Pack That Van!

15 Essential Things to Take With You on Your First Tour

by Rich Scannella

You got the gig, the band is rehearsed, and you’re excited to hit the road. All that’s left is to throw your stuff in the van and go. But before you do, consider bringing along these items to ensure that your journey is a successful one.

1. Gear – The appropriate gear for the gig, that is, and sturdy stuff. Also be sure you have good drum, cymbal, hardware, and accessory cases.
Tip: Stencil your name or put luggage tags on everything.
2. Stick bag – Stock it with sticks, brushes, rods, and whatever else you’ll need to cover the style your band plays.
3. Replacement parts – A bare-bones list would include a spare snare, bass drum pedal, and bass drum head, plus extra cables, cords, and batteries if your setup includes electronics.
Tip: Make sure to keep everything within reach
on stage.
4. Toolbox – Pack it with drum keys, felts, washers, cymbal sleeves, lug locks, Moongel, duct tape, strapping tape, snare wires, tension rods, kick beaters, kick drum muffler, oil, earplugs, and a clean rag.
5. First-aid kit – Include aspirin, Tums, Alka-Seltzer, cough drops, allergy medicine, hand sanitizer, soap, Neosporin, and, for outdoor gigs, sunblock.
Tip: Don’t forget your hands! Bring whatever it takes to protect them—lotions, creams, balms, medical tape, or gloves.
6. Pillow, blanket,
and sleeping bag – Getting proper rest in the back of a stuffy or cold van is hard enough, so pack some creature comforts.
Tip: Toss in earplugs and a sleep mask.
7. Healthy snacks – Keep energy bars, dried fruit, and plenty of water on hand. A convenience store, much less a restaurant, may be hours away.
8. Entertainment – Want to stay sane during long stretches? Electronics, books, magazines, and games can help.
Tip: Clear your head with a walk or jog whenever possible.
9. Appropriate clothing – Check the weather and pack accordingly, and if you really want to look sharp on stage every night, don’t forget the travel iron and lint roller. Tip: A waterproof laundry bag will keep dirty and wet clothes contained until you can get to a hotel or laundry facility.
10. GPS – Make the investment in a stand-alone unit, or download an app—but have conventional maps as well, just in case. Punctuality counts. And getting
lost stinks.
11. Van tools – Items like wrenches and flares can prove invaluable in an emergency. Before you hit the road, though, complete all scheduled vehicle maintenance and make sure your insurance and inspection information is up to date.
12. Contact information – The hotel can’t find your reservation? Keep confirmation numbers and names to avoid confusion and delays. Tip: If you’re traveling with a large group, print and email hotel rooming lists so everyone can stay in communication.
13. Electronic devices – You’ll want some kind of recording device, a metronome, a camera (all of which could be in the form of an app on your smartphone), in-ear monitors, and a wireless charger for when you don’t have a nearby outlet or power source. Tip: For international tours, be sure to get yourself a universal electrical converter.
14. Miscellaneous items – Consider filling a bin with bungee cords, a tarp (to protect gear at outdoor shows), zip-top bags, zip ties, air freshener, garbage bags, laundry detergent, toilet paper, Sharpies, a clamp light, and any other small items that might come in handy.
15. A sense of humor – Long hours spent with others can be demanding—especially in the confined space of a van. It can be easy to forget why you decided to go on this crazy adventure in the first place. So, above all else, don’t forget to have fun. When things do go wrong, try to keep a positive attitude; it can defuse a potentially explosive situation. Being able to persevere and push through adversity with good humor could be the most important skill you’ll take with you on your first tour.

Rich Scannella is the drummer for Jon Bon Jovi & the Kings of Suburbia, has performed with Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Lady Gaga, and is an adjunct professor at Rider University in New Jersey. He can be reached at richscannella.com.