The Ultimate Reading & Leeds Guide
Festival Survival & Packing Guide 2017
If you're a festival virgin, or a frequent festival go-er it's always good to know what you're getting yourself into. There's always new products, and techniques to make the most of the weekend. I've written many a festival packing list over the years, but today I'm truly indulging on my top tips for surviving Reading & Leeds Festival. Leeds Festival is one of my favourite festivals, and I've been heading back there year after year, because it's an experience like no other - to me it's magical as it's the one time I feel like I'm living life to its fullest. It's purely about the music, having fun and meeting people. So I want everyone to have the great experiences that I have over the years, and swerve all the little mistakes that can be made whilst having a weekend of music. This guide will give an insight into the best places to camp, the extras you need to pack, as well as a few nifty things I've learnt throughout my journey of Reading & Leeds.
Hygiene At Reading & Leeds Festival
It can potentially be one of the muddiest festivals you'll ever experience, which in my opinion makes it even funner. Ever tried walking back to your tent slipping and sliding around turning the entire site into one big slip'n'slip? Well prepare yourself for a treat, there is a lot of mud! I've been one of those unfortunate souls who have gone head over heels and ended up head to toe brown - it was one of the funniest moments of my life, and when you've got a drink down you, your not inclined to care for one second that your freshly applied glitter is lost under a mask of mud. Embrace the fact that it's not going anyway but at least you can clean yourself up afterwards.
So hygiene for each day is crucial, there are showers available across all campsites but the queues are usually ridiculously long and takes up precious time where you could be having a party. But there are luxury options at the site, unfortunately they don't have luxury showers, but they do have fancy toilets and facilities to get ready in. The Seat Of Luxury is worth tossing some money at just to feel your absolute best, and they're incredibly close to the public showers. I don't recall ever getting a shower at a festival, as I'm a keen preacher of the baby wipe shower when camping. But I recently discovered Muc Off's Dry Shower, which does a damn good job at killing bacteria and keeping you smelling and feeling clean.
I highly recommend taking hand sanitiser for those midnight trips to the loo, or for carrying around the festival site if you get splashed mud. Frankly hygiene shouldn't be a huge concern at a festival considering we're all getting sweaty together. But my two biggest essentials for staying clean and avoiding the queues will always be Dry Shower and baby wipes, and they take up far less room in a backpack - a bonus we all need when carrying our gear.
Toiletries To Pack At Reading & Leeds
Obviously your toothbrush, and toothpaste is a dead certain. Suncream is always missed out in most peoples backpack, but the sun does beat down when you're permanently outside, so better to be safe than sorry. Babywipes can be multi-functional from cleaning pans to taking off your makeup (although oil cleansers are much better for your skin!)
I always have a small toiletry bag of emergency survivals like paracetomol, hangover patches (I spoke about my new found discovery in this festival packing post) as well as plasters and a small body moisturiser and hair removal cream or a disposable razor as I'm fond of a festival dress and like my legs to be mega smooth! Ladies always pack tampons or pads, and gentlemen take condoms to practice safe sex with your new festival friends.
Pack Efficiently - But Don't Overpack
We've all made the common mistake on a holiday of cramming in too much into our suitcase. Sadly the wheels of suitcases don't compliment the fields of Reading & Leeds Festival. Your best bet is to buy a large backpack (Blacks do some seriously handy bags perfect for festivals) and turtle it out, but pack mindfully knowing you will be carrying it from the entrance to wherever you camp. Every item must count! Think realistically about what you'll need, whether it'll be used, and whether you treasure it incase it was lost or stolen. Security has been seriously hyped up from previous years will minimal incidences. Leave the expensive watches, and gadgets at home. One must have is a camping chair - it may not sound essential but it's so chill to sit around for an afternoon drink with the squad and plan your day. I recently received this camping chair, and saw it's two for £30! The cheap chairs are grand, but too many times I've seen them snap by looking at them. Another is a small torch, save some phone battery when you need a midnight pee, we've all made the foolish mistake of losing our tent and tripping over guide ropes.
Sleeping At Reading & Leeds
Rolls mats or blow up mattresses are extremely handy. It's down to your personal preference, I always go for a blow up double mattress as it about a minute to get up, and a few minutes to get down. It's worth the time for a comfortable sleep! It's essential to take a decent sleeping bag, the thicker the better for the chillier nights. If you're renowned for feeling the chill, a sleeping bag liner or extra blankets is a good way to keep snug. Also if you have access to hot water from a kettle, stove or the Salvation Army tent, I'd highly recommend bringing a hot water bottle to help send you off to bed all snug. Pillows aren't always a necessity, as I've previously used my bag filled with clothes, but I now insist on bringing one as it's just a home comfort I can't go without now. Blow up pillows are extremely ideal if you wanna get more packed into your backpack. Little extras like ear plugs or a sleep mask can really make the difference in your quality of sleep as even with the darkest tents the light from the early morning sun can wake you up. I've had a few years of going to bed at 5am to only be woken up 5.30am and curse not bringing something to cover my eyes.
Pitching Your Tent
The campsites are roughly a 15 minute walk (with no bags on your back - add a few more minutes with luggage!) between campsites, and finding your ideal spot to set up is crucial. From my Leeds Festival experiences over the years.
Red & Blue Campsites are the mad party zones, where no one will be sleeping but are also the closest to the festival arena. Working further back is Orange, which is somewhat more quiet, except for Piccidily Party, The Relentless Stage in the woods and the Purple fun fair. I really do advise to never ever camp next to the funfair - we made this mistake a few years back and had the tannoy from the rides blaring down my ear at 5am when I tried to get some shut eye. Orange goes up a large hill, which is the most hilarious joy to run down where the campsites get more zen. Orange leads on to Purple, Green and finally Brown which is mostly orientated around families who want to get 40 winks early. But if you're willing to invest some notes I've heard incredible opinions about Pink Moon camping, so your tent is taken care of in luxury.
My top tip is to find a spec that's near a toilet and water, but not too close that by day three all you can smell is other peoples deposits.
Finding The Ideal Tent
If you intend on going to more than one festival I would invest in a rad tent that'll keep you warm, dry and protected from the British weather. We always bought a mid-range price tent, but recently started to indulge in larger, roomier tents so we didn't feel cramped and could enjoy our in-tent experiences. Pop-up tents are a great idea if there's only one or two of you with minimal gear but they're usually not very good for protecting you throughout the nights (It gets insanely cold!) My first Leeds experience I woke up in a puddle of water from a leaking tent, which wasn't very festival chic I'll admit and made me decide quality is much better to invest in and more economical than buying a tent every year.
What Can I Bring In?
So unlike a few other festivals, the campsite and arena are split which means you can't bring in alcohol or food into the arena. But you're perfectly welcome to bring for your own food and drink for personal consumption in the camp sites. There is a festival supermarket available but the range of drinks is quite limited to a select few brands and can be expensive. It's worth buying your own before you come. Reading & Leeds operate on a no glass rule, so every year I have to empty all my drinks into plastic bottles, so invest in a trusty funnel so you can keep all your gin off the sides of your kitchen counter top. On arrival your bags will be checked for glass and anything they consider dangerous which is confiscated so it's worth nipping to the shop for a large plastic bottle. Or alternatively buy cans of beer or pre-made gin and tonic. I've been super fond of the cartons of Funkin Cocktails over the years, as they're packed with natural sugars so are great for both energising yourself and adding to your spirit of choice.
Fires have been seriously clamped down upon at Reading & Leeds, so there's only organised bonfires in select areas across the sites, which unfortunately means cooking at festivals has been more problematic. Only certified stoves or disposable barbecues are allowed in. We have a cooker which we usually use, but the gas has to be fitted professionally by a steward before use. Or, if you’re the type of person that likes to cook smart – why not try out some great pressure cooker recipes that are both healthy and quick.
Whilst on the topic of food, buy yourself either paper plates, disposable cutlery or plastic bowls as they can be mega handy when it comes to packing. You can wash everything at water points dotted around the campsites. It's also wise to pop some bin bags in your backpack when it comes to cleaning up. There's rubbish points so you're not camping amongst bins, and avoid festival wasps.
Is It Worth Cooking Your Own Food?
The answer is always yes, as in the evenings it's so nice to make your own food if you want to limit your budget for inside the arena. I would definitely try out the food stalls as there's so much variety of cuisine but can work out expensive if all meals are eaten out.
I always allow a budget for nibbles when I'm out and about seeing bands, but to cut costs so I've got hearty food for when I'm back at my tent I usually stock up on instant food like cous-cous, noodles and rice. I've known so many to head to the nearby Morrisons (in Leeds) for meats to cook them up freshly and have bacon in the morning. It may seem lavish and extra of me, but I love having eggs in the morning so I intend to take a small griddle pan so I can have scrambled egg. For hot drinks, definitely bring your own tea, coffee and hot chocolate waking up to a hot brew is best served in the English countryside, you appreciate the warmth whilst you're kicking back in your sleeping bag with the tent door open to the sunrise - give it a go!
Clothes & Beauty At Reading & Leeds
I've always said that festival fashion should be expressive, fun and funky. It's your opportunity to try things out you never could on the high street. Glitter is in full flow at Reading and Leeds Festival and can be brought in to try out yourself or there's many stalls around who will provide you with some sparkles. My favourite glitter shops are Feather & Fox (who also do some insane hair feathers!), Gypsy Shrine and Sparkle Pig Glitter.
It's always sensible to bring something to cover up, and plenty of changes of clothes throughout your weekend in the fields. I always take kimonos for the sunnier weather, as they're light and protective, whilst looking fabulous. But on the rainy days a pac-a-mac is essential for staying dry. Take comfy jumpers, pjs and bed socks for the night time. You'll stay clean and dry if you have a few outfit changes, so plan for both extremes, shorts and jeans. Raincoats and light cover ups.
Every festival I go to, I take two pairs of shoes, trainers and wellies. Wellies can be mega cheap, but I've heard stories about the soles coming clean off from the boot in sticky mud so investing in some Hunters wellies is a big thumbs up.
When packing your makeup bag, take the most minimal you can get away with. Primer, foundation (preferably with SPF), a light moisturiser and possibly powder to take away any shine and sweat. eyeliners, eyeshadows aren't essential but they are fun to play around with. I did a post on my festival looks for creative ideas to try out.
Extra Reading & Leeds Festival Tips
Take a portable phone charger, there's plenty of charging points around for a small cost - but to step it up a notch and save over the years, packing a re-chargable phone charger can be a life saver when trying to meet up with friends, take photos and occasionally check your Facebook in the middle of the night. I found it's better to take your phone charger to the charging points as they can hold much more battery than your phone. My newest charger holds up to 2 and a half full charges, and takes less time than my phone.
Screenshot the schedule. Lanyards can get tangled up in crowds, and phone signal is next to nothing in some zones so it's worth storing the timetable in your images to reflect on.
Explore the nightlife, the acts don't finish after the headline act. There's always a mini party happening somewhere in the woods, in a campsite. Working for Leeds festival over the years I'm put up in the guest camp site, where we always have a huge DJ set from the bands so even at 5am I can have a natter and a night cap with awesome people.
Take snacks to keep topped up, I found taking small nibbles like nuts, crips, protein breakfast bars and flapjacks keep me going and they're fine to store in a tent for a few days. Although if you like cereal a few small cartons of long life milk can be popped in a cool bag.
Be considerate to your neighbours and festival stewards, clean up all your rubbish and don't be that person who leaves a destroyed tent on Monday morning. A lot of tents aren't salvageable to be donated to homeless people, and also the stewards spend the entire day cleaning up the mess of others so be kind to them.
ID is required when coming to a festival especially if you're over 18, save some time and nip over to the Over 18's tent to grab a wristband so you can leave your ID in the tent.
There are cash points available throughout the arena but a surcharge is popped on top of your withdrawal so try to bring as much as you need. Card machines can be unreliable on the bars so cash is preferable.
Enjoy The Festival!
The most important aspect of Leeds Festival is to enjoy the music, meet like-minded new friends and have an amazing time. So once you've got everything packed up you'll love every moment of the festival. Bring back plenty of photos and see you in the fields in a few weeks!