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The A-Z of Festival Essentials

From booze to baby wipes, here's everything you need to survive a festival this summer.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 5th Jan 2021

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For first time festival-goers or those doing a last minute inventory before heading off to their festival of choice, this festival checklist will most certainly come in rather handy.

We've been to an awful lot of festivals over the last few years and even now, we're still constantly discovering new things to take with us that make our festival adventures that bit better. Attending festivals, like life, is a learning process, except it's a lot muddier, messier, musical, mind-blowing and memorable. Now that the letter 'M' is covered, let's delve into the rest of the alphabet and find out what festival essentials are needed to make your experience an exceptional one. 

Photo: Leeds Festival / Find: Leeds Festival tickets

A – Alcohol

Not the kind of alphabet learning process we’d expect Sesame Street to be teaching, but alcohol is an essential part of many adult’s A - Z, especially at festivals.

Many festivals will allow you to bring your own booze but there will be limits, so be sure you to check how much you’re allowed to take in with you before you get to the entrance and they confiscate it.

Some festivals only allow soft drinks to be taken onsite, whilst some will allow attendees to consume their own alcohol but only in the camping area's. Most festivals, however, provide licensed vendors that can usually be found scattered across the festival site. These vendors sell everything from wine and spirits to cider and lager. Some even have their own drinks made especially for the event, such as alternative Bristol based event - Arctangent, who teamed up with Signature Brew back in 2018 to create their own Arctangent Pale Ale.

We cannot stress this enough - it is absolutely vital that you do your research and find out exactly what you can and cannot take. You won't believe how many forlorn faces we've seen as people are forced to pour away some of their favourite tipples before they've even set up their tent. It's not the best way to start your festival and it's a complete waste of your hard earned cash. 

B – Baby Wipes

For the girls, this is a big old tick on the festival packing list, but for all the macho men out there - not so much. Baby wipes?! An essential?? Yes gents, wet wipes usually used on the sensitive cheeks of an infants behind are the perfect solution for cleaning away the grime and dried mud, in the absence of a shower or a sink, that you'll no doubt find caked on your skin after several days spent in a field.

After the first day or two you may still be shouting out 'baby wipes!' with a disapproving shake of the head, but guaranteed come day three you'll be gripping the shirt fronts of your girlfriend or female chums and begging for them. 

C - Camping Gear

Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Pillow, check. Ground sheet, check. Air bed, check. Chairs, check. Enough tent pegs or even the right sized tent poles... uh oh.

That’s right folks, speaking from experience it's always a good idea to make sure you’ve packed the right poles for your tent before you get there. As far as priority is concerned, when creating a 'What to take to a festival checklist' this should rate pretty dam high.

Here are some other nuggets of knowledge gained from our time camping in the fields that we'd like to share with you, in order to make your festival experience the best it can be:

- Take additional tent pegs. You're going to lose them and on those particularly windy nights, you're going to need them.

- Buy a bigger tent then what is needed. This hack will make your festival adventure a much more relaxing one. If two of you are planning on sharing a tent, get a four-man tent. Trying to squeeze your rucksacks, equipment and everything else into a two-man tent, as well as yourselves of course, is a challenge to say the least. Trust us, you'll be grateful for that space.

There's no camping at inner city festivals so make sure you've booked a hotel room, or a space on your mate's sofa.  

D – Drinking Games

Our favourite pastime in the build up to an evening of debauch festival fun.

Ring of fire, anyone? Words that spark fear and excitement at the same time. Don't forget to pack that all important deck of playing cards. There's nothing worse than suggesting a game you can't play because you forgot the one thing you need to play.

Drinking games can also be a superb ice breaker with your neighbours so invite them over to join you. Remember to remind them to bring their own cider, you don't want them dipping into your supply, and then sit back and get as drunk as Oliver Reed did before midday. Which means very, very drunk. 

E – Entry Ticket

No ticket, no entry – capiche?

Forgetting your festival ticket is, without any doubt whatsoever, the silliest thing you could manage. Picture the scene...

You approach the festival entrance and your heart begins fluttering wildly. To the surrounding bystanders and fellow festival-goers you resemble an animated and goofy youth about to ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster for the first time. The banter with your mates is first rate and non-stop.

Your time comes. Security ask to see your tickets...

Your partner turns to you expecting you to have them ready in hand. You pat your pockets. Nothing. The wild fluttering of your heart turns into a sickly, sinking feeling. Your partner looks nervous. They ask you where the tickets are. The colour drains from your face as realisation settles in... "I've left them at home". Even the people pouring their drinks away will be laughing at you.

What happens if you've got a ticket but can no longer make it to the festival?

There's bound to be someone else out there that would love to take your place at a festival, and you can now resell your tickets through Skiddle's new ticket exchange platform.

Photo: Kendal Calling / Find: Kendal Calling tickets

F – Fancy Dress

Most festivals nowadays incorporate their own fancy dress theme – Kendal Calling being the perfect example (see image above). Get involved with the fun and dress up like a pillock. Let's face it, after a few drinks most of us become dribbling fools anyway, so why not be a fancily attired dribbling fool!

It's a few days away from the normality of everyday life so go at it! Let yourself go. Live a little. 

G – Grub

If you're flush with cash that your ready to splash, we recommend taking advantage of the many food options you'll come across whilst at any festival, both here in the UK and overseas.

Long gone are the days of limited choice, there's something out there to cater for all dietary needs and tastes. From Lebanese inspired grilled vegetable wraps suitable for vegans, of course, to the reimagined Buffalo cheese burger stands and noodle bars. You could probably eat a different cuisine each day of the festival and still not taste all thats on offer.

Spent all of your money on your festival ticket and booze? Wise decision, but you're still going to need some sustenance to see you through the weekend. Stodgy foods such as cakes and bread should certainly be on your list of festival essentials, as well crisps, biscuits, nuts, cereal bars (all good sources of protein and energy to get you through the day) and fruits such as oranges. You're going to need those vitamins, friend. 

If someone in the group can take a gas stove then you’re laughing. Pot noodles galore! Same goes for disposable BBQs, provided you are allowed to take them. Check the festival website or contact them directly to be on the safe side. 

H – Hand Sanitiser

Hygiene has never been more important given the state of current affairs across the globe, and it's always been of high importance at festivals, simply because there's usually such a lack of it.

Make sure to acquire and take a reasonable and responsible amount of cleansing materials and products. Get a couple of those little hand sanitisers that you can carry around with you and remember to keep it on your person at all times. Using some God-awful portaloo's will make you scream blue murder and shake your fist to the sky if the sinks are just as filthy and you cannot wash your hands (which is usually the case). Sanitise those dirty hands regularly.

It might also be a good idea to pack a face mask. Although we're expecting to be out this mess before festival season comes a knocking, there may still be restrictions in place at festivals in the summer to help minimise the spread of Covid. 

I – Ibuprofen

Waking up with a banging headache or acquiring a dodgy gut from one of the food or beer stalls can happen. Ibuprofen can cover all bases and help alleviate those aches and pains.

Another top Skiddle recommendation (not quite Ibuprofen but still) - buy a tub of multivitamin effervescent's. These little tablets of goodness have saved our heads many times before now. Simply chuck one of the tabs in a pint of water, wait for it to dissolve and then drink it all up. Replace those vital minerals and crack on with the day in hand. Thank us later. 

J – Jumpers

Wall to wall sunshine during the day spent watching your favourite bands and artists can often be misleading. It can trick you into believing that a pleasantly mild evening might be on the cards. How does the saying go? 'When you assume you make an ass out of you and me'. Yea, that's the one.

It can get real nippy in the evenings, so be prepared. Our top tip - Pack a thick, warm jumper or two. Jackets, particularly rainproof ones, will be a second stroke of genius. Don't get caught out by the weather. 

K – King Size Blanket

You've remembered the deck of cards for your drinking games (woi-oi) and you're ready to get turnt up! But whatever will you sit on?

It might not be considered a proper festival essential as such, a place or thing to perch on that is, but after three days of sitting on the hard ground, inebriated or not, your backside will sure wish you had added 'something to sit on' to your festival checklist.

An enormous picnic blanket will come in handy for sitting on and playing card games with your mates, whilst providing added space for your drinks, snacks and neighbours too. A camping chair with a cup holder will see you rise one better, overseeing the floor dwelling peasants playing their games, as you relax in hands-free style. 

L – Loo Roll

It’s bad enough using a portaloo and forgetting the hand sanitizer, but underestimating the amount of paper left on the roll when in desperate need... Not good. Therefore taking your own is always a good idea.

Seen as a commodity as valuable as gold in the fields of a festivals camping site, you’ll be clinging on to it for dear life and trading it by the sheet for riches of your choosing come the final days of the event.

HOCPhoto: Hideout Festival (Facebook) / Find: Hideout Festival tickets

M – Money

Try and work out how much money you’ll need for the duration of the time at the festival because you won’t want to be carrying around too much. Keep your cash with you at all times, either in your wallet or, if you really must, in a zipped pocket. Money is very easily lost or stolen at festivals.  

Many festivals now provide cash machines so you can draw out money at the festival, incase you run out of funds or it's lost or stolen. But unless you're willing to pay some truly eye watering dispensing fee's, we suggest drawing out your funds before you get to the festival site. 

If you're planning or already booked to attend Croatia's Hideout Festival, Annie Mac's Lost & Found in Malta or any other festivals abroad then for goodness sake, make sure you nip down the post office and get your pounds exchanged!

N – Night Light

As the sun retires for the day and the darkness creeps in, the festival campsite typically transforms into a much more challenging environment. Full of obstacles and trip hazards, it's a scene similar to that of a Mission Impossible film (cue soundtrack).

A throng of multicoloured yet highly invisible guidelines obstruct all paths from your tent to any given destination. Throw in some rogue camping chairs, empty cans and maybe even a sleeping drunkard and your mission, whether you choose to accept or not, is one that requires great skill.

In these testing situations, a torch will prove invaluable, not only when navigating the festival campsite but when trying to identify your tent in a sea of similar looking tents.

Another good tip: get a flag for your tent or some kind of mascot to guard it (that hopefully won’t get nicked either). This will make finding your tent a much easier task.

O – Old Phone

Again we speak from experience here - remember to take an old or spare mobile phone with you instead of your plush, fancy new gadget, because it'll probably end up in a less than perfect state come the end of the festival.

creammfieldsPhoto: Creamfields (Facebook) / Find: Creamfields tickets

P – Protection

This covers all manner of bases. Condoms are a must for any festival romances, in addition to the wet wipes we mentioned earlier that are also essential in this instance (you filthy animals), whilst sun cream is important on the off chance that it isn't pouring down for the majority of your weekend. We also recommend earplugs, if you're hoping to leave the event with your eardrums still intact that is. This applies to both adults and children, so don't leave yourself short. 

Many festivals, such as Creamfields and Leeds and Reading Festival, now also offer lockers and cloakrooms where you can protect and store your belongings safely for the entirety of the events duration. These facilities are available to rent on a first come, first served basis. 

Q – Quickies

Two varying terms for this word: the first being the obvious. If you do find some time to pull whilst you are there then be sensible and remember the condoms before you invite your new found friend back to your sleeping bag. The second thing worth looking into is the TravelJohn Disposable Unisex Urinal. Look it up – might be worth it if you end up busting to use the loo at 4am when the portaloo's are miles away and it’s raining outside. Not the most gracious of devices we'll agree, but a quick fix to an awful predicament you're bound to find yourself in, at a festival.

R – Rubbish Bags

You wouldn’t leave your rubbish lying around your house now would you? So bag it up and take it to what will be a clearly marked and signposted, designated area for rubbish.

Photo: Latitude Festival / Find: Latitude tickets

S – Sun

Remember the three S’s and you can't go wrong - sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses.

You do not want to be contracting a case of sun stroke on the first day of the festival, so slap that lotion on. Don't be shy.

A hat can be crucial in the fight against taming wild and unruly hair, whilst shades can cover up those tired, bloodshot eyes. The ones that say I've been raving since I got here and I can't find my tent.

Check out the guy above, entertaining himself (by the looks of things) at Latitude Festival. Stylish and sensible. We approve.

T – Toiletries

If manning up for the showers isn't an option, if there's even showers available that is, then the least you can do is brush your teeth. All festivals are bound by law to provide fresh and clean drinking water points on campsites, so you have no excuse not too.

Remember that baby wipes are there as an alternative as well, and that you won't be taking anyone back to your tent if your personal aroma contains hefty notes of sweat and ass.

Oh and believe us when we say, you’ll discover a new love and appreciation for your deodorant spray or roll on, the likes of which you never thought possible. 

U – Underwear

This is pretty self explanatory and one hundred percent a festival essential. You will definitely need at least a few changes of underwear, including socks. If you're not taking spare underwear to a festival, you probably need to have a word with yourself. 

It usually rains and there's usually lots of mud, so inevitably underwear gets, for want of a better word, soiled. In some severe cases, that literally might be the case. So don't forget to pack them spares.  

V – Vitamins

Taking vitamins is optional but nevertheless a good choice. Yes, you're only away for a few days but let’s face it, none of us have the stamina and immunity possessed by the likes of wild man, Bear Grylls.

The amount of alcohol consumed coupled with a lack of sleep, improper nutrition and unsanitary living conditions is going to have some sort of dire affect on our bodies defences, so stocking up on the required vitamins and minerals might not be a bad thing.

Remember - Multivitamin effervescent's and oranges. Life savers.

W – Weather

You’ll obviously want to check the weather forecast before departing on your festival adventures, so you know whether or not to pack wellies, windbreakers or waterproofs.

Honestly, if you have the space and the will power to carry the extra clothing etc, we highly recommend packing for all weather eventualities. Better to be safe than sorry.

X – Xtra Chewing Gum

OK, so X was a difficult one to come up with and we may have cheated slightly, but keeping that breath fresh after all the fags and booze will make a massive difference. You don't want to be labelled ash tray mouth now do you? 

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Y – Your Own Music

Travelling by car will require music for the journey, but playing your own music when sat around the campsite with your merry group of fellow festival maniacs can be just as memorable as watching your favourite bands live on stage.

Why not bag yourself a bluetooth speaker and a portable charger for the weekend, pre-prepare a few banging playlists and be your camp sites main attraction when the music stops, if it ever does. Glastonbury just never sleeps. Seriously.

Check out our Festival Roadtrip playlist (above) and become a passenger-seat DJ don, en route to a festival this year. 

Z – ZZZs

Catching some ZZZ's whenever you can is important. Your body needs time to re-energise, preparing you for the next day. It might be difficult getting some sleep at night, especially when you're absolutely melted, which is why power napping in the afternoons can make a huge difference; if it was favoured by Winston Churchill then it can be favoured by festival-goers too. 

Remember those ear plugs we mentioned earlier? If you're struggling to nod off, stick these in. You could even go one further and get yourself a sleeping mask. Now try and stop us from sleeping!


Want more like this? Read our Ultimate Festival Checklist.

Head here to check out our complete Festival Guide

Festivals 2021