Thursday, August 11, 2011

tour essentials: a list (part I)

ARE YOU PLANNING on going on tour for the first time? Are you wondering what to bring? Have you been on tour before but always forget what you might need on the road? I have! This prompted me to compile a list of items that are almost always going to become essential at some point on your journey. In no particular order, here they are:

Sleeping bag, pillow and towel

The pillow will be your best friend in the van, whether it's for sitting on, separating the seat space between you and a fellow passenger, screaming into, or actually sleeping. The sleeping bag will be great if, say, the band you're traveling with has a penchant for camping in cold climates. Additional uses: when you have to share a hotel bed with someone or sleep on the floor of a punk house in San Diego. (Check, check.) You want your own towel because you might be sneaking 6 people into a hotel room that has 2 towels. You do the math.

Anti-bacterial hand lotion

Bring 3 or 4 bottles of this stuff, and it still won't be enough.

Dryer sheets

Before you embark, pack a ziplock bag full of the best smelling dryer sheets you can find. You will be amazed at how quickly your bag starts to smell on tour. Slowly distributing them into your luggage over the course of the trip should keep things somewhat civil in there.

Dry shampoo

Guess what? 99% of time time, you won't be able to have a shower every single day on tour. Dry shampoo such as this one will make your hair a least appear clean as you roll into a new city after the aforementioned camping sojourn.

Flat shoes and a pair of sneakers

Hahah! Hahahah!!! Those of you who know me can stop laughing now. I didn't bring one pair of heels with me on my first tour, and it was the best decision I've ever made. After the first night of dragging gear in and out of the venue, I didn't even miss my heels. At the last minute, I swapped a pair of uncomfortable oxfords for classic Chuck Taylors, and thank heavens for that, because can you imagine yours truly running around a campsite in the Black Hills of South Dakota in vintage ankle boots? (Don't answer that.)

A journal, fashion magazines, your laptop with DVDs, and an iPod

Keep a tour diary because it's amazing how quickly you will forget everything that happens. Bring fashion mags because they will remind you that there are other clothes out there than the 10 dresses, 3 tops, and one pair of jeans you brought. Bring your laptop with DVDs so that you can watch episodes of Daria or Twin Peaks in the van and keep up with style blogs. Bring an iPod so you can have an excuse for ignoring boy banter or save yourself from hearing podcasts about cults, sports, Nazis and the epidemic of Tasmanian devil face tumors. (Don't click that if you want to eat another meal this week.)


When will you ever be back in Grand Rapids, Michigan or see another sunset in Montana? When you get home, you're going to want photographic evidence of some of places you went and things that you did. I have no recollection of actually being at Mount Rushmore, but I have photos so I know it happened! Plus, you can show tour photos to your children some day to prove to them that you used to be kind of hip.

Earplugs, duct tape and a sleep mask

I'm not suggesting you start moonlighting as Dexter, but these items are particularly necessary. Earplugs are great for the gigs at night and help drown out snoring band members. Duct tape is oddly useful for anything and everything, such as repairing a broken camera case. Oh yeah, and for the merch table. You know, the job you might have been hired to do. Sleep masks might make you look like a princess, but when you get 3 hours of sleep and have a 10 hour drive ahead of you, blocking out the glaring sun is a complete luxury and seemingly turns the van into a five-star hotel.

Sunglasses. At least 3 pairs.

You will have dark circles. Deal with it. Bring a classic pair of Ray-Bans, giant oversized obnoxious ones, and maybe a heart-shaped pair just for fun, you know!? You're on tour, it's not like you have to be business casual. Bonus: Cashiers in random Whole Foods locations will say things like "I see someone's having a rock star moment today!" (This happened to me on a particularly hungover day.)

A small mirror, hair cutting scissors, and a small bottle of your favorite perfume

The mirror is great for applying makeup in the van, which you will be doing a lot. Scissors to trim bangs, if yours are anything like mine and grow at an abnormally fast rate. You can tuck the perfume in your bag and hide a multitude of unshowered sins.

Clothing for every time zone/weather pattern and underwear for every day

Obviously it depends where and what time of year you go, but tights are a must. Layering is key. If you're going coast to coast, you can bet that you will need warm weather clothes in Southern California and a coat at all times apart from the summer in the Northeast. Laundry is sort of a luxury on tour, so I packed enough underwear for every single day. Excessive? Perhaps. But I never had to worry about finding a laundromat at 2am in rural Iowa.


What's that? You guys are stopping for McRibs again? Cool, I'll just chill here and eat my almonds, gluten free cereal, and granola bars.

Diva Cup

If there are any dudes reading this, please stop now. Ladies, I cannot praise the Diva Cup enough. It's completely safe and you can leave it in for 10 hours at a time. Buy this and you will never look back. Pinky swear.


People are nicer to you when you wear lipstick. FACT. I once had an argument with another feminist about this revelation of mine, but she lost. It's the truest truth there is.

PHEW THAT WAS LONG. I hope this list helps you when you are preparing for your next tour adventure. Am I forgetting anything? What would you want to bring with you on tour?

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