20 Must Haves for Drum Corps Tour

Posted June 6, 2018 by Paula Monique

Summer tour is fast approaching, bringing with it two months of travel, rehearsals and a lot of sunshine for corps members. So before you hit the road, make sure you have these drum corps essentials on your packing list!

1. Emergen-C
Living on a bus with 50 people and sleeping on gym floors might expose you to a germ or two. And once someone gets sick, it can quickly spread throughout the corps like a wildfire. Keep your immune system strong with an extra punch of vitamin C by taking some Emergen-C supplements periodically or at the first sign of sickness within the corps. Airborne is another great option if you feel a cold coming on. While we’re here, a multi-vitamin wouldn't hurt either. (And did you remember to call your grandmother?)

2. Ziploc Bags
Ziplocs are a great multipurpose item to have on tour. I recommend getting a few different sizes to fit your varying needs. Use the smaller bags to store all kinds of things such as snacks, quarters for laundry day and dryer sheets. The larger bags can be used to organize the contents of your suitcase. Keeping your free-day clothes sealed away from everything else in your tour bag — and its smell — is also always a good idea.

3. Duct Tape
Trust that at some point, you’re going to need it. They make all kinds of patterned tape if you want to use for it labeling or are just feeling fancy.

4. Bus Seat Organizer
The bus is basically going to be your home for the summer, so you’re going to want an easy way to store the items you will use the most. A seat-back organizer is a great way to do so. You can find fancy organizers with different pockets and pouches, but my favorite (and much less expensive) thing to do is to get a pillow case and put it over the seat in front of me. Pulling the bottom up halfway creates a pouch to hold all of your essential items.

5. Folding Scissors
These are great to have in your rehearsal backpack or on the bus. Itchy tag, stray string — you’d be surprised at how many times you or someone around you may need a pair of scissors.

6. Small Portable Fan
You’ll want one of these when the Alabama gym you’re sleeping in has no air conditioning.*Bonus: The hum of your fan might even help drown out the symphony of snoring going on around you. Don’t forget batteries!

7. Carabiners
Carabiners are life. Clip a few to your backpack and you’ll be able to carry all kinds of extra stuff — and there will be extra stuff. Large carabiners in particular work great for attaching your water jug to your backpack. They also have multiple uses when it comes to bus storage. My personal favorite? Keep a pair of flip-flops attached to your backpack at all times so you can air out your feet between blocks or when it rains.

8. Fanny Pack
I don’t care what anyone thinks … fanny packs are where it's at! You can use them to house your dot book on the field and still have room to store other necessities, such as pencils, lip balm or Jolly Ranchers (shhhhhh). Fanny packs are also a great place to keep important items such as your wallet/ID, phone, etc. During late night rest stops, just clip it on and climb over bus seats with ease — no dangling backpacks or purses smacking sleeping bodies, and nothing falling out! Plus, fanny packs are making a comeback right now, which means you can actually find some pretty fashionable ones. 

9. Bungee Cords
Bungees are a magical item to have on tour. Like carabiners, they’re fantastic on the bus for fastening things to the overhead bay or hanging items such as your towel or shoes. You can also attach bungee cords to the outside of your rehearsal bag to increase storage capacity. 

10. Dryer Sheets
Their primary job is to help your laundry smell fresh and to remove static cling, but you can rise to a whole new dryer sheet level in drum corps. Try adding a few sheets to your dirty laundry bag, or line the bottom of your suitcase with them to help keep everything you own from smelling like a wet sock. You’re welcome.

11. Shower Caddy/Suction Cup Organizer
A must-have for any bus window. You can put whatever you’d like in there, but I feel they work best for quick-grab items such as glasses, phones, hand sanitizer or small snacks.
Pro tip: Don’t put them up too high, because at some point, they’re probably going to fall. (Sorry in advance, seat partner.) If you don’t overload your organizer with heavy items, it should stay up just fine. Just periodically check on the suction cups.

12. Pain Relief Items
A few days into spring training, your body is going to feel like it's been hit by a truck. Be prepared with pain relief creams such as Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, or the less smelly Sombra gel. It might not be a contact sport, but it’s definitely a workout, so Ibuprofen, ThermaCare heat patches, Gold Bond, KT Tape and knee and ankle braces are all good things to keep on hand throughout the summer. You've got this!

13. Dry Bag 
A dry bag can help protect your belongings from getting wet when it rains, and at some point, it will rain. They come in all different sizes, so you can choose something small enough for just your phone, or big enough to hold your entire backpack. You could also go the old-school route and keep a couple of large, heavy duty trash bags in the bottom of your backpack to pull out on a not-so-metaphorical rainy day.

14. Bandana
A bandana is a versatile item that has a ton of uses on tour. Besides wearing it on your head, you can use it to cover the back of your neck or your chops after a bad sunburn or to protect your face on a windy day. You can also use it to cover your eyes while you snooze if the gym you’re sleeping in has those annoying emergency lights that won’t turn off.

15. Power Strip/Surge Protector
Power outlets are a hot commodity in drum corps, as everyone wants to make sure their phone and other electronics are charged up and ready to go. Having a power strip or surge protector is a great way for you and a few of your friends to be able to charge things without having to fight over who gets the outlet. 

16. Hydro Flask 
If you want an icy cold beverage waiting for you on the bus after a show, you may want to look into getting a Hydro Flask, which will keep cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours. It’ll also keep your hot beverages hot for up to 12 hours (though you’re probably not gonna use that feature in the summer). Hydro Flasks can get a little pricey, so if cash is limited, check out generic alternatives. Ozark Trail, for example, makes some stainless steel tumblers and bottles that work quite well. 

17. Sharpie 
A permanent marker is a good thing to have on hand. I know it seems like a summer camp thing to do, but write your name or initials on items such as your phone charger, water cooler, clothing tags, etc., in case you happen to misplace them. If things are left out and don’t have a name on them, they have a tendency to be claimed by the finder.

18. Power Bank
It’s always a good idea to have a backup means of charging your phone and other electronics, so you may want to pack a power bank or portable charger. Some companies even make solar-powered chargers, which will come in handy because most of your time will be spent out in the sun anyway. 

19. Quick Dry, Microfiber Towel
They’re super absorbent, lightweight, and as their name states, they dry quickly. You may want a “real” towel for spring training, but once you get going on the road, a quick dry, microfiber towel might just become your new best friend.

20. Journal/Notebook
You will have a lot of feels over the course of the summer, so don’t be afraid to write about them! We spend a lot of time on our phones these days, but many of us don’t spend enough time putting pen to paper. There will be some rough days on tour, and writing can help you get through them. Keep track of your summer, even the things that seem insignificant at the time … you will enjoy looking back on these memories someday. Do your future self a favor and keep a journal this summer. 

Did I forget anything? What are your must-haves for drum corps tour? 


Paula Monique resides in sunny South Florida, where she is an assistant band director at a K-12 school. She is heavily involved in the marching arts and is currently on brass staff with the Blue Knights from Denver, Colorado. Paula's drum corps background includes brass staff for Carolina Crown (2015-17), Bluecoats (2015), Boston Crusaders, (2009-11, 2013) and visual staff for The Cadets (2009) and Teal Sound (2007). She was a cast member of the show "Blast!" from 2007-12 and marched mellophone with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps from 2002-06. In her spare time, Paula enjoys teaching marching band, giving private lessons and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs. Learn more about Paula at