British festivals and rain, what are the chances? Every year, it seems, the rain gods save a few drops of the wet stuff for us festival goers. Do we care? Not one bit! As many wise folk have said before, there’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes. It’s all about being properly prepared. So, listen up! Your fun depends on it.
Look after your feet
Let’s start with the basics. You’re going to need some waterproof boots. There are other options but for most people that don’t need waterproof boots for work or other hobbies, this is going to mean wellies.
Now, you may think that all wellies are equal, but you would be wrong. Some wellies are really useful, and some are just useless fashion accessories. Whether you want to spend £15 on the basic model or £200 on a super brand or go with regulation green/black or get some nice-looking coloured ones, just DO NOT buy the little ankle boot wellies.
They may look cool (debatable), but if it pours, they just won’t do the job because mud sucks and not just in the metaphorical sense. There is a certain consistency of mud that literally tries to suck the boots off your feet. The lil ankle bootees will pop straight off. Not only that but Festival mud can be DEEP! Deep enough to go well over the top of your ankle bootees even if they don’t come off. Unless you’re into walking around in boots filled with slime, I’d recommend you stay away from the ankle boots.
Make sure the wellies you buy fit well. Too tight and they’ll cripple your feet. Too loose and they’ll rub you raw. If you’re in-between sizes, better to go slightly larger and pad out with extra socks. Other than that, any style will do just fine.
Putting the right socks inside your wellies can make a world of difference. Ideally you want socks that cushion your feet. I regularly clock up 10+ miles of walking per day at a festival. You also want them slightly longer than your wellies so they protect your calves from chafing.
In terms of material, the best I’ve found are socks that are made of, or contain, mohair. Apart from being hard wearing, mohair has magical properties that stop them from smelling bad even after a few days. Apparently, they wick the sweat away from your feet and the fibres somehow inhibit bacterial growth – like I said, magic.
The perfect sock combo, for me, is a thinner pair of liner socks next to my feet (anything but cotton which absorbs and holds on to sweat) then a thicker pair of wool/mohair welly/hiking socks on top for the extra comfort. A quick shake of medicated talc, before and after, to seal the deal and your feet should be bullet proof.
Keep your Body Dry and Warm
The downside of getting soaked to the skin is that you get cold. So, if it’s pouring down, the job of your waterproof top layer is to keep you WARM. It does this by a) stopping your clothes getting wet in the first place and b) insulating you from the wind.
In any rainy festival field, you’ll see almost as many different types of raincoats as there are people, but most are not really up to the job of keeping you dry and warm. If you can afford it, this is one area where I would recommend going for quality. My festival coat is a good quality hiking jacket. Not super trendy but not embarrassing either, although once it starts pouring, who cares eh? Once the hood is up and it’s zipped up to my chin, you don’t get warmer or dryer than that. I used to have a really good one which was an old sailing jacket that I borrowed on a long-term basis. But unfortunately, someone borrowed it from me on a similar basis. It’s quite distinctive so I’m hopeful that I will spot it one day.
Rain ponchos are pretty popular at festivals. I personally think they are useless. Try them if you wish. They seem to gape open at the top and let too much rain in. I also find them a bit claustrophobic and clingy. Other people swear by them, so I’ll have to reserve judgement.
Where I do think ponchos are useful is as an extra layer over a cheaper raincoat or showerproof coat. I’ve seen lots of people do the same thing with bin bags.
Waterproof trousers – yep I take those as well. It can be a bit of a faff getting them on and off but totally worth the effort if your fave band is about to start and the heavens open. Like my grandad always said, “never miss owt for the lack of waterproof pants, lad”. He wasn’t from Yorkshire, but he was quite philosophical and good at accents. I do miss him.
Jeans are a bad choice in wet weather. Denim soaks up its own weight in water and takes an age to dry, and while you may be happy wearing them today, putting wet jeans on the next day is one of the most soul crushing experiences a festival can offer you.
Wear shorts. Bare legs can take all the rain and mud a festival can throw at them and you can just wash the mud off or keep it for the duration as a badge of courage. If you make sure your raincoat hangs down below your shorts, you won’t need waterproof trousers either.
Cotton basically absorbs a lot of water and doesn’t give it up easily. If you don’t care what you look like, clothes made of lightweight nylon material dry out quickly even while you’re wearing them, if you get a break in the weather.
Take Plenty Spare Clothes
As mentioned above, the key to happiness is to stay warm. Having enough tee shirts and hoodies so that you can change a couple of times a day, if necessary, can make a massive difference to festival morale. I’ve been to a few festivals where it’s possible to get back to the car without too much hassle, so I keep an extra stash of dry clothes there.
If you are somewhere like Glastonbury, where people actually abandon cars at the end of the festival because its quicker to walk home than find your car, you will need your extra dry kit with you. Pack it in bin-bags inside your bag/rucksack to give you the best chance of keeping it dry.
These days we tend to be in the van more often than in tents so bringing extra kit is much easier.
Festival Tent Basics
Get The Right Tent
If your budget stretches far enough, get a tent that you can stand up in. If it rains you will be constantly changing and pulling wellies on and off. It’s so much easier if you don’t have to do it lying down. If you’re in a smaller tent, try and get one with a porch area where you can leave your muddy wellies. Alternatively, if you’re in a group, get one big tent between you that you can use to store everyone’s wellies, coats, chairs etc and have small tents for sleeping. Sleep . . . yeah right!
Make sure the tent you sleep in is double skinned. This is a tent where the outer and inner are separate. It traps a layer of insulating air to keep you a bit warmer. It will also stop water coming in through the fabric of the tent, if you accidentally press up against the tent on the inside. Most decent tents are double skinned, but some pop-up tents can be single skinned. These are for kids to play with in the back garden and not recommended for a rainy festival weekend.
Practice Pitching Your Tent
Watching people pitching a tent for the first time in their lives at a festival isn’t even funny anymore. Always practice pitch your tent before you get to the festival. Check all the bits are there and that there aren’t any faults or rips. The last thing you want is to be attempting to pitch a tent with missing pieces in horizontal rain.
Peg Out Your Guy Ropes
Yes it is “guy ropes” not “guide ropes”. Guy ropes will help to make sure your tent is where you left it when you return after a windy spell. They will also keep the shape of the tent and keep the tent skin stretched. This means that water will run off more easily. Guy ropes aren’t just there to make everyone’s journey back to their tent treacherous after a few drinks, it’s just an added festival bonus.
Pack Your Tent Away Dry
Where possible, pack your tent away dry. If you have to pack it away wet, make sure you unpack it and completely dry it out as soon as you can. If you don’t do this, it will get mouldy and smell horrible.
Some Other Handy Things to Take to a Rainy Festival
Take Bin Bags
Obviously, you’ll be taking bin bags to collect your rubbish anyway, won’t you? Bin bags can also be used to keep wet/muddy items away from the rest of your things, or to keep dry items dry in your bag. They’re also really handy to sit on when the ground is wet so you can give your tired festival legs a much-needed rest so keep one in your pocket. With the addition of some holes, you can also turn one into an extra waterproof layer, if your coat is a bit suspect (see above).
Take Duct Tape
There aren’t many things which can’t be temporarily mended with duct tape. It’s a camper’s best friend. Small tent rips, broken tent poles, ponchos, flag poles, shoes and wellies are just a small sample of the things I’ve seen mended with a roll of gaffa tape.
Take Biodegradable Wet-Wipes
This is everyone’s tip, that’s because it’s a good one. It is possible to stay reasonably mud free and keep your vital areas clean with wet-wipes but you will need loads. Make sure you buy biodegradable ones.
Take Micro Towels
Micro towels are surprisingly effective at drying your skin/hair and take up a fraction of the space of a normal towel. They can even roll up small enough to fit in your coat pocket.
Other Handy Hints for Coping in Mud and Rain
Give Yourself More Time
Ploughing through mud takes WAY more time than trotting along on nice firm grass and that’s if the gloop is consistent all the way. In reality, you’ll probably come across deep bits, narrow bits and the occasional small lake. These obstacles just create bottlenecks where droves of frustrated festival goers are trying to tiptoe round, one at a time. So, I would strongly advise allowing yourself a lot more time to get around, if your festival is a mud bath.
Time Your Runs
It’s a good idea to avoid trying to get from A to B when a big set has just finished on main stage. You’ll just get stuck in the crowd and your options for picking out the best possible route will be limited. Cover as much ground as you can while big bands are playing or if you are in the crowd for those bands, wait for 20 mins for the crowd to disperse before setting off.
Schedule in Some Rest Breaks
As well as taking an age, walking through mud is also bloody hard work. You will get more much tired in mud. This is compounded by the lack of places to sit down and rest, which is where the bin bags come in very handy (see above). Make sure you factor some time in your schedule to go back to the tent for a sit down.
Important Safety Tip – Don’t Burn Anything in Your Tent
Gas cookers and barbecues are STRICTLY for outside the tent. Under no circumstances be tempted to bring them into a small tent to cook or for extra heat. If you don’t burn to death, Carbon Monoxide poisoning will probably finish you off.
When the festival has finished on the Sunday night, there will be a rush to the cars. It pays to be out of the car-park first as once people start driving over the muddy ground it will get increasingly deep and slippery until nobody’s cars can move anywhere.
We quite often leave festivals before the end, if the Sunday headliner is not someone we’re bothered about missing. By that stage, especially if it’s been rainy and muddy, we’re pretty knackered anyway, so happy to get away early and beat the rush. Obviously, this is not always an option, if the Sunday headliner is a good one.
If you’re staying the night on Sunday, you have a couple of options. You can get up at 5.00 am on the Monday and hopefully drive away with no problems (the camping car parks are sometimes different to the day-ticket car parks, which makes this tactic even more likely to work). Or, you can have a lie in and then chill while everyone joins the melee to escape the car park and then wait for the tractor to pull you out of the swamp, if necessary, when they’ve all gone.
If you happen to face-plant into a pool of liquid mud, laughing is probably your best option. I’ve seen many happy festival goers, caked in mud from head to toe (sometime deliberately) and still having a fantastic time. Make sure you’re one of them.
I hope you find these tips useful and that you survive and thrive at your next rainy festival. If you have any of your own top tips for dealing with rain and mud, please feel free to share them in the comments.