75 essentials that will fit in your rucksack
After years of failed attempts and disappointment, years of sitting on the sofa in your PJs watching the highlights on TV with only the fact that you have a shower and they don’t to console yourself, you’ve finally got tickets to your favourite festival.
Whether you’re jetting off to Benicassim in Spain, or Hideout Festival in Croatia, you’re so excited you can barely contain yourself. You’ve YouTubed all of acts, although they’re all already on your iPod anyway, and you’re already fantasising about which bands you’re going to meet and how drunk you’re going to get. But wait, what do you even take on a festival holiday anyway?!
Packing for a festival is often considered an art. Make your rucksack too heavy and you’ll spend the hours queuing at the gates in pain, pack too light and you’ll regret not bringing that spare pair of shorts when you’re soaked in a downpour or covered in paint (and goodness knows what else!) If you’ve left it until last minute and you’re panicking, throwing clothes across your room in a completely useless fashion and frantically trying to shove fifteen outfits for all weathers into a bag you borrowed from your brother’s mate, STOP! Count to ten and take deep breaths.
Our ultimate festival guide is here to help you with what is one of life’s most difficult tasks. Wellies or sandals? Bottles or cans? Read on to find out. And don’t worry, if you’re sitting there wondering why on earth you’d need something, we’ll try to justify ourselves along the way. But first of all, grab a rucksack. One somewhere in the region of 60L is just dandy. Any bigger and there’s the danger you’ll fill any remaining space with absolutely unnecessary clutter. Then, before you do anything else, grab your TICKET and zip it securely in an easily accessible pocket. You will need this handy for when you arrive, and there is nothing worse than embarrassedly hunting through your underwear afront a long line of impatient festival-goers.
- Tent – Although pop-up tents may seem like a great idea, especially if you plan to pitch up in the dark, they aren’t strong. Believe me, you’ll get quite a shock when some drunk falls on your tent at 3am. Sturdy is good, and big is beautiful. Count your rucksacks and beer supplies as extra people and bring a tent suitable for that many people. Those with little porches are great for storing muddy wellies and chairs.
- Gaffa tape – At some point, you’re probably going to get a tear or cigarette burn in your tent, and you’ll thank your lucky stars you brought tape when it starts to rain.
- Sleeping bag & liner – Check the weather forecast and make sure you bring a suitable sack. If it’s warm, a two-season bag will be fine, whereas four-seasons will keep you toasty on even the chilliest of nights.
- Travel pillow – Comfortable without taking up too much room and great for that long coach journey down.
- Roll mat – Makes sleeping just that little bit comfier whilst protecting you from the cold, hard ground.
- Picnic blanket – Double it up as a rug in your tent on a night. It’s better than sleeping on the plastic floor covering
- Camping chair – Great for chilling around the camp fire. The better ones even have a holder for your can.
- Cooking stove – Or if all else fails, a disposable BBQ. Be sure to check the festival’s guidelines of stoves and gas as this can vary between events.
- Plates & cutlery – After five days without a shower and countless trips to the loos you won’t want to be eating with those fingers, trust me.
- Lighter/matches – A lighter would be better. Soggy matches aren’t so great.
- Torch – You’ll regret not bringing one when you trip over everyone’s tents as you stumble home in the early hours of the morning.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste – Clean, fresh breath will feel amazing the morning after the night before.
- Deodorant – Your friends will thank you for it.
- Baby wipes – If the freezing cold water doesn’t make you shudder, the thought of long queues and lack of privacy common to festival shower sure will. That is if your festival even has showers at all. Baby wipes showers are ritual for the majority of festival-goers, keeping the smells at bay for another day.
- “Girl Stuff” – Girls, you know what we mean.
- Shaving items – Not so bad for guys, but girls would have a much harder time pulling off the rugged look.
- Contact lenses & solution – You’ve paid a lot of money to see those bands. It would really suck if you couldn’t actually see them.
- Microfleece towel – Doesn’t take up much room and dries really quickly. Also doubles up as a flag for your tent.
- Talcum powder – Definitely one of the most important items on this list. Talc keeps you dry, stops you chafing and is a great substitute for dry shampoo in festivals that forbid pressurised canisters. It’s super cheap too.
- Loo roll/pocket tissues – If you don’t have anything to wipe with, and the person in the next stall doesn’t have anything either, you’re in a bit of an awkward situation.
- She-wee – A girl’s best friend. Sometimes the prospect of a urinal is more appealing than that of a Portaloo, especially on a hot day. Plus, you get to experience what it’s like to be a guy…kind of.
- Hand sanitiser – Alcohol gel that claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria. Use this religiously. You never know who hasn’t washed their hands after visiting the Portaloo.
- First aid kit – Paracetamol for the hangover, energy tablets for the sleepless nights and trust me, Imodium is always handy.
- Prescription medicines – Pack these immediately after your tickets. If for any reason you do leave anything behind, the first aid tents may be able to help or advise you as to where the nearest doctor is.
- Insect repellent – if you’re out enjoying the nice weather, you can guarantee that the bugs are too.
- Sun lotion – Sleeping in an uncomfortable, cramped tent surrounded by nocturnal party people is bad enough, but factor in sunburn and you’ll never get your forty winks. Stock up and you’ll have enough left for that summer holiday to Spain too.
- Makeup – Your clothes may be smelly and your hair may be matted, but a bit of red lippy and you can pull off any look.
- Moisturiser – You have to allow yourself a little luxury, and you’ll need something to soothe the sunburn if you forget your sun cream.
- Hairbrush – Well, you’ll need something to brush the talc out of your hair with…
- Contraceptives – For anybody interested in late-night tent exercise.
- Underwear – Bring two or three extra pairs than the number of days you’re away for.
- Socks – Must be soft, comfortable and shouldn’t sneak down your ankles. Long too, if you’re a Wellington-wearing male and don’t want to lose your leg hair.
- Tshirts – One for each day of the festival. Great for layering up when it’s cold.
- Hoodie – For when the camp fire starts burning low.
- Long sleeved top – A light top is great to tie around your waist for when it gets cool on the walk home.
- Shorts/skirt/jeans/trousers/leggings – Just choose two of these and alternate. Jeans aren’t great for wet weather though so bear that in mind if it’s forecast to rain.
- Tights – An extra layer for under your jeans or leggings.
- Anorak/poncho – Believe it or not, ponchos are cool. Pick a flowery number and wear it with pride.
- Wellies – There’s always one poor soul that loses his brand new trainer in the mud. Don’t be that guy.
- Sunglasses – Look super fashionable or super ridiculous, it’s up to you.
- A funky hat – To keep your head cool whilst looking cool.
- Hair bands – Add a flowery number to transform yourself instantly from hobo to Boho.
- Bum bag – Bum bags have made a comeback as a statement item for your festival wardrobe. They’re great for keeping all of your valuables close to your, and unlike a shoulder bag, they won’t fall off your shoulders as you’re bopping around to the music.
- Clean clothes to go home in – Just imagine spending four hours on a train surrounded by people in smelly, muddy clothes. Or your mum’s face when she sees the state of her car seats.
Food & Drink
- Empty plastic bottles – These can be crushed down to save space in your rucksack and filled up with water (or alcohol) on site. Your shoulders will thank you too.
- Water – For the journey down and the queue at the gate. Beer is all well and good, but if you’re feeling dehydrated you’ll need water.
- Crates of beer/cider/pre-mixed spirits – Most festivals do not allow glass bottles in the festival grounds as they are dangerous to both humans and wildlife. If spotted by stewards, all of your precious supplies will be confiscated. Be smart and premix that vodka in a two-litre bottle that can be decanted into the aforementioned empty plastic bottles if necessary.
- Vitamins – Because your diet will mostly consist of packet noodles and crisps.
- Cereal bars – Light to carry and a great way to kick-start the metabolism on a morning (or an afternoon for that matter).
- Packet pasta/noodles/couscous/soup – Or anything you can add water to. Avoid heavy tin cans, but if you do bring a couple make sure they have a ring-pull. There is nothing worse than trying to stab your way into your lunch with a knife.
- Dried fruit & nuts – Small and light enough to fit in your bag, these will keep the hunger at bay whilst you’re waiting at the barrier for the next act. They’re also a great source of vitamins and fibre. Fresh fruit such as apples will last a couple of days, but avoid bananas at all costs unless you want them squashed into your last pair of clean pants.
- Tube crisps – These don’t take up much room and are less likely to be crushed, popped, go stale or attract uninvited nibblers. Plus offering them around the camp site is a great way to make friends.
- Chocolate bars – You’ll need to keep your energy levels up, which is a great excuse to stock up.
- Chewing gum – Fresh breath on the go, lifesaver if you forget your toothbrush.
- Ear plugs – To drown out the parties going on around you or your tent mate’s loud snoring.
- Eye mask – To get an extra hour or two’s kip after the sunrise.
- Bin liners – Be responsible and clean up after yourselves. Each year it costs millions to clean up after festival-goers – money that could have been donated to charity. Also line your rucksack with a bin liner to keep its contents dry.
- Zip-lock bags – A fantastic invention with multiple uses. Take a couple of baby wipes around with you in a zip-lock to keep them hydrated without taking the whole bag. They’re also great for protecting your phone/camera/money/loo roll etc from the elements.
- Tupperware – A great way to prevent squashy foods from being squashed.
- Hip flask – The perfect shape to slip down your Wellington boot.
- Portable speakers – For your own private party. Be aware though that stereo system are often banned on camp sites.
- Spare batteries/chargers – Most festivals have charging points, or lock-ups with a power supply, dotted around the site so it would be useful to take a charger if your gadgets drain juice. Batteries are necessary for torches and those all-important fairy lights (see number 72).
- Umbrella – For those inevitable rainy spells.
- Old phone – Unfortunately theft is a common occurrence at festivals. Your old phone will be much less of a target than your brand new smartphone, and you won’t be anywhere near as sad if you lost it. Plus your old phone probably won’t mind being dropping in mud or trampled on, and the battery will last much, much longer.
- Camera – For capturing all of the awesome moments, obviously.
- ID – You might be asked to prove your age when purchasing alcohol on-site, or to verify your identity when entering a festival with a photo ticket.
- Photocopies – Another thing I’d recommend keeping in a zip-lock bag, just in case you lose the original copy of your ticket, ID, etc.
- Cash – And plenty of it. Cash machines can be few and far between, and it’s the worst feeling knowing you’re missing the music by standing in the world’s longest queue.
- Flag – This may require a bit of effort to create, but it’ll be your saviour when you’re trying to locate your tent in amongst the hundreds of other standard green tents in your field. You’ll also be able to point yourself out to your mum on the TV highlights whilst realising you were a lot closer to the stage than you thought you were.
- Solar/battery-powered fairy lights – Wrap these around your tent or flag pole to create a magical atmosphere around the camp site and and increase your chances of finding your way back to your tent in the dark.
- Pencil – For marking on your programme the bands you really want to see. They’ll still work when it’s wet, cold, or the pages are glossy.
- Marker pen – Possibly the least essential item on this list, but good to show ownership over crates of beer or draw offensive pictures on the odd drunk person.
- Glow sticks – For the after parties. Can also be used in a desperate attempt to light your way home.
- Cards – Great for the camp site, and those moments of idiocy when you think you’re “not quite drunk enough”.
- Sledge, wheelbarrow or granny-style shopper – You will no doubt be carrying a great deal of supplies, mostly in the form of beer and cider, and unless you have arms of steel and your name is Popeye you will appreciate having a set of wheels. Make sure they’re sturdy though as cheap, plastic ones won’t handle the long and difficult pilgrimage across the camp site.