As you slink back to your campsite, as the clock ticks past 3am, and as the last glory of Sunday night fades into a weather-beaten Monday... the last thing you want to stumble into is a half-collapsed, sodden seamed, waterlogged tent. As you clamour for the comfort of your sleeping bag, reach for the zip – oh god, the zip. Maybe the tent isn’t so bad after all.

Surviving a festival with all your belongings intact is worthy of a prize. But if you ask the right questions while snug in the sanctuary of plan-making and general scheming, you'll avoid a whole world of pain.

Words: James Bates-Prince

Hang on. Do I Need this?

Whilst you should definitely be thinking hard about what is actually, truly necessary to bring with you, don't go too far the other way and spend the festival irritated for taking your minimalism too far. You can only buy so much at the camping shop. Just don’t take an expensive hi-fi audio system, don’t take your tablet and don’t take a lilo. (No, don’t. It really is going to end up in landfill.)

If campsite tunes are a must-have we recommend Minirig bluetooth speakers, lovingly designed and built by festival lovers who will happily repair them for you should they break. They’re widely loved in festival circles for their rugged build, impeccable sound quality, surprising volume, and frankly staggering battery life. Since you probably won’t be using the entire 80 hours battery - you might want to go catch some of the music you came to the festival to see - the Minirig also doubles as a charger for your other, less hardy devices.

A phone is a near-essential if you want to actually spend the festival in the same vague area as your friends, but which phone? If you have a surviving mobile from days of yonder, absolutely take it in place of a 6.5in HD 8GB RAM monster. If your only option is your current phone, then absolutely don’t buy a new one cheap. With the right phone case for example (and that’s coming up), you can avoid all the hassle and waste.

One last thing: you might not even need to buy much at all. Tatty becomes trendy in the company of dancers, druids and shamanic seers. For those things that aren’t going to be physically attached to you, your first ports of call should be your wardrobe, your chest-of-drawers, your uncle’s and aunty’s house or the cupboard under the stairs. Find yourself a well-worn waterproof, tie it round your waist and take it everywhere. Maybe you still have that little Christmas cracker plastic wristwatch?

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce


1. Tent

It’s a bit boring to keep harping on about it, but still remarkable that in 2018’s progressive and environmentally conscious crowd, up to half of festival goers leave their expensive shelters behind. Apparently taking down your tent is someone else’s problem, and the real cost goes beyond the back pocket. Amongst the dregs of the tattered field, the destiny for these unwanted items is landfill.

The unfortunate fact is that convenience is king. When a shattered brain wakes up on that dreaded Monday in 28 different pieces, breaking a shelter into 29 different pieces is pretty undesirable. But a totally undamaged, super easy to collapse tent with a generously sized bag? There’s no need to think twice about packing it up – you’ll need it for next time. The Atlas 200 by Vango is a perfect entry level 2 man dome tent. At only £52, it is well made, but affordable with enough room for your muddy boots in the porch and your rucksacks and boxes of wine safely hidden indoors. It comes as standard with a two-year guarantee, but if you can spare a few minutes to head over to Vango’s site proper, registering the tent extends that cover by a full year.

If you’re more of a festival and camping regular and you’re looking for a durable upgrade, then Berghaus could be the brand for you. They actually whack a lifetime guarantee on every one of their tents (it’s not clear on the site, but we’ve checked with the manufacturer). If you want to stretch as far as £329, you can get your hands on a 4-person inflatable tent – for the ultimate quick pitch, without the inconvenience of a pop-up. But our own recommendation would be their Peak 3 series. This bundle of fabric and poles is specially designed to keep you dry should biblical floods strike, the tub-style bedroom teaming up with their fantastic materials and quality of care. The massive porch is big enough for everything you just want to chuck in to keep hidden and dry, and would probably double as an excellent communal rain shelter when the weather catches your group out.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

2. Sleeping Bag

A great sleeping bag is hard to come across for under a few hundred pounds, even if you know what to look for. The UK sleeping bag market does have some absolutely fantastic manufacturers, but their gear really is priced for the specialists. Realistically you just won’t need your bag approved down to -20’C – unless you’re planning on hitting up Montreal’s Igloofest. So our best in show for every standard European summertime is this cosy number from the delightful LL Bean.

Ruggedly lined by a tough nylon exterior, peel open the zip to find a beautifully cushioned plush flannel interior, a perfect antidote to your fragile body’s exhaustion. Stretch your legs out and wiggle around to find the comfiest spot – the generous rectangular shape demands it. If that’s still not enough room for your full starfish sprawl, unzip until there’s no more zip to zip and find yourself under a full-size lush duvet. Be sure to grab yourself the extra-large if you're at all tall – the regular only fits up to 5″11, the XL lets even a 6″5 creature crawl all the way in.

That LL Bean beaut is priced up to £100 and worth it for the guaranteed comfort, but in case you can’t fork out that kind of dough, Vango as ever provide some pretty solid options. Our vote would be for the £34 Harmony Single, which maintains that lovely rectangular shape while also featuring a strong, catch protected zip and integrated pillow.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

3. Wellies

It goes without saying that the waterproof Wellington is the quintessential festival essential. Kate Moss’ boot of choice is often more discussed than this year’s headliners. And because you’ll be frequently pounding the mud carpet from the Big Top to the Main Stage, you’re going to struggle to lose a pair. That’s why, out of all your festival must-haves, wellies are the number one investment piece. Get the right pair and you won’t want to be rid of them any time soon.

Unlike some wellingtons on the market today, Bogs boots won’t crack under the pressure of full-blown festival season. Made with vulcanised natural rubber, they are incredibly durable and 100% waterproof. The ‘Max Wick’ lining and ‘DuraFresh’ technology will keep feet dry and comfortable whether it’s pouring down with rain or the hottest day of the year. And just as your feet are clean and dry, so too are your hands. These wellies come with ‘handles’ so they can be easily carried around when they’re not being worn. Bogs is the only wellington boots company that back-up their durability claims with an unlimited guarantee. No measly one-year restrictions here, just great materials, good technology and excellent customer service.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

4. Bum Bag

Keep your hands free for raving and use a bum bag to stash your phone, cash, glitter and glowsticks. Most mums will have one stored away as a relic of the 80s, but if you can’t get your hands on a genuine classic, look into the Springer by Eastpak. They’ve managed to match durability with functionality with affordability, without compromise. Despite weighing in at just 110g, its generous 2-litre capacity provides ample space so you can carry around a loo roll as well as your smartphone. And check out the zip on that! Sturdy string lavishly looped through the robust rings, this is not going to get jammed, and is not going fall apart in your hands – not today. It comes in a spectacular array of 41 different colours and patterns making which one to buy the only tough task. When you do finally settle on a colour, Eastpak will back-up this bum bag with a 30-year warranty against defects, which is great because no one needs two bum bags in their collection.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

5. Sunglasses

One festival item that is eternally wasteful is sunglasses. When you can pick up an up-to-the-minute trendy pair for £1, it’s no bother if they fall in the mud and get trampled on. They’ll get swept up with the rest of the plastic and when they’re that cheap you can buy a new pair when you get down from your festival high. Right? Wrong. Considering that those cheap frames will take at least 450 years to degrade in a landfill, sustainable sunglasses really ought to be on your BuyMeOnce festival list.

The good news is, even if your sunnies do get trampled on by a hoard of festival goers, if you own a durable pair of SunGod Classics it won’t matter. Made with unique memory polymer, these babies have the same stiff feel of your normal shades, but will flex right back into shape if bent. Completely customisable from the front to the lenses to the arms, they’re radical at the roller disco, top for transcendent raving and perfect for passing out with them affixed to your numb face. In the spirit of keeping your valuables physically attached to your untrustworthy person, we recommend going full grandma and making a little ribbon tie round the back of the frame. After all, get them safely home and you’ll be able to take advantage of SunGod’s totally wizard lifetime guarantee.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

6. Water Bottle

The seasoned festival goer is probably ahead of the curve on this one. The plastic bottle has long been a scourge of post-festival clean-up and a whole load of festivals have been trying to push back. With an estimated one million plastic bottles consumed and chucked at each Glastonbury alone, recyclable becomes landfill just to get the fields clear as quickly as possible.

Thankfully, voluntary anti-plastic campaigns are ever-present these days. Shambala festival is a fantastic example, vending all alcoholic drinks in reusable cups, and having totally banned the on-site sale of disposable plastic bottles. They even sell their own decently priced, sturdy and refillable stainless steel models in their place, the kind of thing you should definitely think about buying if you forget to bring your own. But even these may end up as waste if the threading fails, if the lid is lost or if you decide that actually you’re a bit fed up of that festival branding.

You can beat the crowds to the water point by investing in a stainless steel water bottle to last you a lifetime. The Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle packs in just under a litre of water (or your preferred festival tipple) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’ll do more than just accompany you to a festival once a year. You can use this environmentally friendly alternative to plastic for every commute to work and every gym workout. You’ll never need to buy bottled water again.

BuyMeOnce Festival Guide: Seven essentials and what to avoid | BuyMeOnce

7. Phone Case

A new iPhone 6s costs about £600. You’ll whip out that expensive piece of tech more than a few times when snapping the headliner or the absurd silent disco. All it takes is one spilled drink to put your smartphone out of action permanently and the regret will probably ruin your festival fun. Frustratingly, Apple’s warranty is invalidated by water damage. Whilst not the most stylish piece of equipment, dry bags are a godsend when it comes to keeping your tech safe and dry. Your phone will still function as normal – ‘where are you?’ texts can be responded to, there is no restriction on the camera and you can still talk and hear through it without a problem.

This kind of peace of mind is worth the £13.99 cost of the Overboard 100% Waterproof Phone Case. It’s guaranteed up to 6m of water submersion, protects against dust and dirt and is made of environmentally-friendly biodegradable thermoplastic polyurethane. If you’re more dropsy with your smartphone, LifeProof’s Fre Case is gravity-proof as well as waterproof. If you can spare the extra cash (it comes in at a tick over £40), it’s probably the most bankable way to keep your mobile from harm – this thing is solidly unbreakable and a sleek fit to your device. The bit of extra bulk ought not to be a problem anyway. Remember, this isn’t getting jammed half in your pocket, it’s going in your tip top colourful Springer Bum Bag. Right?

March 03, 2017 — James Bates-Prince