Festival Survival Guide

I love a good festival, although I’ve found that the increasing prices and their increasing restrictions means sadly I’m not attending as many as I used. However, that said, I’ve been windswept in a muddy field, with drunken people tripping over my guy-ropes with the best of them. Therefore, it is only fair to share my top festival survival tips, gleaned from 15 years of festival experience with you good people out there.

1. Have a practice run with your tent before you go

The Boy and I pretty much have a ritual when we arrive at festival campsites now. As seasoned campers, we can put up a tent quickly and in all conditions. So we like to arrive early, get our pitch sorted, then crack open a beer and watch the ensuing chaos as a thousand camping virgins rock up who cannot even begin to figure out how to pitch a tent try to establish their ‘home’ for the weekend. 

It’s brilliant. Especially the groups of lads who decide to drink first, and make themselves somewhere to sleep later. So, spare yourself some time, the potential of ending up with a rubbish pitch, the potential of it raining before you’ve got somewhere dry to stash your stuff and the potential of your tent having a massive hole in it that you didn’t know about by having a trial run at home in the garden, or even on the pavement. You don’t have to peg it all down. Just have a go at putting it up, make sure you’ve got all the bits you need, and make sure you know how to get it all packed away again.

2. Take big fat candles

Candles are great in the evening. Even in inclement weather you can usually get big ones to work and in high winds, the flame will eventually carve out its own protection in one side. Candles are light, don’t need batteries and just bring an all round more attractive feel to your camping pitch. Just be careful with them around your tent. Obviously.

3. Take a torch

Candles for your pitch, torch to find your pitch. You’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s dark. Take a torch and then you won’t go face first into someone else’s tent in the middle of the night.

4. Familiarise yourself with your environs

If, like us, you don’t drive, the amount of stuff you can take to a festival is limited. You definitely don’t want more than one small-medium backpack each and your tent. This makes getting to the festival much easier. However, this does mean that you will need to replenish stocks of beer, food and beer. Some festivals are actually far away from everywhere, so you will need to plan a bit better, but with some, like Guilfest, you are within easy walking distance of a commercial hub which will fulfil your every need. Know where stuff is, and be prepared for shops to be closed on a Sunday. Which leads me on to point 5…

5. Buy a disposable BBQ

Nothing tastes better at a festival than a cooked breakfast. Don’t pay the earth, or have to search for it though. Bring a disposable BBQ, or buy one from a local poundshop. Get a pack of sausages and some buns and away you go. Hell, you could even ‘acquire’ some sachets of sauce from a local hostelry and keep those in your backpack too. You will be the envy of the site and set up for the day. 

Disposable BBQs take up minimal space in a rucksack so you can even take a couple to cover a few meals. If you have a cool bag to protect your food, so much the better – they are also pretty lightweight and easily squishable these days. This is our absolute festival must have.
6. Make a flag

Flags are awesome and making flags is a fun thing to do. However, it also serves a practical purpose in that it helps you find your camping pitch at night. Shiny materials, reflective material and neon/luminous materials are awesome for this purpose. Just don’t put it somewhere that it’s going to flap on the outside of your tent and let all the water in if it rains or in the morning dew.

7. Keep your cash safe

You will want to have plenty of cash in case there aren’t free cash machines around, but if you are worried about keeping it all on your person, then you can make it more secure. For the ladies, the best tip I ever got was to take a pack of sanitary towels – unwrap one and fold your notes inside and then replace it in the packet – not a likely place for a wouldbe thief to look (well, not before I wrote this anyway). But if you can keep your cash on your person, that is the ideal. Not in your pocket – preferably in a seperate, secure, zipped, internal pocket in your day bag. Just have a bit of what you need in your wallet and move it out as you need. That helps you keep track of what you’re spending too.

8. Take weather appropriate clothing

If like us you cycle, you probably already have a selection of lightweight waterproofs that you can take. If you don’t, buy a poncho from the poundshop, or even just take a bin bag that you can punch armholes in to protect your clothes when the inevitable deluge comes. Also retain carrier bags from your earlier mission into town, that way if you haven’t brought a camping chair, you can still sit down to watch bands without getting your botty all damp.

Conversely, also take a hat and suncream. Even if it’s not blisteringly hot, you are still going to be outside, probably for a lot longer that you would be on a regular day. Sun burn isn’t fun and hats are ace. Look at mine, I love my hat, it’s brilliant.

9. Pack practically

As you can see, bowls are excellent not just for eating from, but also for drinking from. They can also be used to hold tealights if you’ve taken me up on the candle thing. You don’t need to take the kitchen sink to festivals – minimal changes of clothes, a small selection of materials for food and a bottle opener will usually suffice, but do think about whether you can double up.

Also take loo roll. TAKE LOO ROLL. Or if you forget, take extra loo roll from the portaloo the FIRST TIME YOU VISIT and stash it in your bag for later. They will run out. And drip drying is for losers who forgot to take bog roll. I usually end up with it in my bag and the pockets of every item of clothing I took with me, but I’ve never been caught short and I always have some to mop up a particularly unpleasant toilet seat if needs be.

Oh, and bring a good sleeping bag. You can use clothes folded underneath as a pillow, but make sure you have enough thermal protection for the time of year. In early September you can still nearly freeze to death even though the weather is summer-like in the day. You will not get any sleep if you are cold. Here speaks the voice of experience. Your sleeping bag is likely to take up the most space in your rucksack and it should. You can do without nearly everything else except this.

10. Wear Ass-less Chaps

 Best festival outfit ever.

What are your favourite festival survival trips? Do you pack nothing and let the Universe provide or are you a hardcore camper-van, all mod cons type of person?

This post is my entry to the Universal Textiles Strawberry Fields festival blog competition. I hope they deem my musings worthy and #GetMeToSFFestival


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

0 thoughts on “Festival Survival Guide

  • Find point 7 very interesting and number 10. Should I ever get to attend a festival I will revert back to your tips. Thank you, very informative.


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