Top tips for festival life with an ostomy
My name is Gabi and I’ve had my ileostomy for six years. This year I headed to Glastonbury for the first time and my first big festival with a stoma. In this blog post I’ve put together some of the things I’ve learnt along the way and some top tips to make sure everyone can have the best festival experience.
In the six years I’ve had my ostomy we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well, and it’s not often new situations arise. That was until I decided to head to Glastonbury. I’ve been to various day festivals and outdoor events since having my ostomy, but festival camping for multiple days with a stoma was new to me.
Initially I didn’t give it a second thought. I was swept up in the excitement of getting tickets, and the prospect of going to one of the most famous festivals in the world. But as Glasto drew nearer butterflies started to fly, and I was racking my brain about how I would live in a field for a week with my ostomy. I don’t let my ostomy hold me back and I want to live life to the full regardless of my bag, but I knew I’d have to do a little bit of prep to ensure I could dance the night away.
Below are some of the things I learnt along the way and some top tips to make sure you have the best time possible!
Let’s talk toilets!
A few months before the festival I popped the Glastonbury team an email to ask about accessible toilet options. As an able-bodied person I knew I didn’t need full accessibility pass, however I thought the disabled toilets would be a great option if possible.
The set up and provision for disabled access toilets was brilliant! They sent me a special wristband in advance and a code for every disabled toilet onsite. I didn’t have to queue for hours and they were usually stocked with toilet roll; as well as being much larger and much cleaner. The lack of queues reduced my anxieties and the cleanliness is always a bonus! I discovered the accessible toilets were everywhere; even at the stages, meaning I didn’t have to squeeze out of the crowd or trek long distances to get to the loo. Some were stewarded but with a quick flash of the wristband and they let me straight through!
On two occasions I used the typical festival toilets: Long drop (open air toilets) and compost toilet (supplied by http://naturalevent.co.uk) options. The compostable toilet was fine, but the long drops made me feel a little uncomfortable because they didn’t offer much privacy.
Reaching out to the festival was the best thing I did and made my experience much more relaxing.
Think through what you’re gonna wear
If you’re anything like me you’ll spend a lot of time planning your outfits well in advance of the festival. From dress up ideas, to purchasing every sequinned item you can find; festival dressing is so much fun and nothing is off limits. However, with an ostomy, what you wear can make a big different to your enjoyment on the day.
I opted for dresses every day because they allow easy access to empty the bag, no matter the situation. I wore high-waisted undies and a pair of cycle shorts for extra security and comfort. You’ll be in these clothes all day, so it’s best to go for things that are comfortable, don’t restrict the bag and make you feel secure. You can look on point as well as confident and happy, it just takes planning.
Drink all the water
Glastonbury 2019 was one of the hottest on record and staying hydrated was a challenge for everyone; let alone an ostomate. Take a water bottle with you that you can easily refill throughout the day. I spotted water bottles you can clip on, which would be perfect for ensuring you had free hands for full dancing opportunity.
Take extra disposable black bags
My ostomy isn’t particularly high output but I regularly empty the bag once at night. When you add that with weird eating and sleeping times, I was apprehensive about having to trek to the toilets in the dark to empty the bag every night. Instead, I emptied the bag into disposable black waste bags at night and threw them away in the morning; like you would do with a nappy. This is dependent on your camping situation and if you’re sharing a tent with other people it might not be the best option, but it meant I could quickly empty her when needed and catch as much sleep as I could get.
Camp in a tent which you can at least sit up in
With the above plan in place, and changing the bag itself, I was lucky to have a tent I could sit up or kneel in. Some pop-up or smaller 1-man tents are tiny, which would’ve made things a lot trickier! It’s not something I thought of but is definitely something to consider when picking out your home for the week.
Bumbags are your friend
I filled mine with all the supplies a gal could need. Tissues and anti-bac hand gel were staples but I also put together a mini ostomy survival kit; should I get caught out too far from my tent. I had all the essentials: A pre-cut bag and ring, black disposable bag, adhesive remover wipe and some softer dry wipes. Although I never had to use them, it gave me peace of mind knowing they were there 24/7 if I needed them. Unlike a rucksack or shoulder bag, a bumbag freed me up for all the dancing and worked as a nifty little prop to hide my ostomy bag when she would fill up; giving me time to get to the loo.
Overall the festival experience was a massive success. I think putting the time in to prep before hand made a big difference, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Having an ostomy may mean you need to think through your experience a bit more before hand and plan ahead but should never put you off attending and enjoying it to the absolute fullest.
Follow Gabi on instagram @gabicox12