Whether you’re a festival virgin or veteran, knowing and remembering which things to pack and what to prepare for can be very stressful – I know this from experience! So, I have compiled a comprehensive Festival Survival Guide which will include everything from what to take with you, what to expect (if you’re a first-timer) and how to make the most out of your weekend. I’m heading to Download Festival myself this year and I cannot wait!
WHAT TO TAKE
Probably the most important thing to take other than your ticket , your tent will be your home, bedroom, changing room and place to chill out in between bands for the entirety of the festival, so it’s well-worth taking a bit of time choosing one. It’s incredibly tempting to go for the cheapest option and going “That’ll do” – DON’T. When I went to Download back in 2011, it was absolutely pelting it down with rain – luckily for me I had a superb tent which kept me dry and comfortable, however two of the guys I was camping with didn’t put much thought into buying theirs and ended up with water-logged tents and a lot of their clothes getting soaked – something you do not want!
So what are the things to look for when buying a tent?
1. In heed of the above warning, you will want to look at how waterproof the tent is. This is reflected by the ‘hydrostatic head’ of the tent, which is in millimetres. The higher this figure, the more waterproof the tent. As a basic outline, you want to aim for a tent with at least 1500mm. 3000mm will protect you in heavy rain, so if the forecast is looking wet for your festival than you may want to consider this.
2. Next you will want to think about the size and type of tent to buy. Most people buy a 2-man tent for just themselves as it gives you more room for yourself and for your stuff. If you are sharing a tent with more people then adjust this accordingly. As for the type, there is a range you can buy, the most popular at festivals being Pop-up and Dome tents. Pop-ups are really quick to pitch which is ideal, and often come in a variety of stand-out, fun designs. Dome tents take a little longer to set up but are nice and roomy, and strong against high winds, due to its shape.
3. Something which can be overlooked is the weight of the tent. When you are travelling to the festival, queuing up and making your long way to the camp site, you do not want to be weighed down by a bulky, heavy tent which is hard to carry. Look for lightweight tents with carry bags.
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat/mattress
A sleeping mat is an item that people often overlook and don’t want to spend money on. It’s worth getting even a foam one as it will give you a much better night’s sleep. Sleeping in just your sleeping bag will mean you feel every lump and bump of the ground where you have pitched your tent which trust me, is not very comfortable at all! For extra luxury, an inflatable travel mattress will provide even more comfort – just don’t forget to bring an air pump!
Essential for toilet-trips in the middle of the night and finding your tent after-dark. A lantern is also useful to have when you are getting changed in your tent and for providing light for you and your friends in your camp site. I will be buying these 12 LED Mini-Lanterns from Argos as they’re nice and compact, and from the reviews they seem to be bright and long-lasting. Plus, they come with batteries which is a bonus.
Optional camping extras:
You and your friends might want to pitch in together for one of these. Great for after-parties, they also come in handy when it’s raining as it allows you to be more sociable. Having to zip yourselves away and sit alone in your tent until the rain stops is a bit of a buzz-kill!
It’s a good idea to bring some portable speakers for your camp site to plug your mp3 players/phones into – just be considerate of people around you. Blasting music out at 5am when people are likely to be asleep will win you enemies with your camp site neighbours!
Be prepared for this!
In the UK, we have often unpredictable weather – we are probably one of the only places in the world where you can experience all four seasons in one day, so it is best to be prepared for all types of weather.
- Waterproof raincoat/kagoule – to keep you dry whilst you’re moshing/dancing
- Wellies – An absolute festival necessity! Field + rain = lots of mud. Be prepared.
- Sunglasses – perhaps wishful thinking, but there are times when the sun does actually come out at festivals and you don’t want to be blinded by the sun when you’re trying to watch your favourite band.
- Sunblock – Standing in a field exposed to the sun all day means risk of sunburn, unless you protect your skin.
- Umbrella – I think we’ve covered this one…
Being at a festival doesn’t mean you have to stink for 3-5 days. Make sure you take these essential items.
- Baby wipes – take lots and lots of them (especially if you don’t fancy trekking across your possibly muddy camp site in a towel to hit the showers which may not be particularly clean anyway).
- Hand sanitiser – this is essential as festival toilets rarely provide facilities for hand-washing.
- Toilet roll – again, this will not be provided so don’t be caught short!
- Water – for drinking and washing
- Toothbrush/toothpaste – okay, so maybe you’re not going to shower all weekend – that is pretty standard fare at a festival, but don’t be a minger – brush those gnashers!
- Dry shampoo – a necessity especially if you have long hair. It makes your hair look less greasy and feel fresher.
- Shower gel – if the idea of not washing for 3 days freaks you out then you’ll want to bring this.
Aside from the protective clothing mentioned earlier such as a raincoat and wellies, there are some other items which are a good idea to take with you:
- Jumpers/sweaters – it can get pretty chilly at night, so make sure you bring something warm.
- Leggings – I prefer to wear shorts and leggings at gigs and festivals rather than jeans, as they’re less restrictive and I can get too hot in jeans. Also jeans take longer to dry when they get wet. Just my personal preference but perhaps something to consider.
- Nice outfits – for days when the weather is nice and also for the after-parties once the bands have finished playing.
- Alcohol – Booze can enhance your festival experience, but of course, drink responsibly and make sure you’re drinking lots of water as well to prevent dehydration.
- Money – for food, beer or any souvenirs that might take your fancy.
- Condoms – because who knows, you might get lucky…and it’s best to be prepared and safe!
- Snacks – for when you’re feeling peckish and don’t want to queue up for something to eat
- Paracetamol/painkillers – to dull the pain of a hangover or combat a migraine
- Plastic cups/bottles
- Festival time clash guide – it’s a good idea to get 1 or 2 of these between your group, so you don’t miss any bands you want to see.
- Car phone chargers – most festivals have lockers which you can charge your phone in, providing you have one.
WHAT TO EXPECT
People in fancy dress is a common sighting at festivals!
A festival is a unique experience like no other. Here is a list of things you should know and are likely to see:
- The toilets WILL be as disgusting as you expect, especially towards the end of the festival. You’ll get used to it though…just try not to breathe. Or look in the bowl.
- Festival food is expensive – expect to be paying around £7 for a burger and chips. It’s a good idea to bring a few snacks or if you’re particularly out-doorsy, a camping stove and things like soups and beans. Be aware of any restrictions at your festival however on certain equipment and of course, be careful not to have fire too close to your tents!
- Expect a lot of mud. Festivals are rarely dry occasions unfortunately, and by the last day the ground will be loose due to the thousands of people trampling all over it. Don’t forget your wellies!
- People in fancy dress – why not bring a costume too?
- Drunk people
- People on drugs – I had a guy who was high on ketamine throw up on me during Bring Me The Horizon at Download 2011 – it was pretty grim. Be observant and watch your drinks to protect yourself from being spiked, and…just don’t do drugs. Please? Okay.
- Boobs – it seems to be a tradition that women expose themselves at festivals, especially when they are sitting up on somebody’s shoulders and the camera pans to them, showing them on the big stage screens (much to the vivacious roar from the crowd – mainly men). This seems to be a cue to get their bangers out. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but it is.
- Expect to meet all kinds of people and make new friends! Everyone is up for a good time at a festival, and generally people are very friendly.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF YOUR WEEKEND
- See the bands that YOU want to see – don’t get dragged along by friends to see a band that you’re not into over one that you came especially to the festival for. You’ll only regret it!
- DO check out the other entertainment – this can range from comedy stand-up, karaoke, amusement rides and burlesque shows. I experienced all these at Download and loved every minute of them – see what else is on at your festival.
- DRINK RESPONSIBLY – I cannot stress this enough. Keep yourself hydrated with water and don’t overdo it. You don’t want to miss out on bands because you’re too hungover to leave your tent.
- Talk to new people outside of your group – it’s always great to make new friends, you may even get invited to a camp party!
- Take plenty of pictures so you can capture your memories.
- Have fun! Experience as much as possible and see a load of bands.
I hope that this guide has been in some way helpful and that you have an awesome time, whichever festival you’re planning on going to!