Working out what to pack can be one of the more challenging aspects of going to a festival. We’ve broken down the essential elements for the job, so you can focus on enjoying the music.
Going to a music festival presents an unusual packing challenge. You only need enough for a long weekend but you also have to think about shelter and sustenance. It’s not always clear what you’ll find when you get there or what kind of weather to expect. The temptation is to take a small village of supplies with you. Let us take you through the essential components of festival packing, so you can concentrate on enjoying yourself once you get there.
Preparing For A Festival
Planning and preparation is key and might start months before the festival even starts. If you don’t get a ticket, you won’t be going. And transport often needs booking well in advance.
- Tickets – If you want to go to a particular festival, the simple rule is to buy your tickets as soon as they become available. A festival like Glastonbury will sell out mere hours after the tickets go on sale. And many festivals have an early bird tier that is significantly cheaper. Once you have a ticket, paper or digital, keep it somewhere safe and where you’ll know how to find it later on.
- Transport – It may seem fussy, but clarifying your route will save a lot of last-minute angst. Confirm your transport as early as possible. For the bigger festivals, public transport can be as scarce as the tickets themselves. Leave it too late and the cost becomes prohibitively expensive. Private companies may step in with reasonably priced bus tickets but these can also have limited places. Your mode of travel will influence what you end up packing.
- Here are some key things to consider:
- What’s the general advice? The official festival FAQ will usually give good advice on the recommended way to travel, but look for discussions on forums and social media as well. If you’re unsure about anything, ask the community. These will be a good source of insider tips on what to do or avoid, and which private companies provide the most reliable service.
- What would you prefer? If taking the train, is it easy to get to the festival site from the station? Will you need to travel to the pick-up point if taking a rental bus? What are the arrangements for coming back? If driving, find out what the rules are regarding cars and camper vans. What about vehicle insurance, especially for rental cars? Are you traveling from outside the country and need to book a flight as well? World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
- Passport and Visa – If you are traveling overseas, make sure your passport has plenty of blank pages, and is valid for at least six months. A passport cover is useful for protecting tickets and vital documents. Apply for visas well in advance. Now would also be a good time to organize any transit accommodation. Find the best prices at Booking.com.
What To Pack For A Festival
Once you’ve bought all your tickets, you can start to work out what you need to take. How you travel will be a big factor in what you’ll be able to carry. There’s a limit to what you can take on public transport, but you’ve more flexibility if you take your vehicle. Each festival has its own restrictions, so check the rules about what you’re allowed to bring. Work out many people you’re going with and come up with a plan to evenly distribute items among the group. This will reduce each individual load and ensure that you don’t duplicate stuff.
A suitcase with wheels doesn’t work in this environment, especially if there are muddy fields, so go for a sturdy backpack. Attach a luggage tag with your contact details in case you lose it… or even forget where your tent is pitched. Trust me, this does happen!
Start by packing what you need. Leave out anything you can’t afford to lose or don’t want to see damaged. Remove as much packaging and waste as possible. Then consider how much more you can comfortably carry and start to pack anything else you want in order of priority. A set of bongoes might be a nice idea but, unless you’re headlining, it’s not essential.
- 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.
- Refillable Water Bottle – It’s vital to stay hydrated, so keep a bottle with you and find a source of water to keep it topped up. The Nalgene OTF is an excellent choice.
- Snacks – Keep a quick source of energy with you, such as protein bars.
- Notebook and Pen – A phone is unreliable in this environment, and you never know when you’ll need to leave a message for someone, so analog is the best option.
- Flashlight – A field full of tent ropes can be hazardous in the middle of the night and you don’t want to be scrabbling around in your things in the dark. A good flashlight will get you back to your tent without tripping over everything. Headlamp flashlights are useful for keeping both hands free.
- Portable Ashtray – Leave the site as you found it. If you’re a smoker, it’s a nice gesture to gather up your litter rather than dropping butts all over the ground.
- Miscellaneous – It’s a good idea to keep sun block, Chapstick, and tissues on you at all times. A bundled blanket will be your best friend if things suddenly turn chilly, or a space blanket if things really get cold.
What Clothes To Pack For A Festival
While it’s tempting to pack something for every occasion, you won’t need much more than you wear to travel and a couple of changes. Imagine going to the park for the afternoon before winding up at a show in the evening, then pack whatever would make you comfortable in the same circumstances. Additionally, you should consider the follow:
- 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.
- 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 cozy and warm.
- 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.
- Hand Warmers – These 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 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 rest rooms can be the only downside of an otherwise wonderful 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 sanitizer too, and probably some wet wipes.
- Tampons and Pads – If the event coincides with your period, feminine hygiene products.
- 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 Band-Aids and sterile dressings, is useful for any cuts, and should include the basic pain killers and tablets for a bad stomach.
- 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 small, hungry creatures get into your tent.
- Dental Care – Obviously, you’ll want a toothbrush and toothpaste. Your lips can take a bit of a beating outside in the sun all day. Along with sun block, a good Chapstick, 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. Don’t forget your deodorant.
- Quick Dry Towel – Personal space is likely to be at a premium, so you don’t want any damp towels lying about. A good quick dry towel is 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.
- Moisturizer – Consider it a necessary luxury, but a good moisturizer like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream can give a genuine boost after a long, hot, dusty day.
- 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.
- Condoms and Birth Control – You never know.
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. Some festivals have forms of accommodation on-site, or you may be sleeping in a VW camper or nearby hotel. But, in most cases, you’ll be staying in a tent.
- 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 thoroughly test it in the rain before the festival itself, to make sure it’s comfortable 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 really don’t want to end up 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.
- Packing Cubes – Instead of bringing pillows, use soft packing cubes stuffed with clothes. This is more comfortable than inflatable pillows and cuts down on extra packing.
- Blankets – 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.
- 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 first arrived is now full of identical tents. That’s why a unique flag, hoisted high above your tent, will guide you back home. Stick a long, flexible pole deep into the ground and strap it to your tent. You’ll be surprised what’s available. You can even make your own.
- Folding Chair – Not essential, but a light, wipe-dry folding chair can make all the difference, particularly if the ground is cold and wet.
- Febreze – Tents can get pretty smelly, so some kind of deodorizer and a good airing are recommended when you first get up.
- Ear Plugs – Festivals are noisy. So if you insist on a full night’s sleep, Moldex ear plugs are excellent and very cheap.
- Eye Mask – Similarly, it can be quite a shock to wake up to the full glare of the sun at 5am. 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, soccer ball, 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 the lot… including a kitchen sink. Others just bringsome cash 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 is best. Also a pack of coffee or tea and a couple of liters 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. You can drink wine from them, too, instead of from glasses.
- 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 can 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 traveling in your own vehicle, you should bring a few gallons on water in a container with a faucet. 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.
Electronic Devices To Pack For A Festival
Festivals are all about getting away from the digital for a few days and there are limited options for recharging – you’ll probably want to leave your Nintendo Switch at home.
- Cell 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 over the weekend, so now might be the time to invest in a suitably rugged case. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which can render your cell phone invincible.
- Power Bank – Expect not to 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 traveled 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 billfold or purse, and carry a small, comfortable day bag for all your other bits and pieces.