Whenever I go to a festival I always ask the Internet what to pack, and the Internet usually obliges with handy blogposts and checklists for me to use as inspiration when creating my own list.
The plastic bag
Don’t bring the majority of your belongings in a plastic bag. One year, I decided to pack two boxes of wine and three litres of premixed gin and tonic (among a plethora of other crap) in one of those big blue plastic bags you get from IKEA. I can’t remember why I thought this was a good idea, but I realised the moment I got out of the car and everything rolled out onto the floor that I had made a disastrous decision.
There is NO WAY to comfortably carry this bag. After about five minutes of walking, with big purple lines cut into my hands and shoulders I dropped the bag dramatically to the ground and resorted to dragging it behind me like a sledge… until the inevitable hole wore through the plastic and I was forced to scoop the whole lot up in my arms and carry it like a baby. In summary, get a backpack.
Beware the playsuit – it is a false friend. “What a fun, summery, festival-appropriate garment!” you think to yourself until you are having to get completely undressed (wellies and all), in a compost toilet that’s filled with a foot of sticky mud and smells like a farmyard. Leave the playsuit at home.
The things to wash with
It’s a nice idea. But the notion that I will wash with water (and not baby wipes) is a fantasy that I will no longer indulge in. Every year, the travel-sized shower gel (that costs almost as much as the full bottle) the camping towel and shampoo gets packed into the bag where it stays for five days until it is unpacked again after the festival.
This year I will be making do with babywipes, dry shampoo, a spritz of perfume and the knowledge that I’m a little bit more disgusting than I like to believe.
The good wine
Anything you definitely want to take home
The first festival I went to was Reading at the age of 15. Beforehand, I was well and truly lured in by the “Festival style” window display in Topshop and spent a fortune and a considerable amount of time and effort trying to look casual, laid back and bohemian.
Within hours of arriving at Little John’s Farm, I had managed to spill a whole tray of beer all over myself, fall over in the mud, lose a shoe and witness a friend’s hat (that had been painstakingly selected and purchased) plucked from her head and hurled across the campsite never to be seen again by a drunken passer-by. In that moment, as the hat soared high above the tents, I realised it was utterly stupid to take anything to a festival that you definitely like and definitely want to keep.
When I got back to my campsite, I saw that someone was urinating on my tent, my camping chair had been used as kindling to start a fire and someone had drawn a penis on the side of my tent with toothpaste. So if you can help it, don’t spend too much money on fringed waistcoats, floral vintage dresses or fancy Cath Kidston tents because your festival will be spent worrying about them or being annoyed.
Anything you definitely DON’T want to take home
This might appear to contradict the previous point, but BEAR WITH. Glastonbury is a real working farm and they have strict policies on litter. For that reason, if you find yourself thinking “I’ll pack that, and if I don’t need it I’ll just leave it there…” UNPACK IT IMMEDIATELY.
Carrying stuff home is so much worse than carrying it there. While the drink and snacks may be gone, your bag will still be heavy, but you’ll have much less energy than you did on the outgoing trip, you’ll be exhausted from the festival and sad that it’s all over. The last thing you want to be doing is lugging a load of junk that you thought might be useful or might be funny, all the way home. And the other option, leaving it there, will just exacerbate your post-Glastonbury blues, as you can add the guilt of ‘leaving a trace’ to your list of things to be miserable about.
Image of Glastonbury festival by jaswooduk from UK (Glastonbury 2011)