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How to survive festival camping

Tips, tricks and neon glow sticks: making the most of the summer festivals

Music festivals are one of the highlights of the British summer and, whether you’re rolling out your sleeping bag at Glastonbury, pitching your tent at V Festival or driving in the campervan to one of the country’s smaller gigs, there are a few key tips that’ll keep you happy, safe and well fed. To help you out this summer, we've delved back through the pages of our festival guidebook to bring you some of our top tips for making it through the festival weekend. Stay calm, have fun and remember these simple pointers...

Taking the right tent

Tents are really designed for traditional camping, where ‘two people’ means it will fit two people perfectly, keeping them warm, insulated and cosy. For a festival, bring a tent that’s bigger than you need (e.g. a three-person tent) so you can fit in all your clothes, food and drink too, plus to allow some extra space for sitting around when you’re not in the main arena. Make sure you pitch it at home as a quick reminder before you leave – especially if the last time it was used was at another festival, you never know what might have been left behind!

Park for the future

Arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds and, if you’re going by car, make sure you park by the exit not the entrance, even if you’re the first person there. You’ll be grateful when it comes to leaving, tired, hung-over and competing with tens of thousands of other people.

Picking the right spot

Think about your proximity and what you consider most important. Close to the stages? Everything’s accessible and you can nip to and from the tent with ease, but it will soon be crammed with other tents and you won’t be getting a quiet night’s sleep. Close to the toilets? Handy when the time comes but too close and you may have to compete with the smell come day three, so think it through. Check in advance, too, for quiet areas, family zones and special VIP areas. Before you pitch the tent make sure you clear the floor of any sharp objects and don’t get too carried away creating an open, communal space out font to gather with your friends – leave a hole to big and you can guarantee someone else will pitch their tent in it while you’re away.

Identifying your tent

When you first arrive it’ll feel like there’s enough room to host a football match but don’t be fooled. There’ll soon be thousands of tents covering the field in all their spectacular colour and cobweb of guyropes. In the dark (after a day of drinking) every tent will look the same, so try and find a way of marking your one out. Bring a colourful flag (only one you’re prepared to loose) or tie a specific ribbon to the top.

Looking after your stuff

It’s not always a clever idea to lock your tent. A locked tent makes it look like there are valuables inside and they can easily be ripped through with a knife. Keep your valuables on you when you’re out and about and sleep with them at night – otherwise the simple rule is, don’t bring anything you’re not prepared to lose. Bring a portable charger to power your phone and make sure you bring one that will give you at least one full charge. Advise your friends to as well, otherwise you’ll soon find someone else using up your charge! Keep your eye out when you're setting up your tent, first arrival is actually when most thefts happen as everyone is so distracted and all your belongings are out in the open. But don’t be scared – festival folk are a good bunch!

Weathering the storm

Everyone knows forecasts can’t be trusted for more than a couple of hours in advance, so no matter how sunny the forecast, bring along a pair of wellies in case it rains – they’re thoroughly in fashion at festivals now anyway! It’s also a great idea to bring a zip-lock bag for your phone and wallet too. Beyond that, just embrace the rain and get wet – you’ll dry off again when the sun comes out and everyone else is in exactly the same boat.

Do your homework

Check out the festival website before you arrive and swot up on the essentials. Where can you park? Where do you pick up wristbands? Are there cash machines or is it all cash-less with a top-up chip?  What is and isn’t allowed on site? How much alcohol can you bring in with you? Are glass bottles allowed? You don’t want to drag a car-load of things along and then get caught out at the gates. Once inside, check out the band schedule and make a bit of a plan. Time flies when you’re having fun and you don’t want to miss your favourite acts!

Stock up

Food and drink is often extortionately priced at festivals, so, if you can, prepare some food in advance and take in as much drink as you’re allowed. It all adds up if you’re paying for every single meal – especially on the longer weekend festivals – and as uncool as you may think it is to bring out the tupperware and your handy camping spork, you’ll be extremely grateful when you see your bank statement afterwards!

This Cool Camping article was originally written by James Warner Smith for the GoOutdoors spring/summer magazine.