Festival season is well and truly upon us now – hope you had an amazing time if you went to Elderflower Fields or if you’re off to the Isle of Wight next weekend. As you probably know, we are huge Camp Bestival fans (check out our promo film from last year) and like to go prepared, so we do a round up of our favourite bits of kit every year.
My number one festival essential is a bell tent. Yes, they are heavy and yes, you have to make sure they are bone dry before packing them away, but ours literally revolutionised camping for me. No more hunched over, sweaty scrabbling around in a standard tent – bell tents are light, airy, cool, spacious and, above all, fabulous! They also avoid all those arguments about how long its taking to get it pitched as the tent is up in 15 minutes. We have a 5m zipped-in groundsheet from CanvasCamp and it’s ample for a family of four (and Kitty’s multitudinous soft toys) and we love it. My second must-have is an inflatable mattress. We love Coleman airbeds – we have a Coleman Maxi Comfort Raised King, £79.99, which is basically like having a normal bed to sleep on – sooooo comfortable. We take a duvet and pillows as well for that little extra home comfort. This year, we’ve added Bundle Beds to our camping arsenal – total game changers (read about them here), so no more need for mattresses and sleeping bags for the children, but we highly recommend these awesome sleeping bags from Outwell that come with kid-friendly features like a toy pouch, a rainbow-coloured zip that has a carabiner with a mini torch attached and a brilliant carry bag with handles and a zipped pocket for treasures. See also the matching pillows and inflatable sleeping mats.
We like to eat breakfast at camp and sometimes return to cook tea and get changed before venturing out for the evening, so a decent camping table and chairs is a must. We have a Pack-Away Table for Four, £139.99, which features two padded benches that fold to fit inside the table, which has a pleasingly retro design on top and is easy to carry, plus we have super-lightweight Coleman Festival Kickback chairs, £29.99, which offer a little more comfort. For lighting we have our tealight chandelier and some solar fairy lights that I’ve pimped with mini Solvinden shades from Ikea to match our monochrome lanterns, plus we were lucky enough to be gifted an ace Coleman Twist Tech LED lantern, £49.95, which should make those inevitable middle-of-the-night toilet trips a bit easier. Foodwise, we pack a big ‘igloo’ with ice, frozen milk, salad, cheese, veggie sausages (and booze, of course), plus we take lots of wraps, pittas and snacks – seriously, you can never take too many snacks to a festival. You’ll find that the children are permanently hungry and if you’re buying snacks every time it’ll cost you a fortune, although ice lollies/ice cream, churros and corn-on-the-cobs are a given!
Once you’ve got your camp set up, you’re ready to venture into the festival itself. And you’ll need something to carry stuff/kids – you can hire trollies, but we always take our own cart. Our trusty Radio Flyer Big Red Wagon has been a mainstay of our festival and camping kit for years, but, now that the children are bigger, we’ve sidelined it in favour of an Outwell Maya Transporter, £89.99. It’s an absolutely brilliant bit of gear – it folds up, making it a breeze to squeeze in an already over-loaded car, large enough to fit two children in (has been declared ‘really comfy’ by Alfie and Kitty), easy to manoeuvre and comes with a cover to keep your stuff dry in case of rain – although, of course, that never happens at UK festies… It also has a nifty carrier for a matching coolbag at the back, so your children won’t be constantly complaining that they don’t have enough room/have something poking into their back. It’s sturdy, too – ours has made light work of a boggy Camp Bestival and hilly Brighton.
It definitely pays to be prepared for all weathers. We take the brilliantly handy Muddy Puddles Puddlepac waterproof jackets for the children. They fold up small into their own pocket, come in a range of eye-popping prints and, yup, are ACTUALLY WATERPROOF, unlike many similar products on the market. We wear with GoSoaky rain pants, which come in an array of fab colours and go up to age 14. Kitty will take her Grass & Air colour-changing wellies, £18.99, while Alfie will not be dissuaded from Hunter wellies (this year he’s gone for a space design) as they are comfy enough to wear all day if necessary. Even if the sun is out during the day, it can get mighty cold at night if you’re camping out, so thermal base layers are our sleepwear of choice. We recommend Smalls 24-Hour Trousers, £59.50 (seems pricey, but, trust me, they will keep your little ones toasty warm, last forever and wash brilliantly), Alfie lives in his when we go camping, and Amamaya Lukla base layers, £38 – read our review here. We also take hats and cosy socks.
Of course, everyone hopes that it’ll be sun, sun, sun all the way, but even fine weather brings its problems. Sunhats, suncream, sunglasses and water bottles are a must as festival sites are usually pretty exposed, with little shade. If you’re in the market for a super-cool (literally) hat, look no further than Little Hotdog Watson, whose quirky designs offer great coverage with wide brims and neck flaps (that can be rolled up), plus UPF50+ protection, mozzie repellent and clever cooling fabric to stop little heads overheating. Since last summer, the whole family has used Altruist SPF50 sunscreen, £7.50 for two 100ml tubes, which manages not to irritate any of our sensitive skins, while providing excellent protection. I’m about to do a round-up of children’s sunglasses, so keep an eye out for that, but, in the meantime, check out Monkey Monkey, Zoobug and Little Hotdog Watson again. We’ve tried lots of different water bottles, with varying degrees of success and leakage, but this year we’ll be taking our Chilly’s bottles to keep cool – because I think it’s going to be a scorcher.
Ear defenders are essential for children at festivals – even if you’re not thinking of venturing down to the front of the main stage, they’ll come in handy if your children want to sleep in the evening while you enjoy the entertainment on offer. Alfie and Kitty have Muffy ear defenders from Alpine Hearing Protection, £19.95, which have funky stripes on the headbands and block out a lot of noise (although be prepared for your child to ignore you asking them to do stuff more than usual!). They also do special baby defenders and even children’s earplugs if your child doesn’t like the feeling of headbands. We always take a first aid kit (just in case), although, fortunately, we have rarely needed anything more than a plaster and there are always medics on site in case of emergencies. The LittleLife Family First Aid Kit, £19.99, is pretty comprehensive and even contains star stickers to be awarded for being brave. I usually take loads of baby wipes, but always biodegradable, this year we’re taking Kit & Kin biodegradable wipes, £2.70, and Fresh X, to spray on tissues. A bottle of hand sanitiser is always a good idea as the dispensers in the loos usually run out – I like the Bentley Organic one, £2.99, as it’s not too harsh on the skin. Losing sight of your child at a festival is every parent’s worst nightmare, and although most festivals provide Tyvek wristbands to write your number on, many children don’t like the feeling of them, so it’s a good idea to have a back up. LittleLife have ID bracelets in a variety of designs for £3.99, Kattoo tattoos, £5.99, are a simple solution, and Claire and I created our Bambino Goodies lost children badges, £5 for four, because what child doesn’t love a badge? We’ll customise with your phone number and you can pin to every layer of your small person’s clothing. Lots of people put glowsticks on their children at night, so they’re easier to see, but we’re trying to avoid plastic waste, so I’m going to invest in these USB rechargeable LED wristbands which we’ll hopefully be able to reuse every year (if they don’t get lost of course). Mini torches on a lanyard would also work well as a more eco alternative. I take my little Anker Power Bank with me in case I need to top anything up.
Probably the most important thing to take to a festival with kids is a whole lot of dressing up gear. This year’s Camp Bestival theme is Camp Bestival Sets Sail, so there’s plenty of scope there. Alfie’s current plan is to go as Poseidon (DIY trident, anyone?) and Kitty as a mermaid in a For Just One Day tail, while I’m concocting a plan for a jellyfish costume, but we also like to sport as many sparkly, shiny, fabulous accessories as possible for the rest of the weekend – it detracts from the dirt, after all! This year, Kitty will be wearing her Mimi & Lula sequin mouse ears from our store, along with her Sarah’s Silks rainbow fairy wings, £29.99. I’m also loving this Isabee starry skirt, £20. Alfie adores his Tell Tails dinosaur tail and will probably be in it most of the festival I’ll also be packing my Rosa Bloom cape and a flower crown – excellent for covering up those greasy roots, plus we’ll all be wearing Headblush’s brilliant Eco Glitta Jam, £5 per pot. I’ll be doing a dedicated Camp Bestival fancy dress post around the sea theme in a couple of weeks, so watch out for that. And, just in case of rain or over-tired children in need of tent time, colouring books, pens and a couple of games are a good idea – Monopoly Deal, Top Trumps and Uno are our go-tos.
And that’s it! Have we missed anything? Have you got any tips? If you haven’t booked your Camp Bestival tickets yet, tomorrow morning is your last chance to take advantage of the payment plan. Don’t worry if you miss out, though as we’ll have a family weekend ticket to Camp Bestival to give away next week.