Festival Survival Guide

March 25, 2014 | By:

Festival Survival Guide


Festival survival guide – Endurance exercise or the most fun you’ve ever had – a festival weekend can be either – it all comes down to a bit of forethought. So, before you sling nothing more than your beer, wellies and a hopeful spirit into the boot of your car and set out for fun there’s a few things you might want to think about.


Thinking about the set-up and arrival

If you’re one of these people who leave everything to the last minute you earn full brownie points for a chilled attitude but that’s about all you’ll score. Late arrivals get the camp pitch dregs (think next to the infamous toilets/boggy ground/a half day hike from the stages etc) and pitching your tent in the dark is one of those things which sounds like so much fun in theory but in reality is the last thing likely to get you in festival mode.

Plump for an early bird ticket so that when the masses arrive you’ll already be camp-ready in your prime spot, beer in hand and feeling pretty darn smug.

And don’t forget the actual journey there – it isn’t just festival tickets which disappear quickly, it’s also bus, coach and train availability. Do a little homework on your chosen festival’s privilege schemes as well – Reading and Leeds for example operate a car-share initiative which automatically earns you a prime camp spot.


Thinking about your gear

We all know that girls are genetically programmed to pack for all eventualities but a festival essential packing list may need some careful rethinks on your standard inclusions. It’s all about balance – travelling as light as possible without leaving out any of the essentials.

Of course you can do an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type comprehensive pack but bear this in mind – there is often a long hike from arrival point to camp area and you’ve got to carry it all. Yes you can cart it by wheelbarrow/supermarket trolley/wheelie bin etc. but that can be an endurance test in itself on terrain which is uphill/downhill/muddy/uneven or generally hard going. If you decide to go fully loaded don’t say we didn’t warn you when you find yourself collapsing exhausted before you’ve even reached the halfway point.

So what do you take? Well we all have a slightly different idea of what constitutes essential but have a look around some of the Internet’s festival packing suggestions compiled by some been-there-done-that festival veterans. One last word – all festivals have a list of prohibited items and although most of us could probably figure out that explosives, swords and Rover the pet Rottweiler are a no-no, some of the other restrictions are not so obvious. So be sure to get the low down and check out the official website for specific rules.


Thinking about the expense

Long since gone are the days of free anything at summer festivals and in some cases they can work out decidedly fund sapping in a depressingly short space of time. There are a few tricks and tips for keeping the expenses below alarming.

  • Shelling out for festival priced food three times is a day is sure to see your money dwindling quicker than anything. Take your own food and the means to prepare it with you – most festival going folk do this for at least some of their meals.
  • Withdrawing money at a cash machine costs, using the showers costs, using the secure lock-ups costs…..in fact most facilities require you to fork out some dough. Do a little advance planning so that you only end up shelling out for the unavoidable rather than things which have arisen from ignorance or poor thinking ahead.
  • If your toothpaste gets nabbed by all means visit the on-site shop to replace it but don’t arrive with the intention of stocking up on all your essentials here. Unless of course paying hugely inflated prices doesn’t bother you.
  • Check your festival’s prohibited lists – which at some venues include certain food and drink – so that confiscations at the gate don’t lead to finding costly replacements.


Thinking about the weather

There is some universal law which states festival weekends will see terrible weather with alarming regularity. However, the festival gods, in their contrariness, also throw in a baking hot one every so often to keep us on our toes. This means planning can get a little tricky.

Go layered – layers are great for keeping the chill at bay or breaking down individually if the sun shines instead. Don’t forget your waterproofs – trying to dry out soggy clothes in a small tent is a long way from being fun or even possible.

Welly warriors and footwear choices – if this is your first festival you may baulk at the idea of wellies but believe me if it does rain you are suddenly going to understand completely why wellies are the festival-goers footwear of choice. Avoid anything with heels of the pointy variety and remember that trainers if they get soggy are smelly and hard to dry out.

Sunshine cover up – be sure to come armed with hat and sunscreen……just in case. If the sun does come out to play you are going to be in it for long, long periods and sun burn red is neither an attractive look nor a comfortable one for camping.

Higher ground – if you followed our tips for early arrival you will have a choice of pitches and the best pitches are those on any higher ground available so that when the heavens open you don’t get find yourself floating.


Thinking about security

Although these days festivals put all sorts of initiatives in place to reduce theft, the sad truth is that getting stuff pinched is still a very real part of many people’s festival experience. Theft from tents is a problem and pick-pocketing is a problem, so be aware of both.

The number one festival rule is don’t take anything with you that you absolutely couldn’t bear to lose. Take cheap alternatives for phones and cameras and use the lock-ups for valuables you couldn’t bear to leave at home.

At camp set-up strew your belongings around the tent instead of all neatly packed in an instant grab bag for any opportune thief. Also buddy up with your immediate camp neighbours so you can look out for each other.

If security worries turn you into a paranoid wreck shell out a little extra for a high security camp field or other festival specific service which guarantees guarding your belongings while you’re out at play.


Thinking about the toilets

Ask most festival newbies what their biggest concern is before setting out and toilets figure highly. No surprise really with the horror stories you hear – some of which have more than a little basis in fact. If you’re of the super-squeamish variety you might want to consider a boutique camping or glamping option where the toilets are vastly superior or even all yours. Alternatively, attend one of the festivals which regularly scoops the ‘Best Toilet’ title in the UK Festival Awards.

Otherwise, always take a toilet roll with you, learn to hold your breath, avoid onesies (too much getting undressed and disaster potential involved) and if you’re a girl consider a ‘Shewee’ or other female urinal! Additionally, early morning showering beats the worst of the queues and means you get them just after their first clean of the day.


Thinking about the crowds

If big crowds make you panicky or grumpy stay away from the mega-festivals and find yourself one of the excellent small alternatives. Otherwise…

  • Know your festival site layout so that you can avoid bottle-necks and learn about any short cuts.
  • When the music stops a vast multitude of people move simultaneously to the same exits but leaving a few minutes early can mean total avoidance of this.
  • The indoor marquees, tents and otherwise covered stages usually have a capacity so if one of your all-time favourites happens to be performing here, arrive well in advance to avoid being turned away.
  • Even the biggest party animals sometimes find themselves a little overwhelmed by the crowds – that’s what the chill-out areas and quiet corners are for.
  • Losing your mates is highly possible at some stage of the weekend, especially once you add alcohol into the mix, so have a pre-arranged plan for getting together again in this eventuality.


Thinking about your attitude

To a certain degree, your own attitude will dictate whether a festival is fun or failure.

Lower your standards with regard to facilities and who knows……. you may even be in for a pleasant surprise. Accept that more than a little part of your weekend will be spent in queues for food/drink/toilets/lock-ups etc. and try and relax a little regarding personal hygiene. Nobody ever died of not showering for a weekend and you’ll be far from alone in wearing a little dirt.

The bottom line is, seize your spirit of adventure and know this is the best thing you can take with you to a festival.

The wonderful people involved in organising festivals have also seen fit to create extensive websites packed with advice, tips, planning and various festival options. All of the major festivals have their own dedicated website which the wise will have a good look around before setting out. Particularly useful are the FAQ sections because although we are all of course fabulously different we each tend to have very similar questions when it comes to festival concerns and queries.

Now you can go and have lots of fun.