me, I wish I did). Infused with non-GMO electrolytes and five essential vitamins, these nifty hydration sticks will help you recover before heading back out to the Empire Polo Club. 

A pair of comfy sneakers 

Please learn from my mistakes and know that no outfit is worth aching feet and ankles. I literally walked 10 miles a day at Coachella and ended up with some gnarly blisters and cuts. Sure, I looked cute in my chunky combat boots, but the scar I still have on my shin certainly didn’t. Instead, look for sneakers that don’t sacrifice style, such as the classic Nike Air Force 1. On-trend in both women’s and men’s fashion, this no-fail option is a staple in every closet — music festival or not. Durable and supportive, this iconic sneaker will get your feet through Coachella in one piece. Tip: If you’re worried about your shoes getting dirty (and they will), go with the sleek black or bold red color options. 

A refillable plastic water bottle 

A risk of attending Coachella is getting dehydrated. That’s not surprising considering it’s during the thick of spring in the California desert, you’re burning energy dancing, and you’re probably drinking more alcohol and less water than on your average weekend (no judgment!). Fortunately, you’re allowed to bring an empty water bottle to the festival as long as it’s not glass or metal. This plastic pouch from REI makes an excellent alternative and fits easily into any bag when it’s empty and rolled up. It holds up to 34 ounces of liquid and is BPA-, BPS-, and phthalate-free.

Oodles of hand sanitizer 

It’s no secret that Coachella can get dirty, and with thousands of people in one place, warding off unwanted germs comes with some added challenges. Pack these mini hand sanitizers and pass them out to your festival squad as party favors — they will appreciate you for it. Hand sanitizer is especially useful for cleansing your hands before indulging in greasy festival finger food — make sure to try the pizza and street tacos.

Bonus: Hands-free camera sunglasses

OK, so this one isn’t a necessity, but it will make documenting your Coachella experience easier, not to mention more fun. The Ray-Ban Stories sunglasses feature the brand’s classic, sharp style but with mini cameras inside the frame. The camera connects to your phone, so you can record videos hands-free and from your own point of view. In other words, you can enjoy the moment rather than pulling out your phone to record snippets of your favorite music sets. While these are certainly a splurge, they’re one you can use for many more festivals and events to come.