Festival Camping Essentials and Packing Checklist
As I write this in early June 2018 we are just heading into the main festival season. There is no Glastonbury or T in the Park this year, but the perennial favourites such as Reading and Leeds, V festival and the Isle of Wight Festival are all still taking place as well as many smaller, more niche festivals such as 2000trees and Womad.
Love it or loathe it, camping is pretty much a pre-requisite at most music festivals and in the UK with our unpredictable weather it can sometimes be tricky to know what to pack. Never fear, we have done all of the thinking for you and put together this list of festival essentials and printable packing checklist to help you survive your long weekend of music, fun, debauchery and hedonism. In no particular order, here we go!
If you failed to think of a tent then you may have bigger problems than we can help you with, but choosing the right tent for a festival can be tricky. The number of occupants will dictate your tent selection a fair bit here, and we would always recommend going up a tent size (if two people are sharing a tent, buy one that sleeps three, if four people are sharing a tent, buy one that sleeps at least five etc. – you’ll appreciate the extra space once all of your gear and booze is in with you). We’ve picked out our recommendations for the best 2, 4 and 6 man tents below:
Best festival tent for 2 people
Claims to have a set up time of 30 seconds. In reality, it took us a couple of minutes but still super quick to set up so you can get straight into the festival spirit and not stress out poring over complex erection instruction. As a 3 man tent there is plenty of room for 2 people, comes in 3 colours and is a bargain at less than £80.Check price at Amazon »
Best festival tent for 4 people
The 4+ in this tents name indicates that it is roomy for four people, and indeed that is true. Set up time was around ten minutes and could have been quicker although the instructions were a little unclear. Really durable tent that will last you for many festivals to come and under £100 represents good value for money too.Check price at Amazon »
Best festival tent for 6 people
This Coleman tent is great for bigger groups at festivals. It has full head height throughout so you can stand up comfortably, there is a great ventilation system to keep you cool in the mornings and there is a separate ‘room’ away from the bedroom compartments for gathering (or just storing booze). In the colour pictured it costs around £200 – but bizarrely if you want one of the other 3 colours available expect to pay a bit more.Check price at Amazon »
It doesn’t seem to matter how hot a day is in the UK, by night time it is usually bloody freezing. When you crawl into your tent at 2am and you’re shivering you’ll be thankful for a half decent sleeping bag. If it’s too cold for you, (yes even July in the UK) some festivals offer more of a glamping option; sleeping in caravans, wigwams or pods. Anyway, we’re not talking minus digits on the thermometer here so you won’t need to shell out a fortune on an arctic-proof bag, but a 1 or 2 season bag like the Trespass Siesta shown below would be ideal.
Best festival sleeping bag
Sleeping mat or airbed
It may be ok for cows, but for us humans, lying on the floor in a field is not that comfortable. Also, the cold will quickly seep through the groundsheet of your tent and potentially make for a very chilly nights sleep. Treat yourself and at the minimum buy a roll-mat or spend a little more and buy an airbed, they aren’t all that dear, pack down nice and small and you will be thankful for it after a day of dancing in mud.
You could even double up and buy a decent yoga mat, it’ll protect you from the ground cold underneath and you’ll get to keep it for your downward dog after the festival!
Best festival sleeping mat
This Flyton sleeping mat is inflatable to keep your body elevated from the cold ground and rolls up to be very light and very compact. Not the cheapest roll mat at around £30 – but one of the best.Check price at Amazon »
Best festival airbed
This single flock airbed from Comfort Quest is ideal for festivals and is a super bargain at around £15. This will feel like the best £15 you ever spend when you wake up in a field feeling groggy.Check price at Amazon »
It’s a small luxury, but can make the world of difference to getting some rest in a tent. We’re simply not used to sleeping with our heads flat against the deck, so in my experience if you haven’t got a pillow you will end up rolling up a jumper and laying your head on that. Save yourself from lying on a zipper all night and either bring a pillow from home or pick up a travel pillow such as this one shown below.
Best camping pillow
This camping pillow from Trekology is ergonomically designed so it’s super comfortable, and once deflated packs up into a tiny package, so easily carried and stowed. Comes in three different colours too!Check price at Amazon »
One of the great things about festivals is that for one weekend only, they are truly mini-cities that never sleep. Unfortunatly that’s also a bad thing. When your campsite neighbours are playing a crappy acoutic guitar and singing Wonderwall appalingly at 3am you’ll be thankful for some earplugs. We like these from Deep Sleeps
Best festival earplugs
These foam earplugs are specifically designed for sleeping so are comfortable enough to wear all night. They expand in the ear to give a perfect fit, come with a handy travel case and 10 pairs are included in the box – more than enough for a long weekend.Check price at Amazon »
While all your favourite bands are playing, you are more than happy to stand up for an hour and a half and dance about like an idiot. But in between the music or at the end of a long day when you are back at your tent, it is a relief to sit down for a bit. You can always sit on the grass of course but if its raining in the day you’ll get a wet arse and even if it’s dry, by nighttime the floor will be cold and damp with dew. Take a folding chair. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Best festival camping chair
Firepit, wood and firelighters
Similarly, when you get back to your tent at the end of a long day and you are tired but you want to sit up and have a few more drinks and a few laughs with your friends, doing so in the freezing cold wears thin pretty quickly. A fire makes it a much more pleasant experience all around and is a key ingredient to a good festival experience in my opinion. Not all festivals allow fires so be sure to check on this point before you go. Increasingly, those festivals that do allow fires require them to be in a firepit for obvious safety reasons. Don’t risk a telling off by the wardens and take a firepit with you. Also, most festivals that allow fires sell wood in nets, but it is usually extortionately priced and if you can bring some from home, or pick some up at a garage on the way, you’ll save money.
Best festival firepit
This firepit is around £35 and we selected it as it comes with a carry bag – really important when lugging it from your car to the campsite. It also has a grill so could double as your camping stove.Check price at Amazon »
Torch or headlamp
I’m in my mid-30’s now, which means that more often than not I need to get up for a wee in the middle of the night. Add into this equation 10 cans of lager over the course of the day and it’s a certainty. Navigating your way to and back from the toilets in the dark, tripping over guy ropes and standing in vomit is not fun – so be sure to take a lightweight torch to light your way around the campsite. Better yet take a headlamp and go hands free! Particularly useful when you actually get to the portaloos.
Best festival head lamp
This Greenclick head lamp is super bright and is rechargable, meaning you can charge it up in the car on the way to the festival and then enjoy 30 hours of lovely light (in economy mode).Check price at Amazon »
One universal truth about all festivals is that there is always a queue for the water taps and it is always massive. At the bigger festivals, an hour is not an unreasonble waiting time in the mornings. Rather than juggling a bunch of 500ml Evian bottles, get a big water carrier with a handle – this makes it relatively simple to carry even when full to the brim with water.
Best festival water storage
It’s all very well recommending all of this gear for you, but when you have to make 5 trips back and forth to the car to carry it all you’ll be cursing me. Instead, buy a trolley such as the one shown below. Make sure to get one with rubber or inflatable wheels, as festival fields are often muddy and uneven. You’ll be super smug as you stroll along with your cargo while those around you are dropping things left, right and centre and swearing a lot.
Best festival trolley
To say that the British weather is unreliable is an understatement. There’s nothing to dampen a party atmosphere quite like walking around shivering in wet clothes. Pack a cheap foldaway poncho and should the heavens open you’ll be able to whip it out in no time and your spirits will stay undampened.
Best festival poncho
This poncho from Terra Hiker is completely waterproof and has a roomy back – perfect for covering a backpack. It also comes in 4 different colours for the fashion conscious and is only £13-ishCheck price at Amazon »
I remember being at Glastonbury 2005 (the one where there was a massive thunderstorm on the Friday morning and the whole place was flooded). There were lots of people unprepared squalching through deep mud in lovely summery sandals. Indeed, a Millets truck, sensing a comercial opportunity, rolled up selling wellies out the back at a premium and the queue that formed went on for miles. I, on the other hand, had taken wellies just in case. I was very glad that I did.
Best festival wellies
These Dunlop wellies are half-length which makes them easy to get on and off – essential when you are trying to transfer from the tent to the outside without getting your feet wet. They also are more comfortable when wearing shorts as they don’t chafe as much as full-length wellies, which can be a real nuisance at a festival.Check price at Amazon »
When the sun does shine in the british summertime, it can burn quickly. There is little to no shade anywhere in festivals, and as miserable as sunburn or even sunstroke is at the best of times, it’s even worse when you are in a field and all of your mates are having fun. Take a high factor suncream – this isn’t Marbella beach and not the time to be worrying about getting a lovely bronze tan. Slap it on in the morning and top up throughout the day and you’ll be a happy bunny.
Best festival suncream
Nivea is one of the most respected brands in suncare and this SPF 30 suncream should be more than sufficient for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. It also moisturises which is an added bonus and costs around 4 quid a bottle.Check price at Amazon »
At the least, take some painkillers. Not just for hangovers either. I remember one year at Glastonbury I had to take a trip to the emergency on-site dentist as I had an absess on my wisdom tooth. Ouch. I wished I had some ibuprofen that year but I didn’t. And I will never go to a festival without some again. Ideally I’d suggest taking a small first aid kit, either like the one shown below or make your own up and pop it in a small carry bag.
Best festival first aid kit
This mini first aid kit is perfect for festivals as it includes pretty much everything you’ll ever need (there are 92 different items including blister plasters and emergency foil blanket) but won’t take up too much room in your bag. Hopefully you won’t need it, but at the risk of sounding like your mum – it’s better to be safe than sorry!Check price at Amazon »
We have covered the main items above, but there are a few other essentials that may be worth taking. These are:
- Camping Stove, billy Cans and tin opener
- Thick hoodie or jumper for nighttime
- Day pack / rucksack
- Sun hat
- Bin bags
- Anti-bacterial handwash (although most festivals provide this in the portaloos)
- Toilet roll
- Insect repellent
The complete festival packing checklist
So there we have it. If you take everything on this list you should be covered for just about every scenario and have an enjoyable festival experience. Below everything recommended has been listed out as a complete checklist and if you want to print this out to tick items off as you pack them, you can find a printable version here.
Documents and money
- Festival ticket
- Any necessary travel tickets
- Money – cash and cards (most festivals have cash machines but the queues are always massive. Take cash if possible).
- Bum bag or other bag to store cash on you safely during the day
- Rubber mallet (for putting in tent pegs)
- Sleeping bag
- Airbed or camping mat
- Camping chairs
- Torch or headlamp
- Camping stove, billy cans, tin opener and cutlery
- Firepit, firelighters and wood
- Water carrier
- Rucksack or day bag
- All necessary clothing, underwear and shoes
- Spare socks (take loads of socks. If you get wet feet you’ll be grateful of them)
- Thick hoodie
- Sun hat
Toiletries and personal care
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Dry shampoo, hair brush and other hair accessories
- Any make-up, face wash or other facial products
- Anti bacterial hand santitizer
- Any necessary medications
- Wet wipes
- Toilet roll
- Insect repellent
- Pain killers and/or first aid kit
- Bin bags
- Phone charger (for emergencies – most festivals have phone charging stations)