My top Camp Bestival Lessons 2015
I went to Camp Bestival for the first time last weekend. My wife and kids were with me (a nine year old and a three year old). We had an awesome weekend and really enjoyed ourselves. However, we barely touched the edges of what was possible. So here are my top Camp Bestival lessons and ideas for next year.
Camp Bestival is Huge
A really obvious Camp Bestival lesson is that it is huge. I mean physically as well as the acts. Our camping space was about half a mile from where we had to park the car, and it was a ten minute walk (admittedly at toddler speed) from the closest part of the festival. There were literally thousands and thousands of tents, each with several people in them. The Green 2 car park had well over a thousand cars in it, and it was just one of several.
- So wherever you end up expect to walk about a lot. Bring comfortable shoes (I spent most of the weekend in my crocs).
- Minimise what you bring with you. Everything needs to be carried into the camping area and back again.
- Don’t plan on going back to your tent to eat (but do bring lunch)
- Expect to carry toddlers and pre-schoolers
Like many other people we hired a trolley for the weekend. This seems like a very sensible idea given the size and scale of Camp Bestival. However it didn’t stand up in practice. Some good points about the trolleys
- you can move more stuff in a single lift with a trolley
- kids like to travel in them
- the sides fold down and you can sit on them
- they are handy for carrying all your food, drink & spare clothes for the day
However there are some downsides
- even empty the trolleys are heavy, especially over grass
- they are hard to manoeuvre and slow you down, especially through crowds
- they are literally a pain to pull, the ergonomics are rubbish
- inevitably you have to park it somewhere so that you can get close to the action
- the capacity encourages you to bring stuff you don’t need
- they are anti-social, getting in other people’s way and blocking access routes (the Camp Bestival organisers have banned them from the main stage area after 6pm)
Overall I wouldn’t recommend taking or hiring a trolley. If you have a small child that cannot walk all day then take a decent buggy that can handle some rough going. It will probably be lighter, more convenient and easier to manoeuvre. Also, if you have a kid, then chances are that you already have said buggy and use it elsewhere.
Plan in Advance
Another of my Camp Bestival lessons is a life lesson. Things work better when you plan properly. To be fair we did try to do this, I read most of the website in advance and tried to find out how to book some of the smaller events. However I still hadn’t worked out exactly what I wanted to do before I got there. Also I must have missed some of the key info too. Here are some ideas
- make sure your whole party has Thursday & Friday off work so that you can arrive when the campsite opens. Then you will get a good parking spot and a good camping space (although we solved the latter by opting for Camping Plus).
- Read the website beforehand and make a short-list of the things you want to do.
- Join the Facebook groups and the forums to make sure you know about all the opportunities to sign up in advance (and then seize those opportunities).
- Buy a programme as soon as possible and work out your itinerary from the shortlist you had already created.
- Keep checking the website for programme changes (we missed Ella Henderson because of a programme change, and almost missed Marcus Brigstock too).
- Get in early every day and sign up for everything you can on Friday morning (if you haven’t managed to do it before you arrive). Be aware that there are no shows to the sign-up events, so being early means they might fit you in.
Camping is Civilised
I found the camping at Camp Bestival to be very civilised, but I had a Camping Plus ticket. This meant that I had a pre-booked space marked out for me and didn’t have to fight for enough space to put up my tent. It also gave a sense of being known by my neighbours as my name was on a piece of laminated card pegged into the ground.
Most of the people in the Camping Plus area seemed to have relatively young families, there were lots of pre-school children in evidence. This was a general feature of the festival though, so perhaps not significant. The Camping Plus area was cordoned off from the main Camp Bestival arenas and protected by security guards. It featured
- proper porcelain toilets (with sinks, running water and electric light);
- showers (good hot water and we never needed to queue);
- food outlets (at the usual markup over even central London tourist prices).
The field was relatively flat and was criss-crossed with giant fairy lights on poles that made sure there was enough ambient light even in the middle of the night for a trip to the toilet if required.
I should probably qualify civilised, although Camp Bestival was my first festival I have a bit of a track record with camping, starting with the camping in farmer’s fields with the scouts and getting progressively rougher with the military in my late teens (including a night spent at -14 C). I then returned to using modern tents in my twenties and have spent twenty years camping for English Civil War re-enactments, which are a lot like festivals from a camping perspective. I’ve only once camped on a proper campsite.
So my Camp Bestival lessons on camping are:
- One burner is enough provided you have enough spare gas (my second burner stayed unused in the tent, although I finished three gas canisters – some of which were partly used);
- Test your airbed (if you are using one) before you go and leave it inflated in an unheated space overnight. (We did inflate ours, but only left it up for about ten minutes, it turned out that it didn’t stay inflated overnight);
- Take a flask with you (it helps to boil the kettle faster if you stick any spare water from the previous time in the flask);
- Put some lights, or a flag, or something else distinctive on your tent so that you can easily identify it when you come back at night;
- If there are things you want to keep cool for a while then putting them in insulated snack bags with a cool block inside your bigger cool box will help. We kept some chicken frozen doing this until Saturday evening (we took longer cooking it because it was unexpectedly still frozen).
Eating & Drinking
There was a huge variety of decent quality food and drink outlets at Camp Bestival, although none of them are cheap (the WI tent was the best value for money, apart from the Yorkshire Tea tent that offered free tea with an opportunity to make a donation).
We tried to cook dinner every day except Sunday. This was a bit of a mistake, as it was a fair trek back to the tent and on Saturday evening the kids were too tired to contemplate returning to the main arena, so I heard the Kaiser Chiefs but didn’t see them.
Some key Camp Bestival lessons on eating & drinking
- The Feast Collective looked excellent for dinner, but lots of the outlets ran out of food by Sunday evening, so go there earlier;
- Expect to spend £10 per person per meal that you buy;
- Invest in a really good coolbox to take with you, as big as you can with thick walls;
- Bring your own breakfast and lunch material,
- minimise complexity and avoid things that need to be kept cold;
- freeze things that you plan on eating after Friday;
- have plenty of healthy snacks in your food bag;
- Cereal with UHT milk (frozen in advance to help the coolbox) gets the kids going, with porridge in a cup, your own tea & coffee is good for a minimalist breakfast and saves money;
- Hydration packs are a lifesaver when it is hot, easy to carry a couple of litres of water and allow room for a sandwich and snacks in the bag;
- We managed to make two evening meals with one burner and one pot/pan (fajitas one night and dried pasta with a jar sauce the other night);
- You can cook outside your tent, but you might want to think about how that will work if it is raining;
- Don’t forget the no glass policy, so look for things in plastic bottles & jars for several weeks before Camp Bestival;
- I can recommend the shawarma…