Live performance is an important part of making a living as a musician, and touring ranks high for making money. I’ve been touring since 1983, and learned early on that a packing list helps me avoid overlooking anything I might need while traveling. My list became more meticulous over the years, and I rarely have to spend a dime because I forgot to bring something.  The Boy Scouts said it best: Be prepared.

Your gear is crucial. Obviously, you should bring spare heads, sticks, cymbals, and a spare snare and pedal. But don’t forget the little stuff : tension rods, washers, wing nuts, cymbal felts, pedal beater, drum keys, snare wires, simple tools — basically, anything you can’t run right out and pick up on the spot. Remember, you’ll never get advance notice before something fails or gets lost!

Drums, cymbals, and hardware should be packed in cases that are appropriate for your method of travel. Good quality hard cases work well for flying or touring in a small truck. If the band is traveling with lighting and audio in a tractor-trailer, flight cases are a better investment.


Those personal items that help maintain a feeling of normalcy on the road are just as important as gear prep. Obviously you’ll need clothes. Bring enough so you aren’t constantly chasing down washing machines. (I always bring two weeks’ worth.)

Toothbrush, toothpaste, passport — check! A good list also includes all the little stuff: floss, bandages, phone charging cable, shoe deodorant spray, umbrella, nail clippers, and so on. Include every stupid little thing, even postage stamps.

Since you may be on the road for an extended period, be sure everything is taken care of at home. If you don’t have someone to look after things, you may want the post offi ce to hold your mail, notify the neighbors that you’ll be away, and give them access to your itinerary. If you haven’t already signed-up for online bill paying, do so. It’s smart to set up light timers for a lived-in look at home, unplug certain “vampire” electrical items (such as TVs and stereos), and turn off the heat and A/C to reduce utility costs. Yes — all of that goes on the list, too! So make that list. Nothing is too trivial or obvious. You’ll be glad you did.