How to stay popular at festivals
Outdoor festivals: Sparkling smiles. Long hair billowing in the wind. Tantalizing looks exchanged as you enter Nirvana with your fellow human beings. Or so is the general idea. What usually happens is quite different. Once the physical reality of thousands of bodily needs has sunk in, those fields of verdant grass have turned into mud pits and certain regular festivalgoers start appearing. Shady characters like Cryptosporidium, Norovirus and Clostridium Difficile. The party poopers (in the truest sense of the word). Pretty soon, you and your friends no longer look and feel like the crowning glory of humanity, but rather like, well, something else.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how you can keep the party spirit and stay looking like a shampoo commercial even on day four:
Let’s take it from the top. You know how it goes. Having lived in anticipation for what feels like an eternity, you’re rapt that the big day is finally here. So you pack your expensive tickets, tent, sleeping bag, many changes of very cool clothes and toiletries along with your best intentions and set out. This is going to be awesome!
You arrive on site and get settled, and the first few hours are great. The music is pumping, no one is hung-over and that guy/girl of your dreams has never looked so good. You feel like a million bucks. Until you suddenly feel that you have to go. Then you discover that about 500 others have had the same epiphany, and that the queue for the portaloos (which are still reasonably tidy at this early point) is the length and width of an Olympic swimming pool. But what to do!? All good things come to those who wait. So you wait, do your thing and get back to the party.
Hours, finger food and increasingly crude jokes pass. You perfect your dance moves. You find your inner totemic animal. You get a few more opportunities to witness the quickly deteriorating state of the portaloos. Then, be it a few hours after sunset or perhaps even the next sunrise, it’s eventually bedtime. At this stage, you’re more or less covered in mud and carry a veritable petri dish of bacterial havens: remnants of all kinds of drinks, BBQ delights, numerous hugs and kisses from people you never knew and never knew you loved so much, and whatever that was on the toilet seat at 2am. In addition, of course, to your own produce of sweat and other bodily fluids.
You’d give anything for a hot shower. Or almost anything. Because, when you check, you realise that the queue for the only three public showers rivals that for the loos, and at the end of it is a sign saying “$10, strictly 2 min”.
You momentarily consider simply swapping clothes before that idea strikes you as somehow even more disgusting and you throw your hands up, resigning yourself to the downward spiral of the happy-go-lucky festivalgoer. Que sera sera. Into the sleeping bag you go, mud, bugs, bacteria and all. Really, how bad can a few days of living in filth be!? (As it turns out, quite bad; apart from the not-so-appealing look and feel, and even if you manage to dodge the assortment of tummy bugs and viruses, there’s no festival memento like a solid fungal infection.)
It’s now that things get radically different for those who have employed a somewhat more tactical mindset to the peace, love and understanding. Here’s the winning strategy:
First off, when you arrive at the festival grounds, find the water taps. They’re bound to be there, because organisers care about you. Also, it’s bad business when punters die from dehydration.
Next, locate the portaloos.
You will want to camp close enough to the portaloos not to make each trip a pain in the a**, yet at a reassuring distance from the smell. Similarly, you will want to camp close enough to the taps that fetching water isn’t going to be an expedition, yet far enough away not to hear people gargle and spit around the clock.
Now stake your claim to the territory by spreading out your tent and shower tent (yes, we’ll get to that) before pitching them, remembering to position the shower tent downhill from your sleeping tent but uphill from your social/political/sporting enemies.
This done, grab the collapsible water containers you brought and fetch as much water as you will need before the party starts. You will not be wanting to do so later.
Put the pocket container of antibacterial gel in your, eh, pocket, and place the bulk container of antibacterial gel in a drunks-can’t-miss-it location inside the tent. Use the bacterial gel frequently, bearing in mind that festival wristbands tend to become weaponised with all kinds of pathogens; rub gel along the wristband every now and then.
Take a holy oath with your camping compadres that no one will bring in muddy boots/clothes/body parts inside the tent. Don’t confuse the mud you’ll find at festival grounds with the stuff they smear on you at beauty salons. The mud in rural areas might look the same, but it’s often contaminated with campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella from farm animals. It’s shit for facemasks.
Try to visit the loo for number too in the mornings, straight after it has been cleaned. And for any nightly visits, bring your compact headlamp to avoid stepping in it. Also, don’t be tempted to do number one in the bush, because it’s just not nice to your neighbours (New England Patriots supporters or not), and 10,000 people taking the piss might actually contaminate the water table. Instead, if you’re a man, bring some nifty (and clearly marked) empty plastic milk bottles. (If you’re a woman, tough luck; portaloo, it is!)
To avoid fungal infections, stay as dry as possible. Bring at least two microfibre towels. One for wiping away shit facemasks and one for towelling dry at the end of the day/night, after your beautiful shower. These dry a lot quicker than cotton towels, and some even come with built-in antibacterial protection.
Now for the shower, you can have a more or less enjoyable one. But a good shower tent is key regardless. To reach all the necessary places, you’ll have to get nude, and asking friends to hold up a screen at the height of the party is bound to end in tears and laughter for you and them respectively. A crap shower tent won’t be a far cry from that, either, because by the time you have your bedtime shower (10.30am), the sun will create a perfect shadow outline of your supernatural anatomy for everyone else to behold. You’ll want to make sure that your tent features coated fabric that prevents silhouetting. Of course, you’ll also want a tent that doesn’t require a degree in physics to set up. It has to be easy to pitch (some, not us, would say that it should guarantee a quick erection).
For the actual shower, you can naturally go savage and tip the cold water from your collapsible container directly onto your head. Brutal enough, and it will see you make a lot of trips to the water taps.
One step up the stairway to heaven: use a manual-pump shower. The water will not necessarily be very warm, but at least you won’t be running back and forth to the tap as much.
Two steps up: bring a shower bag. Leave it out in the sun to warm up and bring it inside for a short but sweet shower. Pretty good on hot days, although the fun stops all too soon. Pointless when the surrounds are cold.
Three steps up: you’ve arrived – this is heaven. A portable gas-heated shower and 12V pump to go with the shower tent. It’s compact and lightweight, quick to set up and very easy to use. Connect water in. Connect water out. Connect gas. Sorted. Now you can have exquisite hot showers in splendid privacy whilst everyone else queues for an hour to pay $$$ for a measly two minutes of standing in the greywater runoff from all the other cubicles.
There you have it: everything you need to know to be the most sweet-smelling act at the next festival. If it was all a bit too much to keep in mind, just remember the most important wisdom: all you need is love. And a shower tent. And a portable gas-heated shower.