It’s fair to say that I would consider myself a bit of a music festival pro, having attended festivals pretty consistently for the last 18 years. Over the years I’ve done Reading (countless times), Glastonbury, V Festival, Boardmasters, Hop Farm, Slam Dunk and Field Day and I’ve amassed a heap of tips and tricks to make festival time fun, safe and comfortable (I am in my thirties now, comfort has just as high a place on my priority list as bottles of Jaeger).
So, you’ve bought your ticket. Your friends are clued up. You’ve looked at the festival map and argued over where to camp. You’ve realised your two favourite bands in the whole world ever clash (this is real life, every. Single. Time). And then you realise you haven’t even thought about asking what essentials you actually need. Wasn’t someone else sorting the tent…?
Here is my top list of festival essentials, with product recommendations a-plenty – still time to get yourself sorted before festival season really kicks off! Whilst it is all a total laugh to turn up with a rucksack and wing it, when the rain is a battering and the fields look like something out of World War II, you are going to be pleased you went through your wee checklist and got the key festival essentials sorted. Looking like a tramp for 4 days is one thing – behaving like one and having a rough time is something completely different…
Hopefully you will have decided by now how you are going to get to the festival site. If you are driving with a load of others (makes things easy as you can transport a bit more), make sure you have pre-bought a car parking pass if you need to (side note, last year at Reading Festival, Lea turned up to my house and we realised as we were about to depart that after 6 years of doing this festival together, we’d forgotten to bloody buy one. It can even happen to the hardened pros).
If you are going by train or doing a coach, check the festival website as there may be special deals on where you can travel with other festival lovers (and make some new friends). There will be specific drop off points if grabbing a cheeky lift too – one year we were fancy af and legit got a taxi to Reading festival from my house – it’s the closest we’ve ever been to the entrance, but not a massively cost effective way of travelling.
Once you are at the festival site, I’m not going to lie there is going to be a queue and some walking. Tramping to the gates from the car park and queuing to get in is the least fun part of the festival experience, and at my most recent Glastonbury I definitely thought we were going to murder each other as we dragged a 21kg tent across the farm. So you are going to want to make sure you’ve packed properly and appropriately. A 30 minute plus walk in the rain is no fun if you have to stop every 5 seconds to adjust your bag, alcohol, stop to pass out etc.
Here is a list of handy things which will make travel easy:
- A sturdy rucksack. Not one of those little sports ones (day sacks), but a 55 litre camping one (or bigger) will fit everything in. Sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries etc. They have little pockets which are dead handy, separate compartments, are waterproof and you can tie things on and feel like a festival commando. Oh yeah… Amazon, Argos and Blacks all have great ones. Mine lasted 15 years, but I upgraded to a rucksack specifically for women as it was entirely adjustible to my back length and hip size which meant for a much more comfortable fit. This Berghaus Trailhead Rucksack would work perfectly, especially if you have a short torso like me.
- A festival trolley. These have been a godsend for ferrying the tent and alcohol to the camping spot. They are light weight, fold up nice and small and you can stack up all your bits nicely and secure them on. You need a trolley that is up to the job with big wheels that elevate the platform from the ground, or else it won’t go through the inevitable mud. We got ours from eFestivals Camping Shop. Believe you me, spend on this – it really helps. Last year we put everything, including our rucksacks on their and skipped in back pain free.
- Some pallet wrap. Honestly. I’m not shitting you, plastic pallet wrap (industrial cling film to you and me) will keep every single tiny thing on your trolley. It won’t move. You can stack it up, wrap it up and away you go. And then you can wrap up random strangers you meet at the festival. Win-win. Grab it from Amazon.
Living + Sleeping
Comfort is not what springs to mind at festivals. But there is literally no point in being miserable and uncomfortable – it doesn’t make you any more rock n roll. I prefer my hardcore credentials to show themselves in the moshpit, not the campsite (also I’m 34 now and like I said, comfort is king). The general rules about not camping right by a path (for thieves and muddy paths) or a wall/river (for weeing blokes) applies, but here is what you need to bring:
- A good tent. One man £15 pop ups are going to get flooded in seconds (we saw, trust us). We first started doing festivals in an awesome 5 man for the three of us, our cider, our rucksacks. and our comfort. This beast isn’t going anywhere.Then I upgraded us to what we liked to call Casa De Bad Boi. It’s was a four room goddess of a tent and worth every bloody penny (and lost discs in our spine from lugging it around). Grab our tent, or check out any good camping shop, eBay or Amazon. But as our festival group changed, so did our tent requirements.Most recently we’ve been camping in a 3 man tent like this (for two of us), which is currently on sale as the season is coming to an end.
- Sleeping bag, pillow and roll mat. It might be summer, but the nights are cold. Get an all seasons sleeping bag (which folds down small), a little camping pillow (or you can do what I do and stuff hoodies in your sleeping bag cover…boom!) and a roll mat. This should be made of foam and costs about a fiver, and you can attach it to your swanky rucksack. Argos is awesome for camping gear, as is Wilkinsons, Amazon and eBay.
- Torch/light. I grabbed a powerful mini torch from eBay. Perfect for middle of the night trips to the long drops. Enough said. If you want to go hands free, try a headtorch – you’ll look boss.
Money + Tech
Most festival sites have cash machines. But would you rather spend your time queuing or doing literally anything else? Exactly. I have always preferred to keep my money on me but it does come down to choice. If you pop a money belt or bumbag on, slip your cash in the inside pocket, no one can grab it. Many festivals have lockers so when you buy your ticket you can purchase a locker and keep your cash in there.
A lot of people tell you to buy a crap mobile phone and don’t worry if it gets trashed. I think we are all sensible adults here. I take my iPhone to festivals – it is good for taking pictures, finding friends etc so why bother with a crap one if you can look after it? Charging tip – do not queue for the charging stations. Grab a cordless battery charger and this will last you the whole festival AND be with you for years to come. And don’t forget ID. If you are like me and look about 12, it is going to come in handy at all the bars…
So that’s the essentials all set. Look out for more posts over the next two weeks to sort out your toiletries and fashion, festival booze, coping strategies during festival mayhem and there will be an ultimate festival packing list!