The 11 worst things to take camping at a music festival, according to an expert

People in tent at music festival
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you're packing for a festival, there's a tricky balance to strike – you want to take enough gear to make sure you're comfy, but you don't want to be overloaded with unnecessary clutter. Heading to Glastonbury isn't exactly the same as wild camping in the Hebrides, after all.

Wherever you're heading this summer, here are our top tips to help you pack smarter and leave behind the extra weight.

1. Your best tent

Festival campsites are often busy, which could lead to potential damage of your prized tent. Poor weather will usually mean muddy fields and that will inevitably lead to your tent ending up covered in dirt.

Of course, you could make sure you properly clean the tent after the festival, but we recommend you take an older tent with you (although take note of our second tip), or pick up something cheap to use each year as your dedicated festival tent. Picking one up second-hand is a good option.

flooded festival camping

Campsites can end up wet and muddy – or even flooded (Image credit: Getty Images)

2. A leaky tent

It might be a summer festival, but that doesn’t mean the weather will be kind. If it rains, you will end up damp inside the festival tent. Perhaps you could think about re-waterproofing an older tent and using this for your festival trips. 

3. Pricey camping kit

There is a lot of kit to take when camping at a festival – and while no one wants to think about items being stolen, with hundreds to thousands of campers, it might happen. It's very difficult to lock a tent, so to avoid tempting thieves, it’s wise to camp with older or cheaper items, such as budget sleeping bags, inflatable camping mattresses, and cheap camping chairs. Save the high-end gear for another occasion.

4. Every camping item – and the kitchen sink

It's easy to get carried away when planning a camping trip. A camping spot at a music festival is usually fairly small, so there will be little space for too many extras, such as big cooking setups, table and high-back chairs. Aim for smaller items such as a one to three-person tent, depending on how many people are sharing, and compact camping chairs that fold down small enough to tuck in the side pocket of your backpack.

Muddy footwear

Don't choose your best shoes, but do take waterproof and mud-proof footwear for festival camping (Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Your best clothes – especially white garments

Even if the weather proves to be dry and sunny, you will be spending all of your time outdoors and this will inevitably lead to clothes becoming dirty and sweaty. If the weather turns wet, you will have the added issue of mud. 

It's far better to take clothing that is meant for the outdoors, or older and more worn garments. Clothing that has a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment will reduce the potential for damp and stains. 

6. Expensive Gore-Tex clothes

While Gore-Tex is a great material for keeping you dry during a wet  music festival, it doesn’t like too much mud and dirt. You could plan to clean your expensive Gore-Tex waterproofs after the festival, but instead we recommend more budget friendly waterproof jackets and trousers.

7. Down jacket or sleeping bag

There are pros and cons of down versus synthetic insulation for jackets and sleeping bags and one advantage it the synthetic insulation's ability to keep you warm eve when wet. Some down fills are treated with a water repellent finish, but these are usually expensive and we wouldn't recommend you take them to a potentially muddy and dirty festival campsite.

People sitting in deck chairs at music festival

Better to be warm and dry than wet and cold (Image credit: Getty Images)

8. Synthetic base layers

Synthetic base layers are known for being lightweight and breathable, but it can also become stinky very quickly. Meanwhile, natural fabrics such as merino are better at preventing odors developing. It depends how long the festival is and how much you will sweat, but merino base layers are particularly good for resisting odor.

9. Heeled footwear

Go for sturdy and practical footwear, such as hiking boots or rubber rain boots. You will spend a lot of time on your feet and in potentially dirty outdoors locations, so fancy footwear is a definite no-no.

10. Precious personal possessions

For the same reasons as tip three, it’s better to leave expensive and treasured items such as jewellery, cameras, and headphones at home. Carry personal items such as a phone, credit card, and money with you at all times.

11. Glass in any shape

Glass bottles or drinking glasses are usually banned from festival campsites, so avoid trouble at the gate by taking plastic only. 

Final tip – remember the essentials

A final tip is to make sure you do take all the essentials for festival camping success, including earplugs, an eye mask, waterproof jacket and rain pants, a change of socks, an insulated jacket (see tip seven), compact and lightweight tent and camping chair, simple toiletries such as anti-bacterial wipes or gel, toilet paper, a large bottle for drinking water and a powerbank for recharging your phone and other devices.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.