Heavy metal festivals are awesome. Obviously, they are best festivals.
European Heavy Metal festivals such as Wacken and Hellfest draw 10s of 1000s of heavy metal fans from across the globe every year.
1000s of metalheads all descend into small towns and villages, tripling the local population and increasing the towns beer consumption a 100 fold.
The first metal festival is almost a rite of passage for young metal fans. It’s a few days of freedom, partying, and immersing yourself in metal culture.
You drink some beers, hang out with your friends all day and watch all your favourite bands.
It’s easy to see why heavy metal fans love the festivals. Festivals are a vital part of heavy metal culture.
But… if you are outside in a field for a few days, the heavy metal festival experience can take it’s toll on you. Cut off from modern conveniences, you will need to be prepared.
After being to a bunch of festivals over the years, here is my heavy metal festival survival guide:
Basic Camping Gear
You need at least tent and a sleeping bag. I would strongly advise taking a roll mat, or even better, a thermo roll mat.
The ground at metal festivals can be stoney and uneven, and has sometimes been churned up – one way some festivals clear up is to turn over the soil with a tractor… effectively burying rubbish a foot underground.
It’s an effective way to clear up the rubbish that gets left behind, but leaves the soil uneven. When that uneven soil gets baked in the sun, it can become quite uncomfy to sleep on.
If you need more comfort, take an airbed, and if you’re lazy, a small electric pump for the airbed.
Learn How to Setup Your Tent
You might want to practice this once or twice before you go.
Bonus Learn *where* to setup your tent. Try and find a part of the campsite with a gentle gradient to it. DO NOT put your tent in a small depression / hollow. If your tent is in a hollow, and it rains, your tent will flood.
I was at Bloodstock a few years ago, and a friend joined our campsite late in the evening, and didn’t realise he had setup his tent in a hollow. It rained that night, and he woke up to find a beer can floating past his head.
You Need a Decent Hat
If you want to know what to take to a metal festival, look at all the stuff being sold – you will see those leather cowboy hats.
And for festivals… they’re awesome.
In fact, they’re awesome all the time.
When you’re at a metal festival, you’re out in the sun all day. You are going to see 100s of metalheads slowly turning into lobsters from sunburn. And avoiding this is super easy – just get a decent cowboy hat.
As a bonus, they’re also great if it is raining, and will keep you surprisingly dry. The only situation they are useless in is the wind… so leave your hat in your tent if it is windy.
It it’s bright you might want sunglasses too.
Metal festivals are awesome.
But… being in a field with 30,000 drunk metalheads can have it’s downsides.
One downside, is that people love to get super drunk and stay up all night screaming and shouting.
Take some ear plugs with you.
The Days Are Hot, The Nights Are Cold
If you are going to a metal festival in the UK or Germany, the days can be hot, and the nights can get quite cold. If you’re at a metal festival in Spain, you’ll probably be warm at night too.
So make sure you have a few clothes to protect you from the cold.
Sometimes, the Weather Turns to Shit
Even though outdoor metal festivals tend to be in the summer, sometimes, you get horrific weather.
Gazebos getting blown away like kites.
Metalheads skulking around like drowned rats.
And once you and your clothes get wet at a festival… they are not getting dry.
When it comes to staying dry, you have a few options. You can go pro with a full on mountain raincoat and be toasty and dry.
A leather jacket and cowboy hat combo will do a pretty good job aslong as the weather isn’t too mental.
Or you can go full British tourist and take an umbrella.
Whatever you do, it’s worth thinking about beforehand. Or you might end up buying an over priced plastic bin bag to try and keep dry.
Why bad weather can be awesome I was at Hellfest a few years ago watching Ozzy play a headline set, and it started raining in the main arena. At first, I thought it sucked. So, I went back to my tent to grab an umbrella and leather jacket. Then back to the main arena.
I missed a few songs, but, most of the crowd had scurried to the sides of the arena where the beer garden tents were, to keep dry.
I got pretty close to the MainStage (about 10 rows from the font), had an awesome view, and loads of space around me. Plus I was really dry.
Don’t Party Yourself Out of the Game
When it comes to a festival, you want to play the long game.
A few friends of mine from York, UK went to Bloodstock Open Air one year.
The first night, they partied super hard.
I mean… super hard.
Then they spent the rest of the festival feeling like shit, hungover to hell at their campsite… I think they only saw one band.
Drink water before going to sleep. This will help prevent you becoming crazy dehydrated in your sleep (easy done when drinking beers all day).
Eat. Get a fatty burger and hotdog.
Don’t be like them.
The ground can be uneven, and you might be drunk.
A lethal combination for your ankles.
Take some boots that come up past your ankles. Army boots, walking boots, whatever.
These are also great if the ground gets churned up in the rain – festival mud can eat your trainers, but boots will keep your feet nice and dry.
Beware of Thieves
Unfortunately, festivals always attract thieves. It really sucks. Festival security does a great job of making sure you don’t take your own beer into the main arena, and does a terrible job of protecting you from thieves.
One year at Hellfest, I woke up in the middle of the night to find some thieving bastard had opened the front of my tent, leaned inside, and was ferreting around trying to find my stuff.
If you goto a few festivals, this is likely to happen at some point.
How to Avoid Being Robbed in the Night at a Metal Festival
Sleep with your feet by the front of the tent, and your head furthest from the door. That way, if some assclown is trying to rob your stuff, they wake you up by touching your feet.
And you can kick them in the face.
Sleep with your valuables (passport, phone, wallet) inside your sleeping bag, or, under your head. This makes them impossible to get to. If you keep your valuables inside your jeans, you can roll your jeans up into a pillow.
Ladies – The Pissbucket
Being a man, going for a piss is crazy easy. And fun.
For ladies, squatting at the side of the campsite is kinda undignified. And the ques for the toilets in the campsite are usually crazy… not to mention how disgusting they can be.
What a few of my friends have done at metal festivals, is to take a bucket (or buy one from the local supermarket).
As a side note, this only works if you have a big tent, one of those tents with multiple rooms in it. If you try and do this in a little 2 man tent, you’re going to end up spilling piss all over your stuff.
Bucket goes in the “main room” of the tent, then they have an easy place to piss. And can go empty the bucket in the field at some point.
No quest. No gross festival toilets. Neat idea.
Don’t spill piss!
If you are going to a heavy metal festival with a few friends, then the gazebo is a must. It will shelter you from the Sun. It will shelter you from light rain.
You can pick them up pretty cheap, and the gazebo will be the social centre of your heavy metal campsite.
How to setup guidelines People don’t understand this. Your gazebo will come with ropes (called guidelines) and tent pegs. This stops it blowing away. If you place the guidelines close to the legs of the gazebo, they will no do anything.
The guidelines should be at least 1m from the leg go the gazebo, ideally further. The further they are, the more wind your gazebo will resist.
It does turn your gazebo into a vietcong style mantrap for drunk metalheads… but oh well.
It’s more than likely you’ll be doing a lot of sitting around. You can set up your chairs at your campsite (put them back in your tent when you leave the campsite or they’ll get stolen), or take them into the main arena and setup for the day.
Either way… get one. Every year I’ve not taken a camping chair, I’ve regretted it.
Get one with a beer holder in the arm.
You’re going to want some music for your campsite. One of my favourite festivals was when a big group of friends and I went to Hellfest.
We had a couple of gazebos, beers, camping of chairs… and the holy grail of the heavy metal campsite:
An old school boom box.
Somehow, a friend of mine found one in their loft or something, and then found a giant box of old school metal tapes from eBay. We got a small lead acid battery (so that we didn’t burn through £100 of disposable batteries over the 4 days) and that thing was going all day and most of the night.
If you find one with an aux, you can plug your phone into it.
You’ll want to get your phone sorted before you go.
Check your plan with your network provider – you don’t want to rack up a massive bill for using your data abroad. Some networks give you a flat rate per day, some might not – but check. Most offer some sort of “foreign usage” service, which is cheaper than using your plan as-is.
You might want to disable data on your phone upon reaching foreign soil.
If you want to keep your phone charged, get a portable phone battery. You can get phone batteries that can do several charges. Unless you are a super heavy user, 3-4 charges should be enough.
Health and Travel Insurance
Sometimes, shit happens. It’s worth spending the £30 or whatever on travel insurance, to keep you covered in case of disaster.
If you have an accident abroad and have to be seen in a foreign hospital, it might cost you the arm and the leg you are trying to save.
One time at Hellfest, some drunk dudes were wrestling in the campsite next to me… and one of them ended up with a broken leg. Pretty fucked up. If you’re from Europe, make sure you have a European Health Insurance card. If you are not from the EU, make sure you have health insurance.
How to Get Your Car Ready for a Heavy Metal Festival Roadtrip
If you are road tripping to a festival, you can end up driving several hundred miles in a foreign country.
Different countries have different rules for cars and their roads. For example, when driving from the UK to Hellfest, we discovered a few things about driving in Europe, and France:
- They have toll booths for their roads. You have to keep change in your car to pay the tolls.
- Because they drive on a different side of the road to the UK, you have to have stickers on your headlights to prevent you dazzling drivers on the other side of the road
- It is a legal requirement to have a breathalyser in your car (any bets the politician that passed this has a stake in the company that makes them…?)
Ignoring these rules can lead to on the spot fines if the police stop you.
You also want to do some basic checks on your car:
- Tyres – you’re going to put a lot of wear on them
- Spare tyre / jack and tools to change tyre
You might want to check you have, or temporarily take out, European break down cover, and make sure that you car insurance either covers a few days driving abroad, or, phone them and get the cover added.
That’s a Wrap
So be prepared, have an awesome time and whatever heavy metal festivals you are checking out this summer!