Our Ultimate Festival Essentials & Survival Guide is the perfect way to prepare for festival.
Whether you’re rocking out in two feet of mud or busting some D’n’B moves in a sun soaked paradise, festivals can be the highlight of anyone’s social calendar.
There’s literally thousands worldwide to choose from. But like any form of fun, preparation is key. Just ask the guy who set up Fyre.
A diet of dodgy food and warm alcohol late into the night is going to leave you pretty worse for wear unless you prepare accordingly, which is why we’ve put together the Ultimate Festival Essentials & Survival Guide.
If you want to know:
- Which items are festival essentials and the things to bring
- The tips, tricks, and hacks that'll help you have an awesome time
- The answers to the most important FAQs
Then you'll love this post.
Let's get started.
Table of Contents
Festival Tips, Tricks, and Hacks
Whether you’re a seasoned Coachella or Download festival veteran, or it’s your first time at Glastonbury or Roskilde, it’s always good to pick up a few tips, tricks, and hacks.
Maybe there’s a couple of things you’ve never thought of before that could make your life easier, or perhaps you just need a few reminders.
Either way, here’s our list of festival tips, tricks, and hacks to make the most out of your next trip.
Assume everything will get lost
A general rule for festival packing: assume that everything you put in your bag will get lost/stolen/broken. If there’s any particular items where that really upsets you, leave them at home.
Festivals are renowned as the place where stuff goes to die, so don’t make that stuff your grandmother’s irreplaceable earrings or your distant ancestor’s watch.
Never leave valuables in your tent
Sadly, there are people out there who will sneak around people’s tents while the music playing to see if there’s anything worth stealing.
Try to keep any valuables you do bring with you on your person if you can.
Make friends with the neighbours
Try to make friends with your camping neighbours. That way, they can keep an eye out for any randoms loitering around your site while you’re away, and vice versa.
Split your cash
This is an old traveller’s tip that equally applies at a festival. Split your cash into three - one lot in your wallet, one lot in your sock, and one lot hidden in your sleeping bag or under your camping mat.
That way, if you get pickpocketed or your tent gets robbed, you won’t have lost everything.
Take a bank card that can only access a small amount of money
It’s the nightmare: someone’s stolen your bank card and you either have no battery on your phone...or they managed to grab your phone too.
Nothing will make this situation ok, but it will help if you know the account in question only has access to the money you were planning on spending over the weekend.
Keep a little bit extra just to be sure you don’t run out, but try not to take the card for your savings account.
Put a flagpole on your tent
It’s 3 am, you’ve had one too many drinks, and your khaki green tent looks awfully similar to 5000 other tents. Rather than accidentally intruding into someone else’s bedroom, put a flag pole or some bunting on your tent so you can find it more easily.
Alternatively, if you don’t want your campsite to stand out to thieves, make a note of a landmark near you.
Drop a pin on Maps if arriving by car
If you’re driving to your location, drop a pin on maps when you park up. That way, you won’t be left wandering around for hours trying to find your car.
Set a rendezvous point
It’s pretty easy to get separated from your friends when you’re in a crowd of tens of thousands of people. Set a rendezvous place for if you all get split up.
Get a festival schedule lanyard and attach a torch to it
Not only does this give you a cheap memento for the weekend, but it’s also good to have a reminder of when the artists you like are playing.
Also, attach a torch to it so you’ll always have light. That also has the added bonus of helping you find your lanyard if one of your friends “borrows” it and “forgets” to give it back.
Choose your campsite carefully
Choosing a bad site to set up camp can ruin your trip. There’s a couple things to consider.
Set up shop away from a path to avoid people stumbling into you during the night, try to set your tents up in a tight circle to avoid people wandering through the middle of your camp, and for the love of god avoid camping anywhere near the toilets.
Take an old phone
Sure, you won’t be able to take awesome photos for your ‘Gram, but you also won’t be devastated when you lose that expensive smartphone that you just signed a two year contract for.
Nokia 3210’s were seemingly designed with festivals in mind, as they’re pretty much unbreakable and have a battery that will last forever. Plus, you can play Snake on them.
If you’ve got any burning questions about your upcoming festival trip, you’ll find the answer here.
What should I bring to a music festival?
There’s a few festival essentials that will make your festival experience way more enjoyable. Like all trips away, festivals require a little bit of planning in advance.
By spending a little bit of time organizing, you’ll save yourself headaches later. Save yourself a bit of time and check the list below.
How much money should I take to a festival?
It depends on how often you're planning on eating and drinking out. Alcohol at festivals can get pretty expensive, and while food stalls tend to be cheaper than eating at a restaurant, if you use them three times a day it’ll quickly add up.
As a general rule of thumb, consider what you’d spend - aside from accommodation - if you went for a city break in the country your festival is in. That will give you a rough guide as to how much you should take with you.
Remember to split your money though, and don’t take a bank card that can access all the money to your name!
How do you prepare for a music festival?
Aside from planning ahead and using a packing list like the one below, it’s worth getting a good night’s sleep beforehand!
Give yourself a bit of extra time in the shower in the morning before you leave as well so you can really savour your last proper wash for a week.
Festival Essentials List
One thing you’ll definitely need to do before you head off is make a packing list of the festival essentials that you’ll need.
Fortunately, we made one for you!
The first item on any list of festival essentials. You ain’t getting far if you leave your admission ticket at home. Don’t be that person who hitches a 4 hour ride with friends to the middle of nowhere only to realize they can’t get in.
Festivals can get pretty expensive, so don’t add to the cost by buying endless bottles of water.
Some sites will remove the cap from bottles you buy from them to prevent people using them as missiles. Whilst this totally makes sense, it’s not exactly great for the environment to be going through that much plastic.
If you’re drinking booze at a festival, it’s important to stay hydrated (and avoid the worst of a hangover).
Take a decent refillable water bottle, and keep it empty when you arrive if you’re concerned about how much weight you’re carrying. Definitely an item for the festival essentials list.
Anti Theft Backpack
It’s not the best idea to take expensive valuables with you to a festival, but there are certain things like money or your bank card that you just can’t avoid.
While a belt or waist bag will protect your smaller valuables, if you also want to take other bits with you to the main stage each day an anti theft backpack is a great shout.
Most have plenty of space for everything you could need for the day and secret pockets to hide your valuables.
Some festivals will stop you bringing larger bags from the camp area into the music area, so it’s worth checking what the rules are before you go.
If you’re not allowed to bring in anything bigger like an anti-theft backpack, a drawstring bag is a good alternative. What you sacrifice in security, you make up for in portability.
Just be aware that drawstring bags can get pretty uncomfortable if they’re heavy. They’re more designed for a couple of smaller items that won’t fit into your pockets.
It kind of goes without saying that you’re going to spend a lot of time walking around at a festival.
As such, you’ll probably want to bring a pair of comfy shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
If you don’t have a pair like this, try and get some a month or two in advance so you’ve got time to break them in. Blisters + 4-day festival = sad face.
Whilst it can be pretty tempting to take your best threads to a festival so you look slick, it’s best to leave your nicest stuff at home. Mud, rain, beer, smoke and “other liquids” are all regularly encountered at festivals.
You may well decide to bring a wardrobe that’s at least one step up from your oldest and least flattering clothes, but it might be an idea to leave that silk top or cashmere pullover at home.
Just remember that everyone’s in the same boat, and you’re not heading to a fancy dinner. Practical clothes that are super-comfy are the best choice in this situation.
What festival essentials list would be complete without a folding chair?
Think about it. After you’ve been dancing or rocking out all day and most of the night, the last thing you’ll want to do is sit down on the ground in the dark.
Taking a good portable chair is pretty much essential for any festival trip. And you’ll want something that’s durable, comfy, and extremely portable.
Enter The Campster. It’s slightly larger than a water bottle when folded away, weighs less than a kilo, and is made of durable materials that won’t break the second you look at them the wrong way.
When you’re heading to a festival, you don’t have space to take two chairs. So make sure that the one you do take is the right one.
Your RayBan Aviators or Oakley TeaShades look pretty snazzy, right? How about when someone accidentally knocks them off your face and they get trampled in the mud by fifty people dancing?
A festival is definitely the kind of place where it pays to leave the expensive eyewear at home and take a cheap pair. Realistically, no-one cares how nice your sunglasses look at a festival, so taking a spenny pair is asking for trouble.
It’s easy to forget in the days of smartphones, but a small flashlight is a great idea for festival camping. Long after your smartphone battery has died, a trusty flashlight will keep your nightly routine easy and accident free.
Desperately searching for a phone charger in the dark is no-one's idea of a good time, so make life easy for yourself.
A key item for your festival essentials checklist.
Solar Power Bank
Solar power banks are perfect for festivals if the weather is going to be nice. (That last part is quite important).
While portable chargers have come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years, by harnessing the power of the sun you’ll never run out of power for your phone or any other gadgets.
Some of them even come with flashlights!
Worse than the lack of showers. Worse than the hangovers. Without a shadow of a doubt, the worst thing about festivals is the massive queues.
Sadly, there is no hack to let you jump to the front of the toilet queue, but you can make the experience a whole lot more comfortable for yourself.
A portable stool is an awesome little festival hack that gives your legs a break and gives you the chance to get some well earned rest while you’re waiting your turn.
It collapses to about the same size as a 500ml disposable water bottle, and it’s great if you want to get a slightly better vantage point at the back of the main stage, but can’t be bothered to stand up!
If the weather’s great, let your legs enjoy the heat too! Just make sure you wear some sunscreen if the weather is really hot.
Even if your festival is on a beach in Spain or Florida, nights can still get cold. Taking a pullover with you is a good shout to stave off a chilly night breeze.
If you’ve got one, opt for something that is cotton or polyester. They tend to be lighter than wool and won’t take up as much room in your bag.
Socks & Underwear
Whether the weather is roasting hot or soaking wet, a couple of spare pairs of socks and underwear will be essential.
If you’re away for five days, it’s worth taking 7 pairs of socks - one for each day and 2 backup pairs. Likewise with underwear.
That might seem like a lot, but when you’re drenched through you’ll thank your past self for bringing backups.
Waterproof Trousers (Waterproof Pants)
If the worst does happen and you find yourself in torrential rain, waterproof trousers (pants) will keep you dry and snug.
They’re not the sexiest item of clothing of course, but ultimately it’s probably better than having soaking legs all day. A practical entry on our festival essentials list.
Rain Boots (Wellies)
Rain boots, or wellies, are pretty much essential for any festival trip, regardless of where in the world you’re going.
The ground might seem dry. After thousands of gallons of beer and wine have been spilt on it, less so.
And if you’re heading to a festival in the Northern US or Northern Europe, there’s a pretty reasonable chance you’ll find yourself in the middle of what is effectively a man-made swamp.
Take footwear that is appropriately waterproof.
The weather forecast might look awesome for the time you’ll be away, but it’s always a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket.
Even if it rains, as it’s the middle of summer it’s unlikely to be super cold, so something lightweight and waterproof could be your best friend.
Get something with a hood, or even better get something that’s knee length and has a hood.
Lightweight Sleeping Bag
When you crawl into bed at 2am after a hard day partying, you’re going to want something to cover you at night, even if it’s just something light.
As the vast majority of festivals take place during the summer months, it’s unlikely you’ll need anything super-heavy duty, but taking a lightweight sleeping bag with you is a no brainer when it comes to festival essentials.
It goes without saying that you’ll need some form of shelter for your trip. Pop up tents are definitely an option, but inflatable tents can be a good shout too.
The poles won’t break if someone falls into them in the night, and they’re super easy and quick to get up and down. Plus, as there’s no poles to carry, they weigh less.
They do tend to be a bit more expensive though, so this is probably only an option for die-hard festival fans or those who enjoy camping.
Sleeping is obviously not the priority if you’re on a 4 day festival bender, but you’ll ideally want to get some shuteye.
Rather than sleeping on the cold, bare ground, it’s a good idea to take some form of foam pad or camping matt with you.
An inflatable mattress is also an option, just bear in mind that these tend to be a bit heavier and take up more room.
Whether you opt for greater comfort or a lighter backpack is ultimately your call, but just remember that you’ve paid a lot of money to see some (hopefully) great bands and artists. It’s probably better to get as good a night’s sleep as you can to really enjoy them.
Don’t take your favourite pillow from home to a music festival. It’ll probably get ruined, it takes up loads of space, and it’s not waterproof.
The best bet if you want something to sink your head into is a travel pillow.
They come in a variety of different types, from inflatable ‘U’ shaped pillows designed to go round your neck, to compactable pillows that fit into a bag.
Either way, they’re a lot more suitable for festival life than a bog standard pillow.
Fun Things to Bring to a Festival
Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Bring a waterproof bluetooth speaker, smash some banging tunes out once the bands have gone home.
There’s a million different portable speaker options out there, but a waterproof one is perfect for a festival. If beer or wine gets spilt or rain makes a sudden appearance, it’s no biggie.
As ever, it’s probably better to go for a cheaper option here, and remember that you’ll need a smartphone to make the “bluetooth” part work.
Go old school and take a frisbee with you if there’s plenty of space around the main area.
Obviously, you need to be careful about accidentally hitting people, as they probably won’t take too kindly to it.
But it’s a good way to blow off some steam though if you’ve got a lot of energy.
Deck of Cards
There’s a million and one different games you can play with a deck of cards, from blackjack to snap to drinking games.
They’re a really fun way to pass the time if the music has finished or you just fancy something a bit quieter one evening.
Plus, cards will never run out of power so you’re not at the mercy of critical battery levels.
As ever, it’s worth taking a cheap deck of cards that you don’t care too much about. It’s easy enough to lose a card at the best of times.
In a festival environment, it’s pretty much guaranteed, and the deck becomes effectively useless if even one card disappears.
Ping Pong Balls
Aside from the obvious beer pong, ping pong balls can also be used in a game of “hand tennis”.
Make a circle around an empty cup or tin can and bat the ball round the circle with your hand, once it gets back to first person, see if they can bat it in!
Paper and Pen
You’d be amazed at how many different games you can play with the humble paper and pen!
It’s also pretty handy if your phone runs out of battery and you want to make a note of something (like the band schedule for the day).
Festival Food and Kitchen
Cooking Appliances and Meals
Many people cut down on the cost of food at festivals by bringing their own. There’s pros and cons to this. Namely that whilst it is cheaper, you do have to go back to your campsite every time you want to eat, and bring food and some form of camp stove.
Which option you go for depends on your budget. If you decide to go the DIY route, you’ll need to, at the very least, bring a camp stove, a small pot to cook in, and a stirring/eating utensil.
Microwave rice packs, tin cans, and instant noodles are your best friends here.
Just bear in mind that the average adult eats about 3 and a half pounds (1.5kg) of food a day. If you’re staying at the festival site for 5 days, that’s 17.5 pounds (7.5kg) of food you’ll need to carry, not including any cooking stove.
Unless you’re really hard up for cash, your best bet is probably to bring your own food for a cold breakfast and lunch, and use food stalls in the evening. If you end up bringing a camp stove - for a hot coffee in the morning if nothing else - make sure you liaise with your campmates so you only bring one.
Cereal Bars and Other Snacks
Festival food can be absolutely delicious, but unless you want to spend a fortune it’d be a good idea to bring some snacks and breakfast options.
Cereal bars, apples, bananas, fruit and nut mix, and potato chips don’t spoil easily and are a great way to cut your spending down a little bit at a festival.
They’re also pretty portable and don’t weigh too much.
Price: $5.30 (6-pack)
Personal Hygiene and First Aid
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
You’re going to want to freshen up in the morning, and 4 or 5 days without brushing your teeth is going to leave you with pretty haggard breath (and possible tooth decay).
Consider a manual toothbrush for a festival. Whilst it’s not as effective as an electric one, it also won’t run out of juice and will take up less room.
Price: $4.19+ (6-pack)
Multiple days of sweat and mud are going to leave you smelling pretty grim, and sometimes the only thing battling against this stench will be your trusty deodorant.
Deodorant sticks take up less space than aerosol cans, and try to get one that’s pretty powerful. Just remember not to get too self conscious about BO though, everyone’s in the same situation!
Price: $3 (2-pack)
With the possible lack of clean running water, dry shampoo is pretty much your best bet for combating greasy or dirty hair.
Obviously, it’s not as good as the real thing and you may well be happy to go without for the duration of the festival.
But if you do want to freshen up your locks a bit, dry shampoo is where it’s at.
Many festival sites offer showering complexes. Unless you’re willing to queue for a really long time though, it might not be an option.
You might get lucky though, in which case you’ll need a towel. A microfiber towel is lightweight and dries quickly, so it’s a really good choice for festivals.
It’ll also come in handy if you get drenched in a shower (of rain or beer).
You’ll definitely need some form of alcohol wipe or hand sanitizer. It won’t really come as a surprise, but festivals can be a literal cesspool of bacteria and other nasties.
It goes without saying that you should regularly clean your hands. Probably do it twice after you visit festival restrooms. Maybe even three times just to be sure.
If you’re lucky enough to have warm weather while listening to some great bands and artists with some good friends, don’t let sunburn bring you down.
We’ve all seen that one guy (it’s always a guy), who could hide in a room of lobsters. You might not look your absolute best at a festival, but being the same colour as a prawn is a whole different level.
Sunburn makes you look ridiculous. Plus, it’s no secret that it’s super bad for your skin.
The sun is basically a massive nuclear reaction millions of miles away. You’re essentially exposing yourself to a mini-Chernobyl.
Listen to Baz Luhrmann. Wear sunscreen.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit might seem like a boringly responsible thing to bring to a party, but you’ll thank yourself if you have a minor accident.
You don’t have to go mad as most festivals will have a proper first aid tent for anything serious. That said, antihistamine cream for bites, paracetamol and Berocca for hangovers, and antiseptic cream and plasters for small cuts could all come in super handy.
Other Festival Must Haves
Bucket hats were super popular in the 80s and early 90s..faded from view for the better part of 3 decades, and now they’re making a return!
The advantage of bucket hats is that they keep the sun off your face and can be folded flat. They don’t take up much room, and because they’re so lightweight they’re perfect for sunny weather. Plus, they’re incredibly cheap.
Take earplugs, sleep better. Unfortunately, not everyone will decide to go to sleep at the same time as you do, and tents are not very sound proof.
Earplugs also have the added bonus of dampening some of the sound if you end up right next to a room-sized speaker during a band or artist’s set.
Tinnitus is no fun.
Pro tip: Take a few pairs of earplugs as you’ll inevitably lose one throughout the course of the weekend.
If you’re a light sleeper, take a sleep mask with you. As it’s summer, the sun will probably come up way before you’re ready to get up. It might even come up before you’ve gone to bed.
It’s also probably worth getting a breathable mask as well. Sunny weather can make a tent a boiling sweatbox, so you probably don’t want a mask that is made of fleece.
Zip ties can come in useful for all sorts of situations at a festival. Creating handles for items, suspending items off the floor in your tent and tent and backpack repair.
They’re super cheap and they don’t take up much room or weight, so it’s a good idea to take a few with you, just in case.
A bandana is a super useful thing to take to a festival, but it’s not for your head. If the weather is looking nice for your festival, you can use a bandana to cover your nose and mouth if you’re in a big crowd.
It stops you literally eating dirt when people are dancing or moshing, plus it makes you look like you’re part of the cast of Sons of Anarchy.
It may well be roasting hot during the festival, and a small water spray bottle is a great way to cool down.
Mist your face for a refreshing pick me up, or have yourself a makeshift shower in the morning. You’ll use way less water than a bottle and it’s more targeted.
Biodegradable Trash Bags
Trash bags are useful for a variety of reasons, but principally for makeshift rain ponchos and waterproofing any items you don’t want to get wet.
You can also use them to split up muddy or sandy clothes in your bag, and even for makeshift tent repairs if you’re really in a bind!
Finally, they’re useful to collect all your trash at the end of your stay. It’s a big environment problem for festivals, so do your bit and leave no trace. Try to bring biodegradable trash bags if you can as well.
Tent repairs, bag repairs, and pretty much any other kind of repair! A roll of strong tape comes in handy in a festival environment, so don’t leave home without it.
Festivals can be a place where you’ll create treasured memories for years to come, but it’s important to bring the things that’ll let you relax as much as possible.
A party in a field can be quite an uncomfortable place, but by bringing a few festival essentials you can make things significantly better.
Standing around in the mud while getting rained on is part of the festival experience, but it sure is nice to know that you have a spare pair of clothes waiting for you in your tent.