On The Road: Tour Packing Essentials For Artists
Here eighteen different touring artists share their best tips and advice for tour packing, including the must-have essentials, and the more frivolous items you’re better off leaving behind.
Guest post from Bandsintown for Artists
18 Bandsintown artists weigh in with their best tips for tour packing essentials – what they never leave home without, what they must bring, and what should be left behind. Plus, there are some great international touring tips.
BRENDAN HILL FROM BLUES TRAVELER – 270,393 TRACKERS
Block Out The Sound
I always bring soft Earplugs. You never know when you can grab a quick nap backstage or on the bus.
CANDLEBOX – 209,809 TRACKERS
T-Shirts & Slippers!
Plenty of t-shirts is a must, I’m a sweaty singer! Most important is a pair of slippers. Nothing better than warm feet on a cold bus. Perfect for throwing on when you gotta run into a hotel lobby to use the bathroom, gas station for a late night ice cream run, or outside the bus for an early morning cigarette with your coffee!
Leave Your Favorite Shirts Behind
Leave all the extra socks at home – they’re so cheap nowadays, don’t bother bringing 50 pairs! Touring Europe? Pack light and don’t be afraid to leave your favorite shirts at home, you don’t want them stolen!
GANGSTAGRASS – 23K TRACKERS (DAN WHITENER THE BANJO PLAYER /VOCALS IN GANGSTAGRASS)
Baby Wipes Are Not Just For Babies
Bring baby wipes. You never know. You never know. Bring ’em.
REVA DEVITO – 6,572 TRACKERS
Journal the Journey
My writing journal for the moments on the road when I can stay productive with tracks I’m working on.
Bring vitamin C packets to try and stay healthy, and the Tata Harper resurfacing mask is necessary to stay looking fresh, even though you’re tired as hell. LAVENDER OIL! I put some on my pillow at bedtime and it really helps knock me out!
SARAH PEACOCK – 2,504 TRACKERS
Be A Boss From The Road
I always make sure to bring my laptop also along with an external hard drive so I can continue being a boss in the back office while on the road.
Take The Not-so-obvious Essentials
For me, my top priorities on the road are nutritious food, good sleep, and carving out downtime to complete admin tasks, send emails, or just chill. On every driving tour, I bring a cooler, my ninja blender, and protein powder for smoothies. I fill my cooler with drinks like kombucha and food like fruit, avocado, veggies, hummus, leafy greens, pre-cooked proteins or whole grains, and homemade salad dressing.
SWAY WILD – 1,739
Jet-lagged thoughts from a budget hotel lobby near the Amsterdam airport this morning… Packing is the true art of touring. We’ve been touring pretty heavily for over a decade throughout the US and Europe, and learn something new about what to bring and what to ditch next time on every single tour. What works for one band may not for another, but hopefully you’ll find some universally helpful tips in here.
Spare capos. Always make sure you have spare strings/batteries in guitar cases. Spare 1/4″ instrument cables. A D.I. box with a ground lift switch can fix a stage buzz sometimes when nothing else will. Your own vocal mics that you’re comfortable with (Shure 58s are the affordable indestructible industry standards and while most venues have them, it can suck when they don’t). When possible, bring a spare guitar. Power strip. Jumper cables in the van. AAA or other roadside emergency service through your car insurance provider. Leatherman. Scrap paper for set lists. More Sharpies than you think you’ll need. Hand sanitizer in the van door… amazing how many bathrooms out there are out of soap (nasty porta-potties are inevitable whether you like or not). A journal – you never know when the muse may come knocking… and at least you’ll be ready. Earplugs for the noisy motel stays or if you have a band mate prone to snoring.
Leave Behind – Band Mates Who Suck
You’re going to spend a lot of time with your band, and stage time is only about 10% of it. In the long run, the personality/character of people is more important than their musical prowess/expertise. Surround yourself with a team that you enjoy being with.
Lock Up Your Tambourines (Or Leave Them at Home)
Leave the tambourines at home unless you have a car top carrier. They never stop talking.
International Touring Tip: Make Ends Sheet
Pack a top sheet! Many places in Europe have duvets, which can be cozy and great, but sometimes HOT. If you sleep better when a bit colder, a sheet gives you options and good sleep can be hard to come by when on the go abroad. It can also be used to cover your gear in the van when you park for lunch.
Straighten Up And Fly Right
Beware of the flights that are too cheap to be true, it generally means you have to pay big fees for luggage, especially in Europe. Pay for your bags ahead of time online to save money. It is much harder to fit guitars in the overhead on the smaller/more affordable airlines, prepare accordingly. When traveling to a timezone far from home, do your best to get on their time as soon as you can. Try not to go straight to bed when your flight lands at noon. Stay up at least until dark to speed up the adjustment.
HARMONIOUS WAIL – 965 TRACKERS
Raise The Bar
We have a mini / travel martini kit that always gets packed — and glasses. There is something wrong trying to pour single malt scotch into a styrofoam cup – like the bottom will fall out.
Leave Behind: The Library
Sometimes I bring a library of books I have been wanting to get around to, only to never even look at them and pack ‘em back into the house after the tour.
International Touring Tip: Contraband
Ask Yourself. Did I take my swiss army knife out of my pocket? Maybe the only upside of TSA is that the search for pliers and nail clippers has overshadowed the search for reefer… oh, that joint on the bottom of your bag.
ALLIE COLLEEN – 596 TRACKERS
Be A Germaphobe
I always use my own microphone. It only takes a few seconds of watching someone else use the microphone before you use it to understand why I feel this is so important, but to clarify with one word: Germs.
Have Fangirl Moments
In the summer, I always bring my own fan. If you can’t breathe because you’re so hot, you probably will not be able to perform well — also, it gives you a nice “Beyonce” look if you have the hair for it.
Again, The Shoes
When you’re playing by yourself I would not stress too much about bringing too much. However, if space in your car is an issue, then maybe you leave the suitcase of extra “what if I want to wear these instead” shoes behind.
THE OSYX – 147 TRACKERS
Pack To Stay Energized
Think about what you’re going to eat. Sure, some venues will provide the band with dinner and drinks, but you definitely can’t live on french fries and PBR for too long if you want to stay energized. Pick up a multi-use utensil and keep it with you at all times. Some venues will allow bands to prepare meals before the show. I’ve traveled with a rice cooker, great for making beans and rice, soup, or noodles. I also bring along salt, spices, condiments, a camping stove, dishes, and cooking utensils.
The PA Might Not Work!
Don’t assume that every venue will have a working PA, decent microphones, and all of the cables and power supplies that you need. It’s best to be prepared to set up and play a show all on your own if necessary. Make sure you have extra strings, repair tools, tape, scissors, a First Aid Kit, and extension cords. Like any good musician, you’re concerned about your sound, but remember that things like tape delays and vintage tube amps can be unreliable. Have a backup on hand or opt for sturdy workhorse equipment and leave your nicer things in the studio.
Get Musician Specific Insurance
Your homeowners insurance won’t cover instruments being used in a professional capacity. Make sure you have musician specific insurance through a broker like MusicPro.