Fill my bag… 2013 festival checklist


Ah the skies are clouding over… it must be festival season again. No matter what the weather’s like though you’re going to have an amazing time but you’ll need a few bits to help you along the way. Whether you’re someone who packs for every eventuality or just wings it, you want to be packing the right amount – not too much or too little (unless you’re absolutely minted in the latter case).

I’m not going to give you the festival veteran line, but after an eight-year career that involves homeland to overseas festivalling I’ve learnt some hard lessons and managed to slim down my load from the ridiculous (wooden garden furniture anyone?!) to what I consider perfect for my festival experience. Maybe it will help with yours too – no-one’s a write-off yet.

Don’t be daunted – if you want the quick and to the point version just skim down the red highlights on the side, but if you want a bit more detail then read on:

Tickets/ID – You’ll struggle without it! The most crucial first step is having your festival and travel tickets sorted – including the return journey. If you have booked the use-your-own-ink-not ours print at home types it might be worth printing off more than one copy in case one of your bags is stolen or you lose one.

Tent – A flimsy canvas home from home. I’ve seen my friends take all sorts of tents over the years from those pop up ones (which always leak and are impossible to take down properly) to the more appropriate 2 -4 man ones, and in the case of one guy a night under a gazebo because he forgot his tent poles. If you can get one with a decent porch (ie sittable in) all the better for if it rains! Which it will because festivals come with their own weather systems don’t you know.

Sleeping bag/pillows/camping mat – Getting comfy on the ground. You definitely want something to keep you warm and comfortable at night and a sleeping bag is the simplest and most compact way of doing that. A camping mat helps to even out the ground below you, and a pillow feels so good after a day’s headbanging.

Utility belt – (Shark repellent Bat-spray optional!) Recent years I’ve been rocking a utility belt a la Batman – if it’s good enough for Bats… well I’m in! In the past I’ve tried to keep bits in my pockets, or in a shoulder bag, but for the right balance of convenience, anti-pick pocketing and not having to heft it back onto my shoulder after being knocked off for the hundredth time in the mosh pit – the Bat had it right all along.

For travelling to the festival itself you’ll want one of those massive rucksacks so you hang off anything that won’t fit inside on the straps. Plus the distribution of weight makes it easier to carry then a bag you have to hold in one hand.

Alcohol – Facilitator of antics and merriment. It’s pretty much a given so bring what you like, but don’t weigh yourself down with excess amounts that you won’t end up drinking. Check the rules on glass etc – you’d hate to have to neck that JD at the gates wouldn’t you? Well maybe not… but you’d miss it later! As Hellfest have the amazing sense to stick their campsite five minutes from a supermarket I’ll be buying mine when I get there.

Other drinks – To wash it down. Mixers, the odd energy drink and copious water are vital. Having a big water bottle or carrier at the tent will help limit the queues at the taps and be sure to have a small bottle you can top up for in the arena.

Waterproofs/ponchos – Do your worst weather! Disposable ponchos or even a zip up waterproof jacket are small, easy to bundle up and carry around, and really cheap – before you get to the festival. If you wait until you’re there and it’s pouring with rain, well expect to pay up to a fiver for something that Poundland would have given you three of for a quid.

Wellies – Hell no trenchfoot. On that same note the price of wellies skyrockets as soon as the weather clouds up, so taking your own can be of benefit. If like me you’ll be travelling on public transport then the bulk and extra weight may put you off, but you can guarantee you won’t win either way – if you take them it’ll be dry, if you don’t it’ll be wet – up to you which is the best way round!

Bin bags/ gaffer tape – Accessorise! Both of these are great if you have the space. Bin bags aren’t just for rubbish collecting, they can line your wellies in case of leakages, store dirty and wet clothes in, act as a make-shift poncho, and even help patch a leaky tent with the aid of the tape. Gaffer tape meanwhile will hold together tent poles, and leaking wellies/shoes or broken bags.

First aid – Like an episode of Casualty. I picked up a dirt cheap kit which has all the plasters, and alcohol wipes required for minor mosh-induced injuries. Paracetamol, contraception, anti-diarrhoea tablets, and hayfever pills are also all good to have to hand. Oh and earplugs for minimising hearing damage and getting to sleep of a night.

Suncream/ sunglasses – It may make an appearance! I burn crazily easily so suncream is essential for me! Plus nothing worse than having a pit full of people rubbing up against your reddened body. Sunglasses stop you squinting quite so much in the general direction of the stage – is that Ozzy or just some staggering drunk – and cover up bleary eyes.

Toiletries – Or go au natural if those around you can stand it. I’m putting this out there – I’ve never used a festival showers! Not once in seven years of festivals – if that makes me sound gross just remember a lot of the population at these events fall into the same camp as me! The reasons behind this are the long queues, cold water, and inability to get dry fast enough to not contract some terrible disease.

As such, baby wipes are high on my list of essentials, as not only do they remove make up but also keep you feeling clean and fresh. I do sling in a small pack of eye-make up removing wipes just to make sure my eyeliner doesn’t end up too Alice Cooper. On the subject of make-up pack light – most people won’t want to do without it completely but you don’t need to trowel it on. Dry shampoo takes care of the hair, and deodorant keeps you overall smelling unoffensive. Toothbrush and a travel toothpaste take up little space, and can make all the difference to how you feel after a long night under the stars. If you need them then glasses and contact lenses obviously and any such solutions that come with.

Torch – Let there be light! Handy for navigating about at night, but mainly for having inside your tent so you can see where you’re pouring that drink.

Toilet roll – Clue’s in the name! Worth having a roll with you because when the toilets run out – it’s not fun :/ Handy-sized tissue packets or a rolled up wad are good for having in the arena for those same moments.

Hand sanitising gel – For what you can’t see! Small, convenient, and nice to have in case that which is provided runs out and you don’t want your burger to taste like ass. Whilst most people try to blame festival food for their dodgy stomach’s I’m pretty sure grimy hands are behind a lot of it.

Snacks – Munchhhhhh! I’ve cooked at festivals, and I’ve exclusively eaten at them – these days I strike some sort of a balance. Cooking is all well and good but in my experience requires a lot of additional lugging of stuff and in a lot of cases people end up buying from the stands because they can’t be arsed at the end of a long day. That said a first night BBQ is always good! If you decided to cook, check what the festival allows – many say no to anything gas powered these days.

I tend to buy what I consider my main evening meal from the stands, perhaps split a meal with the bf at lunchtime, and bulk it up with snacks. Things like Pop Tarts are a favourite because they come wrapped in twos and are easy to take in the arena. Crisps, sweets, dried fruit (if you feel inclined), cereal bars are similarly good.

Clothes – Something between you and the pit. It’s not a fashion show but some will always treat it that way! For most some t-shirts/tops, trousers/shorts/skirts in case it warms up, and a jumper or hoodie will do the trick. It’s best not to take anything you’d hate to have stolen or destroyed in a mad mosh moment. I also like a nice warm fluffy animal hat for late night drinking sessions but that’s just me. Oh and clean socks and undies – trust me you’ll feel less grimy instantly. In terms of footwear it’s best to have something you don’t mind getting wrecked if you’re going trainers, or a stout pair of boots should do you well until it’s time to switch to wellies.

Technology – Go minimal. We’re in an ever more connected world but when it comes to festivals don’t bother. Charging a phone at a festival often costs a lot of time and money so maximise your battery by turning off sound, vibrate, contrast etc – don’t ring people unless it’s absolutely necessary, and bear in mind that networks always go into melt-down so don’t expect texts to go through either. In advance of losing someone it may be best to make arrangements for a meeting place. Don’t even think of using the internet/Facebook – mobile data eats up battery so turn it off, no-one cares if you’re now about to watch some band whilst eating a sandwich.

Cameras are another popular piece of festival tech, and generally the same rules apply in trying to maximise battery power by turning it off when not using it, and take spare batteries if it runs on them. Some people like to sling in an iPod and speaker set-up, which can be good for campfire sing-a-longs, but bear in mind it could get broken or stolen .

Money – Big spenders. How much you take is dependent on your personal budget, but be sensible with it whether it’s a tenner or £100. That means keeping it safe, either at the tent or on your person, and the same with your cash cards. Most festivals have cash machines nowadays but they can charge you and have long lines so it may be best to budget and take roughly the amount you’ll need with you.

Extras – More stuff. If you still have room or the desire then things like can-openers, lighters and matches, blankets, camping chairs, face paint, glow sticks, fun and games, programme or timetable, etc etc can always be useful, or good for messing about on site.

There’s no hard and fast rules at festivals, except those imposed by the organisers, but in terms of gentle suggestions this list should cover most of what you need to get you through. Of course the beauty of a festival is if there’s something you forget you can always turn to your friendly neighbours for assistance. So be nice ladies and gents – unless you want to find your tent marked out as the late night piss stop 🙂


Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs

Freelance writer. Most likely found in a mosh pit. Or maybe Bat Country.

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