Festival essentials 101

We’re off to Nozstock at the weekend, up in hopefully sunny Herefordshire. This will be something like the 5th festival we’ve been to and on top of that we’ve been camping a fair bit too. We’re still accumulating all the gear to make it as painless as possible though and to that end, I thought I’d share a few essentials.

There are plenty of guides out there but most of the ones I’ve read either include pointless crap like bunting or aim for the high end stuff that will get nicked or if it gets broken will ruin your trip. Cheap yet reliable and sturdy is definitely the way to go in my opinion.


vango icarus 500

I’ll not bother with a specific tent because despite being an essential, there is a large degree of personal choice and the size and number of you will affect this too. You don’t have to spend a fortune either though, our Vango Icarus 500 cost us about £250 and we’ve already spent weeks in it. I’ve had to replace one of the poles due to wind damage but that didn’t cost very much. It has a separate bedroom and a general living area where you can hang out if it’s raining. If I were going to get one more tent accessory it would probably be the awing as this would give a bit of extra space as the kids get bigger.


Although you’re bound to eat a load of horrifically expensive food (although if you’re at Nozstock, you’ll find the food is pretty affordable), it’s worth having the stuff for a quick meal and you’ll definitely need tea and coffee too.

You can spend as much or a little as you want but I would recommend the following:



  • Stove– the butane stove shown is £16 with 4 cans of butane. It works as well as one that costs £150 and has an ignition. I’ve also got a second smaller stove that’s handy for making tea while cooking food but I count that as a luxury.
  • Table– the ground might not be level or there might be tall grass. This clever table only costs £15 and folds flat for transportation. I bought it after getting fed up with my stove falling over in long grass.
  • Water carrier– saves hiking to the nearest tap every time you want a drink. It’s collapsible for transportation but can hold 15 litres. Only costs a fiver.
  • Travel cutlery set (£10)- there is no good reason why you can’t take your best cutlery from home but at least with this set, it’s all kept together, making it less likely to get lost.
  • Pots and pans– the set pictured is about 28 quid but probably more comprehensive than you need if you’ve only got a single ring burner. At the least a couple of pans and a kettle should do you. You’ll be amazed how much use you can get out of a kettle. One of our camp staples is noodles, so it’s really easy to heat up some water in a pan, add the noodles and then scoff five minutes later. The same goes for pasta with sauce- just check whether the site allows you to bring glass on to the campsite (a lot don’t), otherwise you might have to decant the sauce into a plastic container at home.
  • Plates and bowls– something solid and probably plastic is best, unless you plan on eating Pot Noodles exclusively.


There are different schools of thought on this. You can go one (or more) of three ways basically:

  • Carry mat– these are about a fiver and basically give you about 2cm of foam to sleep on. They’re fine if you sleep on your front or back but a bit of a nightmare if you sleep on your side.
  • Airbed– under a tenner each but bear in mind you’ll probably end up topping up the air every day and if the kids decide to jump on them, you’re bound to get a puncture. My wife swears by them but I’m not a fan.
  • Camping bed– these are about a tenner each and probably the most comfortable. In my opinion though, they need something under them like a carry mat to stop the risk of the legs puncturing your tents groundsheet.
  • Sleeping bags– I’ve got a rather swish Ajungilak sleeping bag I bought years ago (it cost me about £80) but if you’re festival camping bear in mind i) it’s “summer” and ii) the more bodies you have in a tent, the warmer it gets. None of the other sleeping bags we have cost more than £15 and we’ve even got a couple of smaller kids ones. The one concession to home we have is taking our own pillows!


  • Bog in the Bag– the single most important thing you can take with you outside of the above essentials. It’s basically a portable toilet that’s invaluable in the middle of the night.
  • First aid kit– we have a kids kit because a lot of them don’t actually contain plasters, just bandages and tape. NB 90% of the time the application of a plaster is entirely for the placebo effect it appears to give.
  • Antiseptic gel/wipes- worth taking because, you know, festivals!
  • Spare tent poles– wind, drunken people or clumsy kids can easily break a tent pole, so make sure your bag has some spares just in case. And a roll of black tape for emergency repairs too.
  • Pocket knife. I have a Victorinox Huntsman, which is overkill but it does have a saw which is useful for trimming replacement tent poles. It’s quite bulky but have proven invaluable on occasion.

Anything I’ve missed? Probably but I can’t spot it, so feel free to correct me via the comments. Hope this has helped!