Gair Rhydd’s festival survival guide

by Caragh Medlicott

Festivals – particularly music festivals – are always popular events among students over the spring and summer months. However, the intensity of a week of drinking with loud music every night can take its toll. Of course, it doesn’t take massive amounts of preparation; but if you don’t think about a few key things before you go it’s very possible you’ll find yourself in some sticky situations.

Whether that ends with you finding yourself without any mud-free clothes, out of money or even without somewhere to sleep. So what kind of things do you need to think about if you’re to make the most of your festival?

It sounds obvious but the first thing to consider is what kind of festival you’re going to, the scale and popularity of the festival, as well as the location, can make a big difference to the kinds of things you need to remember. For example, a lower budget, smaller-scale festival won’t require you to get there as early to get a good camping spot. However, if you’re going to Glastonbury, it’s probably a good idea to allow yourself enough time to find a good place to pitch your tent.

Anywhere near the main stage is always going to be loud and busy, plus it will also leave you far more vulnerable to drunk attacks from random strangers, so if you’re not a big fan of sick on your tent you might want to consider setting up further away. However, if you’re more of a ‘wild-child’ then by all means set up as close to the stage as you like – just don’t leave valuables in your tent!

Which leads onto another point: keeping your stuff safe. Once you’re at the festival it’s easy to get wrapped up in the atmosphere and go running off to a get a drink after telling yourself “I’m sure our stuff will be fine in the tent”. Unfortunately not even a locked tent is safe from thievery, in fact it’s possibly an even more likely target as a lock suggests there are goodies inside. Lots of people come back to find their tents sliced open and all their valuables gone, which I have to say does not look like a fun experience. The best way to avoid this it to get a locker – a lot of festivals use external locker companies which allow you to reserve a spot in advance. Check to see if this is the case before you go, that way you won’t be left without one if you get there late.

In terms of the location of your festival, this will obviously have a big impact on the kind of stuff you bring and the kind of tent or accommodation you use. If you’re heading to a festival abroad such as Benicassim it’s worth thinking about bringing some kind of canopy which you can set up over your tent so that you have shade. Also don’t forget the sun cream; being sunburnt and hungover is not fun. If you don’t operate well in hot temperatures – which let’s face it, a lot of us Brits don’t – or are particularly squeamish about large ants, it might be worth upgrading to one of the fancier camp sites or even staying in a hotel or hostel.

For a British festival this will obviously be a different story, your main concern here is one thing: mud. Bring wellies. Even if you’re lucky with the weather, pools of mud still manage to form everywhere; it’s some kind of British curse. It’s also worth bringing more pairs of socks than you actually need because many of them will probably end up soggy and gross. When packing your bag it’s always a good idea to bring a bin bag or plastic bag to make extra sure your dirty clothes don’t get mixed up with your clean clothes, otherwise everything ends up damp and slightly mud-stained.

I cannot stress how important budgeting is at a festival. Food and drinks on the site are always really expensive and it’s so easy to end up blowing most your money in a couple of days, ruining the rest of the time you have there. Instead, try and be realistic and set yourself a daily budget (this is another time the locker comes in handy as you can just bring out a certain amount of cash for each day). Where possible, get food from outside the main site, particularly lunch and breakfast; this will save you a lot of money.

The first time I went to a musical festival I stuffed my bag full of breakfast biscuits and they actually turned out to be a life-saver when I was strapped for cash and feeling too exhausted to move. Always buy big bottles of water to keep in the tent too as it’s pretty easy to forget to keep drinking fluids, and all too easy to get dehydrated, particularly when you’re drinking alcohol and dancing a lot.

Now onto the classic festival survival items. First on the itinerary: earplugs and eye mask. No they don’t work brilliantly but there will probably come a point in the middle of the day, near the end of your festival where the exhaustion hits you and you really need a power nap… without the sound of someone drunkenly singing nearby. Next things: toilet paper and hand sanitiser. It’s a fact universally acknowledged that toilets at festivals are gross. There will never be toilet roll or a place for you to wash your hands. Seriously, you will be so glad you remembered these when you see a portaloo on the last day.

Finally: sleeping bag and tent. A lot of people will tell you that a pop-up tent is a life saver, and to some extent it’s true, they are easy to put up. However, folding them back down again isn’t so easy. Some people will opt for buying a cheap pop-up tent and just leave it there at the end of the festival. If you’re going to do this at least dispose of it properly at the end, rather than leaving it for some poor sod who works there to try and deconstruct. I’d also recommend getting at least a two-man tent, even if it’s just for yourself. Single person tents are usually really small and awkward. Plus – having a tent you can actually sit up in makes keeping your stuff organised that bit easier.

Overall, festivals are a great way to enjoy music, comedy and much more. Roughing it a bit is all part of the experience. So long as you are reasonably sensible and go with good friends there’s no reason you won’t have a brilliant time! (And seriously, don’t forget the hand sanitiser).


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  • One of my favourite festival tips :buy cheap tea bags and put them in your boots overnight. Absorb damp and smell – just remember to dump them out! Bulk buy packets of hand tissues rather than take loo roll. You can keep them in your pocket. Big festivals like Reading will have loo roll available opposite the long drops. Dry shampoo and baby wipes = festival shower.