If you’re getting ready to hit your first festival, buckle up – you’re in for the time of your life. Here’s everything you need to know about festival camping…
Going to a festival is an incredible life experience. You get to meet tonnes of new people, spend quality time with friends, listen to great music, learn new things and take a break from your day-to-day worries. You will almost certainly enjoy yourself. A lot.
That said, festivals can be intense. You’re away from home, surrounded by thousands of people and, at some point, you’ll feel sleep-deprived. At times, it can feel a little like an endurance event. Things will get emotional.
The key to navigating it all is good preparation. To help with that, here’s my guide to festival camping for beginners…
Festival camping: what to pack
At a festival, you tend to have to carry your kit a long way.
Usually, the car park, train station or coach drop-off is a long way from where you’ll ultimately end up camping. At a massive event such as Glastonbury, you may find yourself walking for an hour to reach your chosen festival camping pitch.
So my first tip: pack sensibly.
I’ve written The Best Festival Packing List for Any Festival which is the most extensive list you’ll find on the internet. But it’s worth emphasising the absolute essentials (you won’t get far without these):
- Your festival ticket
- Your bank card
- Your medication
- Your driving licence or ID
- Your parking ticket
- Your phone
- Your housekeys (it’s sad, but when the festival’s finished you will need to go home)
Other necessary items (unless you intend to go feral) include:
- A tent and sleeping bag
- A few changes of clothes, plus waterproofs and something warm
- Clean socks and underwear
- Sensible footwear (you can’t go wrong with wellies)
- Toilet roll and baby wipes (preferably biodegradable ones)
When choosing your luggage, opt for something that you can carry a long way (without putting your back out). Suitcases on wheels may seem like a good idea, but pulling them over rough, hilly terrain can be a struggle.
Another tip: don’t pack anything you can’t afford to lose.
Because you’re living out of a bag at festivals (and may not always be thinking straight) it can be tricky to keep things organised. As a result, stuff goes missing. So it’s a good idea to leave whatever valuables you can at home.
Oh, and festivals can get muddy. You certainly won’t want to wear your limited edition trainers and fancy jumpsuit.
Festival camping: navigating the queues
There are some undeniable truths about festivals. One is that, at some stage, you will have to stand in a queue. Maybe for a long time.
The trick is to take it in good spirits. Unless you’re in a hurry to see a band, there’s rarely a need to rush anywhere at a festival.
As long as you have some water, a hat and sun tan lotion (or waterproofs, depending on the state of the weather) there’s no drama. You’ll get where you’re heading soon enough.
Relax. Use the opportunity to make new friends. Maybe get to grips with the performance schedule, or even treat yourself to a can of cider.
The main queue you’ll encounter will be on the way into the festival as staff inspect tickets and carry out security checks. There’s every chance you’ll get patted down and asked to empty your bags. If it happens, the best advice is to accept it – these checks are a condition of entry. Be respectful of staff and you’ll get through the gates much quicker.
One other thing: never queue jump. If you get spotted, you run the risk of getting booed, harangued and publicly humiliated by thousands of your fellow festival-goers.
This is especially true at UK festivals; a quirk of our national psyche is that Brits take queue etiquette VERY seriously.
Festival camping: setting up camp
So you’ve made it through the queues and into the festival. Congratulations! Now you have to find a place to camp.
First, know that the best real estate gets snapped up quickly. Don’t expect to turn up a day into the event and find room to pitch your six-berth tent in a prime location.
As mentioned, you’ll probably need to lug your kit a long way. Make sure your tent is suitably sized; if it’s excessively large for the number of people sleeping in it, you may struggle to get it further than the car park.
For the same reason, you should think twice about bringing that heavy-duty gazebo for socialising in. Also, many festivals frown on non-sleeping structures like these as they take up valuable tent space.
Some other basics to remember when choosing your festival camping pitch:
Don’t camp next to the toilet. They smell, sometimes they overflow (bleugh) and the area will always be busy.
Don’t camp at the bottom of a slope. Remember that water runs downhill. If there’s a downpour you may return to find your tent in the middle of a pond.
Don’t camp next to a path. It comes with a high risk of someone stumbling into your tent and landing on top of you in the middle of the night, which is both confusing and painful.
Choose flat, even ground that’s clear of bumps. You’ll sleep better.
Make your camp easy to spot. After a long night in the techno tent, your senses may not be as sharp as normal. A brightly coloured flag makes your camp easier to identify.
Festival camping: general survival tips
Once your camp is set up, you’re ready to enjoy the festival. If you’re feeling apprehensive, don’t – you’ll get into the swing of it soon enough. Just remember these tips…
Get some sleep at the festival. Ok, so catching Zs shouldn’t be your top priority. But grab a couple of hours when you can to avoid crashing and burning two days in.
Eat some festival food. Dancing requires energy. Keep your levels topped up with regular trips to the food vans. Pro tip: you can’t go wrong with a falafel wrap.
Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is your key to having a good time and staying out of the medical tent. Seriously. Take a refillable bottle and hit the taps regularly. You could even make like an athlete and add some electrolyte tabs. They work wonders for a hangover.
Brush your teeth. Having a minty-fresh mouth can make you feel like a million dollars. Don’t overlook the power of a quick freshen-up at the tap. Here are a few more ways you can feel fresh at festivals.
Be nice to people. Festivals are some of the friendliest places on earth. You’ll find that people are only too happy to stop, give directions, help you look for a lost friend or simply have a chat. The one, simple condition: be nice.
Look out for your friends. Sadly, there are people who’ll take advantage when a festival goer is feeling worse for wear. Keep an eye on your mates and make sure they’re ok. Don’t leave them to fend for themselves.
Look out for yourself. Festivals can be overwhelming. There may come a time when you need to take a moment. Find a quiet spot, sit down and breathe. You’ll feel much better for it.