Preparing for a festival this year? Don’t panic – from festival practicalities to planet-friendly tips, we’ve got you covered.

To ensure you’ve accounted for wading in mud, crippling hangovers and entertaining little ones, we've put together a guide to festival necessities you're going to want to bring to this year's music festival season (no matter the weather or your budget).

Get your backpack and festival trolley ready, this is what you need to pull together. 

Our top tips for packing like a pro

A field full of tents at a festival at sunset © Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock
Pray you get along with the new neighbors © Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock

1. To camp or not to camp?

First off, read what not to take with you on the festival’s website – this can be anything from aerosols to paper lanterns to gazebo tents. If you’re camping, leave behind that expensive tent if you’re expecting lots of partying around your pitch. And whatever your tent size, double the number of people it suggests it accommodates – you’ll always need more space to accommodate extra luggage compared to going hiking.

Many festivals offer glamping upgrades, so take note of what the festival provides. You may be able to rock up and relax. Whatever you opt for, check to see what amenities are like on-site (are there proper hot-water showers?) to determine what you need to take with you.

Not a fan of pitching up? Consider city-based festivals, such as Field Day in London, Sydney Festival or Movement Detroit, USA, as well as those such as Ultra Music Festival held across the globe, from Shanghai to Lima.

Heading to the UK this summer? Check out the best summer music festivals

2. Only bring the bare necessities

After you’ve checked and double-checked that you’ve got your festival ticket, ID, cash and debit card, pack solar chargers so you can charge on the go instead of queuing to top up on-site and missing your fave band – or losing your friends.

If camping, always take a mallet, use folded clothes as a pillow (packing a pillowcase is recommended), and invest in a comfortable day bag, and ideally fold-up camping chairs. If you’re taking an airbed, it's best to bring a battery-powered pump so you don’t wear yourself out the moment you arrive. And stock up on reusable tote bags for carrying extras like merch, or food and drink.

Then add the things you think you won’t need but probably will: gaffer tape (it fixes anything from tears in your tent to a broken shoe sole); a lighter; head torch; clothes pegs; ear plugs and an eye mask.

Make sure you take enough cash, too, and store money in various places such as a hidden money-holder in case of disasters.

Street food at a festival© Alexandr Vorobev / Shutterstock
Festival food is sometimes delicious, but it’s always expensive © Alexandr Vorobev / Shutterstock

3. Food and drink on the cheap

Conscious of the cost of festival food all day, every day? Pack the some cooking supplies: a small saucepan, spatula, cutlery, plates and bowls, multi-tool or firm knife, tin opener, washing up tools, waste bags and reusable bottles.

Most festival sites aren't keen on gas or spirits stoves, so opt for multi-fuel or solid gas. It's best to bring longer-lasting veggies such as broccoli, kale and potatoes, tinned goods like fish, beans and chopped tomatoes, plus non-perishable foods such as dried fruit and nuts, tofu, couscous and pasta, rice cakes – and even dried meat.

Be responsible and leave no trace. At many festivals, you can use the same cup at different bars – check this out and stock up on reusable cups if it applies. Consider taking bamboo utensils, stainless steel straws and food containers for your take-away food purchases to reduce waste.

And when it comes to hangovers, ginger tea can ease nausea, and grapefruit juice boosts sugar levels. Bananas and coconut water are the ultimate fixes, though – full to the brim with antioxidants and nutrients.

4. Whatever the weather

The biggest conundrum: how to prepare for festival weather? The most crucial thing to do is to double up with clothing: sarongs or bandanas turn into skirts and bags; swimwear becomes shorts or underwear.

If you’re braving the cold at festivals like Iceland Airwaves, take thermals, thick socks, gloves and insulated foam mats.

Prepare for sandstorms with dust masks, goggles or scarves in the desert and temperatures dropping at night at Burning Man, Nevada and Oasis Festival in Marrakesh.

In soggy British Glastonbury Festival-type conditions, take big boots and invest in a waterproof tarpaulin cover.

In mosquito-ridden areas like Rainforest World Music Festival in the Malaysian jungle or Envision Festival in Costa Rica, buy repellent containing DEET, as well as unscented deodorant.

Hitting the sands at Croatia’s Hideout or Australia’s Airlie Beach Festival? Make sure you opt for the ocean-friendly sun lotion to take with you.

Glastonbury guide: how to survive the iconic music festival

POV shot of a pair of wellington boots in mud © Dmitri Fedorov / Shutterstock
Take a pair of waterproof boots as you'll be living in them if it rains © Dmitri Fedorov / Shutterstock

5. Keep it clean

Chances are, you’re prepared to get messy, but you'll still want a minimal wash kit. Hand sanitizer, compostable baby wipes, toilet paper (without the roll) and a washbowl can work wonders for day-to-day care. Pack light with shower essentials and take just a slither from your soap bar. Avoid the travel-sized purchases by filling reusable eco-friendly containers.

Then, the little tips: take one small mirror with you, opt for Sun Protection Factor (SPF) products and for those with long hair, always keep a hairband on your wrist. For women, menstruation cups can be reused and last longer than disposable ones.

A baby eating a chicken leg at a festival© Olga Enger / Shutterstock
You’re never too young to enjoy the festival experience, right? © Olga Enger / Shutterstock

6. Festivals with kids

First, don't forget to pack Calpol or something similar that treats pain or fever. You could also consider purchasing a portable toilet such as Boginabag. Collapsible bottles are a great shout, too, if your bag of kiddy essentials is about to burst.

On top of the regular holiday kit, poncho towels are winners for drying littluns off after getting dirty, kids’ onesies are perfect for the evening and cool sunhats and child-size ear protectors are essential.

For fun, choose things kids will keep playing with when the sun goes down or in a crowded field – think glowsticks, festival make-up kits, disposable cameras and mini binoculars.

For when their feet ache: take toddler carriers such as Ergobaby, folding camping stools, portable cushioned beds for the younger ones like Sleepyhead or even a Radio Flyer. Some festival-goers take a trolley to cart their things (and their babies) around in the day, then turn these into a mini baby cot at night, complete with battery-operated fairy lights. To ensure a good night’s sleep amid the noise, get a good quality miniature sleeping bag as well as comfortable child-sized ear defenders.

Traveling to Europe this summer? Here are the best festivals to plan your Europe trip around

7. Share and share alike

The key things you can rely on at a festival are: a) the sheer number of people around you in the great outdoors and b) the willingness to share, so make use of it!

Allocate different jobs between you and your fellow festival-goers beforehand so you don’t end up with five mallets and one air pump. And don’t fret if you can’t pack camping chairs in your car or fit a cooler on your back. Friendly neighbors or festival staff can always lend a helping hand. Some even offer campsite carts to loan so you can move between your car and your site with ease. 

8. Dress-ups, games and more

It's a good idea to stand unique flags or lights at your pitch so that you can find your way back to it, especially at night. Perhaps leave the sumo suit at home if you’re tight for space. With or without a dress-up theme, go for lightweight finds like printed leggings, face paint, headbands, wigs and masks to get into the festival spirit.

And finally, squeeze in some compact games for campsite downtime, such as Bananagrams and Storycubes or even Twister (which can double up as a somewhat less practical camp mat).

This article was first published May 9, 2018 and updated May 19, 2024.

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