Tips and Tricks: From the Field


With the summer drawing to a close, our volunteers have amounted a vast supply of tips and tricks. Drawing from their collective knowledge on how to complete a successful camping mission, we’ve compiled a list of core advice to help you navigate next year’s festival season. Below are our top 5!

1. Think before you pack

Our volunteers take various techniques when it comes to what they bring to a festival. We ran into Richard steering a wheelbarrow through the Oxfam camping. Curious about its purpose, we asked if he had any tips to share. It soon became clear that Richard was a packing pro as he shared this advice with us:

‘Make sure you’re well prepared for all weathers and not being cold at night! I have an air bed with two duvets. And make you don’t pitch your tent on a slope, get there early to get the best spot.’ – Richard

So make sure your tents is not on a slope, think ahead for what you’ll need – but also how you’re going to get it into the campsite! A big tent is also a good idea, and from experience, we’ve found that if a tent is sold as a two-man it will probably be a better fit for one, or alternatively two child-sized men. So if you like your space and aren’t particularly little, one up your tent size for a better fit.

Richard outside his tent, which was fully stocked up with even a table inside!

Richard did also remind us that he drove to the festival. A good thing about camping with Oxfam is that the car park is usually close, allowing you to prepare for every eventuality with a car. However, if you’re reaching a festival by train or bus then two wheelbarrows may not be an option for you. Now it’s time to think about packing smart and how to re-use items. One volunteer said about using old clothes as a make-shift towel for the showers; another suggested a water bottle that flattens to save space. General advice though has been just to use your common sense. Think logically about what clothes and food you need, and how to stop it getting wet if it rains on the way in!

‘We saw people in the queue to Boardmasters when it was raining and their stuff got wet in their bag, so bring a waterproof or bin bag to put over your bag so your stuff doesn’t get wet!’ – Saph

Saph getting ready to explore at (the thankfully sunny) Bestival

A waterproof is always a good thing to pack, as rain is not uncommon, but the best advice is …

2. Be prepared for all weather!

Whilst pictures of British festivals are usually characterised by heavy rain and swamps of mud, last season we were blessed with nearly continuous sun. Reaching scorching highs, it is important for your safety to prevent overheating and keep cool. With the trend of very cold winters and very hot summers likely to increase, due to climate change, the message of staying safe in the sun is ever more poignant. Darren, one of the stewards, showed us his heat survival kit consisting of a hat, suncream and lip balm with spf, alongside sharing this simple but crucial advice:

‘If you can find some shade then stand in it. As soon as you realise you’re not feeling well then act on it, sit down and get some water.’ – Darren

As it gets hotter throughout the day we, in Britain, tend to forget the basics of hats, sunnies, suncream, shade and water. This often results in sunburn or even sunstroke.

Pack warmer clothes than you think you’ll need, because it gets cold at night. A cosy sleeping bag, a fluffy jumper and your favourite pyjama bottoms are all a bedtime must.

Wayne, who’s jumped in at the deep-end of festival volunteering, contributing to 5 last year and an outstanding 10 this year, gives great advice to sum up this section:

‘Just the same as life in general: be prepared. We live in the UK so there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing – we’ve got a double climate so it could be sunny in the morning and raining in the afternoon. Pack for rain and pray for sun.’ – Wayne

3. Protect your valuables

Oxfam staff camping is one of the most secure you’ll find at a festival, with stewards constantly on the gates monitoring who comes in and out. Nevertheless, it’s always good to know some tricks for preventing theft. Three girls with some advice to give you peace of mind are Lily, Niamh, and Holly. Here’s what they told us …

‘When you’re asleep, put valuables at the bottom of your sleeping bag!’- Lily.

‘Get a decoy purse with an old card, some coins, so that if anyone is looking in your tent, they’ll take that one.’ – Niamh.

‘You could hide your stuff in a wetwipe packet too, or use a bin bag – put some empty bottles and stuff on top. No one goes looking through a bag of rubbish!’ – Holly.

4. Don’t forget the basics!

David: “Bring your own proper pillow. The small plastic ones are rubbish. Also a lantern that you can bring to hang in your tent for night time.”

Steve: “Bring toilet roll and bio-degradable wet wipes – basic tip but very necessary.”

David: “And bring your tent, someone forgot theirs around us!”

It may seem obvious – but make sure you have the basics with you. Additional to a lantern or torch, toilet roll, and a tent, also remember the essentials of a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Make sure to check what the festival says about bringing aerosol deodorant too, as some ban it as a potential fire hazard. We’re sure that after a few days both yourself, and the others around you, will appreciate the necessity of a roll on.

To avoid having precious alcohol confiscated too, make sure to check the festival’s restrictions. These generally limit the number of cans you can bring and very often ban glass bottles, so don’t splash out on a bottle of spirits as you’re likely to be sorely disappointed.

Remember that Oxfam camping has a number of festival luxuries not provided for regular punters. There’s hot water, so pot noodles and cutlery is a good idea, and tea and coffee is provided so a mug is also a must.

The last basic is …

5. Be ready to make new friends!

Wayne says: ‘bring a positive attitude!’. Wayne has lived up to the challenge of ‘fill your summer with festivals’ with his ten this year.

‘Bring a pillow, a good sense of humour, don’t be shy, just talk to your neighbour and share things around.’ – Jones

You don’t need to go to ten festivals a year to appreciate the value of this advice. Almost everyone we spoke to told us how much they’ve enjoyed getting to know other volunteers, and how welcoming the ‘Oxfamily’ is.


  1. I feel there is a wealth of information out there to be shared so I would encourage old-timers to post some in the comments here.
    Here are a few of mine:

    -Water bottle(s)
    Bring more than one water bottle. Many festivals are getting plastic savvy and won’t sell bottled water, so make sure to bring a back up as you need the hydration as much as anyone. Further to this; make sure to note water points in the daylight so you can find a nearby one in the nighttime, they may not be well signposted!

    -R&R&R: Rest, Relaxation and Raving!
    Yes it’s a 24 hour party, yes your mates have just invited you to a secret gig at 3am but you have a shift at 8am. My advice would be take some time for yourself. Many people go at a festival full throttle, but don’t have enough juice in the engine to make it to Sunday. When you get your shifts for the festival, book in a time when it’s good to chill and let your poor feet have a rest.

    -Sharing & Caring
    I go to most festivals “alone”. However you’re very rarely alone at a festival. If you say hi to people, as they’re much more affable than in the ‘real world’, you might make a few friends. The same follows for food and so on; if you’re hungry and have forgot to pack cereal bars, or are burning up in the sun, ask a fellow steward for a hand – likewise be ready to offer a hand when you see someone in need. Late night communal biscuits are the sticky glue that holds the Oxfamily together.

    -Showers: Don’t forget to bring a towel
    Most festivals offer showers, at least they say they do. In practice however, you’ll find the few cubicles to be the most popular venue on site, with queues of hundreds of sweaty, grumpy people outside them, and not much improvement inside. My tip here is find odd times to shower: first thing in the morning, late in the evening, and particularly after they’ve been cleaned. Another tip is to bring your towel and bar of soap on shift, you may get time to have a quick wash on your allotted 30 minute break and it will make you feel a new human.

    time moves differently at festivals. Afternoons go in a flash, and nights drag their way into mornings. Musicians as a rule will start 30 minutes late, unless they’re the band you wanted to see, in which case they’ll have been 30 mins early. Make sure you have some sort of clock as your body clock will be unreliable. It’s also wise to turn up slightly early to shifts in case you get moved [you’ll also be supervisor’s favorite and get preferential positions]. And make sure you give yourself more time to do anything when it’s busy.

    -Bring a mug

    It is well worth the time putting up your tent properly. If you are unsure of how to, look it up on Youtube. This includes: Finding a flat spot to pitch, tying the outer sheet to the frame with the fiddly bits of ribbon, using all available pegs and tightening your guy ropes. Make sure you’re the one with the erect tent still standing in the storm, not the sinking ship with a mud flood. It will make you comfy and dry and possibly very popular.

    See you in a field, lovely happy people of glitter.
    and remember, We Ox-family.

  2. This is my first time with Oxfamily, but I’ve been camping plenty of times. If there’s one thing I would encourage people to take seriously is how cold it sometimes gets at night, even in mid-summer. Whilst out and about, layer-up with clothing, which you can add to or remove as the temperature changes. It can get very cold in the tent at night and you will not have a good nights sleep if you are cold. The cold comes from not only the air, but more importantly the cold strikes up from the ground. Make sure you have a thick enough layer of bedding between you and the ground to keep you warm. Even if you have an air bed, the air in the bed gets cold from being in contact with the ground, so a blanket or duvet to lay on, makes all the difference. Looking forward to meeting my new friends in a field !

    1. Hi Charli, thanks so much for your extra tips! I’m sure they will come in handy.
      Best wishes, Sam – Oxfam Festivals Team

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