Aug 02, 2023

Download Festival 2023 survival guide

All the essentials you need to pack before heading off to Donington

Planet Rock has compiled a handy guide to the essential items you might need to survive Download Festival this year – especially if you’re spending four or five nights under canvas.

Celebrating its 20th glorious year in 2023, this year's completely sold-out Download Festival takes place from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th June 2023.

Headlined by Metallica, Slipknot and Bring Me The Horizon, other acts on the weekend bill include Ghost, Alter Bridge, Halestorm, Mammoth WVH, Skindred, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Placebo, Coheed & Cambria, Disturbed, Clutch and many, many more.

A good-sized tent – It's a fallacy that ‘two-man tents’ are big enough for two fully grown men or women with backpacks, drinks and other festival essentials. So unless you want to be chewing your tent mate's elbows every night, buy a tent that's plenty big enough.

Tent pegs and poles – Before you set off make sure you’ve got enough pegs to erect a nice taught abode for the weekend - the last thing you need is a pathetic sagging tent. Double check that you’ve got all your poles too.

Gazebos – Not only a great place to relax with friends, they provide shelter from the rain and, if you’re very lucky, shade from the sun. Gazebos are allowed at Download Festival within reasonable size limits.

Torch – Great if you need to find something at night in your tent, torches are also an essential for negotiating the matrix of intertwined tent guide ropes during night-time toilet runs. Pack one in case your phone battery is running low. Top tip: a head torch keeps your hands free whilst rummaging in your tent at night / visiting the loo / holding drinks!

Camping chair – Whether it's thanks to rain or dew, the ground around your tent can often be moist so a chair to rest your weary legs is a must. Camping chairs are also allowed in the main arena at Download.

Air bed – Most people take simple foam camping mats but these do little to cushion that pointed rock you’ve expertly positioned your tent on. Take an air bed - your Download experience will be so much comfier.

Warm sleeping bag – Even during a Donington heatwave, it can be chilly in your tent at night. Pack a nice warm sleeping bag to keep those chills at bay.

Travel towel - These microfibre marvels pack down super small in your bag, and also dry out much quicker than your standard bath towel. Just hang it up inside your tent porch when you leave the campsite and it'll be dry by the time you get back.

A trolley - Ever been lugging your own bodyweight in camping gear onto a festival site, hands being cut to ribbons by straps, sweating profusely, and seen a cheery person pass you as you take your 15th rest in 12 minutes? Be one of the cheery trolley people. Yes they can be expensive, and they're not exactly train-friendly, but if you can get one with big inflatable wheels to handle the inevitable mud and gravel. You can't put a price on arriving at a festival and not becoming an immediate sweaty wreck.

Toilet roll – Make sure you don't leave your tent without at least a handful of toilet roll; you really don't want to be caught short.

Hand sanitizer – For obvious reasons.

Wet wipes – Handy for a quick body scrub if you can't be bothered queuing for the showers.

Dry shampoo – Unless you want to rock the ‘hair soaked in chip fat’ look for the entire weekend, treat your greasy mane to a dry shampoo.

Shower gel and shampoo - There are showers on site, which can be busy in the morning but relatively quiet throughout the rest of the day.

Bin bags - An essential item if you want to keep your living area habitable! Great for rubbish, empty beer cans, muddy clothes and they can also double as a ground sheet.

Travel mirror – Always very handy, for checking makeup / suncream applicaton / facepaint / errant toothpaste...

Sun lotion – Packing sun lotion may feel like you’re tempting fate but take some anyway - unless you want to look like a lobster all weekend.

Medication - Remember to take any prescription drugs with you that you need, and if you’re a hay fever sufferer pack some antihistamines.

Plasters – Invaluable for those sore feet from pounding many miles across the sacrosanct Donington Park turf.

Rehydration products - In case you overdo it, you might want to pack some rehydration products to help make you feel human again.

Wellies – Arguably the most important item of clothing to take to a festival. Pack even if sunshine is forecast, you never know!

Suitable clothing – Pack clothes to suit all weather conditions. Even if it's baking hot during the day it can get icy cold at night so warm clothes are a must. Don't forget to pack your favourite band T-shirts. Comfy walking shoes are also a great idea.

This might sound like blasphemy, but you could even experiment with a shirt that's got some colour on it! You’ll stand out more in the sea of black shirts, so your mates can find you if you get separated, and in case of baking hot weather, you might not get quite as warm.

Sunglasses – Not just a fashion accessory, shades are crucial to avoid squinting all weekend while watching the plethora of incredible bands.

Fancy dress – This year's fancy dress theme at Download Festival is The Upside Download! The official Download statement reads: "Make Metallica (and Eddie Munson!) proud by donning your best 80's gear – or come as an inhabitant of an alternate dimension… We can't wait to see your costumes!"

Waterproofs – Take a waterproof jacket. Even on sunny days, it might be an idea to carry an emergency ‘cag in a bag’ around with you in case there's a sudden downpour. Plus, when the sun goes down, a waterproof jacket will act as a windcheater and keep the cool night breeze out.

Thick socks – Wellington boot chafage is one of the most common ailments at festivals. Circumnavigate this problem by wearing extra-long, extra-thick socks.

Decent sized bag – You don't really want to be trekking back to the campsite more than you need to so take a small bag to hold any essentials. Bags must be A4 size or under (30cm height x 8cm depth x 21cm width) in order to enter the arena.

Hats – Another multi-purpose festival item, hats hide greasy, straggly hair, help your mates find you in the crowd and also provide a great sunshade. You might also want to invest into a trademark viking helmet too!

Umbrella – These are allowed on the camp site but not the main arena.

Food basics – Some snacks are vital to help you keep those all-important energy levels up. Cereal, biscuit bars and fruit are all great for a quick snack between meals. As always, there will be plenty of stalls on the Download Festival site serving a wide array of food.

Cooking stoves – Select disposable BBQs and permitted cooking stoves are allowed on the camping site. Check the Download Festival website for more information.

Cool bags – Depending on how much grub you’re planning to take to a festival, cool bags will help keep your food fresher for longer. In a baking hot tent, however, cool bags don't stay too cool for long.

Water – Whether you're drinking alcohol or not, it's important to stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day and night! Make sure you always have some water in your tent and regularly top up at water points throughout the weekend.

Alcohol – Attendees over the age of 18 can bring alcohol onto the Download Festival campsites (excessive amounts not allowed), however it's prohibited in the main arena. No glass is allowed on site!

Cups and cutlery – An oft overlooked item, these are always extremely useful if you’re having a cup of tea, alcoholic beverage or some food around the camping area with friends.

Don't bring money – The 2023 event is cashless so don't bother bringing cash. You can pay by card or with apps such as Apple Pay and Google Play.

Mobile phone charger - A portable mobile phone charger is an absolute godsend!

If you don't have one, Download Festival has joined forces with Charge Candy at this year's event. You can hire one of their portable chargers and swap once a day for a full charger. More info here.

Valid ID - At times you may be required to show a valid form of ID whilst at Download; where the event operates a Challenge 21 Policy on site at bars and cigarette stalls.

Download Festival app – Make sure you download the official Download Festival app before you set off for all the latest news, and you can also build your own personalised schedule so you don't miss any of your favourite bands. Make sure you turn notifications on for news about secret sets, special offers and more.

You can find out more information on the Download Festival website.

If you're going to return rock and metal to its rightful home of Donington Park, then it only seems right and proper to get the UK's biggest heavy metal act to kick things off. And kick off they did!

Proving that supergroups still remained a popular draw, this fusion of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and the instrumental wing of Rage Against The Machine transcended their original bands to forge an identity wholly their own.

Promoting their second album, 'Meteora', Linkin Park brought their fusion of heavy metal and rap when they headlined the main stage on the opening night of Download 2004.

Having made "secret" mid-afternoon appearance on the second stage with no soundcheck the previous year, the behemoth that is Metallica took its rightful place at the head of the table. Despite Lars Ulrich being rushed to hospital minutes beforehand, Metallica ploughed on with their set with Slayer's Dave Lombardo, Slipknot's Joey Jordison and their drum technician, Flemming Larsen, filling in for Lars.

So overjoyed was he at Feeder's reception from the crowd, the band's singer-guitarist Grant Nicholls smashed his Fender Jazzmaster. We hate to think what he'd have done if it had gone badly.

The origin of the species, Black Sabbath pretty much invented heavy metal with their eponymous debut album before refining it throughout the 70s. You can call this one a homecoming.

As one of the most important metal bands of the 90s and beyond, System Of A Down are genuine gamechangers and worthy headliners of this celebrated event.

Promoting their fourth album, '10,000 Days', Tool displayed an effortless ability to take the main stage and own it.

Returning to Download for their second headline slot and third appearance overall, Metallica celebrated the 20th anniversary of 'Master Of Puppets' by the playing the album in full. Fortunately Lars was in good health this time around.

After threatening to walk off after bottles were thrown onstage, both band and audience settled in for some hard rocking, with Axl Rose declaring, "I'm actually having quite a good time now! I couldn't have said that an hour ago!"

At arguably the highest point of their career, My Chemical Romance brought 'The Black Parade' to Donington Park.

Riding high on the back of their third album, 'Minutes To Midnight', Linkin Park returned to Donington Park for their second Download headlining set.

With the end in sight for their massive 'A Matter Of Life And Death' tour, Iron Maiden returned to the UK for the first time since the previous December for their second Download headliner.

Playing an epic 20-song set, Kiss brought their spectacular live show to this side of the Atlantic. Though perhaps the less said about Gene Simmons' bass solo, the better.

The only punk band to have headlined the Download festival, The Offspring brought the pogo the headbangers. There's probably a song title there…

Returning for their first live shows in 11 years, Faith No More served to confirm just how much they'd been missed.

Slipknot's first headline appearance at Download would also be their last UK performance with bassist Paul Gray before his death in 2010. Their performance was later released as the live DVD, '(sic) nesses'.

Since emerging from Sheffield as part of the New Wave Of British Metal, Def Leppard have gone on to become one of the biggest bands on the planet. Worthy headliners, indeed…

The only band to have brought their own stage to the Download festival, AC/DC delivered their full stadium show to create one of the most memorable headline sets ever.

Bringing the revolution to Download, Rage Against The Machine detonated in combustible and explosive style just six months after claiming the UK Christmas number one with 'Killing In The Name'.

Headlining a day of torrential rain, classic rock overlords Aerosmith brought a touch of glamour to the otherwise sodden environs of Download.

Having clearly enjoyed themselves just two years earlier, the NWOBHM juggernaut that is Def Leppard returned for their second Download headliner.

SOAD returned for another round of headline action at the Download festival.

Slotted in between the release of 2010's 'A Thousand Suns' and 2012's 'Living Things' album, Linkin Park made their third headlining appearance at Download.

Fusing heavy metal with techno, The Prodigy lit up the Download festival after a wet start forced the cancellation of some acts.

For their third Download headliner, the metal titans that are Metallica elected to play the whole of their 1991 eponymous album – in reverse order.

Despite being treated for cancer, Tony Iommi played as strongly as ever as Black Sabbath went through some of their biggest career highlights including 'War Pigs', 'Children Of The Grave' and 'Paranoid'.

Iowa's masked metallers Slipknot embarked on the The Memorial World Tour in honour of their late bassist Paul Gray, who died in 2010. As the scene of Slipknot's last UK appearance with him, calling in at Download was only right and fitting.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of their first Donington headline slot at Monsters of Rock as part of their 'Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour', the metal institution that is Iron Maiden returned to this hallowed ground.

Does it get any more explosive than Teutonic titans Rammstein? Probably not, and so it be proved as Donington Park ignited in flames.

Hot on the heels of their first transatlantic chart-topping album, 'Hail To The King', Avenged Sevenfold hit Download with the force of a Viking raiding party.

Following in the footsteps of bands such as Metallica revisiting their landmark records, Linkin Park played their debut album, 'Hybrid Theory', in full.

Back for their second Download festival headliner, Aerosmith brought this year's event to a spectacular close.

You can't keep a good band down as Slipknot return for their third Download festival headline slot.

Playing and headlining Download festival for the first time, Muse's frontman Matt Bellamy – a man fond of conspiracy theories and fearful of state surveillance – lashed out the facial recognition software that had been employed the constabulary: "F*** Leicestershire police for scanning your faces!"

Was the police's facial recognition software needed for Kiss? And would they be able to tell the difference between say, Tommy Thayer and Ace Frehley?

It may have been one of the wettest Download festivals ever – perhaps it should have been re-named 'Downpour'? – but Rammstein still managed to bring their explosive live show.

Embarking on their 'The End' farewell tour, Black Sabbath called in for one last time at the home of heavy metal.

Topping the charts on 24 countries with their epic 'Book of Souls' album, Iron Maiden delivered the goods once more at Download.

A third headline appearance for System Of A Down – no mean feat for and that hasn't releases an album since 2005's 'Hypnotize'.

Celebrating their second No. 1 album in the shape of 'Ellipsis', Biffy Clyro headlined Download for the first time.

Aerosmith have got to be doing something right if they've been asked back for their third Download headline appearance.

Dedicating a cover of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' to the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Avenged Sevenfold also played a blistering career-spanning set.

'Epic" doesn't even begin to it as Axl Rose reunited with guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagen for a mammoth three-hour set. And yes, they really did cover Glen Campbell's 'Witchita Lineman'.

Amazingly, it's Ozzy Osbourne's first solo headline slot at Download that sees him delivering the hits and a few dips into the Black Sabbath back catalogue.

Sheffield's prodigal sons topped the line-up for a third time at Download 2019 where they performed their seminal 'Hysteria' album in its glorious entirety, alongside other gems.

A decade on from their first bill-topping performance, Slipknot headlined Download Festival for a fourth time in June 2019 in support of their sixth studio album 'We Are Not Your Kind'

The Los Angeles alternate metallers closed Download Festival 2019 with an audio-visual spectacular!

The one-off Download Pilot line-up featured 40 UK based acts with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Enter Shikari and Bullet For My Valentine headlining. The 10,000 capacity event was held in June 2021 as part of the second phase of the Government's scientific Events Research Programme during the Covid pandemic.

After three long years away, Download Festival returned in June 2022 with KISS topping the bill on the Friday night as part of their End of the Road World Tour. Whether it's their last ever UK show remains to be seen.

The mighty Iron Maiden brought their spectacular Legacy of the Beast World Tour to Donington Park in June 2022. The Saturday night performances marked the fifth time Maiden had headlined Download Festival.

Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro brought Download Festival 2022 with a hit-packed set in front of a sparsely-packed field.

Taking place over four days for the very first time, the 20th anniversary of Download Festival in 2023 is headlined by Metallica (twice), Bring Me The Horizon and Slipknot.

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A good-sized tent Tent pegs and poles Gazebos Torch Camping chair Air bed Warm sleeping bag Travel towel A trolley Toilet roll Hand sanitizer Wet wipes Dry shampoo Shower gel and shampoo Bin bags Travel mirror Sun lotion Medication Plasters Rehydration products Wellies Suitable clothing Sunglasses Fancy dress Waterproofs Thick socks Decent sized bag – Hats Umbrella Food basics Cooking stoves Cool bags Water Alcohol Cups and cutlery Don't bring money Mobile phone charger Valid ID Download Festival app