With Glastonbury this weekend, Festival season is officially with us, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of what I feel is my personal survival kit after twenty odd years of making it a summer habit (it started for me with Reading 94′).
Now this list will overlap with the countless festival guides that’ll pepper magazines, websites and weekend paper supplements every Summer, every year, but is my personal checklist that I feel can make the experience a little more civilised while keeping your luggage to a minimum. In recent years, I’ve taken to adding to this with cooking equipment , candles (dangerous, but in a lantern is a handy beacon) and an inflatable mattress (I’m getting on now), but this is intended for any upstarts embarking on what might be your first British summer festival trip.
Tent / sleeping arrangements
Yes, I know people who have made the pilgrimage to Avalon with nothing more than a blanket and the shelter of the stone circle, and you will no doubt witness a few bodies scattered about corners of fields in the morning that have clearly spent the night al fresco. I am a city dwelling wimp who needs a bit of peace and some shut eye of an evening, and if that means also sheltering from the elements, all the better. Lately I’ve also found some earplugs can help block out the madness at 4 in the morning and aid a bit of rest.
If you don’t have a tent – at least take a sleeping bag and hope one of your friends will be willing to spoon.
It’s summer! So surely you can rely on wearing nothing more than a kaftan and sunglasses right? Unfortunately not. Even if you’re blessed with glorious sunshine for the weekend, the nights draw in surprisingly fast and without the warmth of ‘civilisation’ it can get pretty chilly at night. Be sure to pack a few jumpers, base layers if you’ve got them, maybe a hat and layer up.
The manic organic might do a good carrot juice, but it probably won’t help you navigate a sea of guy ropes as you stumble back to your tent in the wee hours and once you’re under canvas, it’s handy to be able to see what you’re doing.
Waterproofs & Wellies
Even if it’s forecast to be a clear weekend, some parts of the country seem to have their own micro climates, and so a shower or two during a British summer is pretty regular. A waterproof jacket (possibly even trousers to be invincible) Is a good idea.
Wellies. Goes without saying really.
Small picnic Blanket
Not so essential, but having something sit on the dewy morning grass whilst mulling over the coming day / nursing a foggy mind can make you feel damn fine. and actually using it as a picnic blanket / spot to have a drink with friends / roll a cigarette etc will make you festival royalty.
Most festivals are a wonderful opportunity to eat some varied and delicious food, but it doesn’t come cheap. So I tend to make sure I can snack relatively healthily in the day, and treat myself to a badass meal of an evening. A couple of pot noodles won’t go amiss for those late night munchies either, providing you’ve got a…
Okay, so this may not be slumming it, but a small camping gas stove and pan can be so handy for a pot noodle, whipping up some pasta and pesto, boiling an egg or making tea / instant hot chocolate.
Hydrate! A big bottle of water back at camp is a good idea to replenish your fluids after a hot days festivaling , and a refillable bottle to have on you in the day is the smart choice against dehydration / sun stroke / alcohol poisoning.
Personally I can’t stand wet wipes, so I tend to take face wash to festivals. You’ll probably be near a water point wherever you camp, and the icy outdoor blast of water on your face in the morning does wonders to wash away the nights’ sins at the same time as cleaning your pores.
Don’t forget your toothbrush either – it’s the small things that keep you feeling human sometimes.
Not ‘essential’ by any means, but the festival is an opportunity to let your hair down and be someone or something else for a night or two. Yes, seeing your umpteenth surly fairy or drunk man in a in a tiger onsie before lunch can be a bit grating, but come Saturday night you might want to make sure you can rock some Fluro warpaint or flutter some silver lashes like the best of them if you feel the need.
I do not condone large novelty hats in this definition of costume however.
However you spend your evenings, you might want to make sure you have some multivitamins to replenish lost nutrients and some paracetamol to ease a throbbing brain and aching bones (anti acids might also be needed some nights). Even if you don’t need them, invariably someone else in your tribe or a passing stranger might love you for them.
Turn off your phone
Without wanting to sound like an old man, I remember a time when if you wanted to hook up with friends you’d meet them at the stone circle at 7. If they weren’t there, then 7.30, 8 and then… oh sod it. Okay phones are useful for finding your pals, but, try and enjoy the moment (man) and a weekend without electronic information. Switch off and sure take the odd photo and text a long lost friend you think you just saw dressed as a panda, but try and save you phone for emergencies. You might even find it lasts most of the weekend without needing to charge once your data, wifi Bluetooth and location services are switched off (Keeping the screen brightness down helps too).
Have Fun / let go
It would be nice to see that one band you’ve waited your whole life to see and happen to be on the bill, but beyond a handful of must-sees, try not to worry too much about timing your day to be at the right place for such and such. Firstly, the festival site is probably bigger than you think, and if you spend the weekend planning, you’ll miss so much of what makes festivals the special thing they are and you might end up not actually seeing anything.
Enjoy being in a field with thousands of folk in the same situation, make new friends, catch up with old ones, see some bands make some memories and don’t worry if you end up seeing an Hungarian electro-skiffle band instead of the headline acts.