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Author: John McElborough
The key to packing for music festivals isn't packing light- it's packing in a way you can carry as much as possible to the campsite from your car or whatever public transport you take to the event. Obviously a car is better because you can pack more stuff, making you better prepared and less reliant on the overpriced shops, food stalls, and bars in and around the festival arena.
The amount you'll need to pack will vary depending on whether you're at a 2 day, 3 night festival like V festival or the isle of White or other festivals like Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds, which are longer so you might need to pack more food, drink, and toiletries.
Although the food at festivals is in ready supply and some of it isn't too bad these days to save money we'd recommend taking as much of your own food as possible. Here are some ideas- remember summer music festivals can get hot so fresh food will to off quickly if it's not kept cool.
Barbecues - fires are banned at all the music festival campsites, although this isn't really enforced as much at Glastonbury as others like V festival. Portable and disposable BBQs are good ideas because BBQ food is easy to cook and the disposable ones you can, obviously, dispose of so you don't have to carry them home. Stick with some simple burgers and sausages, take it frozen then keep it in a freezer box with ice packs and it should stay fresh for 24 hours or so. Avoid chicken, fish or cooked rice as these tend to have the worst consequences if you leave them out too long or don't cook them thoroughly enough before eating. Don't forget the tomato ketchup! You could also take some frozen bacon and bread to make bacon sandwiches the first morning on camp.
Tinned food- After the BBQ foods have gone move onto the cans and anything you can cook quickly over a portable gas cooker. If you have a cooker you can boil water as well-meaning you can make instant noodles and soup cups as well as the essential morning cup of tea (which will cost you £1.50 if you buy it from a food stall). Don't forget the tin opener and kettle, as well as something to clean the pots and plates with.
Non-perishable foodstuff like breakfast cereal, which you can eat with long-life milk are great for festivals- they won't excite the taste buds but they will fill you up quickly and cheaply.
There are drinking water taps in the campsites at every music festival so don't worry about bottled water. Just bring enough empty bottles or a water container to fill at the taps.
More importantly, alcohol is expensive at festivals and is hard to find in the campsites as the bars are all within the live music arenas. If you want to drink, and most people do, taking your own drink is advisable. The most popular drinks for music festivals are cans of lager and cider which you can buy cheaply from the supermarket by the case of 24 cans- making them reasonably easy to carry. If there's a few of you and you need several cases consider buying or renting a trolley to push your beers to the campsite- they get heavy!
Glass is not allowed in the campsites of music festivals. V Festival and Reading are especially strict on this and you could lose your tickets if you're found with glass bottles inside the campsite. If you're taking drinks which only come in glass bottles, like vodka or whiskey, decant these into a plastic bottle and dispose of the glass carefully before you go into the campsite.
Tents are advisable although other more innovative forms of shelter have also been known including tepee's, trenches, tree houses, and dustbin liners! Remember you're unlikely to be spending a great deal of time in your tent so a basic waterproof dome is sufficient. For a bit of added luxury and campsite finesse, you can pitch several dome tents in a square and erect a gazebo over the gap in the middle as a mini courtyard.
Make sure you have something soft to sleep on. Inflatable mattresses are the best, failing that a decent groundsheet and roll mat will take the edge of the hard, often rocky campsite ground.
Before you leave, make sure your tent has enough decent tent pegs, which aren't twisted and bent out of shape. Also, pack a mallet to knock them into the ground.
Washing and personal hygiene
Keeping clean at festivals is a thankless task but if you're the type of person who can't enjoy the day if you don't start it with a wash you have a few options at modern festivals.
Most festival grounds now have some sort of shower facilities. At Glastonbury, there are several options including environmentally friendly organic showers. At V festival they usually have prison-like communal shower blocks- anyone with a weekend ticket which includes camping can use these for free.
Remember to take towels and shower gel to wash with. Girls will be glad to know many festivals have hairdryers and hair straighteners which you can rent (albeit at an extortionate price) lookout for these near the shower facilities.
If queuing for a communal shower isn't your thing you could invest in a camping shower (basically a big water tank with a shower head on it). These double up as useful storage for drinking water. Else the good old fashioned wet wipes will keep you feeling semi-fresh until the end of the weekend.
Don't go overboard with clothes at festivals but don't trust the weatherman either and plan for all eventualities weather-wise. A decent waterproof or poncho are always a good idea. As is some lightweight summer clothing or even beachwear in case it gets really hot.
On your feet, you don't want any sandal type shoes which will fall off in a crowd or get stuck in the mud. High heels are a terrible idea but you'll no doubt see someone trying it. Trainers are a good option and wellington boots are always worth taking as well. Even if the weather looking fine the slightest shower can turn festival sites into mud pits.
These packing tips will get you started but the most essential thing to pack to a music festival is a sense of fun. The festival is only a couple of days so if you forget something or your tent eta flattened or blown away don't despair, you'll be back in your nice comfy bed by Monday.