Essential festival hacks

Things they don’t tell you about Music Festivals

By Hugh Upsher

The first music festival I went to involved mixing whisky with Clifton instant-drink powder in a 2-litre bottle, then passing out in a tent that collapsed on top of us sometime during the night. The next day we were the laughing stock of our neighbours while we prepped our tuna sandwiches from a loaf of bread that someone had used as a pillow. By Sunday morning I was thinking that there has to be a better way, and there was, but it took ten years of fine-tuning for me to perfect the art of festival camping. And now I'll share that with you. 

Pack light

Start by packing everything you think you need, pile everything up, and then cut it in half. Everything you wear will get dirty, so instead of taking seven changes, rather take items that can get dirty, like denim. When you consider that everything you pack needs to be carried about half a kilometer from your car, that second pair of sneakers starts to look awfully heavy. And don’t forget to decant any glass bottles into plastic before you get going.

Learn to like queues

Twenty thousand people arriving on a Friday afternoon can’t flow into a festival like water. Be patient, acknowledge that the organisers have done everything logistically feasible to streamline the process, and accept the reality. Or better yet, do everyone a favour and be part of the solution. Arrive on the Thursday, carpool with three friends, walk or cycle, or jam out Wonderwall on your guitar to entertain other people waiting in the line around you (except please don’t).

You don't have to like all the bands

You’ve finally made it to the main stage and after the novelty of the big sound and even bigger crowd has worn off, you’re not really feeling the band. Don’t worry about it, it’s not you, it’s them. Instead of forcing yourself to sway along, check out the stage across the road, or head back to your tent for a camping chair chat session. Your instinct may tell you to take in as much as possible, but this is a long slog, and there is no need to waste your energy. There is no prize for participation, and nothing is compulsory.

Front left

A catchphrase among my festival going gang has always been ‘front left!’. It’s a deceptively simple slogan that has somehow always made complete navigational sense when lost in the crowd. Setting up landmarks and times throughout the weekend creates a safety net that allows for occasionally meandering out of the pack mentality, safe in the knowledge that you'll always be able to find your crew again.

Drink lots of water

The last thing you should do before climbing into your tent is drink half a litre of water, and then the first thing you should do when you climb out the next afternoon is drink another litre. When you’re spending several days exposed to the unforgiving combination of sun and alcohol, water is your best friend.

Perfecting your festival experience is going to involve some trial and error. Find out what works best for you and try not make the same mistake twice; like thinking a four-person tent is actually meant for five people, or that a sandwich packed on Friday morning will still be good on Sunday morning. And then, of course, don’t forget to pack a towel.