The best apps for festival season

Your phone is your new Swiss knife.

person dancing at music festival by some tents
Lose yourself in the music, but try not to lose your phone.Krists Luhaers via Unsplash

Heading out to a music festival is more like stepping into a battlefield than quietly sitting on a couch with your headphones on. But the difference between defeat and the time of your life can be made with just one tool—your phone. Equipped with the right apps, your phone can boost your festival experience in all kinds of ways besides capturing and sharing everything going on around you.

Dark Sky

Of course you'll want to keep a careful eye on the forecast during your days in a tent, and of all the mobile weather apps, few can match Dark Sky for the sort of hyper-local, next-few-hour forecasts you're going to need out in the fields. The app employs some smart algorithms to predict what the weather's going to do next, and also offers a detailed radar map view so you can see exactly where the rain clouds are headed.

Dark Sky is $3 per year for Android and $4 for iOS

Tent Finder

Your tent might not be as easy to find as you might think—not when you're stumbling back to it in the dark through a sea of very similar tents. Enter Tent Finder, a simple but effective app that gives you a few tools for getting back to your festival home safely. You can mark your tent's position on a map (and retrace your steps even without a data signal, because the map works offline and GPS doesn't need data), store a photo to help you remember where it is, and share its location with your tent-mates.

Tent Finder is free for Android and iOS

What3Words

What3Words app
Reservoir. Acre. Lectures. Out of context, these words make no sense, but in What3Words, similar strange combinations will help you figure out where you are.David Nield

What3Words lays a grid of 3-by-3-meter (10-by-10-foot) squares over any map and identifies each one with a unique three-word code. That can be helpful when you're trying to navigate a huge festival complex without roads, street signs, or any other landmarks you could use to get around. With the What3Words app, you can quickly define an easy meet-up spot with your friends, identify the exact location of your tent, mark the food stalls you want to get back to, and more.

What3Words is free for Android and iOS

SoundHound

Whether you're catching the end of a set by an unfamiliar band and want to find out who they are, or you need to identify a song coming from some distant radio, SoundHound can help. This app can recognize any tune picked up by your phone's microphone in seconds. Similar to Shazam or the "What's this song?" feature for Google Search, SoundHound is easy to operate, and when it's matched a track, it can show you the lyrics on screen, or add the song to a Spotify playlist with a single tap.

SoundHound is free for Android and iOS

Battery HD

Android and iOS don't always do a brilliant job of giving you the information you need about your phone’s battery life, which is quite important when you're at a festival and a long way from a power socket. The excellent Battery HD app can help you understand exactly how long your current charge should last, based on a variety of scenarios (such as listening to music or watching videos), and is also capable of alerting you when your battery dips below certain points.

Battery HD is free for Android and iOS

First Aid – American Red Cross

Hopefully, your festival experience will be safe and accident-free, but in an emergency the First Aid app from the American Red Cross can be a literal lifesaver. It packs in clear, step-by-step instructions for numerous first aid scenarios, from asthma attacks to broken bones, and even provides directions to the nearest emergency center if you need them. It’s available offline, too, so you're not reliant on a cellular connection.

First Aid – American Red Cross is free for Android and iOS

WaterMinder

WaterMinder
This is your daily reminder to stay hydrated. WaterMinder can help, too.David Nield

Speaking of looking after yourself while you're at a festival, WaterMinder is a simple tracker app for making sure you're properly hydrated—one of the main health concerns at music festivals due to the heat, and lack of shade and rest. WaterMinder can tell you how much water you should be taking in each day, help you log your drinks (water or any other liquid) with just a few screen presses, and remind you when you're not getting enough.

WaterMinder is free with ads or $5 for Android and $5 for iOS

Kindle

Festivals are exciting, but you're sure to have some downtime. Whether you’re stuck in a queue or waiting for the main act to appear, the Kindle app can help you pass the time by catching up on reading, even without an internet connection. It means you won’t have to pack extra gadgets or books, either. If you own an actual Amazon Kindle e-reader as well, it will automatically sync your reading progress once you get back home.

Kindle is free for Android and iOS

Last.fm

You probably already have your music app of choice set up on your phone, but Last.fm is absolutely worth installing as well (and works seamlessly with the likes of Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music, too). The strength of Last.fm is in helping you find out more about artists you've just become aware of—including their best tunes, albums, and who they sound like—and in helping you discover new music based on what you already listen to.

Last.fm is free for Android and iOS