Preparing for a festival can be one of the hardest packing challenges. We break down the essential components for a successful pack, so you can concentrate on the music
Music festivals present one of the most complicated packing challenges. You need just enough for a long weekend but that usually includes shelter and sustenance. And, as it’s not always clear what will be available once you’ve arrived, it’s tempting to take supplies for a small village. We break down the essential components of festival packing, so you can focus on enjoying yourself once you get there.
The first phase of preparation is the most important and could start months ahead of the festival itself. If you don’t get a ticket, you won’t be going to the festival. And you need to get transport sorted well in advance.
- Tickets – Certain festivals – Hello Glastonbury! – will sell out almost as soon as they go on sale. And others have an early bird tier that is significantly cheaper in price. If you want to go to a particular festival, the simple rule is to secure a ticket straightaway. Once you’ve got it, paper or digital, keep it somewhere safe and where you’ll know how to find it later on.
- Transport – For the bigger festivals, public transport will sell out almost as fast as the tickets themselves. The longer you leave it, the more expensive things become. Private companies may step in with reasonably priced coach tickets but these can also have limited places. Try to confirm your transport as early as possible. For one thing, it will influence what you end up packing.
- Here are some key things to consider:
- How would you prefer to travel? If driving, find out what the rules are regarding cars and camper vans. What about vehicle insurance, especially for hire cars? If taking the train, how easy is it to reach the festival site from the station? Will you need to travel to the pick up point if taking a hire coach? What are the arrangements for coming back? Are you travelling from outside the country and need to book a flight as well? The more complicated your travel, the more you’ll need to consider the consequences if the festival is cancelled.
- How were things done last year? Chances are, the festival’s FAQ can give good advice on the best way to travel but look for discussions on forums and social media as well. These will be a good source of insider tips on what to do or avoid, and which private companies provide the most reliable service. If you’re unsure about anything, you can ask the community.
- Passport and Visa – If you are travelling in from abroad, make sure you have a passport with lots of blank pages, valid for at least six months, and apply for any visas well in advance. A passport cover is a handy place to keep tickets and vital documents, whilst protecting everything from damage. Now would also be a good time to organise any necessary accommodation whilst in transit. Find the best prices at Booking.com.
- Travel Insurance – Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
What To Pack For A Festival
Once you’ve bought all your tickets and picked your means of transport, you can start to work out what you need to bring. As mentioned, how you travel determines how much you’ll be able to carry. There’s a limit to what you can take on public transport, but you’ve more options if you’re taking a vehicle. How many people are you going with? Come up with a plan to evenly distribute items amongst your group. This should reduce each individual load, as well as ensuring that you don’t duplicate stuff. Each festival has its own restrictions, so check the rules about what you can’t bring.
A suitcase with wheels is totally useless in this environment, so make sure you’ve got a sturdy backpack. Attach a luggage tag with your contact details in case you lose it in transit. Or even forget where your tent is pitched – it does happen!
Start by packing only what you need. Leave out anything you can’t afford to lose or don’t want to see damaged. Remove as much potential waste, packaging, etc, as possible. Then consider how much more you can comfortably carry. At this point, you can pack anything else you want to take in order of priority. A guitar, for example, might be a nice extra but – unless you’re headlining – it’s not essential.
What To Pack For Sleeping At A Festival
However little sleep you get, the chances are that you’ll want somewhere private to get away from it all at some point over the weekend. Some festivals have forms of accommodation on-site or you may be sleeping in a VW camper. It’s even possible that you’re booked into a nearby hotel. In most cases, you’ll be under canvas.
- Tent – It’s worth splashing out a bit of money for a durable, breatheable tent, that’s lightweight and properly waterproof. Something like the Coleman Tent Octagon might be a good choice if there is a group of you. Make sure you have everything you need to put it up, and road test the thing before the festival itself – preferably in the rain. Also make sure there’s comfortable room for everybody and their luggage.
- Sleeping Bag – Similarly, you’ll want something breatheable that keeps you properly warm when the temperature drops. Consider how the fabric and filling will react if you have a particularly wet weekend. You don’t want to end up shivering in a damp bag overnight. The BESTEAM Agemore is a good all-rounder.
- Sleeping Mat – A well-designed mat will put a buffer between you and the cold ground, with enough extra padding to add a bit of comfort. Conversely, an air mattress may sound more comfortable but the reality can end up like sleeping on a block of cold air.
- Packing Cubes – Instead of bringing pillows, use soft packing cubes stuffed with clothes. This cuts down on extra luggage and is certainly more comfortable than inflatable pillows.
- Locks – As someone who’s had various tents destoyed at festivals, I’m not sure how much of a defence this really is. I would stick to keeping valuables close or leaving them at home. But I’ve also come back to find a stranger sleeping in my tent, and a set of locks would be a good deterrent against that.
- Lantern – Some sort of battery-operated free-standing light is going to make nighttime much easier to navigate, especially if you can also hang it from the doorway or ceiling of your tent. Bring spare batteries as well.
- Flag – What was an empty field when you put your tent up is now full with no identifying features. That’s when the unique flag hoisted high above your tent will guide you home. Stick a long, flexible pole deep into the ground and find a way to strap it to your tent. You’ll be surprised what’s available – or you can make your own.
- Folding Chair – By no means essential, but a light, wipe-dry folding chair can make all the difference, particularly if the ground is cold, wet, or otherwise uncomfortable.
- Blankets – Similarly, blankets are versatile for picnics, warmth and makeshift rain protection, or as a pillow. Bring two or three that fold up into a small bundle, so you’ll always have one that’s clean and dry.
- Febreze – Tents can get smelly pretty quickly, so some kind of de-odoriser and a good airing are recommended when you first get up.
- Ear Plugs – Festivals are, by nature, noisy places. So, if you insist on a full eight hours of sleep, Moldex ear plugs are excellent and very cheap as well.
- Eye Mask – Similarly, there’s nothing ruder than waking up to the full glare of the sun at 5am on a festival morning. A proper sleep mask should make the night last a bit longer.
- Fun – Bring some fun stuff to keep you entertained, such as a frisbee, football, or just a book, if you need some time in your own head.
What To Pack For Cooking At A Festival
This is where most festival restrictions come into play, as well as personal load and preference. Some like to bring everything including the kitchen sink. Others just bring their wallets and buy all their meals on site. If you do bring your own, be extra careful with gas cannisters and avoid breakable materials like glass. Think twice about using disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. Try to verify that there is a supply for fresh water supply before turning up with washing up bowls and a kettle.
- Food – Keep it simple. Even if you’ve a camper van with cooking hobs, you should make a simple plan for what you’re going to eat. Tupperware boxes of prepared food that just needs heating up in a pan is best. Also a pack of coffee or tea and a couple of litres of milk.
- Camping Stove – You can get some remarkably small and powerful camping stoves these days, like the Sagafly, designed for lightweight backpacking. A single cannister of gas should be enough for the weekend but you may want to bring a backup just in case. Handle with great care.
- Lighter or Matches – Even if your camping stove has some kind of clever ignition, bring a means of creating fire.
- Cooking Pan – Again, one will be enough if you’re using a camping stove. Rinse and reuse. Let a spoon double up as a cooking utensil.
- Plates – Metal or plastic camping plates are better than crockery.
- Cutlery – Knives, forks, and spoons from home will be perfectly adequate here.
- Cups – As with plates, bring enamel mugs rather than something breakable.
- Kettle – You could use a cooking pan instead, meaning one less thing to carry. However, an enclosed kettle will boil water more efficiently, cutting down on fuel.
- French Press – Although some may consider this a luxury, I need a cup of fresh coffee in the morning. You could bring a plastic cafetiere or even a light metal Moka pot instead.
- Multi-Tool – This will have many valuable uses over the course of the weekend, including bottle opener, corkscrew, knife, screwdriver, and tin opener. If you’ve brought cans of soup and beans, you should probably use a dedicated gadget for those.
- Waterproof Sheet – We’ve already mentioned a picnic blanket, but a waterproof groundsheet is going to make sitting out on a muddy field much more pleasant.
- Washing Up Kit – You’ll be reusing the same stuff over and over, so bring a bowl, concentrated washing up liquid, and two cloths – one for washing, one for drying.
- Large Garbage Bags – Make sure you collect every bit of waste you generate and take it away from the site when you leave. These also double up as laundry and protective dry bags, or something to sit on or to protect you from the rain. Get creative!
- Water – If there is limited fresh water on site and you’re travelling in your own vehicle, you should bring a few gallons on water in a container with a tap. With a bit of planning, you’d still be able to cook without it but you’ll be forced to buy bottled water when you arrive.
What Clothes To Pack For A Festival
Imagine going out to the park with some friends for the afternoon and winding up at a gig in the evening, then pack whatever would make you comfortable in the same circumstances. You won’t need much more than what you wear to travel down and a couple of changes. Additionally, you should consider the follow:
- Hat – You’ll (hopefully) be out in the sun all day, so a decent hat will protect you from serious sunburn. Keep your arms and legs too covered if it’s truly hot.
- Sunglasses – A decent pair of shades are essential to screen out harmful rays. Amazon has quality sunglasses at reasonable prices.
- Waterproof Jacket – Many festivals don’t allow umbrellas and, to be honest, they ruin the spectacle for everyone behind you. Something truly waterproof (not just water resistent) will save you from walking around in damp clothes and a ruined weekend. If your head, arms and the top half of your legs are snugly protected you’ll be happy to stand out in the rain watching bands.
- Fleece or Hoodie – Even in summer, it can get cold at night. So bring something cosy and warm.
- Footwear – Sandals and flip-flops are fine but something more durable will be a better friend. Whether sneakers or walking boots, make sure your shoes have a good grip and be prepared for them to get muddy beyond repair. Waterproof is best.
- Rainy Day Backups – Check the forecast before you travel. If it looks like a lot of rain, then be prepared with a few things to change into, even if it means leaving some other items behind. You can probably stand to be drenched during the day but you’ll need something dry once you get back for the night or if you fall into a big muddy puddle. And, if it rains all weekend, your clothes from today won’t be dry by tomorrow.
- Hand Warmers – Keeping a small stash of those little hand warmers can be an unexpectedly pleasant pick-me-up at night.
What Toiletries To Pack For A Festival
You may decide to tough it out for the weekend and live as nature intended, but there’s nothing quite like a shower and scrub to start each festival morning. As always, the best advice is to pack light.
- Wash Bag – A decent, waterproof pack to store toiletries is essential. A well-designed one will be durable enough for festival rough and tumble and will stop anything leaking all over your tent and sleeping bag. The Magictodoor travel kit is recommended.
- Tissues – As anyone will tell you, festival toilets can be the worst aspect of the whole experience. Several packs of tissues are a festival essential. These also come in handy for a variety of emergencies. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser too, and maybe some wet wipes.
- Sunscreen and Insect Repellent – Standing outside in the sun can cause some serious damage – as my face found during a Glastonbury heatwave – so make sure you put on sunscreen. We recommend Neutrogena SPF 45 Drytouch Sunscreen. Insect repellent is also recommended, especially at night, when little bitey things can get into your tent.
- Dental Care – Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.
- Lip Balm – Your mouth can take a bit of beating outside in the sun all day. Along with sun block, a good lip balm, like Burt’s Bees will keep you looking beautiful.
- Showering – Instead of bringing separate shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel, you might consider an all-in-one solution, such as Dr Bronner’s. You can even use it to wash up.
- Moisturiser – Consider it a necessary luxury, but a good moisturiser like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream can give a genuine boost after a long, hot, dusty day.
- Tampons and Pads – Although another friendly festival goer will probably help you out, you really don’t want to get caught without your preferred feminine hygiene products. If the event coincides with your period, make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.
- Medicine – Make sure you take any necessary medication. Keep everything in its original packaging in case you get searched on the way in. A basic first aid kit, with some plasters and sterile dressings, is useful for any cuts, and should include the basic pain killers and tablets for tummy trouble.
- Eye Wear – If you wear glasses, make sure you pack a durable eyeglass case. Likewise, if you wear contact lenses, pack your contact lens case and a spare bottle of sterile saline solution.
- Quick Dry Towel – Personal space is likely to be at a premium, so you don’t want any damp towels lying about. The right quick dry will be super lightweight and non-bulky. Sunland towels are an excellent choice with a fair price and small enough to fit into any backpack. You can also carry it with you as a sun shade, emergency wipe, and so on.
- Condoms and Birth Control – You never know.
Electronic Devices To Pack For A Festival
Festivals are all about getting away from the digital void for a few days. And, in fact, there are limited options for recharging. You’ll probably want to leave your Nintendo Switch at home.
- Mobile Phone – Even if you spend all weekend trying to find a signal, you can still use this for grabbing snaps of the weekend’s action and playing music back at the tent.
- Bluetooth Speaker – A battery-powered bluetooth speaker can stream music from a device like your phone. The Tribit Bluetooth Speaker is an excellent choice.
- Phone Case – Chances are, you phone will get into a few scrapes, so now might be the time to invest in a suitably rugged case. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which can render your cellphone invincible.
- Power Bank – If you’re using your phone as a camera all weekend, bear in mind that you may not see a power outlet for up to three days. Take a power bank with enough capacity to charge your phone three times. Consider taking two.
- Camera – If you take a lot of photos, a standalone camera is a good idea. I’d recommend the Canon Powershot range which are super compact, easy to use and quite cheap. Again, you’ll need a backup for keeping it charged.
- Car Inverter – If you’ve travelled up by car, you’ve access to a lot more power. A power inverter takes the juice from the vehicle’s battery and converts it for plug socket and USB outlet. Make sure you’ve also a set of jumper cables as I can personally attest to their post-festival usefulness when the car won’t start.
What To Keep In Your Festival Day Bag
Keep your cash and cards close at all times in a secure wallet or purse, and carry a small, comfortable day bag for all your other bits and pieces.
- Refillable Water Bottle – It’s particularly important to stay hydrated in the heat, so find a source of water and keep a bottle topped up regularly. The Nalgene OTF is an excellent choice.
- Face mask – COVID is still very active in many countries and you may be required to wear an SFP2 facemask on the plane and in some indoor spaces. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser when you travel.
- Snacks – Keep a small stash of quick energy with you, such as protein bars.
- Notebook and Pen – You never know when you’ll need to jot down a number or leave a message for someone. A phone is too unreliable in this terrain.
- Torch – There are many places at a festival that are very dark at night. A good torch can guide you back to your tent without tripping over everything and stop you freaking out. Headlamp flashlights are useful for keeping both hands free.
- Portable Ashtray – Try to leave the festival site as you found it. If you’re a smoker, it’s a nice gesture to gather up your butts rather than dropping them on the floor.
- Miscellaneous – We’ve mentioned sun block, lip balm, and tissues above. It’s a good idea to keep these on you at all times. A bundled blanket will be your best friend if things suddenly turn chilly. Consider a space blanket if you think things might really get cold.