Electric Picnic: The best time to arrive, and other festival hacks
Park in red, camp in Oscar, photocopy the site map, and don’t download apps
Time your entrance: Friday lunchtime is best for arriving at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Dave Meehan
You have chosen to camp in a field for three days, limiting your access to showers and restricting yourself to one meal a day – probably a mustard-and-ketchup-covered corn dog. As an 11-year veteran, here are my hacks for making your Electric Picnic experience as stress-free and craic-filled as possible.
Pack one bag
When you’re packing your bits for the weekend, be as economical as possible, because everything you carry in you have to carry back out. Sure, the trolleys are handy for those 48 cans you’re allowed bring in, which will be nothing short of a distant dream Monday morning, but limit yourself to one bag per person and one tent per group (she says, like she’s ever done that before). But, really, it’s not a week in Marbella. It’s a weekend in a makeshift town. The essentials will always be raincoat, wellies, jumper, scarf, portable phone changer, tent, sleeping bag, extra jumper, toilet paper, reusable water bottle, hat.
... and a hot-water bottle
If the cold is your enemy number one, pack a mini hot-water bottle and ask the lovely people at the many coffee docks to fill it up for you. Pop it in your jumper, as if you’re a kangaroo and it’s your joey, and you’ll break on through to the other side.
Arrive Friday lunchtime
Some people arrive as soon as the campsites open to all, at 9am on Friday, and then sit around, drinking cans and watching everyone else set up their tents, until the music finally kicks off, at 2pm. Those people are more than likely the ones who also pack a guitar because they think their rendition of Christy Moore’s Ride On is better than anything else you’ll hear that weekend. Don’t be those people. There is no best time to set up camp, but there will be two main rush hours to take note of. Taking a full day off work is quite the privilege, so most people will be taking a half-day, meaning there will be a rush into the campsites at 4pm. There’ll be another rush between 7pm and 9pm, for people who couldn’t get even a half-day off work. Friday lunchtime is just about ideal. Saturday morning you’ll avoid the worst of the traffic, but you’ll limit your camping options – and you’ll have missed Friday night’s acts.
Park in red
The Electric Picnic car parks are a tight-run ship. Red car park A is the most sought after, thanks to its proximity to the main entrance.
Stay in Oscar
The campsite breakdown is as follows: Jimi Hendrix is known as the party campsite. Located next to the hurdy-gurdies – aka the portal to hell – this is where you go to not sleep. The Janis Joplin, Charlie Chaplin and Andy Warhol campsites are far away, and therefore less desirable, but they make up for it with space and relative peace. Joplin also comes with the Kip’n’Go camping option, where for €7.50 per person per day you get a prepitched tent that can include sleeping bags and mats. Oscar Wilde, however, is the creme de la creme, close to the main arena but, unlike Hendrix, not heavy on the unce unce. Your walk home also comes with a wander through the woods, giving you an opportunity to seek out any last-minute parties at the Salty Dog stage or Trenchtown before you call it a night.
When pitching your tent, stay away from trees, paths, walkways, vendors and, perhaps above all, toilets, unless you want people falling into you, tripping over your tent or, indeed, treating your tent like an en suite. If you’ve got a tent in Pink Moon Camping or Harvest Moon Camping, you’ve done very well for yourself. Congratulations, your majesty.
As soon as you enter the main arena, pick a spot – any spot – and make it your official meeting point for mates. Be it the entrance to Trailer Park, the Kinara Kitchen benches or just inside the Mindfield area, simply ensure it’s a fixed object – because things like bins move, and trees turn into shape-shifters once darkness falls. One giant word of advice: do not rely on your phone this weekend. There will be apps to download; do not download them. There will be people who want to meet up and will ask you to drop a pin; do not drop a pin. There will be people who cannot see the wood from the trees and will continually phone you when you’re trying to dance; do not answer. Print out the map of the site, print out the timetable. Make copies. Share them. This could be the ultimate Electric Picnic hack: paper.
Click on the site map below to download
The booze rules limit you to 48 cans per person – and glass bottles are totally banned, so decant anything that’s in glass before you leave your house (and recycle like the good citizen you are). You can’t bring your own booze into the arena until 1am, and even then you are limited to four cans. My advice to you as an Electric Picnic elder is to fill up reusable bottles with the likes of Buckfast, prosecco, and rum and Coke. These are the things that keep you ticking over – and keep your bar visits to a minimum. If you are gagging for a creation from Casa Bacardi, be prepared to queue. And if you like your cocktails with a quick pour of notions, the Dark & Stormy bar, in the Body & Soul area, is where you’ll get the best drinks all weekend. Fact.
You will need your phone to tell the time, of course, so pack two portable chargers. If they run out, the phone company 3 is providing charging points in the main arena. It will also be selling 3 Power Banks in the Jimi Hendrix campsite until 6pm each day.
Where to party late
Body & Soul continues to be the best area to hang out in – along with the Haunt, a Victorian dive bar that is a relative newcomer – until the wee hours, but Salty Dog and Trenchtown are two of the last spots to close each night. Hang around those two for long enough and you’ll often find an after-party.
Go home, come back
If you’re not built of the stuff that enables you to camp for three nights, there’s no shame in nipping out for a night to sleep in your own bed, have a hot shower and a decent breakfast, and then make your grand return with clean hair and bright eyes. With a weekend wristband you can go in and out as often as you like – but if you do ditch the fest for a night and drive home, remember that you’ll lose your original parking spot.
And for your final exit, it’s sometimes best to finish on a high, with your dignity intact, and leave on Sunday evening, so you can wake up as a smuglet in your own bed the next morning. But if you’re the kind of person who loves to flog a dead horse, and you really don’t want to miss The Prodigy, then Monday morning is your man. There’s nothing like crawling traffic and a warm hangover to back up the greatest decision ever made.
And that’s how you survive the weekend.