I love camping. I know it’s not for everyone, but I love it. I love setting up a little mini village with my mates and hanging out in the morning and after the stages shut down. Dissecting everyones opinions on the acts we saw and getting excited for the must sees of the next day. I know you can do this anywhere, but leaving the festival site and going back into the real world changes the vibe. There are different options to suit differing levels of camping enthusiasm.
Option 1 – General Camping
Usually included in the ticket price, this is what most people go for. All your mates are there and Campsite Craic (TM) is the best and you’ve already spent enough on your ticket, etc etc etc. Some festivals have unofficial designated campsites, depending on how late you want to party, pre-ordained over the years by regulars. For example at Electric Picnic, Hendrix is for sessioning all day and night, whereas Oscar Wilde is a bit more low key. Everyone has their own opinion on where is best to camp at Glastonbury (Pylon Ground FTW).
The General Camping Commandments
- Check you have all your bits for your tent before you go. Pegs, poles, groundsheet, you’d be surprised at what goes missing between festivals. You were not your best self the last time you pulled the tent down and rolled it haphazardly into the bag, were you? Check all the bits are there and then check again. If you regularly festival with the same group of pals, consider going splits on a big, roomy tent you can all use. Just don’t go *too* big or lugging it across fields will be a massive headache.
- You want to be near the toilets, but not *too* near the toilets. Keep in mind that fences and the like also count as toilets, because people at festivals are animals. So, by not too close to the ‘toilet’, I also mean anything that drunk lads can use as a toilet as well as the actual portaloos. Think easy walk for 4am weeing, but not so close that the smell is offensive. Conversely, if you’re too far from the jacks, people will wee outside/on the tents. Look for the sweet spot between too close and too far. This sounds anal (toilet pun intended) I’m sure, but a five to ten minute rekkie on day one is 100% worth it. You live in a field now, try to make that as painless as possible.
- While also doing your toilet proximity rekkie, you’re also scouting for a high, relatively flat piece of ground to camp on. Rain happens. Lying on stones/tree roots all weekend can happen. I’ve arrived late and said ‘screw it, this’ll do’ before and have ended up camping on boggy ground, getting my tent flooded, camping on weird, pointy, ground… none of this is any fun and is easily avoidable.
- Do. Not. Camp. Next. To. The. Chairoplanes. They will play the same six SHITE tunes on a loop, all weekend, until 4am each morning.
- Consider how much sleep you plan on getting. Shushing people in the middle of a craic campsite won’t wash. Neither will being obnoxiously loud in a designated quiet/family area.
- Take your tent with you at the end of the festival. You MONSTERS. If you really don’t want to ever use it again. Donate it. You can often donate it on site on the way out. Or, bin it if its trashed. Just don’t just leave it there in a heap for someone else to pick up after you. Ok?
Option 2 – Smug Camping/Packing Light
Maybe you’re travelling abroad and the cost of checking in a bag equates to renting your camping gear, or maybe you just can’t be bothered dragging a tent plus booze plus food plus all your costume changes across several fields, possibly in the mud. If so, you can usually pre-pay a company to hire a tent, mat and sleeping bag for the duration of the festival. The pre-paid sites are usually adjacent to general camping, so you’ll still be in the thick of it. I’ve never done this, mostly because I used to have a three man tent that folded up small enough to fit in a Ryanair Carry On Bag. It lasted me from Hop Farm 2012 until the great Saturday Night Deluge of Body And Soul 2016. RIP, Old Blue. I still miss you. My new tent (Mr. Orange) is also a boss (it survived backpacking around East Africa AND Life Festival!!) but sadly, is a little bulkier than Old Blue and won’t fit in a cabin bag. I’ll be making my Smug Camping debut at ArcTanGent next year, I’ll report back after.
Option 3 – Fancy Camping/Glamping
Maybe you don’t like regular camping. Maybe you don’t like mixing with the ORDINARY PEOPLE. Maybe you’d rather have an actual bed in a yurt or hut, and don’t mind paying for the privilege. In some cases, you’ll be asked to pony up about the cost of the ticket again. Extra perks often include power sockets, showers, and decent bathrooms. If it’s worth it to you, go for it. I’ve never done it, because I like regular camping, I’m usually broke (because I spend my dough on gigs/festivals/ travel/records, so don’t feel too sorry for me), and can sleep pretty much anywhere.
I did once get to bunk into a yurt for a night because I left my tent inside my front door and drove to the party three hours away ( I know). It was nice, it had a bed and a little side table with a light. I wouldn’t personally pay hundreds for it when I can just regular camp. But, I have friends who swear by it. If you think it’ll enhance your festival experience and you can afford it, go for it.
Keep in mind that glamping options usually have limited capacity and often sell out quite far in advance of the festival, so get in there asap.
Option 4 – Staying Off Site
Maybe you really, really, can’t be arsed camping, even in a fancy yurt. In that case, local hotels or B&Bs are the man for you. I have done this, many times. Usually because I’m working a lot at the festival and need to be rested and looking presentable to go DJ or get on stage and interview bands the next day.
It works really, really well if you plan accordingly. If it’s walkable, you’re in luck. If it’s not, prearranging a driver for the weekend is a must. I’ve walked for miles and miles (no exaggeration) after festivals trying to get back to hotels when there’s been no cabs and trust me, it’s no fun.
Naturally, these options also have limited capacity, so book early. If you do stay off site, consider pitching an emergency tent with mates in the general campsite. That way, if you can’t get back to your accommodation, or you’re simply having too much fun and don’t want to leave, you can stay and party. Nip back to the real world for a shower and change before the site opens the next day and arrive back feeling fresh.
PRO TIP: Don’t ask ‘does anyone need anything from the shop?’ unless you’re very ok with carting back many, many multi packs of cigarettes, hula hoops, solpadeine and capri suns.
Option 5 – Campervan.
If you don’t own one, you can hire one. Shower, fridge, bed, cooking facilities, still on site. I haven’t done this but anyone I know who has has been very, very happy with how well it’s worked.
Whatever you decide, have a great festival and stay safe! I have a packing and planning guide for music festivals here.