This year I have plans to go to a grand total of six festivals, from one-day wonders in a local woodland to a trek across the country for Boomtown. Festival season is well underway; I’ve already been to two, volunteered at one, and have my bag half-packed for the next. For me, music festivals aren’t just for catching some of my favourite acts in the sun. Let’s be realistic here, I live in Scotland. The absence of pouring rain is just an unexpected perk. I don’t just pack my cutest summer dress and floral headband, because my fashion statement will be my sparkly waterproofs and midgie repellent.
Tomorrow my trusty tent and I will be heading out to Kelburn Garden Party for 3 days of outdoor fun. Kelburn 2 (as I call it, because I always get “Garden Party”, “Psychedelic Forest Disco” and “Psychedelic Forest Carnival” confused) is not only one of my favourite music festivals, but it’s also huge for the arts. Some of my favourite artists and art collectives take part every year. When I opened my gallery, I actually found one of the members of my Dream Team at Kelburn and convinced him to move to Edinburgh to work for me. This place is a big deal in the Scottish creative scene.
I’ve been to festivals with a whole crew of mates, and I’ve also been to a few on my own. I once turned up to Reading with a toothbrush, sleeping bag, and probably not enough cash to survive for 3 days, in the hopes I’d find the friends who were rumoured to have a tent there. I did not come prepared. A few years ago I found myself at AudioSoup with nothing but the clothes on my back and a disproportionate level of optimism; the friends I’d come with were so drunk by the time we trekked out to the site that they promptly fell asleep for 16 hours. I just started chatting to the people camped next to my mate Tony’s snoring body, and they shared their tents and vodka with me all weekend.
Last year around this time, I wrote a post on my festival essentials. It’s been 12 months now, and I’ve seen a lot of rain, an impressive amount of mud, and a little bit of blissful sunshine. Have things changed? Will I eschew my old favourites? Are my trusty baby wipes off the list this year? Read on to find out.
The pair I wear are 8 years old, which is 1 year older than my dog. Wellies are uncomfortable and have no grip. I’ve found that I can only really wear the half-height ones, as I’m only 5ft4 and standard wellies tend to come up too high on me – also have you ever tried to remove a welly in a tent, once it’s suctioned itself to your calf? Remember the children’s story about the old man and the enormous turnip, and how even with the combined strength of his wife, the kids, and all the animals on the farm, he couldn’t pull that stubborn turnip out of the ground? That’s exactly what it’s like to try to remove a pair of wellies at a festival.
I spent years wearing utilitarian outdoor gear to festivals. Bland, basic, but good for keeping the water off. Then I discovered that anything is possible on the internet, and snagged myself an iridescent mermaid mac to stop myself from going to sparkly unicorn to drowned rat in the delightful Scottish summer season. This also has the added benefit of making me easy to spot in a crowd.
I remember my first year as a vegan, and there were barely any food options for me at any of the festivals I went to. Now there are loads. At Eden I managed to scoff a gourmet loaded vegan hotdog, a fried potato spiral, wood-fired pizza with vegan cheese, and a sweet potato and coconut curry. In one day. Such a change from the granola bars and slightly bashed fruit I’d had to squirrel away in days of yore.
This year I’m bringing a small camping stove and some home-cooked treats for those mornings I just cannot be bothered to drag my festival-broken self into the main site for food. Also, cups of tea. If I can avoid queuing for tea in the morning, I’ll be a happy camper.
I’ve got a glitter collection that might be considered excessive. Subtle is not my aesthetic, and a paw-ful of iridescent sparkles also works as a handy festival camouflage for those dark circles and tired skin. This is the only time of year I will attempt a contour. Glitter contour.
I have so many glitters; chunky and fine, mermaid, unicorn, iridescent, hearts, stars and neons. Two of my favourite brands are Shine Shack and Dust&Dance, both independent purveyors of sparkle based in the UK.
Baby wipes are a practical necessity. Even if you have shower access, these are still good to have in your bag just in case. The accumulation of a day’s worth of sweat, dust, mud, rain, sunscreen, makeup, and let’s not forget glitter. No matter how drunk I get, or how tired I am, I know I’ll always feel better if I give my face the once over with a wet wipe before I pass out, half in and half out of my sleeping bag. Bonus points if you bring a skin-friendly version that isn’t harsh or abrasive on your delicate wee face. My current fave is from No. 7 at Boots, which doesn’t leave my skin feeling like the back end of a mongoose, and is also cruelty free.
I used to think facial wipes were enough, but have you ever scrubbed layers of glitter and rhinestones off your face with just a wipe? To save on space, I bring some cotton pads and decant my bottle of micellar water (my favourite is By Terry’s Cellularose Micellar Water) into a wee spray bottle from the travel section in Boots.
I’d feel naked without my mobile, but my pesky iPhone will barely hold a charge for a full day without help.
I have a beast of a portable power bank that holds 8 charges for an iPhone. It’s bigger than my phone, and takes a full day to charge up beforehand, but it was a lifesaver last year. I managed to keep not only my own phone fully charged for a full 3-day festival, but I also managed to give my friend a wee boost on the Sunday night when she needed to phone her mum. These things are invaluable. Be warned though, this is only useful for contacting the outside world; everybody else’s phones will be long dead by Saturday night.
Most of the festivals I go to take an “environmental deposit” with the ticket price, which is returned if you leave the the site with a bin bag full of rubbish collected from the campsite. I know a lot of the commercial festivals don’t do this, but it’s still good etiquette to clean up after yourself when you leave. We usually keep a couple of these by our site for quick and easy cleanup on the Monday; it also means you won’t have to turf endless empty cans and bottles, manky used baby wipes, and snotty tissues out of your tent when you’re feeling delicate. Just tie up that bag, collect your fiver, and drive off into the sunset.
For me, it almost goes without saying that things like spare socks, plenty of clean pants, loo roll, and a decent towel go into my weekend bag. I’d pack these things even if I was just staying at a friend’s for the night. Last Kelburn, I brought a spare travel toothbrush and made a new friend. This year I went full-on responsible adult at Eden and even brought a wee first aid kit containing blister plasters, antihistamines, and paracetamol – which I plan to barter for food with the extremely hungover casualties on Sunday morning.