What to take to a festival: My guide for first-timers

The weather is warm, the nights are long and festival season is upon us. But not for me. The big saving plan means that we have compromised the annual summer weekends we spend dancing around in fields in the honour of saving money. We are big festival goers so this restriction is difficult to accept, especially when our friends will be going without us.

However, I am not letting my sorrow stricken me with a serious case of the sour grapes. Instead, I am sharing my top tips for what to take to festivals to help some of those out there who will be heading to their first weekend of madness this summer.

As an experienced festivals goer I have a regimented system of packing and specific items that will always be taken. I’m no fashionista so you wont see any festival style advice here- just practical survival items. It’s an extensive list, so get comfy for this one!

A good 2 skin tent

A good tent is important. When I mean good, I mean one that hasn’t got any holes in it, has all the poles and has enough pegs and is sturdy.  A two skin tent will ensure the rain doesn’t make its way into your tent, either from the sky or from the ground. Try to get a tent that doesn’t require guide ropes to keep it up- guide ropes will just result in a pile of drunken people next to your tent as soon as it gets dark.

Camping stove and kettle

I use the ones that come in a plastic suitcase-like holder. They cost about £10 and are available from places like Wilko’s. It can be used to heat water in your kettle for a cuppa and your hot water bottle, and food if you take your own.

Hot water bottle

Yep, I’m not mad, I am actually sensible. Even summer nights can suffer cold nights as low as 4 degrees Celsius. Waking up in the night with a semi-developed hangover and frozen toes isn’t a good combination. Heat your kettle on the stove just before beddy-bys and enjoy toasty limbs as you drift off.

Sleeping bag

Obvious suggestion right? You will be surprised how many people I have seen that didn’t bother taking a sleeping bag or anything to sleep in, A good night’s early morning sleep is essential for recovery and to prepare you for the following day’s antics.

Hiking sack

They have a large capacity, designed to be carried on your back for long walks so are comfortable and breathable and they leave your hands free to carry beer. Stuff your clothes into the main section but leave your waterproof at the top or in the separate under section if it has one- you may need it if it rains while you are queuing up to get in the festival. Pack a bottle of water in the side pocket to keep your hydrated while you queue (you can put a bottle of alcohol in the other pocket!)

A hiking sack is perfect for festivals

5 litre water bottle

Walking to the nearest water point and waiting your turn is tedious, Queuing for water with a small, empty Lucozade bottle then drinking the water in one gulp due because you are dehydrated from alcohol and sun is horrid. Buy one of this huge 5 litre water bottle from the supermarket. This one from Tesco costs just £1.10. pour out the water and attach it to your hiking sack to take to your camp. If you are new to camping you will be very surprised how far, or not should I say, water goes. You will also be shocked that a small bottle of water costs £2+ per time from vendors in the arena.


So the sun is shining, you are wearing your bikini top and you are right at the front of the stage ready for your favourite  band to come on, then it chucks it down. You will be thankful to have your pac-a-mac stuffed in your handbag.


If it rains, you won’t get wet. Simple. If you don’t take one and you get wet you will get cold and will be miserable. 

Welly boots

The essential festival attire. They are awkward to carrying into the festival but they are worth taking. When you see pictures on TV of the mud at festivals showing people covered in the stuff with smiling faces- it isn’t actually a true reflection. Moving around in ankle-deep mud is tiring and tedious but more comfortable in wellies than in flip flops. 

Don’t forget your welly boots and pac-a-mac!

Mini shampoo and conditioner and towel

I’m the type of person who hates smelly, sweaty, icky hair so I wash my hair each day at festivals. Most festivals have on site showers but they normally charge and have very long queues at peak time. So, instead I use water from the big water bottle, which is usually quite warm by late morning, and throw it over my head. Instead of buying the little bottles of product from shops I own one of those holiday/flight container selections from Poundworld to decant my products into.

Sun cream

If you are lucky enough to have a sun scorched festival you will be thankful you packed the sunscreen. It’s expensive but its hellish expensive if you buy it at the festival. You will spend very little time under cover and therefore will be exposed to the sun all day.


Your head will hurt at some point of you are drinking and it’s sunny.

Zip lock bags or portable urinal

Yep, I have gone there. And it ain’t pretty, but it’s practical. Getting out of your cosy sleeping bag and getting into a pitch black portaloo in the night is, for me, unbearable. Trust me on this one; zip lock food bags are an easy, cheap solution. You don’t need to leave your tent and once zipped that wee wee ain’t going nowhere. In the morning just throw it in a bin. My second preference is the portable urinal costing around £5 from eBay. Its a plastic bottle to wee in with an attachable, ergonomic fitting to make it drip free for the ladies.It also has a press-on cap to secure the contents. Personally, I don’t like the shewees because you still need to get out your tent and find cover to do your business which is pretty much impossible at a festival.

Urinal with attachment women

Toilet roll and wet wipes

The portaloos wont have toilet roll so pack plenty. When drunk, squatting over a seat is hard so I give the seat a good clean with a wet wipe, dry it off with some toilet roll and away I go.

Head torch

Head torches are more practical when  negotiating portaloos in the dark and getting into your tent. Keep it in your pocket at all times- you you will be thankful it is there later on. 

Sack barrow or garden trolley

If you are taking your own packs of beer and a heavy tent a sack barrow or garden trolley will be of great use. It is very likely you will be walking a VERY long way to get into the festival and then farther to reach your chosen camp spot. If you are going to get one, get a good quality one with pneumatic (pumped up rubber) wheels NOT the crappy ones with hard, plastic wheels. They will break as soon as you hit a stone. Good ones are expensive but they are so worth it and last for many festivals.

A cheap sack barrow

I will repeat, do NOT take one of those cheap trolleys with plastic wheels- they will break and leave you stranded in a field unable to carry everything.

Suitcase with wheels

They sound like a good solution to rolling your heavy kit to camp- they are not. The wheels are too small to go over rough terrain. Once they break they are a bugger to carry. Get a hiking sack.

Too much beer

The temptation to carry several boxes of beer into the festival will be strong but after standing in the queue to get in with crowds of people bumping into you, tripping over you all before a further 2 miles of walking to your camp spot will  probably make you prefer to go T-total for the weekend. Take only what you can carry and don’t choose to carry beer instead of essential clothes and camping items. 

£10 pop up tent

One word; pointless. If it rains the single skin won’t be enough to keep the water out. They are impossible to get changed in, they blow over easily, there isn’t enough room for you and your clothes… the list goes on.

Pop up tents are pointless. Photo source

Anything you can’t carry on your own

No one else will want to help you and dumping items half way across a festival is upsetting. 

Glass bottles

Pretty much all festivals ban glass from the site. Decant your alcohol into plastic water bottle instead.

Uncooked meat

sun + tent + 4 days = rotting stench and health hazard.

Remember to check your festival’s rules as each are different. Many festivals won’t allow gas canisters for cookers but some do. Some won’t allow you to collect your wristband and get into the festival after a certain time and some require parking permits separate to the festival ticket. 

For practical tips on what NOT to wear to a festivals you should check out this post by Terri of Helloterrielow.com. She makes some good points about ‘dangling’ garments and portaloo situations so take note.

I hope you have found my tips useful and I wish you a very happy festival!

If you have been to a festival before, please share your must-have items 
with others in the comments. Thanks 🙂

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.