How I Survived Glastonbury 2022: A First-Timer's Guide

Lessons from the festival, where Kendrick Lamar brought 'Mr. Morale' to the stage, Wet Leg drew a McCartney-sized crowd, and peace and clarity reigned above the madness

Photo: Stephen Carlick

BY Stephen CarlickPublished Jul 4, 2022

If you're from England, you can probably stop reading here. You've been to Glastonbury before; it's in your blood. You already know what it is to set up new IPs with computer-savvy friends just to make sure you get tickets; for some North American to "look a twat" (your words not mine!) because they thought they'd look cooler wearing trainers (ahem, sneakers) in the muddy fields of Somerset than real boots; to clap along to just about every song you love (even if it is on the ones and threes).

This guide is for those with only a vague sense of the legendary fest; for whom the fabled festival of mud and music has always lingered an ocean away; for whom an endless wait for a shit without toilet paper and five long days without a vegetable — or, given it was 2022, bringing COVID home with you — is a small price to pay to see today's musical icons make history.

Having moved to London in late 2019, just before the pandemic began, I had to see whether Glastonbury really was the greatest music festival in the world. 

What I found was, in fact, something like magic. But there were some things I couldn't have survived it without. 

1. Bring a tent, and don't end up next to the poo

Not to be obvious, but be sure to bring a tent, sleeping bag and yoga mat. You'll see this one on the official Glasto site because it's important. (Quick side note: I have heard from people that saying "Glasto" is lame, but then I also heard those same people say "Glasto" a number of times so I say do what you like; in his headlining set this year, none other than Sir Paul McCartney referred to festivalgoers as "Glastonbergers" so, you know, language is a living thing.) It's a fucking hike to East Somerset, whether you do it by train or coach bus (I recommend coach, as it's more spacious and the views are nicer) and hauling a bunch of stuff with you is annoying — but you are investing in your future, which, if you do it right, is five nights of sleeping in relative comfort after spending every day walking 15 km in the summer heat. (Yes, five: do not show up on Thursday or later or you will get a poo-adjacent campsite location, and that is worse than carrying 900 sleeping bags!)

Pack efficiently, but for the long haul. In the words of my wise Glastonberger pal: "Glastonbury is a marathon, not a sprint." (Also: don't do all your drugs on Thursday night.) Pack for comfort, but don't bother bringing a pillow; those things are humongous, and soft clothes bunched up will do the same thing.

2. Bring "loo roll" and avoid eye contact while peeing

Right, so remember the thing I said about 900 sleeping bags? Make it a cool 5,000. You have never smelled anything like the Glastonbury "long drop" toilets; like a fighter jet hurtles into vision overhead only after, like, 12 full seconds of high-pitched screaming, these things are 10 miles up your nasal passage and ensconced in your brain tissue before you've seen the giant TOILETS sign. (By this point, if you haven't figured out "long drop," you are on your own.)

Which is to say nothing of their construction: square stalls in 10x2 formation without tops and facing each other, so if you're standing up to piss, and somebody else is standing up to piss, you are probably making eye contact. To add to the whole mess, people miss, and not just with urine – bring wet wipes, and don't dawdle; people have to go, and you don't want to miss the opening songs of Diana Ross's "Legends" slot!

Important note: there's no toilet paper in these things, so always have a roll on your person. It's just good sense!

3. "Wellies"

Like any self-respecting North American, I haven't worn rain boots — or, sigh, "Wellies" — since I was five, and I recall being humiliated by them even then. But Glastonbury is famed for its mud, and if you get a downpour on just one of your festival days without them, you're going to be the one slowing down your team as you tiptoe around the new marshland. Buy a pair of Wellington boots — sometimes just bringing them is enough to ward the rain off anyway. For day-to-day walking, wear hiking boots or other thick-soled shoes; the ground can be uneven, and you want to be prepared for long days.

4. A phone battery pack will save your weekend

Honestly, bring two of these, and make them heavy duty. When you are at HAIM on Saturday at 6 p.m. and your friend is catching part of Big Thief, but you both would really like to see Olivia Rodrigo do "drivers license" at the Other Stage in golden hour light, your only hope of meeting up depends on your phone's battery. (This will become a matter of some urgency when, about five songs in, Rodrigo covers "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne and you need to scream-sing it with your pals.) 

I promise you will never, ever find your friend in the endless expanse of even one of Glastonbury's stages without your phone, and the lines to charge up will eat up a literal third of your festival day, so invest! Your phone is your second-most essential tool (see: "toilet paper," above), so keep it juiced: it is your map, your walkie-talkie, and it's only gonna get more important as the sun goes down and your blood alcohol level goes up. 

5. Choose your friends wisely

Can your friends hang at Glastonbury? Do they know how to step through a crowd without being an asshole? (Don't trod on people's blankets!) Do they know their alcohol and drugs limit? (A two-litre whiskey and soda will keep you hydrated and tipsy!) Are they good at making a plan for where to meet up if you get separated? And will they, as I witnessed one group of absolute lads doing, hold you "Upside Down" during Diana Ross's famous song while another pal funnels a key into your nostril? (I promise you this happened!)

More importantly, will they turn to you during Phoebe Bridgers, when you've been crying for, like, three songs so far, and still sing along? Will they drunkenly sing the na na na naaahhhhs of "Hey Jude" as loudly as possible with you? Will they introduce you to new friends, in a group chat literally called "Horse," just to help you feel like part of a community at the festival?

Bring these friends. They will make your Glastonbury more special than even double-quilted toilet paper ever could.

6. Bring a lightweight water bottle, and share with those who didn't

Buddy, you're gonna be in the sun all day, and Glastonbury very eco-smartly does not sell water bottles. (Or branded anything: all of the food on site is provided by local sellers, and it's all fucking delicious.) But yeah, bring your refillable bottle, and share water with people who have been in the front bit of the Pyramid Stage crowd all day. This is what Glastonbury is all about. The people here will surprise you with their kindness; England is pent up for 360 days a year so that they can have all of their Good Time at Glastonbury. (They may offer you a pill as well!)

7. Sit down, be humble

Pack some humility in there, pal — I know you have room. The best part about Glastonbury is that there's something for everyone: dark tents blasting techno for the all-day ravers; "Healing Fields" for the hippie in you who needs a head or foot massage, or just a place to lie down (you haven't lived until you've let some wonderful person named Karine massage out your hangover); an arts and crafts field where, if you want, you can spend three hours weaving a wicker basket (imagine bringing that home for mom?!); a talent stage where you become the star. 

Point is, there's room at Glastonbury for all types. People will dress in all sorts of ways, and your judgement is best left at home. Early on in the fest, I made a snarky quip about a baby boomer's hat, only to be roundly shut down by my British friends: "This is their territory!" The next morning, the highlight of the Libertines' set was when a shirtless 60-something sailed across the top of the crowd and onto the Jumbotron. Let people wear whatever hat they like! Even if it has a feather! Don't be a dick.

8. You are only human and can't do everything

It is in your interest to acknowledge, early on, that you have a finite amount of time to see music, and that you will need to make concessions. Don't be disappointed: you will be able to see Mitski another time (and there was never a prayer of making it to the Park Stage in the southwest corner for her 9:15–10:15 p.m. slot and back again in time to find my friends at Paul McCartney's Pyramid Stage headline set).

The golden rule at Glastonbury is that you need to leave an hour for basically everything; food, toilets, someone else getting hungry, toilets again, escaping the crowd after Wet Leg's impossibly packed (and impossibly fun) 2 p.m. slot on Friday. Seeing 15 minutes of everything you want to see will mean seeing it from a mile away, so settle in for a run of artists at a single stage.

9. Treasure the moments in-between the music

You might have noticed this article has been slightly light on, well, the music at Glastonbury. Rest assured, it's incredible: I watched Kendrick Lamar debut Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers for a global audience, dancing across the greatest part of his discography while wearing a crown of thorns; I watched Phoebe Bridgers invite Arlo Parks to sing "Graceland Too," and McCartney bring Bruce Fucking Springsteen out, too. I watched flames shoot from a colossal metal spider, danced to Four Tet, and had my mind melted by techno under a gigantic hybrid of a cube and human head. The music was incredible.

But I also ate a 3 a.m. burrito so incredibly delicious and necessary that my friend and I spoke about it in reverent tones for the next two days; weaselled my way into the Rabbit Hole, a venue that featured lobster-clawed drag performers one night and at which the HAIM sisters partied another; and I watched the sun rise, at 5 a.m., over a city of tents and towers and stages that didn't exist four days prior, with friends I hadn't met then, never having felt as at peace. Glastonbury is made of a lot of parts, and still manages to be more than the sum of them.

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