How to survive a festival in the rain

survive festival in the rain
Aminah Barnes

Aminah Barnes

Festival season is great, but let’s be real. We’re in the UK, and our weather is temperamental at best. We’ve just had a lovely and warm spring, but summer by no means has to follow that pattern. It can be very disheartening, having foregone a week on a Mediterranean beach to slip through muddy fields. With a little bit of preparation however, you can become the best at surviving a festival in the rain.

Check the forecast

Don’t just assume everything will be alright, check the weather beforehand! You may have slept under the stars on a blow-up lilo at Benicassim but it’s not such a bright idea beneath the skies of Berkshire or Glastonbury.

The weather constantly changes so it’s advisable to check a few days before you go and track it while you’re there with a downloadable app like Accuweather for example. Staying ahead of sudden downpours can go a long way- helping you to pack suitable gear, pitch your tent in the right places and ready yourself for the rain. However, even if sunny skies are forecast, you should still be ready for the worst case scenario.

Know which tent to buy

According to trust experts Go Outdoors, certain tents are much better than others at standing up against the elements. They advise a double skinned tent, which is where the inner material is separate from the outer.

This allows for both breathability – and not letting that musty smell overwhelm you as you sleep, but also prevents the inside material from getting wet. A porch can also be very handy for providing a sheltered space to take off those muddy boots and escape inside your pop up home.

If you can, try pick up some reproofer as well. If your tent get seems to be letter water in anywhere, you can give it a quick coating to try protect it again. This works for jackets as well!

Practice makes Pitch Perfect

Isle of Wight Festival 2011

If you thought there’s nothing worse than trying to erect your tent in the rain, you were wrong. Trying to erect a tent you have no idea how to construct in the rain is much worse – believe us! That frantic panic trying to locate all the right tools while attempting to shelter the paper instructions before they dissolve into a soggy mess is a very disheartening way to start the festival experience.

It may seem like a hassle, but we strongly recommend practicing how to pitch your tent beforehand so come rain, come shine, you’ll be able to cover yourself and all your belongings quickly. It also ensures that your tent is intact, unripped and ready to go, and that you’re able to spread those guy ropes appropriately so tent fabric is taught and thus avoids puddles building up.

Scope out the best place to pitch

Give some thought to where you’re planning on putting your tent as well. Never ever pitch at the bottom of a slope or you will be swimming to the arenas in the morning. try to get there early and find somewhere at the top of a slope or hill so that any rain just drains away – it’ll be so worth it.

What to wear to a festival when it rains

An age old question, and a make or break decision. Take some to time to give extra thought to what’s coming with you. It has to be hardy, practical, comfy and of course – stylish. Make sure you have something for warm weather and something for cold, as well some good pyjamas.

Just, leave any of the clothes you truly love at home. Go in with the expectations that everything will get ruined, and you’ll get pleasantly surprised when things survive the festival rain.

Rain macs, waterproofs and anything else that can keep you dry is of course a must. And socks! Take more than socks than you think you’d need because you will definitely need them.

Avoid denim and cotton

If you want to survive rather than soak up the rain at a festival – chiffon and nylon are much faster at drying the dampened denim jeans. They may not be as warm, but wet pants are much colder than dry ones – no matter how thin the material is. Cotton and denim are often festive fashion favourites but they can both become irritating when wet and compromise on comfort.

Choose jackets over umbrellas

Don’t bother with cheap ponchos, get yourself a decent, funky, weatherproof jacket that can be reused. If the sun comes out they are easily packed away or tied around your waist. Everyone is in the same watery boat, don’t be the idiot holding an umbrella prancing around the puddles. Umbrellas also take too much space and are difficult to maneuver your way through the crowds – a hood on the other hand it much swifter.

Invest in the right footwear

Shutterstock image of wellies

Cold feet is an expression linked to fear – and rightly so. Having trembling toes is one of the worst ways to ruin your festival experience. Packing plenty of socks is important but you might not always have the time to keep swapping them. Nowadays, wellies come in all colours and designs, making it really easy to find a stylish pair to suit the rest of your festival wardrobe. Practical, waterproof, resilient and easy to slip on and off, there’s no excuse to muddy those trainers anymore.

An alternative and sometimes better option to choose is to purchase some robust hiking boots. Regular festival-goer Vicky, who blogs at VickyFlipFlopTravels.com, believes staying comfortable at festivals is hugely detrimental to the overall experience. For this reason she always takes hiking boots to festivals that might be subject to rain as they’re both ‘comfortable and sturdy’.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re getting some boots or wellies specifically for a festival, try break them in at home at first. You’ll be walking a lot and if they’re too stiff, the blisters will quickly become unbearable.

Pack the rainproof festival essentials

One of the key preparation stages for surviving a festival in the rain is packing the right gear. Besides your tent, which is clearly if not the most essential part of camping at a festival, there are plenty of everyday items that will help you feel right as rain, even on the gloomiest of days. Here’s a checklist for rainy day essentials that you definitely need to take:

  • Dry shampoo
  • Baby wipes (these can double up as a shower-alternative or makeup remover)
  • Waterproof socks (the more pairs of socks the better – warm feet can’t be overstated enough)*
  • Bin bags
  • Towel
  • Multipurpose and rainproof makeup
  • Hair bands
  • Newspaper*
  • Duct tape for fixing leaks
  • Plastic ziplocks for electronics and important documents/tickets
  • Extra tent stakes for high winds – always worth it
  • Extra rope and cord
  • Gazebo – if you’re going with a few mates, why not share one to hang out in?

To explain the * starred * items a little more, newspaper is essentially because you can use to layer your tent floor for insulation and to keep things from getting damp. You can also keep some in the porch area to keep your wet shoes out of your tent.

Also, a pair of socks in your sleeping bag at all times. That way, when you climb in from a night of moshing, you’ll have some warm, dry socks to pull over your tired feet!

Stock up on bin liners

Perhaps one of the most important ingredients of a rainy festival survival mix, bin liners have so many practical uses. Whether it’s storing or separating sodden clothes from the dry, protecting and waterproofing your backpack if you’re suddenly caught out in a downpour, or covering the ground before sitting to avoid a wet ass. Be sure to pack a roll and you’ll be surprised how handy they can be. Bring a proper waterproof tent and make sure you can set it up quickly and not at the bottom of a hill, the higher the ground the less flooding!

Opt for disposables

disposable camera

Consider leaving your everyday phones behind. We all know iPhones are great for taking those ever-important selfies, but it’s never worth permanent damage to the device. Try digging out an old phone – preferably one with removable batteries so you can pack a couple of spare fully-charged batteries too.

Instead of bringing a high tech or high value camera that could easily get damaged from water exposure, purchase a disposable camera instead. They’re not only worth it to save your precious belongings, but it’s also great fun to look (and laugh) at the developed photos afterwards.

Go singing in the rain

If there’s a complete deluge inside the gates you’re probably going to be drawn to the tented stages. Heavy rain seldom lasts long, but don’t get stuck waiting for the drizzle to finish because it probably won’t. After the muggy atmosphere of the big tops, the open air can be liberating, and you’ll kick yourselves after if you let the rain keep you from your favourite band. According to Vicky, if you plan well – then rain can actually be a good thing, and transforming your festival attitude into ‘thriving not surviving’:

“I’ve been to many festivals around the world in the rain, and still managed to have a great time. The key is: preparation. From my experience, I prefer hiking boots over wellies. I wear a good rain jacket that has been rain tested many times, and I wear layers underneath to keep me warm, or cool. I take a waterproof bag to fit it all in and make sure I have enough contact lenses so I don’t need to wear glasses. If you’ve got the right clothes on, a bit of rain can definitely add to your festival experience.” 

So don’t let the wet weather rain on your parade, go out and embrace it – just be sure to plan before you go.

Not sure which festival to try next? Take a look at our festival page to see what’s coming up…

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