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How to Pack for a Festival

The best way to truly relax and embrace the festival spirit is to devote a good chunk of time and effort beforehand towards ensuring you've got everything you're going to need. Of course, putting together "everything" has to be balanced with the fact you've got to get your bags from the car to the campsite, which basically means that there's no space for anything unnecessary!

While this article assumes that you're traveling by car to the festival, most of the things to pack will apply to any festival-goer to ensure a comfortable, pleasant and safe experience.


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    Choose suitable bags to carry your stuff in. Consider how you'll be moving around the festival and the distance from your car to the site you're either going to be sitting at or setting up a camp on. In most cases, backpacks are your best and easiest option. Suitcases will be hard to carry for any distance and tend to be bulky when moving past crowds of people and forget taking anything with wheels; the wheels will easily get bogged and won't turn over fields.
    • A trolley or a wheelbarrow could be helpful if you have space for such but only use something sturdy that has big wheels, especially if you're expecting mud.
    • As well as the large bag, consider also having a small bag that you can carry your stuff in during the day when moving about the festival; either that or have clothing with large pockets unless pickpocketing is an issue, in which case keep all valuables secure, such as money in a money bag.
    • CamelBak® packs can be great for festivals because they're hydration packs that allow you to carry water that can be obtained through an attached tube.[1]
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    Select suitable sleeping gear. You're obviously going to need a tent and sleeping bags. There are all sorts of mattresses available now that are lightweight; try picking one that doesn't require a pump to inflate it to make your life easier and to reduce the amount of items you need to carry in. For the lighter option, just sleep on your clothes. Pillows may seem like a luxury item but they make camping so much nicer and you can put it between your backpack and your back to carry it into the festival. Or, look for small camping pillows that can be scrunched up for carrying and that fluff out for use.
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    Wear the right clothes. Festival clothing should be funky and fun- anything goes! However, you should also be considerate of the weather possibilities and be ready for all types of weather. Unless it's guaranteed not to rain, avoid wearing jeans as they just get clogged with mud and are miserable to be wearing if you're soaked through. Instead, wear shorts or short skirts and leggings/tights with Wellington boots (gumboots, rain boots) or lightweight pants used for hiking or biking purposes usually (choose ones that wash and dry quickly).
    • Sandals aren't recommended if you're planning on getting close to the stage - your toes will get squashed! Choose shoes or boots that protect your precious feet and toes should someone manage to stomp on them. Have flip flops or sandals for shower facilities though (if there are any) as you shouldn't stand in public bathing facilities without something on your feet.
    • Some form of raincoat, poncho, or other rain gear is a good idea for the inevitable shower when you know the forecast promises such. Otherwise, you can easily fashion one from a bin bag, so be sure to throw some in for all purposes.
    • A bandanna is a versatile accessory. It can be worn wet to cool you down and if you purchase one that has been impregnated with insect repellent, it'll keep the bugs off too. Plus, it keeps your hair out of your eyes and it looks cool.
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    Pack something to hold water in. Ideally this should be a collapsible water-carrier but a large soft drink bottle will do if you don't already have a water bottle. If the water bottle doesn't already have a carrying mechanism, purchase or make one so that you don't have to actually hold the water all day but can hang it on your body so that it doesn't bother you.
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    Prepare for different ways of eating. You're going to need to eat. How much food you take in and how much you buy there depends on (a) how much surplus cash you've got (b) how close to the stage your tent will be and (c) how much you're prepared to lug around with you. Here are some ideas for being self-sufficient:
    • If you're cooking you'll need to take along a compact and safe camping stove with fuel, a saucepan, and plastic/lightweight bowls, plates and cutlery. Another option is to take a flask and buy boiling water from stands at the festival to cook with (noodles and other instant food can be made by simply adding hot water to a bowl). And a can or tin opener is often handy to have (but if you have a Swiss army knife, this should suffice).
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    • Rice, pasta,ramen noodles, and couscous come in a variety of "add boiling water" varieties. Try to pick at least one that come in a bowl/tub so you don't need to take so much crockery with you. Pot noodles work well, as do cuppa soups and instant custard.
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    • Other food that won't spoil and requires no cooking includes: pepperoni, sachets of tuna, biltong/jerky, hot dogs, cheese strings/small cheeses, squeezy yoghurts, actimels, nuts/raisins/trail mix, lunchbox-sized smoothies, pita breads, breakfast or muesli/granola bars, chocolates/sweets and of course Pringles chips - the tubes protect them from being crumbed and can even double-up as an emergency loo in the middle of the night!
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    • If you want hot drinks, consider packing teabags, coffee (pack it in a coin bag from the bank or small snack bag that seals), hot chocolate, powdered milk and any sweeteners.
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    Don't bring glass. Festivals wouldn't be festivals without plenty of booze. As with the food there's usually plenty to purchase on-site, but if you're taking your own then here's how to do it: don't take anything in a glass bottle. If it's found it will be confiscated owing to the potential dangers of broken glass hurting other people. Take beer or cider in cans, wine in boxes and decant spirits into small empty water bottles. If you're not fussy about the taste you can reduce your baggage weight by taking in concentrate for mixers such as orange squash and Ribena (blackcurrant cordial).
    • Remember to pack an empty bottle to mix your drinks in.
    • You may also need energy drinks or energy and vitamin drink sachets.
    • Know beforehand if the festival doesn't allow you to bring your own alcohol.
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    Keep toiletries to a minimum. Everyone starts smelling the same during a festival, so this isn't the time to be overly fussed. Bring your toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush or comb, deodorant and for women, sanitary pads or tampons if needed. These should be all the items you need – leave the night creams and aftershaves at home. A small quick dry towel is a good idea if you intend using showers at the festival.
    • Bring along sunscreen and bug repellent. Sunscreen can melt in the heat so keep it wrapped in newspaper and keep it in the shade. Some festivals hand out sunscreen or provide it "on tap" to avoid leakage problems.
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    • Baby wipes will keep you and your cooking utensils clean. Try to make as many things dual purpose as possible.
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    • Pack plasters (mainly in case you get blistered feet), headache relief and throat lozenges along with any other medication you'll need.
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    • You may want to have earplugs ready either for watching really loud bands or just if you want to get some sleep.
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    Pack for on-the-spot "DIY hacks". With a simple kit, you can come up with a solution to many broken or forgotten items. Pack duct tape, safety pins, string, elastic bands, pegs (clothes pins) and a whole roll of heavy duty bin bags. Bin bags have a multitude of uses - you can sit on them, make a raincoat, line your wellies (rain boots) if they split and to keep muddy clothes contained.
    • Other general items you might find handy to take include: Toilet paper rolls, a Swiss army knife, lighter, torch/flashlight (wind-up ones are great), portable phone charger (solar is perfect), zip-bags (to keep phone etc., dry in the rain), camera (with extra batteries/memory card), and cash in small denominations (changing large amounts is a pain at festivals).
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    Consider random items if you have the space and the interest. Depending on what sort of festival you're off to, you may want to pack some of these more random items:
    • Flags, signs or placards
    • Fancy-dress, face-paint, wings, jewelry, makeup, temporary tattoos, etc.
    • Magazine or novel, a pack of cards, games
    • Glowsticks
    • Binoculars
    • Picnic basket
    • Umbrella
    • Vodka watermelon or oranges
    • Cigarettes (or make this the time to quit!)
    • Condoms
    • Disposable barbecue
    • Cooler bag
    • Friend's addresses for sending postcards from the festival.
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    Help kids to get sorted if they're coming along too. Kids generally love festivals but it does require extra preparation to ensure they'll be happy and safe while there. Bike trailers are ideal to wheel them around in with all their 'stuff', but make sure you take a padlock or it will be nabbed by passing drunken revelers! Take a marker to write your mobile number on their arms, clothing and earmuffs for when they get sleepy or lost. Be sure to explain to them what they should do and where they should head for should they get lost at any time. Having rules in place about wandering etc., is much better than being wise in hindsight.
    • Take things to entertain them that don't make too much noise, don't require batteries and don't have lots of parts. Things like bubbles, poi, stilts and sparklers are great fun.
    • Make sure they've got their own camera (even if it's just a disposable one), their favourite teddy (well named and with a phone number or email if lost!) and a fancy-dress costume.
    • Have some sweets (candies) or other treats especially for your kids.
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    Prepare for the journey to the festival. You'll need: Tickets, the festival location, a map/satnav/GPS unit, breakdown cover number (you may want to check that your breakdown service covers you for onward travel, some will just take you back home if you break down). If your car is small you may want to invest in roof bars and a roofbox. You may also need bungee cords to strap tents and other items to the roof.
    • Remember your sunglasses, in-car charger for your phone, and take CDs of bands who're playing at the festival to get you in the mood.
    • Collect treats/individual milks/salt and pepper and other condiments, etc. from service stations on the way.
    • When you arrive, text yourself the car-park location number as you're bound to have forgotten it in several days time!
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    When you return to your car after the festival you're likely to be exhausted, hungry, cold and possibly soaking wet. Pack a bag of warm, clean comfy clothes, fluffy socks, a bottle of pop, snacks, a towel and some gentle chill-out music to leave in the car. Doing this will make your journey home much more pleasurable and it's something to look forward to in the middle of feeling muddy and cold or too hot!


  • Mud is synonymous with festivals. Be prepared to be towed out of the car park by making sure your car's got a tow-hook and that it's not buried in the boot under all your bags!


  • If you bring children to the festival, do not drink, expose them to things that they shouldn't see at their age (drinking, sex, etc.), and always keep an eye on them.

Things You'll Need

  • Bag
  • Toiletries, sunscreen
  • Clothing, sunglasses, hat
  • Sleeping gear, tent
  • Food, snacks, water, water carrier
  • Cooking gear
  • Map, directions, tickets, etc.
  • Groundsheet
  • Umbrella, rain gear, boots
  • Camera, electronic gear
  • Spare change, cash, money bag (optional)

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Categories: Featured Articles | Concerts and Festivals