A Beginner’s Guide To Surviving Your First Festival:


Summer is calling, and for music fans the world over, those first rays of warm sunshine herald the beginning of the best time of year: festival season. Yet to the uninitiated, that first step into the festival going world can be incredibly daunting. Horror stories from veteran festival goers spread like wildfire, and the fear of the unknown can turn the run up to the festival into a panic filled blur as opposed to the excited, happy frenzy it should be. So to calm the fears of any first time festival attendees, we’ve complied this handy guide of Dos and Don’ts to make sure your festival experience is one to remember- for all the right reasons!

DO be realistic about what you will need to take with you:
The criteria of what you will need for day and overnight festivals will differ massively. For a day festival, only take the bare minimum- you will not need deodorant, a toothbrush, three pens or your camera if you have a camera on your phone already (all mistakes I made at Slam Dunk Festival last year!). For a day festival I’d recommend: phone; small portable charger if you plan on taking photos all day, if not then you will probably survive without; a small pen if you are planning on getting things signed; money for merch and food; tampon or other sanitary products if you require them; a stage times plan if you’re super organised like me; and of course your ticket. That’s it. For a camping festival the kit list will obviously be much longer, but a few things I’d recommend remembering are: far more pairs of socks and underwear than you think you will ever need (trust me!); pyjamas (yes, seriously. Someone I know forgot those once, and it was not a fun few days!); several plastic bags to put your sleeping stuff and dirty washing in; a small LED light for those inevitable 3am toilet trips; hand sanitiser, for obvious reasons; and as much toilet roll as you can cram in. Come the final day of the festival you’ll be glad, trust me!

DO bring a bum bag/ fanny pack:
I get that they’re not the most fashionable choice of storage receptacle, and yes, you might get a bit of stick about it from your mates. That is, until they want to go into the mosh or crowdsurf, and that’s when they’ll all be asking you to hold their stuff! Bringing a bum bag is a lifesaver- it avoids you being that person who brings a rucksack into the mosh pit and it can be easily hidden under a hoodie tied around your waist. Especially for women, as pockets in most women’s jeans are obnoxiously small, having the peace of mind that your phone, money and train ticket home are going to be safe gives you the liberty to go as wild as you like, and jump, mosh or crowdsurf to your heart’s content, knowing all your belongings are zipped away safely, allowing you to enjoy the day that much more!

DO plan out your day:
This is crucial for day festivals especially, when there can be up to a hundred bands playing throughout a single day. Select your favourites and work out which stages they are going to be on and where those stages will be, building in time for food and rest stops throughout the day where you can. Remember that you’re not going to be able to see every band you would like to at most festivals, so choose your favourites and make your peace with missing out on a few sets here and there! Also, don’t be afraid to check out a band you’ve never heard of if you have some free time- I’ve found some of my favourite new bands this way! Go along, check them out- they might just surprise you!

DO take as much food with you as you can:
This applies particularly to overnight festivals- always take as much of your own food as you can. While most festivals won’t let you take food into the area where the stages are, they will all allow food in the campsites, so take as much food as you can if you’re camping. The temptation is always there to just not bother with cooking and buy festival food from the stands that are conveniently placed on every corner, but as well as getting incredibly tiresome by the final day of the festival if the range of fast food stalls is limited, this can also get very expensive very quickly. Taking Pot Noodles, packets of quick cook pasta and other sachets can save you time and money, and provides a welcome change from the endless stream of burgers and pizza you’ll no doubt be inhaling! For day festivals, splashing out on a couple of overpriced meals is somewhat justifiable, however I would always recommend taking a few snacks in with you too for those times when you just get to barrier and your stomach begins to rumble! Many festivals are harsh about attendees taking their own food onto festival grounds, but hidden inside pockets of bags, the folds of your hoodie when tied around your waist, a bum bag hidden under said hoodie (as long as the festival aren’t doing body searches, which sometimes can happen at larger events) and, of course, the ever useful bra have all proven to be good snack hiding places for me in the past! 

DO make sure your clothes are practical as well as fashionable:
With day festivals you may be able to survive in a more fashionable, less practical outfit, however for overnight festivals, my advice would be to try and find the balance between looking nice and spending the whole day regretting wearing that particularly see-through top or those dodgy patterned shorts. Ultimately, you want to feel comfortable and confident in what you wear so you can enjoy your day to the full, so wear whatever you feel most confident in that will also allow you the freedom to go as crazy as you like watching your favourite band and not have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions! In terms of extra clothes to bring, I would recommend at least one hoodie or zip-up cotton jacket for those cold nights; if your festival is not going to be muddy, then a spare pair of cheap flip flops for walking around the campsite in (side note: NEVER walk around the campsite barefoot, even if you are attending a festival in a hot climate- broken glass, stray tent pegs, needles and lost earrings can all spoil your festival very quickly if they get stuck in your foot!); a couple of pairs of leggings or jogging bottoms for when it gets cold; and a raincoat or waterproof poncho. Avoid bringing jewellery with large hoops if you can- it’s not fun if they get caught on people’s hair and clothing in the mosh pit! And for makeup wearing folk, if you think you can handle doing winged eyeliner sat in a muddy field, then I salute you, but don’t stress about your makeup- at the end of the day, you’re there to have a good time with your friends listening to some awesome music, so perhaps do your makeup before you leave on Day 1, take all your cute selfies on the first day, and then just make do with what you can manage for the rest of the weekend and upload those first day pictures sporadically throughout the weekend, and your online pals will be none the wiser!

DO learn how to do a bedding roll:
Being a girl guide, this is something that I can do with my eyes closed, but if you’ve never made a bedding roll before, learn how before you go to your festival and make sure you have everything you’ll need to make one each morning. Not only will this keep all your sleeping stuff together and make it that much easier to find everything when you stumble back to your tent at 2am, but it will also keep your bedding dry and (mostly) mud free, allowing you to get a somewhat more comfortable night’s sleep and allowing you to enjoy the following day of music far more! Bedding roll instructions can be found below:
DO tie back long hair:
For any long-haired festival goers, tying up your hair is an absolute must! Not only will it prevent your hair from looking as greasy and unwashed as it really is by the final day of the festival, it also means that when you enter the mosh or even just the regular section of the crowd, you don’t have to worry about your hair being caught on buckles, studs or earrings, or worse, used as a handhold by a falling mosher. Tying your hair back into a ponytail, or preferably a bun or plait means you won’t have to deal with coming out of the mosh with tangled, matted hair, plus it’s never fun having a mouth full of someone else’s hair, especially not after four days of poor sanitation and next to no shower opportunities! Help yourself and others around you, and never leave your tent without a hair band handy!

DO condition your hair as much as you can:
On the subject of hair, especially hair that is already somewhat damaged from dye, the repeated heat and moisture and then drying that comes from being in and out of packed crowds, plus the lack of showering can really damage your hair. For a day festival, just make sure you condition well the day before and maybe use a hair mask the day after to restore any lost moisture. For weekend festivals, bringing a small bottle of leave in conditioning spray can be an absolute lifesaver- just a couple of sprays each morning can help your hair survive until it can be properly washed and conditioned when you return home!

DON’T lift up your top just to get on the big screens:
This appeal goes out to male and female festival goers alike: please don’t lift up your top while on somebody’s shoulders just to get on the big screens. I understand that after a day of sipping warm beers that it might seem like a good idea, but especially at festivals like Glastonbury which are televised, it doesn’t reflect well on you whatsoever. Plus, you don’t want your boss, your mates- or worse, your grandma- to see your exposed torso broadcasted on national television and available for anyone to see any time thanks to the internet. Why not just bust out some awesome dance moves to get the cameras to notice you instead? Or bring a sign with a cute (or cringey, depending on your viewpoint!) message on it- it worked for me at Leeds Festival last year!
DO be realistic with the amount of alcohol you consume:
For fear of sounding like a preachy mum, I’m going to keep this one short. Inevitably, there will be people who go to festivals to get drunk and have a good time, and that’s fine if that’s what they’re going for. If you want to remember the weekend and enjoy the music, however, just make sure you are sensible with drink, know your limits and make sure you are drinking with friends in a safe space. Don’t accept drink offered to you by anyone else especially people you don’t know, and if you are throwing up due to excessive alcohol consumption, go to the medics tent rather than trying to suffer through it on your own. Don’t feel pressured into trying drink and especially not drugs, just because your friends are. Stay aware, stay safe, and seek help if anything starts to feel not quite right. Enjoy yourself, but responsibly.

DO embrace the mud:
It’s a festival, with thousands of people all crammed together in one field. There is going to be mud, and lots of it, especially if it rains at any point during the festival. There’s no escaping it, unless you are one of the economically well-endowed people who can afford to rent a hotel room close to the festival site. Even if you are only there for a day, you will end up caked in mud, and unfortunately the best way to not let it ruin your festival experience is just to accept it, and then forget about it. Everyone else is just as muddy, wet and smelly as you, and that is half the fun. Embrace the mud, enjoy the music- the mantra every festival goer lives by.

DON’T pitch your tent close to the main paths:
If you can afford early bird/early access passes for the campsites, go for it, because getting a good location to pitch your tent can be pivotal in your enjoyment of the festival. Try and find an area away from the main thoroughfares and preferably away from the campsite DJs- you might be having fun the first night, dancing the night away, but by the fourth night of next to no sleep, the vast majority of people will feel very differently about hearing the same electronic remixes on repeat until 6am every morning! Plus, if it’s muddy, pitching your tent next to a path is just asking for mud to be caked up the sides of your tent by the end of the first evening. Don’t worry about being away from all the action- there’s no real escaping the hustle and bustle of the campsites, apart from the quiet camping areas (and even they are not as tranquil as they sound!), so find yourself a good spot and then go and join in the party by someone else’s tent!

DON’T padlock your tent:
As soon as you mention you are going to a festival, you will no doubt be flooded with stories of stuff being stolen. While this can be upsetting, don’t ever be tempted to lock your tent. While it may seem like a deterrent, it can actually be the opposite, as thieves think you have something valuable worth keeping under lock and key, and it can make you more of a target. Ultimately, you are likely to lose a few possessions or have some things stolen, and while it’s not something that morally should happen, it unfortunately does, and there’s no real way to stop it, other than only taking things you’re prepared to potentially lose and leaving anything expensive or sentimental at home.

DO remember that normal gig rules still apply:
There’s a whole host of unwritten rules for attending live music events that experienced gig goers will know, despite nobody ever explicitly stating them. The basis of it is to simply remember to be respectful to those around you- it’s easy to get swept up in the moment, especially at a festival, but just remembering common courtesy can save you a lot of grief from festival security as well as your fellow music fans! If somebody falls over in the pit, stop and help them up; if somebody near you doesn’t want to be involved in the mosh, don’t force them to get involved; if somebody needs water or security’s assistance, help them out and signal to a member of festival staff; if you want to crowdsurf, try as hard as you can to think of the people beneath you and don’t deliberately hurt anyone as you are surfing; don’t hold your phone up to record the entire gig, especially not if it is blocking other people’s view of the stage; and do not ever grope or sexually harass someone in the crowd, regardless of their gender. There are so many simple guidelines like this which make everyone’s gig experience that much more enjoyable, so just don’t forget your gig etiquette at a festival and respect those around you!
These are just some of the vast array of tips and tricks that can help you not only survive, but enjoy your first festival experience! Have you got any more tips that you want to see added to this list? Tweet them to us with the hashtag #strifefestivaltips or comment down below, and we might expand this list with the help from you festival veterans out there! Whichever festivals you are attending this summer, from Radio 1’s Big Weekend to 2000 Trees, Coachella to Download, stay safe, have fun and keep supporting live music!

​Article by Charlotte Hardman

Source of the bedding roll instructions:​https://www.forestlakeguides.org.au/images/beddingroll.gif
Cane Hill
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Glenn van den Bosch Glenn van den Bosch
26-04-2017 16 mins read
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