Ali Ryland provides tips and advice on how to thrive as a vegan at a music festival.
Heading to festivals nearly every weekend of the summer is second nature when you work as a music journalist. My mates may have chimed "lucky!" but frankly, it was exhausting. Thankfully it was not because of a lack of vegan food or amenities. After all this time, as you may have guessed, I’ve picked up a few things about being vegan at a festival – here they are.
1) Research what vegan drinks to take
It is imperative that you check the rules regarding glass at your festival, otherwise you could end up attempting to drink a crate or two of bottled beer outside the gates like the poor sods I see every year. For the non-teetotallers, The Vegan Society’s Trademark search is perfect for finding beer, cider and boxes of wine, while Barnivore is another boon to the vegan party-goer. Pro-tip: bring some easily packable super-concentrated squash* to fruit-up your water... or your cider.
Juice packs are also a good way to go, as are vegan energy drinks like Red Bull*, XL or various off-brand knock-offs – you’ll need that B12 most likely! Note: the taurine used in energy drinks is by and large synthetic, meaning the majority of energy drinks tend to be vegan.
2) Remember to pack other vegan essentials
It’s not all about the booze. Wipes, dry shampoo, and deodorant are key when spending a long sweaty weekend in a cramped tent with dubious washing facilities, and the Vegan Trademark has registered exactly these products all over the world. For those based in the UK, check out the Co-operative’s vegan label on their toiletries, while Sainsbury’s own-brand wipes and deodorant are also vegan-friendly*. You may be happy to learn that well-known dry shampoo brand Batiste* is similarly suitable for us.
3) Wear suitable vegan footwear
Many forget that even a bit of rain can turn a field into a mud-mire, so bring your wellies people! Kamik's* durable yet stylish vegan wellies are available across the world, while Vegan Line sell wellington boots across Europe. Wellies may not be a must for festivals in dry climates, but you should still wear comfortable walking boots to support your ankles and protect you from, er, fecal overflows. Check out Vegan Store and Vegetarian Shoes for such boots.
4) Take the right luggage
At Glastonbury 2015 I saw one straw-hat reveller huff and puff as he lifted a 2-wheel suitcase bigger than me off the train at Castle Cary – only to drop it hard onto the unforgiving pavement, where the wheels proceeded to break. Provided you don’t have back trouble, I’d say it’s vital to carry a rucksack to avoid such mishaps. Rucksacks also don’t fail you if there’s a build-up of mud, stones or dust. Vegan company Freerangers sport a fashionable cork rucksack, but if you’re after something more heavy duty never fear; hiking rucksacks these days tent to be made completely from synthetic materials. Just shoot an email off to the distributor to check.
5) Bring long-lasting festival food
VBites sausages are a must for me at festivals. Not only can you tuck into them straight out of the packet, but they’re readily available at Holland and Barrett’s across the UK. Pack a pre-sliced loaf of bread, a plastic knife and some ketchup and you’ve got the perfect lunch or dinner. If you don’t have them in your country, how about vegan-friendly sandwich slices*, a tube of vegan-friendly pâté*, or pre-marinated ready to eat tofu*?
I also like to bring peanut butter (or another nut butter) along with crisps to make extra-crunchy crisp sandwiches while I’m there. For a healthier option, switch cucumber for the crisps, but beware cucumber’s perishing nature.
Meanwhile, nuts and dried fruit provide quick boosts of energy (try Munchy Seeds for vegan powers!) while cereal bars like Nakd*, Get Fruity Bar, Creative Nature and Trek* are great for sticking in your pocket to munch while stuck in the crush at the front of a stage.
Lastly, utilise products that you just need to add hot water to, like Miso on the Go (its salt and B vitamins make it perfect for banishing hangovers) pasta cups and pot noodles – supermarkets like Sainsbury’s produce vegan versions of all of these. You only need to ask a kindly caterer to fill them up with hot water for you.
If you can’t survive without your hummus fix for one weekend, at least avoid leaving it in the sun: gone-off hummus has been known to give unsuspecting festival goers food poisoning.
6) Find a food van that will cater for you
If you can’t be bothered lugging all that food to the site, then food vans may be your only option. Luckily, there are many vegetarian and vegan vendors patronising festivals these days, particularly the ‘hippier’ events. But if there isn’t, don’t panic. East Asian vendors often have one vegan meal even if it’s not labelled, while many Mexican-style eateries often offer a vegan chili. While I have never had any issues with these food vendors, it’s always nice to head to festivals that cater for us so meticulously that it’s worth going just for the food. You can tell which festivals are on-track if they contain one of the following vendors…
Ali’s top 5 festival food vendors
If you’re ever lucky enough to be at a festival when these food vans are around, forget your own food and be prepared to binge.
Veggies Catering Campaign
Our 100% vegan Trademark holders Veggies not only provide ace tofu spanakopita with a side order of cake, they also tend to stay open until the very wee hours of the morning. Hemp burgers at 3am anyone?
Wide Awake Café
While this ambient café serves dairy milk and cheese, Wide Awake also provides their vegan alternatives along with an amazing mix of vegan main meals, including wraps, hot dogs, pasta, nachos and more. I frequented this travelling field kitchen so much at Boomtown Fair last year they even let me off the few quid I didn’t quite have in order to pay for a vegan chorizo wrap.
On the Monday of Glastonbury this year, gingerly stroking a head newly shaved by the inhabitants of the Squat Party, I tottered over to international vegan caterers Manic Organic (thankfully still open) for the healthy breakfast option. This protein-packed combo of sosmix, lentils, chickpeas and veg along with patatas bravas and a good wedge of bread can be washed down with a green smoothie.
Goodness Gracious Healthy Foods
All of Goodness Gracious' burgers are vegan and I have to say – the best I have ever eaten. Particularly when combined with fresh salad and help-yourself pots of vegan mayo. I wish these could be bought commercially, as they could give other burgers on the market a run for their money.
Teatime Collective do similarly fab burgers with the added bonus of Vegusto cheese as topping, and breakfast with all the scrambled tofu trimmings (which I never seemed to be up in time for). Unlike the rest of the list, Teatime unfortunately do not attend many major festivals, but you can catch them at Common Ground Music Festival (formerly known as Dirty Weekend Festival) or at their café in Manchester.
*Indicates a product which is not Vegan Trademarked. While the company has said the product is vegan and not animal tested, The Vegan Society cannot verify if it is vegan unless the product registers with the Vegan Trademark.
By Ali Ryland
When not working at The Vegan Society, Ali can still be found enjoying music while living the quintessential British festival experience.
Did you know you can get 10% off Holland and Barrett’s when you become a member of The Vegan Society? Join now to get your cheap festival food in!
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.