After three seasons of marching drum corps, you learn things that you always wish you would have known that rookie year when you were young and stupid. Here are a few things that are basic but vital to living your best life on tour.
1. Vitamin E
This stuff is huge for brass players but it can be useful for anyone marching under the sun for hours on end. Go visit your grocery store's pharmacy and find the vitamin supplements section. You’ll be looking for the little gel capsules specifically, so that you can pinch one right open and rub the gel on your lips after a long day of rehearsal.
The vitamin E helps repair the skin on your lips and reduces inflammation from playing all day. It also can be used to treat sunburn. One big thing about vitamin E is that you MUST remove it before spending time in the sun again or else your lips will get very burnt.
2. Bungee Cords
Get a couple of them for above your bus seat. You can hang things like show shoes, flip flops, towels, and small water bottles from it. I also used a couple to hold my sleeping gear together in a tight roll so it would be easy to place under the bus.
3. Gold Bond
4. Cooling Towel
You can get these for $5-10 at a Target or Wal-Mart and they will be a godsend in Oklahoma and Texas when it's 95 degrees with a heat index of 99.65. Also, if you're in the part of tour when you're traveling across the Plains and there's dust everywhere, cover your face with it during visual blocks or when you're not playing (see the banner picture).
5. Hard Candy
I picked up this one at Bluecoats. We were required to wear fanny packs which made perfect containers for Jolly Ranchers and other hard candies during long visual blocks in spring training. With corps using staging more as a way to learn drill, this often leaves a lot of downtime to write in your dot book or throw Life Savers at the mellophones.
It's high noon. It's a Saturday. You've got a free block tonight. You want to know exactly how many minutes there are left until you get to put on your "real people clothes." Wrap a watch band around your laces on one shoe so you can be the guy your section always asks, "How many cookies are left in the jar?"
Honestly, though, if you want rehearsal to fly by, don't wear one of these. Just take it all in and don't count down minutes.
7. Drum Stick
Shin splints were one of my greatest fears on tour, I fought with them each season. A drum stick, a tennis ball, and stretching on a regular basis became my best friend. Grab an old stick from a drummer friend and roll it up and down gently along each side of your shin. Also, rolling your foot over a tennis ball can really help relieve tension.
If you're really struggling with shin splints at any point, talk to your corps' athletic trainer.
8. Trash Bags
One final thing I always had in my bag: trash bags. Split a box with your friends on your first Wal-Mart trip so you all have 10 or so trash bags each for the whole season. These are perfect to throw over your rehearsal backpack if it starts raining unexpectedly, or expectedly. You can also use it as cover for yourself.