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Wellies or walking boots? That’s a question that almost every single festivalgoer asks themselves at some point if they’ve ever been to a British music festival.
It’s a few days before your next festival and you’ve probably been checking the weather forecast. You’ve now checked the BBC, the Met Office and Google weather and found the most preferable one which you will treat as gospel truth and ignore all the others. If there’s even a 50% chance of rain, you’ll start asking yourself if your wellies are necessary.
The answer is probably yes. Yes, wellies are probably going to be necessary. But, whether you actually need to wear your wellies depends on a lot of different things that you won’t know until you get there. The general (and sensible) advice is to take your wellies to a festival just in case you need them. With a bit of luck, they won’t have to leave your tent. If you’re very unlucky with the weather and mud, you’ll have to endure wearing wellies for the duration of the festival.
Why Does it Matter?
The weather leading up the festival, current ground conditions, drainage, vehicles and people can all have an effect on just how muddy a festival site can end up. Wearing walking boots on day 1 could mean you’ll be in wellies by day 4.
Wellies suck because they’re sweaty, hot and not very breathable. They rub and chafe your calves and feet. You have to wear long, thick socks under them in July and just generally urgh. They also get sucked into deep mud making it difficult to walk around too.
On the other hand, when the mud is calf-deep and more rain is forecast, then they’re absolutely necessary.
Walking boots hold up pretty well in light rain and mud. If the mud is slippery but not deep, then walking boots actually do better than wellies. Walking boots are also more comfortable, cushioned and breathable. They’re designed for walking miles and miles, which is prefect for a festival.
Let’s have a look in more detail at some of the things you need to consider when choosing festival footwear. I’ve personally been to festivals for over 12 years now, I’ve battled the elements and enjoyed the sunshine. Yet, there’s always a pair of wellies in my car, ever since Glastonbury 2005.
The Ground Conditions
When it rains on a field, mud doesn’t instantly appear. People walking and driving vehicles over the ground churns it up and what results is mud.
In warm, humid weather, the mud dried quickly and becomes like setting clay. This is the type of mud that neither wellies nor walking boots are your friend (but wellies will be the answer if you want to stay dry).
This quicksand mud is often present at Glastonbury. It’s made worse by thousands of people stomping through it constantly and beers cans amongst other bits of litter become compacted into the ground. Lovely.
If it’s persistently wet and damp, then the water pools into puddles and any ditches or dips in the ground become invisible, presenting their own dangers.
Honestly, wet mud is preferable over drying mud. However, wet mud is more slippery.
Wellies tend to slip around more whereas walking boots have a better grip. Walking boots will only protect you below the ankle, so anything deeper than ankle mud needs wellies, I’m afraid.
If you’ve never been to a festival before and have no idea what to expect in muddy conditions, this video demonstrates how deep and awkward the mud can be! This is a pretty extreme example, but it was only a few years ago and it was one of the muddiest festivals on record!
Weather and Location
The weather in the weeks before the festival is just as important! Also, the festival’s exact location matters.
Low-lying fields tend to become water-logged where there’s nowhere for the water to drain.
Festivals situated in rolling hills (most of them) tend to have areas where the water runs away to.
It’s possible for little streams to form during periods of heavy rain – streams that weren’t there before. All you can hope for it that your tent won’t be in its path!
If it’s been relatively dry for a week before the festival, then some light rain will be harmless.
At Glastonbury 2016, it rained for 3 weeks leading up to the festival. The festival itself was a mixture of rain and sunshine, but the torrential downpours that happened before the festival had a huge impact.
It was one of the muddiest Glastonbury’s on record. There was no way any pairs of walking boots survived past day one. I remember arriving and thinking that i had never seen so much mud and that it couldn’t get worse. Then, it rained. Several heavy showers later and I learned the true meaning of a quagmire.
The South Coast of England, however, is on top of Limestone. You’re not here for a geology lesson, but the water drains a lot better there and festival sites still get a muddy with all the footfall, but certainly not Glastonbury-esque.
So, Wellies or Walking boots?
Prepare for welly weather. Hope for boots weather.
You need to bring a pair of wellies in case you’re stuck. You can’t wear soggy walking boots for the remaining days if they get engulfed in a puddle or you’re forced to walk through sticky, deep, clay-like mud.
You’ll be able to buy wellies at any festival. At particularly muddy affairs, such as Glastonbury or Download 2016, wellies for sale were like gold dust. Stalls were hiking up the prices after the looks on people’s faces at all the mud.
Be prepared. Bring your wellies.
At least if you bring your own, you get a choice rather than being stuck with the last pair for sale from a vendor who probably bought 1000 pairs from China at £3 each. They will cost you £40, though.
Amazon have loads of plain, patterned and brightly coloured wellies for your to choose from. You don’t have to buy Hunter Wellies, even though this is the ‘go-to’ brand for festival first-timers. Someone, sometime probably told you that Hunter Wellies are the best, well that’s up to you. But, wellies are wellies and they serve a purpose. If you don’t have a large budget to buy festival wellies that you only maybe need for a few days, then it’s fine to buy yourself a cheap pair and they will do exactly the same job as an expensive pair.
Don’t forget socks for your wellies to prevent chafing on your legs!
When it comes to walking boots, you should wear them for a few weeks before the festival to break them in.
You can treat them with waterproof treatment for extra water resistance, or try gaitors to protect your lowers legs because walking boots don’t come up as high as wellies.
Festival Footwear checklist
- Walking boots
- Time to break in your walking boots (if they’re new)
- Thick socks
- Welly socks
- Blister plasters (Compeed)
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