Wading Through Wacken: Minimal Packing for a European Metal Festival

Walking through ankle-deep mud in the rain while carrying your belongings on your back will make anyone a minimalist…

 

I was fortunate to attend Wacken Open Air in Germany last summer, and then followed the festival with a few days on the Baltic Sea to rest and recover. With just a 22L back pack, I thought I packed smart, but every trip is a learning experience.

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This post outlines what I brought to Germany, along with explanation and reflection. Note that we camped at Wacken for four days and rented a tent and sleeping bags that were set up for us when we arrived.

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Most Important Items

  • Rain Boots
  • Hoodie
  • Hat
  • Purse/hip bag
  • Ear plugs
  • Rain poncho
  • Container for water
  • Cash
  • Phone

These are the things I used every day at the festival. Since the boots were large and difficult to pack, I wore them while traveling. Besides my passport and tickets, they were my most valued item at Wacken. If you go to Wacken, wear boots! They kept my feet dry, protected, and happy.

As a fair-skinned person who burns easily, a hat was a must. I wore it anytime the sun was out. Weather at Wacken in August varies quite a bit. It can be sunny at one moment and then quickly turn to heavy rain. I felt hot while standing in open fields in the sun, but when the clouds rolled in or the sun set it was cold and I was happy to have a hoodie. I used the poncho provided at the festival. It wasn’t just useful for the rain, it was also a second layer for warmth and something to put between me and the mud when I needed to rest my feet.

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I carried a small cross-body purse that I could convert into a hip bag, which was the only kind of bag allowed into the event area. In the bag, I carried the poncho, earplugs, cash, wipes, and my phone (for the camera). I kept euros for food, drink, and merch. I clipped the Wacken “canteen” to a belt loop on my shorts or skirt and filled it at the water stations.

  • Tickets
  • Passport
  • Phone charger
  • Outlet converter

I didn’t carry these items with me. Once we checked in, we received wrist bracelets so we no longer needed the tickets. We rented a locker at the festival where we locked up our passports, extra cash, and items we purchased to bring home. The locker had an outlet where we charged our phones.

Clothing/Shoes

  • 2 Shorts
  • 2 Skirts
  • 2 Leggings
  • 3 T-shirts (+ 1 purchased at the festival)
  • 2 Tank tops
  • 2 Long-sleeved Shirts
  • Underwear
  • 4 Socks
  • Boots
  • Sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Sarong

Next time I’ll bring less. We planned to wash laundry mid-trip after we left Wacken, but I didn’t need to. I wore the same few items of clothing between the time I left home and when the festival ended one week later: three t-shirts, one pair of leggings, one skirt, one pair of shorts, four pairs of socks, a hoodie, and boots. I could have gotten by with even less. Here’s the thing about Wacken, it’s dirty. As soon as you put on a clean item of clothing, it gets splattered with mud or covered in beer. It seemed pointless to change into clean clothes that would be dirty again in minutes. If you want to freshen things up, you can hang items on your tent to dry or air out like we did, but don’t worry too much about the dirt.

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I suggest that you bring clothing that is multi-functional, can be layered, and that will dry quickly. A tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, and hoodie can be used all together on cold nights, or you can wear each of those items on its own when it’s warmer. I personally like a skirt and leggings for the same reason. You could do the same with shorts over leggings.  Leave the jeans at home! They’re heavy, and they NEVER DRY. Oh, and remember that if you plan to buy t-shirts at the festival, you don’t need to bring any from home.

I never used the bathing suit or sarong at Wacken, nor at the sea since I swam at the clothing optional beach. I also didn’t wear my sandals at Wacken, but I did use them elsewhere while in Germany.

Hygiene Items

  • Toothbrush
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Comb
  • Hair ties/clips
  • Nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Razor
  • Travel towel
  • Wipes

Everything was travel sized and useful. I brought a half package of wipes in a small Ziploc bag. I used them to clean my hands after using portable toilets and before eating, and as a replacement for missing toilet paper. I also used them to wipe off the mud, sweat, and beer at the end of the day.

Other Items

  • Ear buds
  • Plastic bag
  • Zip lock bag
  • Trash bag

I used the ear buds to listen to music on my phone while traveling on planes and trains. The plastic bag contained the dirty laundry in my pack. The Ziploc bag was intended to protect my phone from rain and water. I didn’t use it. The poncho covered both me and my bag, so the phone was protected well enough. I brought the trash bag to protect my pack from rain while it sat in the tent. I didn’t know how waterproof the tent would be and was concerned that after a fun day I’d return to my tent to find all my belongings sitting in a big puddle. That wasn’t the case so I didn’t need it.  2016-08-03-21-31-07

What Did I Wish I Had Packed?

Two items… sweat pants and a sleeping pad, and maybe heavier socks. I was surprised how much colder the summer nights are in northern Germany than in New York. Even curled up in a sleeping bag in a tent, it was chilly. The ground was damp and cold. After the first night, we walked into town to purchase sleeping pads and I also purchased a pair of sweats. Next time, I’ll replace one pair of leggings with a heavier pair of warmer pants, and I’ll bring something to put between my body and the ground.

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 What I Learned

  • Pack light, you probably only need one of each item. Leave “just-in-case” items at home. They have everything there that we have here. If you do happen to need something that you didn’t bring, you’ll find it at the festival or at the shops in town.
  • There’s not much time for sleep, but earplugs are just as useful for getting some sleep in your tent as they are for protecting your ears at the barrier. The parties never end in the camping area.
  • The food is yummy. It further reinforced my suspicion that food in Europe is just better.
  • Prepare yourself… the portable toilets get gross.

Embrace the mud… the rain… the filth. It’s all part of the experience. There’s nothing like watching your favorite bands with 80,000 of your closest metal friends!

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