I get asked this a lot – so here are the basics IMHO* for festivals (for other trips just add cooking stuff). It’s a list for the UK, but I once camped on a mountain in Costa Rica and it wasn’t
Sleep comfortably (even in the sumer, the temperature can drop!)
- tent, bivvy, hammock – basically, something with a ground sheet, that you’ll want to use again and again. Buy one, or you can hire one.
- sleeping bag (I’d suggest you go for best you can afford, 3 or 4 season)
- a sleeping bag liner will add a couple of degrees and keep your bag clean (cotton, silk, nylon or thermal)
- if you’ve got some form of transport (car/van) you are allowed to bring a duvet, I do, and I am not ashamed to say so. But if you’re travelling light (on foot, horse or sled), make sure you pack a good mat, self inflating like the Thermarest if possible. If you only have the funds for something cheaper then get a basic mat, a yoga mat or a blanket to go underneath.
- light (head torch and/or some sort of lantern
Remember to put more under you than over – cold can seep through the ground even on on the hottest night (something many first time campers – and indeed more seasoned ones – only realise when they wake up vexed at 4am).
Dress warm, but bring sun-tan lotion
- given the changeable nature of our climate, the maxim is: many layers, but make them thin. If you’re wearing a skimpy t-shirt and a thick woolly jumper you can get caught in a too-hot/too-cold kerfuffle when the weather is neither mickling or mackling. Thermals are good – they double up as pyjamas and are fine for wandering round a camp-site, sitting around doing nothing, or doing yoga. M&S do my favourites, though if I could I’d go for merino.
- hat, gloves, scarf, warm socks. Maybe you won’t need them, but they don’t take up much space.
- waterproofs – at least a waterproof coat. Waterproof trousers essential for kids and a huge bonus for adults (having just got soaked in a 5 minute cycle ride and wishing I’d pulled mine on!). For small kids I’d highly recommend those all-in-one waterproof dungarees, especially with woollen underlayers. NOTHING stops kids having fun outdoors as much as getting cold, but keep them warm and they will LOVE it.
- mid-layer coat (I swear by my Arcteryx atom, but a good fleece or wooly jumper works)
- festival/walking/hanging out/swimming stuff (delete as applicable!)
- underwear and at least two pairs of socks!
- wellies/boots. Assume it will be muddy. It’s a field.
- sandals or flip flops
- yoga mat (doubles as extra layer under your bed!)
- lightweight chairs
- matches or lighter – or a fire steel. Fire steels don’t care if you drop them in water! Good for gas, method and wood fires.
- plastic bags to wrap everything in – just in case
- water bottle
- pain killers, plasters, sun-tan lotion and bug repellent/afterbite
- a hammock to laze in
- vacuum flask – hot coffee/tea/green tea, and useful for wine/G&Ts in the evening
- camping stove or storm kettle to boil water
- a day-bag, so if you need to take off layers, you’ve got something to carry them in
- consider a trolley if you will be camping a long way from your transport – I got a great sack truck from B&Q for £15 nearly ten years ago and it’s still going strong
- and to round it off, a comfortable rucksack or duffle… A suitcase can work but those tiny wheels won’t work on earth!
The Scandinavians famously say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Super lightweight travelling is totally possible, especially if you are happy to be uncomfortable, but a festival is not hiking the Pennine Way or an overnight wild camp. It’s a three-day holiday where otherwise you would be in a B&B. So a bit of preparation can make the camping a whole lot comfier!
And then every moment of sunshine will feel like a blessing…
This was what I sourced for a lovely client who only had a couple of days to get great kit, and is basically my ‘the best collection under £1k’. It also included a North Face waterproof and an Arcteryx Atom and an Alite chair. It’s possible to do it much cheaper… and far more expensive. If you’d like me to curate your camping kit, or to have a 1:1 consultation on what you might need, then do get in touch. Half hour 1:1s are free, then other services can be costed on a case by case basis, with profits going towards helping make the outdoors easy for everyone!
*IMHO – In My Humble Opinion!