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Music Festivals: Your Survival Guide

Make the best of this summer’s music festivals in Ottawa!

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Bluesfest has started in Ottawa – and if you’re one of the 300 000 people that will be visiting Lebreton Flats in the next week – or you plan to attend any other of Ottawa’s numerous music festivals this summer – here are five tips to come out on the other side with lots of great memories and your health intact.

1. Sunscreen + Other Sun Protection

Wearing sunscreen is imperative. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Make sure you use one with high SPF, 15 is the minimum SPF to consider on a day with a high UV index. It’s also important to keep in mind that putting on a healthy layer of sunscreen first thing in the morning won’t keep you protected all day long. Bring a small tube with you and reapply several times a day. If you’re the forgetful kind, set a reminder on your phone: you’ll be thankful  the next day. Wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses, keep your shoulders covered and seek shade in between concerts. If you’re still not convinced, watch this revealing video on the importance of sunscreen. Sunburns decrease your body’s ability to adjust its inner thermostat and reduce the skin’s ability to cool itself making you more vulnerable to suffer from heat exhaustion.

2. Water

On a daily basis, you should drink 2-3 litres of water to stay well hydrated (beer, coffee, and energy drinks do not count). If you’re going to stand in the sun for an extended period, you will want to increase your intake of water, as your body will be expelling water at a higher rate. Most festivals will have water stations to refill your water bottle. Heat-related injuries are amongst the most common reasons people will visit the medics tent at music festivals. Know and recognize the signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Cramps or muscle tightening, usually in the legs and abdomen
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, weakness, and feeling faint
  • Skin that is more red, pale or moist than usual
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Irritable, bizarre or aggressive behaviour

Dipping a bandana in water and wearing it on your head or around your neck will help keep you cool as well.

3. Shoes

Music festivals, comfort is more important than fashion as you will be on your feet for most of the day. Avoid high heels and shoes with little support such as espadrilles, flip-flops, thin sandals or flats that do not have proper arch support. Your best bet for a comfortable day is a running shoe or a European style cork sandal (such as a Birkenstock sandal) that will provide you with appropriate arch support and cushioning to withstand hours upon hours of standing. Consider orthotics if you have trouble finding shoes that are suited to your foot.

4. Posture

Speaking of standing – prepare for lots of it. Most people, when standing still, will lock their knees in an extended position. This creates unnecessary stress on the knees and low back and will most likely cause pain within a couple hours. When standing for long periods, it is preferable to bend your knees slightly, tucking in your pelvis to engage your abdominal muscles. It will remove the unnecessary stress on your low back and you will be able to stand still for much longer periods.

Carrying a water bottle, sunscreen, snacks and your camera can get heavy. Chose a well-fitted backpack over a large purse and take if off regularly to give your upper back a rest.

Give your legs a rest between shows and find a place where you can sit. If sitting on the ground is out of the question, several models of camping chairs or folding tripods are easy to carry.

5. Snacks

While most music festivals will provide you with a wide variety of food choices, few are on the healthy side. Most offerings will have a high fat, salt or sugar content. While that may be fine in moderation, or as a special treat, fast food shouldn’t constitute your entire food intake over a weekend at the music festival. Nuts, trail mix, dry and fresh fruits, protein bars, kale chips and vegetable pieces pack easily and will keep you from making questionable food decisions when faced with a growling stomach. Even a couple of unpeeled hard-boiled eggs or a quinoa salad will keep fresh for a few hours in a cool bag. Pack a frozen water bottle to keep your food fresh and safe to consume – it will double as a cooling instrument when the sun gets too much, and as an extra beverage once it thaws out. Avoid packing foods that could spoil such as sandwiches or salads with mayonnaise or cheese snacks.   

Planning is the name of the game. Pack everything you’ll need the day before the music festival to decrease the stress the morning of. Enjoy the great shows, the sun, the festive ambiance, creating great memories with friends and keeping your health intact.  And lastly, don’t be afraid to unplug and live in the moment – you’ll never watch that video anyway.

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