You’ve bought your ticket, you’ve arranged a lift with a friend in exchange for petrol money and snacks, now you’re trying to work on what on earth to take with you. I’ll try and break down the essentials so you don’t end up at the bottom of Pennard Hill without tent pegs… if you don’t get the reference, here’s a lovely pic of that area of Glastonbury in 2005:
The first things you need to pack, in an easily accessible side pocket, are:
!!! YOUR TICKET & YOUR ID !!!
People laugh and say “oh I’d never forget those!” but I have, and it’s not funny. Having to go all the way back with your stuff, or beg your mum/best friend/boss to drive the ticket to you is not the best start to the greatest weekend of your life. Almost as important are:
!! MONEY & DEBIT CARD !!
Now we need to break your packing down into a few sections. Let’s start with…
TENT – whatever size the description SAYS it is, double it. If you want a tent for you and one friend, buy a four man tent. 3 people = 6 man. You will have big bags and need room to manoeuvre. Always buy a tent with a porch for muddy wellies, and always buy a double skinned tent.
EXTRA TENT PEGS – tent pegs save lives. Well, maybe not, but they are essential for keeping the inside of your abode dry. Bring spares.
MALLET – a lot of festival camping grounds can be rock hard, and it can be difficult to get in those pegs. A mallet saves you a lot of hassle (and usually helps you make friends with your neighbours when they ask to borrow it!).
SLEEPING BAG – Don’t cheap out on this. A “mummy style”, the ones with the hoods, are best.
SELF INFLATING ROLL MAT / AIRBED – 5 nights sleeping directly on the hard ground means you would be tired, grumpy and achey. Get an inflating roll mat at least 5cm thick, or if you go for the classic airbed bring a few extra blankets as these can be cold (big pocket of cold air).
INSULATED FOAM MAT – one of the ones with silver foil on one side. These insulate your mattress from the cold ground and keep you nice and toasty.
TRAVEL PILLOW – your spine will thank you.
CAMPING CHAIR – as much as I’d love to spend all my time exploring, you usually do spend a lot of time at camp. Being able to sit comfortably is worth it! Plus, drink holder.
EAR PLUGS – ensure a great night’s sleep, even when the people next door are up all night discussing loudly who are the greater ‘Stones’? Rolling or Roses?
FLAG – the easiest way to find your group of tents is to bring a flag for your campsite. The funnier the better. Here was ours from Glastonbury last year. We love Baeinsley.
UNDERWEAR – one pair for each day of the festival, plus two spare.
SOCKS – many! Short and long, thick and thin pairs. You’ll feel much happier if you can keep your toes warm and dry.
WELLIES / WALKING BOOTS – if you’ve got a comfy pair of reliable wellies bring those, especially in extreme weather. Walking boots are a great alternative, a lot of people say more comfortable, but they’ll need breaking in first.
COMFY TRAINERS – if the weather looks to be a bit nicer, trainers are perfect. Festival sites are large, and comfortable feet are a number one priority!
LAYERS – bring at least one hoody, a couple of long sleeve tops, some vests, leggings and tights. Things you can easily take off and on.
WATERPROOF JACKET – lightweight is ideal so you can keep it in a backpack, and make sure it is actually waterproof!
BACKPACK – something light you can carry booze, suncream and extra layers in for the day. Keep some toilet paper and hand sanitizer in here too.
BUMBAG – I swear by these. Hands free for dancing! And easily the best defense against pickpockets for your phone and money.
SWIMMING OUTFIT – normally I can’t be bothered to queue for the showers, so my friends and I just get in our swim gear and pour water over each other while we wash.
SEQUINS / FANCY DRESS – because being sensible all the time is boring.
SUNGLASSES – protect your eyes AND look cool AF.
It’s very easy to get excited and take too many clothes, so one tip is to plan your outfits for each day and pack each of them in separate plastic bags. Keeps them dry, you don’t have to decide what to wear, and you don’t take too many clothes. Do still bring extra layers though to add on/subtract if necessary!
Also, if you have come by car, ALWAYS keep a clean & dry set of clothes in your vehicle, in case of emergencies, but also it’s so nice to have clean clothes to change into before your journey home.
PORTABLE BATTERY PACK(S) – as much as I love going ‘off grid’, a mobile phone is almost essential at festivals if you want to be able to find your friends. Don’t be that guy who streams the whole event on Facebook Live or Snapchat, nobody likes that guy, but having a phone is necessary for photos and staying in contact with your camp mates. Anker do an incredible 20,000mAh charger that has kept me connected the past few years!
FAIRY LIGHTS – buy battery powered fairy lights and use them either on your tent to help guide you home, or wear them so you look awesome and your friends don’t lose you easily! Ikea and Primark do good ones!
TORCH / HEAD TORCH – having a torch in your tent is a godsend when you return home drunk and are trying to find your toothbrush/hoodie/phone charger.
DUCT TAPE – always have duct tape. Solves all manner of problems from a tear in your tent to fixing your fancy dress prop.
BIN BAGS – or plastic bags. Help keep things dry in the toughest of conditions.
‘S’ HOOKS – these nifty little things are amazing for guys and girls alike to hang their bags & coats in the toilet stalls so you don’t have to put them on the muddy ground. Also handy for hanging up wet clothes/towels in the porch of your tent.
ESSENTIALS – toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo, leave in conditioner, dry shampoo, deodorant, vaseline, face wipes, biodegradable baby wipes, toilet roll, hand sanitiser, nail scissors.
MEDICINE – dioralyte, paracetamol, ibuprofen, suncream, condoms.
MAKEUP – glitter, glitter, and more glitter, stick on gems, waterproof mascara. Did I forget to mention glitter? You can buy awesome biodegradable glitter from GlitterEvolution.
Food & Drink
NO GLASS BOTTLES – whether you’re bringing in spirits, wine, beers or ciders, remember that on all festival sites, no glass is allowed. Always make sure you choose crates of beer/cider cans (not bottles), wine obviously comes in huge 3L boxes, and decant spirits into plastic bottles LABELLED CLEARLY. On multiple occasions have I innocently swigged what I thought to be water in the morning at a festival only to be met with straight gin. Not particularly pleasant!
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE – dehydration isn’t cool. Keep water on you at all times.
SNACKS – we tend to bring cereal bars, crisps, Babybel cheese, oranges, chocolate brioche… these all tend to last well and are easy to pop in a backpack.
The food at most UK festivals is incredible these days so we tend to buy food there rather than cook, but I used to bring a Hexi solid fuel stove to heat water for teas and Pot Noodles, and to cook breakfast on, a few years ago. It seems a lot of hassle now, but is good for those on a budget!
Remember to pack smart! A hiking backpack is the best way to go, as suitcases and other bags will suffer. A lot of people tend to get a trolley between their group, but beware most trolley wheels weren’t built to survive the terrain at festivals! They can be difficult to pull through the mud also.
Here’s a handy guide on how best to pack a backpack from The Globe Wanderers:
Also I mentioned this in my Where To Camp at Glastonbury post but I think it needs to be said again here as it applies to all festivals; if you have come by car, DO NOT CARRY TOO MUCH on your first entry! The queues usually take a really long time the first time through as they need to scan your ticket and give you your wristband. It’s worth just taking the tent and maybe your backpack as you may be queueing for several hours.
Every festival has different rules, so make sure you check their website before you arrive! Lots are getting more strict on bringing in alcohol, so for example at Boomtown Fair you can only bring your booze in on the first entry. Find these things out before you arrive so you can pack appropriately.
Do you have any other packing essentials? Let me know in the comments!