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Festival smartphone survival guide & essential gadgets 2018

Heading to Glastonbury next weekend, or have another festival planned this year? Here's how to stay connected and keep your gadgets safe

You’ve dug out your tent from the shed to find all the pegs are missing, can’t decide whether to pack sun cream or Wellington boots, and bought more alcohol than one person can possibly carry, let alone consume; it can only mean one thing – festival season is well and truly kicking off. If you’re anything like us, you’ll love seeing live bands, catching up with friends and drinking copious amounts of authentic West Country cider, but you won’t enjoy being separated from your gadgets.

That’s why we’ve put together this helpful festival survival guide; follow our advice and you’ll be able to enjoy the music while staying connected to the outside world.

Phone Battery Bar header

The one gadget almost all festival goers simply can’t leave at home is a smartphone. Perfect for finding friends when you’re separated by tens of thousands of people, checking the official festival app for band stage times or placing a marker to help find your tent after a full day of partying, a phone is your lifeline when you’re stuck in a field. Without somewhere to plug your in, however, you won’t get far.

Smartphones are notorious for battery life that can barely see out a day, let alone four or five, but there are several steps you can take to keep them alive while you’re away from the mains.

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Most importantly, don’t drain your battery on the way TO the festival. Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter might be addictive, but your vault dwellers will survive by themselves and you’ll appreciate having a full charge once you’ve set up your tent. It’s also a good idea to switch off Wi-Fi and mobile data, only switching them on when you’re trying to get in contact with friends. Finally, lower your brightness settings as much as possible, but remember you’ll still need to be able to read the screen (possibly through sunglasses) when that important WhatsApp message comes through.

More UK festivals than ever are sponsored by mobile phone networks, so there’s a good chance there will be an official charging tent where you can leave your phone while it receives a much-needed power boost. EE will be back at Glastonbury for a third year running, with two Power Bar exchange points for customers to swap out their drained EE portable chargers for fully topped up ones. Vodafone has been a consistent presence at Download for several years too, with a charging station free for anyone on the network to use, although customers on other providers had to pay a small fee. Each time you took in a phone, your details were recorded, a photo was taken and you were given a barcode-tagged wristband to make sure no-one else could walk off with the wrong device.

If you have a smartphone that can’t last more than a day on a single charge, check if the festival you’re attending has a similar stand. If it does but you aren’t on the right network, it may be cheaper to buy a pay as you go SIM card before you leave; naturally this will only work with SIM unlocked phones, so if yours is locked you’ll have to pay. It’s a much better option than leaving your phone with a street vendor or festival shop.

Don’t expect the mobile phone signal to be infallible, as very few festivals are held in the heart of civilisation. More mobile phone providers are installing temporary masts to boot signal strength, but with so many people in one place it can still take up to several hours for a text message to go through. If you need to get in contact with someone urgently, it’s probably better to call them.

It’s inevitable that you’ll run out of battery eventually, especially if your phone is also your camera, internet and MP3 player. iPhone owners could invest in a battery case that can add a much-needed power boost when reserves run low. Two of the most popular are the Mophie JuicePack Air (£90 from Mobile Fun) and the CasePower “EDGE” Powercase (£60 from Casehut). Both should charge an iPhone 6 from flat, or double your battery life if you use it while the phone is switched on.

Things aren’t quite so easy if you don’t have an iPhone, as there are fewer battery cases available for Android and Windows Phone handsets. However, there are plenty of portable battery packs available that can charge any gadget with a USB port. If you aren’t on EE (meaning you can’t claim a free Power Bar), the next best thing is Samsung’s mammoth 9,000mAh portable charger (£60 from Mobile Fun). It has two USB ports for charging two devices at once, but if you only plan on using it for one phone you should get up to six full charges out of it. Solar chargers are an option too, but you’ll have better luck with these at foreign festivals – you can’t guarantee enough sunshine to refuel your tech in the UK.

Other than the regimental timing required to see all your favourite bands, your main adversary will probably be the weather. The British summertime is notoriously variable during festival season, so it makes sense to be prepared for all eventualities. Mobile phones and digital cameras won’t survive if you get drenched, so it might be a good idea to invest in a waterproof case. In the past we’ve used Overboard’s range of waterproof camera and phone cases (starting at £16 from Firebox) which completely seal your devices away from the elements, but let you use phone touchscreens through the case material – saving you from removing it every time you want to send a text or make a call. The Naztech Vault, meanwhile (£45 from casehut) fits an iPhone 6 a little more snugly and is built to protect against drops and shocks as well as water. It’s even TouchID compatible, so you can unlock your phone with a fingerprint through the case.

If you want to keep the party going back at your tent, but don’t want to drain your smartphone’s battery by pumping out Spotify playlists, you could bring a portable Bluetooth speaker that also acts as a power bank. We’re massive fans of Samsung’s DA-F60, which has a USB port in the back to share power with your smartphone while it’s playing music, but not everyone wants to take a £250 speaker with them to a festival – the Native Union Switch (£65 from Amazon) and Braven’s Lux portable wireless speaker (£90 from Casehut) both have internal batteries that can be shared with a phone and cost considerably less.

Finally, if you take any expensive gadgets with you to a festival, make sure to keep them safe. Check they are covered by your insurance, don’t leave them unattended in your tent and make sure to put a password lock on your smartphone. This way, if the worst does happen and your phone gets lost or stolen, the information stored on it is still protected.