Music News

On the Road Again? 25 Packing Secrets From Touring Musicians

Kevin Greenspon at Facility in Buffalo, New York, in 2013.
Kevin Greenspon at Facility in Buffalo, New York, in 2013. Justin Goetz
Ten-week tours are usually financed by record labels. Not so for Denver-based DIY musician Jacob Isaacs, performing as J. Hamilton Isaacs, who will be joining Los Angeles-based artist Kevin Greenspon for a ten-week U.S. tour. While Isaacs has only gone on shorter jaunts, Greenspon has been on the road for months at a time. Both have invaluable advice about what road-trippers should bring to make their vehicles a home away from home and what musicians need to make tour all it's cracked up to be (but too often isn't).

Okay...a few things are pretty obvious: Bring a laptop, a cell phone, credit cards for emergencies, a list of confirmed shows, chargers, merch to sell and AAA coverage. But we asked the artists to dig deeper into their luggage to help us figure out what stuff they'll be taking along to make their tour a success. And along the ride, we got some pretty good tips — not just for touring musicians, but for anybody hitting the highway.

Tire Pressure Gauge
The weight of a vehicle's load and heat fluctuations can have an effect on gas mileage, stopping distance, tire life span and safety, says Greenspon. A tire pressure gauge is a must!

Self-Inflating Camping Pad
Soft couches wreak havoc on the spine. Why not opt for a more consistent and reliable surface upon which to crash?

Rechargeable USB battery and GPS
A rechargeable USB battery comes in handy, as does an actual GPS, since phones aren't always reliable away from cities and can be dangerously distracting.

Dash Mount
Dash mounts help you safely access your phone, be it for work, music or directions. "Seeing people tilt their heads down to look at map directions or write messages in their lap every time I drive just bums me out," says Greenspon. "People can die from a few seconds of someone looking down."

Aero Press
This is the perfect way to make coffee and tea on the road!

click to enlarge Bag of coffee beans. - TOM MURPHY
Bag of coffee beans.
Tom Murphy

Bag of Coffee Beans
Gas station coffee is the worst. “I prefer a washed light roast from Huckleberry Roasters," says Isaacs. "In my opinion, the light roast preserves the flavor and character of the bean more than a darker roast.”

Camp Stove
Boil water. Heat food.

click to enlarge Coffee grinder. - TOM MURPHY
Coffee grinder.
Tom Murphy
Coffee Grinder
You have to grind those beans somehow.

click to enlarge Mug - TOM MURPHY
Tom Murphy
Coffee/Tea Mug
And you need something to put your coffee and tea into.

Earl Grey Tea (loose)
Tea bags are second-rate. Stick to the loose stuff, and make that Grey...Earl Grey.

Ear Plugs
Of course it's good to protect your ears while playing a show. But what if your tourmate is a snorer? Save the relationship: Plug it in.

Electric Clippers
Hair doesn't cut itself.

Foot rot is a road-trip hazard. Keep your feet in your shoes, and sooner or later they'll stink up the van – especially in summer. Flip-flops are more comfortable and air out more quickly than sneakers.

Folding Chair
We all need to sit.

click to enlarge Incense - TOM MURPHY
Tom Murphy

Whether you need better-smelling air or a peaceful environment, incense helps. “I prefer Song of India's India Temple incense," says Isaacs.

click to enlarge Lapis Lazuli - TOM MURPHY
Lapis Lazuli
Tom Murphy
Meditation Stones
"Lapis Lazuli is supposed to release creativity and Labradorite to foster harmony and courtesy, both conducive to a good tour," says Isaacs. And conducive to a good road trip!

Read on for more road-trip tips from Isaacs and Greenspon.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.