Large Festival Survival – and how to camp in style

In the first section of this 3 part blog here I looked at some general rules of surviving a festival when you have a day ticket. This blog looks at the extra things that you might like to consider if going to a large festival, or you are camping.

Choose your experience

Perhaps you haven’t been to a festival for many years, and have horrible memories of disgusting toilets, rowdy campers, bad, tasteless food, and not being able to see or hear. Well things have changed a lot since that time.

The organizers of all large festivals, and most medium sized festivals now understand that they can make a superb incremental revenue stream out of a more enhanced experience.

Ultimate Luxury

It simply comes down to how much money you want to spend!

There will be many of the following options on offer-

Hotel – there will be packages on offer that include hotel accommodation. Bye bye to noisy nights, and not having a shower! The hotel will also probably run a shuttle bus to the festival as well.

Some festivals run in the winter in Holiday camps such as Butlins, you get a nice little room with a shower for a reasonable price, and it’s a short walk from the chalets to the arena.


Attending a large festival doesn't mean you have to leave the comforts of home behind

There will be many festival shops that you can buy anything you have broken or forgot to take with you

Glamping

Glamping is where you are still camping but in more style. Options that might be available are:

  • American style “Silver Bullet” Caravans. These might have heating light and simple cooking facilities built in.
  • Yurts – large tents best suited to a group of people.
  • Set up camping – you arrive and a tent and basic necessities are already there. No need to carry all that equipment from your car. What you get varies from supplier to supplier, do check on whether things like sleeping bags are included in the price.
  • Mini-cabins. These are prefab small rooms with sleeping accommodation, normally a lockable door, and probably an electricity supply.

A last accomodation option is “Credit card camping”. Certainly at large festivals, there will be numerous shops where you can buy everything you need on site. Don’t bring your tent, sleeping bag, ground mat, cooking equipment with you – buy it all there. Personally, I would never advocate this, it does depend on the retailers having stock, but, the implication is that if you forget something, it’s not the end, you can generally get replacements on site.

It’s all about the toilets!

Ask any lady why she doesn’t want to go to a festival, and she will take 1 nanosecond to reply with “I can’t stick the thought of the toilets” – and she’s probably got a point! But there are things you can do to make the whole loo experience a lot better.

Most festivals, particularly those aimed at an older generation (80’s revival festivals, Jazz festivals etc) will almost certainly have an option for you to buy the ultimate loo experience!

Look for mentions of Companies like “Comfy Crappers”, “When nature calls”. “Posh loos” These toilets will be spotlessly clean, will probably been totally cleaned between each use, and might include hot showers, hair dryers, and large washbasins as part of the package. In our experience, even the most fastidious person, should be very happy with their time in these units


Large Festival toilets

VIP Camping at DownLoad, a large festival

Camping Options

If your budget won’t stretch to the options above, you can still fine tune your experience

Most festival organisers will offer something like the following options – The names vary, but the essence of the packages is the same

  • Basic Camping – expect to be crushed next to another tent, noise that goes on all night long and basic toilet facilities
  • Family friendly camping – A curfew on noise is in force between midnight and 7 AM
  • VIP/RIP Camping – More space, better toilets and probably showers, and because these tickets are more expensive, the folk who camp in these areas tend to be less boisterous and noisy. VIP camping also tends to be closer to the arena, so less of a walk at the end of a happy but tiring day
All of the above options sell out quickly – you will need to book them early

Planning for maximum fun

So, you’ve chosen your package, and you’ve decided to camp.

  • What do you take with you?
  • How do you minimise the pain of getting everything set up?

Let’s say you have gone for the basic camping package – I guarantee that you will have a long walk from the Car Park to your assigned Camping area! Unless you are a world-class weight lifter, carrying your camping equipment will be a long and painful experience, and getting it all back out again when you are tired and the ground has turned into sticky toffee pudding is a miserable experience.

Help is at hand!

Use wheels!
The two most commonly used methods of getting your stuff to the campsite are sack trollies and gardening trucks

The gentleman here is using a gardening trolly. Some festivals have places that you can hire these, look for details on the festival website

But what do I take?

As little as possible! Remember there are shops

A common mistake is to take too much food. You really don’t need much, as I am sure that you will eat at least twice a day from the various catering vans
Do buy a large bottle of water from the camp shop, you can then use the empty bottle to fill up from the many taps. There’s no point in taking one with you – water is heavy!
The same is true of milk to go with that very necessary morning cup of coffee
James Elliott and Chris Chilcott have put together a great festival checklist, you download it here and use it as a start point for your planning

A few words on some of the items on the list

Loo rolls – You can’t guarantee that there will be loo rolls in the public toilets, take your own. But you notice that we advocate taking lots. That’s because they are great for mopping up spillages and rain puddles in your tent as well as the obvious use

Baby wipes – These are great! They can be used to clean your hands and face, but are absolutely brilliant for cleaning cups, plates, cooking equipment. They are really effective at this, and leave no residual “Taint”

Gaffer Tape – an essential! Things keep falling off the truck? – Gaffer tape it. Tent got a rip? – Gaffer tape. Broken tent stays? – Gaffer tape. By the way, there is a huge difference between Gaffer tape and “Duct or “Duck” tape, Gaffer tape is strong and will stick to anything, even damp surfaces. Duct tape looks the same but rips easily, and really doesn’t stick to surfaces – i.e. it is useless for the job in hand. A good brand of Gaffer Tape is “Gorrilla tape” – superb stuff!

Bin bag. Ground wet under your sleeping mat? – Put it in a bin bag. Large hole in your tent – Bin bag and gaffer tape. Forgot your waterproof? – Cut a head hole in your Bin bag – job done

Hexi burner and tabs. Hexi burners and tabs are allowed in most festivals. Gas Burners are commonly banned, and even disposable bar-b-q’s are not allowed in some sites. They are cheap, and burn hot, BUT, an ordinary cigarette lighter isn’t hot enough to get the tabs to light – buy a turbo lighter.

Whatever you use to cook and boil water with, DO NOT USE IT IN YOUR TENT

Each and every year there are documented accounts of people dying because they used a Hexi burner, Gas burner, or Bar-b-q in their tent. The worst offender is a disposable bar-b-q that has finished its job cooking. The residual coals are very efficient creators of Carbon Monoxide. But, all of these give off  Carbon Monoxide – it will kill you and the trouble is that the symptoms are exactly the same as having a hangover or being drunk

Use a Clashfinder or phone app

You will be amazed by how many acts are running simultaneously. Most large festivals will have between 4 and 6 stages running at the same time. To help you plan your day, you will need help.

You can either download an app to your phone or go for a clashfinder
I personally like clashfinders – you print them out, and you do have to rely on having a working phone. Also the apps tend to be full of adverts.

The best of these can be found here

They do tend to be updated right up to the start of the festival, so do check them just before you leave home

Finally a few words on making sure that you don’t suffer any thieving

Tents being broken into and stuff being stolen is really quite rare, but it does happen

Here are a few words on how you can minimise losses

  • If you are with buddies, set your tents up so that they are obviously together – have them close to, and pointing at the other tents in your group. Solo tents are a bigger target than ones in a group
  • Sleep with your valuables! i.e. put your wallet, camera and keys in your sleeping bag
  • DON’T put your valuables around the edge of the tent. A common method that thieves use is to slit a hole into the sides of the tent, and then feel for goodies. If you put goodies in the middle, they won’t feel anything
  • Don’t show off your valuables to your fellow campers, you are advertising that you have something worth stealing
  • But above all, as I have said in Blog 1, if it is worth stealing, don’t take it with you.

This is Part 2 of a 4 part series

Part 1  can be viewed here

Part 3 can be viewed here

Part 4 looks at the rules and regulations associated with live event pthotography

was last modified: May 17th, 2018 by Chris Elliott