Having read part 1 of our guide you’ve already selected the perfect festival to attend this summer. You’ve also considered sleeping and eating arrangements after reading part 2 in this series. So in this, the third part of our taking kids to festivals guide, we’ll share our best tips for getting your critters moving seamlessly around the festival site no matter what weather and ground conditions are thrown at you.
Let’s face it, we all hope for those gloriously long, sunny days where you and your family can lay around carelessly on warm, dry grass. Unfortunately, Britain being Britain, a grey cloud is never too far away and this will definitely impact upon how easy it is for you and your tribe to move from stage to stage. Three hours of rain at home may well not churn up the local field that you walk your pooch on but at a festival, with sometimes in excess of 100,000 people mooching around, treading all of that water into the ground, you can be sure that any persistent rain is going to result in mud. A hell of a lot of mud!
Obviously your choice of festival transport for your critters will very much depend on their age and the size of festival that you are attending. However, on the whole, you have two main options: to pull or to carry. As it happens we do both as we find it to be the best option for our very young children Jesse, aged 2 and a half, and Amelie, aged 8 months.
If you decide to pull you have a few options available to you. Despite the fact that we still see pushchairs at major festivals every year, we feel that they are too poor at performing in bad weather to warrant their packing size and weight. Every time we have had mud at a festival we have seen a pushchair or buggy stuck in it. Simple. Therefore people with these end up far removed from the festivals main attractions desperately trying to keep to any sign of solid ground. Festival wagons are now a common site at virtually all of the major festivals that pride themselves on being family friendly. However, these themselves come in a range of guises and styles each with their own specific advantages and disadvantages. One of the first considerations to make when choosing a wagon is how will you transport it to the festival itself. Large wagons take up a heck of a lot of space so unless you have a large family car or van available to you a foldable trolley may well be your best option.
Foldable trolleys, as their name suggests, will pack down nicely making them fairly easy to fit in among everything else that you plan to take when you are playing your first game of car packing Tetris on the morning of departure. They also have decent ground clearance meaning they are ok being pulled over uneven ground and fields. However, their small wheels mean they can become very difficult to manoeuvre in wet and muddy conditions. Furthermore, as the frame is designed to fold it won’t be able to carry the same weight that more solid designs can, meaning they may not be suitable for carrying more than one child or older children (and meaning that you may have to make more trips back to the car as you probably won’t get all of your gear in it first, or even second time round). They also do not come with a canopy meaning you’ll have to concoct your own should you wish to make it a waterproof haven for your critter. Finally, these tend to be the smallest of all of the available designs so using them as a transportable sleep chamber may also be an issue for kids after a certain age.
Ready made festival wagons can also be bought through many online outlets. Obviously, as with anything, read the reviews that accompany their description, but on the whole this type of wagon tends to be fairly similar regardless of the brand. Most of these come with much larger wheels far more suitable to the great outdoors and prolonged use and most also come with a showerproof canopy. Note: these are not waterproof so if you get any sort of rain that sets in a for a few hours or even a whole day, it won’t keep your critter entirely dry. Obviously there are things that you can do to combat this that doesn’t mean spending all day in the tent. For instance, I have seen wagons with PVC shower curtains draped over the canopy structure to add an extra layer of protection, but these then just become something else to pack and carry around with you. That said, the structure and frame of these wagons is far stronger than the foldable versions and their solid sides and larger internal dimensions make them much easier to fit out with a range of cushions and blankets to keep your critter cozy into the evening.
The final option that you have available to you is to use a converted heavy duty garden trolley. These are the favoured wagons of the companies who’ll offer to hire you out a festival wagon for the duration of your stay (at a premium), which is particularly useful for those of you who may be carrying multiple children as transporting multiple wagons in your average family car is simply impossible. A heavy duty garden trolley is also our personal favourite. They are stronger than the rest (able to carry anything between 150kg and 300kg) and larger than the rest which means not only can you transport more than one child around, but they also make relatively short work of transporting your stuff from the car to the campsite and back again. Just make sure you take a healthy selection of bungee cords to help you secure your gear (not your critters!). The other major advantage of these types of wagons is that as you are customising it yourself the possibilities are endless. We decided upon a space theme for ours, buying rocket material for the cushions and having weatherproof sides printed to complete the look. We also constructed our own canopy, buying waterproof, rip-stop nylon to ensure a dry ride whatever the weather. The disadvantage to these heavy duty wagons is that despite you having the ability to remove the sides walls, they are heavy and very large to transport making them out of the question for all but large cars. For more on how we fully customised our wagon and constructed the canopy be sure to check out our post here: https://pottyadventures.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/making-a-customised-festivalcamping-wagon/
Your other option for transporting your critters around a music festival is to carry them. Again, in dry weather your options are so much more open and we still take our smaller carrier/sling for the baby for just these occasions. They are so small and light that packing them as an extra is no trouble at all and they certainly give you that close baby bonding feel that we all crave. However, you have to be practical. Even in dry weather you could be outdoors for all of the daylight hours and most slings offer little in the way of sun protection so hats and clothing with an SPF rating should be considered. They also offer nothing in the way of rain or wind protection so you should have an alternative in mind for poor weather.
Back carriers are a good option for children older than approximately 6 months who can hold the weight of their own head as they offer good levels of comfort for long days outside and they also have fairly large storage pockets meaning you can take with you everything from nappies to spare clothes and not have to worry about a walk back to the tent to pick up extras. A lot of carriers also come complete with SPF and waterproof canopies and covering meaning that your child will be safe and comfortable in all weathers. They can also be stood up on their own with your critter still inside it (under your supervision) meaning that taking time out for a quick picnic or rest stop is easy if your little one has fallen asleep. You simply plonk them down next to you. Their obvious down side is that they are yet another large, cumbersome thing to take with you, taking more space up in your car than more compact carriers. However, we feel the protection from the elements that these provide make their consideration worth it. To read more on our favourite child carrier check out our post on the Osprey Poco AG Plus here: https://pottyadventures.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/osprey-poco-ag-plus-child-carrier-review/
As ever, if you have any comments or specific questions about this guide or any of the others in this series please do get in touch with us. Next time we’ll be looking at the safety and welfare of critters at festivals. It’s not to be missed.