Friday, September 18, 2015

A Southeast Asian (and n00b) camping guide to the Greenman Festival

Enfant Terrible had gotten Settlers' Passes to the 2015 Greenman Festival. Meaning we'd camp at the Glanusk Estate, Wales, for SEVEN days. We watched as the vast, peaceful, green fields of the estate filled up over the week and were eventually overrun on day 3, when the General Camping horde arrived and put down stakes (hehe).

Bring all the food!
Festival food is always expensive, more so given the exchange rate when we were there (RM6.70 = £1.00... ouch), and the portions are always tiny. So, buy foods you can cook/heat quickly and that ideally don't require slicing/much seasoning.

We had baked beans, canned soup, powdered mash potatoes (which needed more salt), fruit, local bread, and ROBERTSON'S GOLDEN SHRED MARMALADE :3

Beauty. Image from here.

One of the best things about the Glanusk Estate Greenman Festival site (in addition to being astoundingly beautiful) is that it is a brisk 40-minute walk to Crickhowell town. The town has at least 2 grocers and excellent cafés (Courthouse Café, burger at eighteen). It is a very nice town with very nice people. Wales is full of nice people who call you "love" or "darlin'" if they don't know your name.

Bring all the camping equipment!
Kitchenware: We had to borrow a can opener one day. Silly when you know how small a travelling can-opener can be (less than the length of your pinkie!). We thought lugging a cooking set all the way from KL was silly, but it was worth every gram, considering the price of such items in the UK.

One thing I'd do differently is get a smaller, lighter stove to reduce bulk, and pack a smaller wooden cooking utensil. Yay more shopping.

Our camping crockery. A devil to clean in cold water for sure.

Accommodation: Get a 2-layer tent that houses 1 more person or double the number of people in your group. You need the space for the things you want to store under cover, and the layers to keep it all dry. The weather can be schizophrenic (see below), so anything left outside the tent will get rained on or dew-drenched the next morning (which my feet discovered after the first night), or both.

We got a Marmot tent. In London. And brought it to Wales. If you know tents, it probably sounds like overkill, considering everyone else had Colemans or Gelerts in olive gray or navy blue.

But hey, ours was bright orange and easily identifiable whichever direction we came from. Although I suggest Marmot make light-colored guylines to avoid tripping people in the dark, but sticking on reflective tape would work too.

Lighting, exterior: Every music festival guide recommends headlamps. I do too. Don't be the dumbass who trips over guylines in the dark. And they keep your hands free during the trek to the toilet. And inside the toilet.

Lighting, interior: Battery-powered lanterns are the best (bring carabiners or s-hooks to hang them inside the tent, duh). We brought our own, though the hardware and outdoor outfitter shops in Crickhowell carry smaller but reasonably bright ones too. However, the exchange rate meant that ours were a better deal.

(... I just remembered that I also have an Ikea dynamo-powered torchlight. That could've been so useful!)

Bring all the layers!

You think perpetually overcast London and its constant drizzle are bad? Nothing compares to the sense of betrayal when a heavenly warm Powys ("powis") morning turns Arctic in the afternoon. Then it starts raining and the wind chill makes at least 10 degrees Celsius outside.

Plus you have to use sunblock unless you intend to get sunburnt (as I did).

The cool temperatures last throughout the day (it's extra chilly in the shade), and by the time the sun sets at ~830 PM, there's nothing you want more than to crawl inside your tent, into your sleeping bag and burrow towards the Earth's core to escape the cold.

In case you think I'm joking, it was 4 degrees Celsius on our first night there. I can laugh now at my naive idea that one pair of long johns would be enough. By day 3 of our 7-day stay, I'd worked out that if I wore both pairs of running tights under my wool jeans, I wouldn't feel like freezing to death. Also, far from laughing (Brits are way polite), the people around you will wish they'd brought gloves too.

Paradoxically, bring fewer clothes. You won't need to change every day because you don't really sweat. Plus, no one's keeping track anyway (it's not Coachella). However, always keep your pajamas dry.

Footwear: On account of mud (of which there are oceans after it rains), pack hiking boots or wellington boots. Naturally, I have neither, and my trainers (sneakers) were wet more often than not during my stay.

One of each please! I'd pair them with a onesie. No, really. Picture from here.

Revise personal hygiene priorities!
For one, it's too cold to shower sometimes most times, and the lines for the showers just get longer as the festival wears on. If you need to though, the off-peak hours  are after 10 AM and before 6 PM.

For another, the cool temperatures mean that volatile aromatic compound whatnots don't get aerosolized, meaning you don't smell sweaty. Also, no one's looking.

You can get away with brushing your teeth only in the morning because (1) everyone's doing the same; (2) it's too fucking cold at night to wade through the mud to get to the bathing area.

Bring a roll of nice toilet paper (double-ply, fine/soft type). You can squash it into a ziplock bag to keep it dry and minimize bulk. You'll love it so much when people start stealing the toilet paper from the portaloos.  

That said, it's really dry, so bring your ultra-moisturizing emollients and unguents. (My coconut oil froze, btw, so keep that in mind.)

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