Festival camping: 10 tips for camping at music festivals

Become the Bear Grylls of Glasto

TODO alt text

Just when you thought you’d cracked camping in the outdoors, along comes the festival season. It’s camping Jim, but not as we know it. From the stagnant whiff of chemical toilets and the stumbling face-plant through your canvas home at 4am, to the oceans of mud and plastic pint glasses, the open-air festival is a survival situation apart. 

Here’s our top ten festival camping-related tips to keep you right side up and rockin’ this season...

1. Take a tent that hits the sweet spot

There’s a bit of an art to the festival tent - too small and you’ll be cold and lonely, too big and you’ll need a 4x4 to get to the site. Too cheap and you’ll be wet and cold, too expensive and it’ll get broken. Obviously leaving it - or burning it - at the end of the festival is not an option, so something with a bit of longevity is key. 

The easiest midpoint is a budget 2-3 man DofE style backpacking tent, which will be handy way beyond the festival (like the Vango Banshee), or go all family friendly and get a monster like the Outwell Montana - your own personal chill-out room.

2. Recognise your tent

Once you’ve picked up your ideal tent, you’ll be needing some accessories –  anything that makes your tent stand out from the crowd is a good thing, so you can find it in the early hours of the morning. 

Glowing guyropes, self-illuminating tent pegs, bunting, or a flag to drape – or fly – jauntily from your pitch are all brilliant for this. You can even go full proto-UKIP and get a flagpole, although the guy lines for this will definitely get destroyed overnight early doors.

3. Site it rite

Whatever tent and tech you’re packing, it’ll be useless without picking a good campsite (true for non-festival camping too). Festival camping in comfort means selecting a flat spot free of stones and sharp edges, but also away from the focal points of late-night chaos. 

Staying well away from the loos is a great idea, both for smell and noise reasons, as well as being well back from major pathways and a safe distance from food areas (which will get noisy early) and bars, obviously. 

4. Deter the teef

Most tents have a double zip, which can easily be locked with a small padlock to prevent casual teefery. This is a good plan, but obviously tents are easily cut into if anything looks expensive, so consider leaving the best silver at home, and carry cash/phone/etc on you at all times.

5. Stay connected

Speaking of phones, it’s a fact of life that your smartphone battery will die at some point, and while lots of festivals have charge points of some sort that’s a proper faff. 

Take along a decent battery pack to charge up overnight (the best ones will give you enough juice for several days), and also take a ‘burner phone’ that will let you text and call in emergencies. The rejuvenated Nokia 3310 is a great example, with nearly a month of standby and retro appeal to boot.

6. Keep it dry 

If there was one thing that a festival guarantees, it’s rain, and then mud. The inevitable wellies might take care of the latter, but when you get back to the tent there’s plenty of opportunity to get mud over everything inside too. 

This is where a good supply of bin bags comes in very handy - also useful for actual rubbish too - and standard kitchen ziplock bags also make sure that wet things stay separate from dry things. 

A more professional device is the drybag – such as these from Aquapac – which are a brilliant plan for storing clothes in the tent, and will come in handy for any outdoors escapade for years to come.

7. Don’t go all Heston 

Not all festivals allow cooking in the camping areas, but if they do then go for quick and easy – those visions of cooking bacon butties under canvas are just a quick route to food poisoning. 

An all-in-one cooker like the Primus Lite is ideal for knocking up a low-faff cuppa to start the day, and can be pressed into service making noodles and other food substitutes too if you really must. 

8. Water water everywhere

One to plan ahead for, as having lots of water to hand for those bleary waking moments is an essential anywhere, and never more so than at a festival. As the sun comes up your tent will go from pleasantly cool to white-hot inferno in minutes, leaving the unprepared flapping in the heat like a fish out of water. 

Combine a cheap, big collapsible water carrier with a smaller waterbottle, like a Nalgene or Hydroflask, and you’re all set. Maybe pack some painkillers too, just to take the edge off...

9. Stay in Tunes 

If you’ve gone with the family tent option you’ve got your very own chillout room, which will need some tunes to suit. A water-resistent and rugged speaker is the obvious choice, something like the UE Boom or Minirig, which both offer good battery life, decent sound and outdoor capabilities, although the UE Boom is the more waterproof of the pair.

10. Mood lighting

From creating a mood in camp to finding your car keys, lighting is an essential around any festival. The minimalist choice is a head torch for night-time wandering, which can be strapped to a water bottle/milk jug in camp to create a lantern. The Petzl Reactik+ is a great all-rounder choice that will serve you well, or for sheer wallet-busting brilliance the Alpkit Viper is almost unbeatable in terms of bang for buck.  

The downside of using your headtorch as a lantern is a massive hit on battery life, so taking a separate lantern is a good upgrade, such as the solar-powered Luci Emrg, or the Black Diamond Moji charging station, which is not only a lantern but a phone charger to boot.  

Happy festivalling!