How to Camp in the SCA
Written by Doña Perin de la Serena, Lady Cynneburga Thorisdohter, and HL Carys Concernu
PREPARATION FOR EVENTS, PACKING, SURVIVAL SKILLS, AND REMEMBERING TO HAVE FUN.
I love waking up in the morning to the sound of drums, the smell of camp smoke and banners flying in the breeze with the Atenveldt sun shining through. As I strap on armor and head to the field I feel like I am part of something greater, something that can actually bring the magic of another age to life.
It wasn’t always like this. My first event morning was more a jumble of the sun being too bright, the drums too loud, and being cold and sore from a night sleeping on the ground. The enjoyment of your event can be greatly affected by proper preparation, packing, and knowing some of the tips and tricks of those folks who smile and sip coffee while knocking on your tent asking if you are going to make muster.
PREPARATION FOR EVENTS
It is a good idea to start preparing for events well in advance of the event. Write your list (a sample is on the back page) and evaluate what you are lacking. There is a wealth of options and resources for getting to the event with everything you need.
- Chatelaine and other official resources
- Renting or borrowing
- Pooling resources
- Making and acquiring
It is not reasonable to expect that you will be able to make everything you need for your first event, nor is it necessary. Start with the local Chatelaine—this is an office within the SCA dedicated to helping those new to the SCA by providing resources and information. It is sometimes called the Gold Key office or Hospitaler and you can find contact information by searching at: http://sca.org/officers/chatelain/
You can contact the Twin Moons Chatelaine at Chatelaine@BaronyOfTwinMoons.org
Or, use a search engine with the name of the nearest city plus SCA to find the local group’s web page and look there for Chatelaine contact information. You can make arrangements to borrow loaner clothes and sometimes they may have other things you can borrow or may host a Newcomer’s encampment. To borrow clothes, contact the office at least 2 weeks in advance. For camping, you want to contact the Chatelaine as soon as possible, since some events need numbers months in advance, and many groups will make plans involving setup, meals, and supplies a month in advance.
Renting or borrowing:
If you are a student or military, you are in luck! Many universities/ bases offer camping equipment rentals through their Recreation services. Most are incredibly well priced. Also, look around at nearby camping/hiking stores. You may be able to rent a tent, sleeping bag, and cot or sleeping mat. Finally, ask family, friends and neighbors if they have camping equipment you can borrow. Be prepared to tell some stories about war in exchange. Who knows, you might get them to join you next time.
The SCA can be a great community for sharing resources, work, and ideas. Even if you don’t belong to a household, it can be great fun to camp with people whose company you enjoy. Ask around. If you are willing to share the work and pay for your food and shared resources like ice and firewood, most groups will be happy to have you. This way, you don’t have to worry about fitting everything in a small car and there is another set of hands to help set up and do the occasional bit of dishes. Or, if you know of others who are camping solo, make arrangements to split some items for communal use. For instance, one person brings supplies to wash dishes whilst your neighbor brings the stove.
This also works when you get to site. If you need to borrow a broom, hammer, or lighter—ask your neighbor. If you need to move, say if you discover rain puddles under your tent, ask! Your Baron and Baroness and friends can find you space when need arises. In return, be a good neighbor by reading the site rules in the gate book and remembering that courtesy goes a long way (more on that in the survival section).
Making and acquiring:
In the long run, this is the most rewarding option. There is nothing like sitting around a fire with your friends on comfortable stools and benches while mead is warming. A period camp is incredibly cool, but keep in mind that it takes years of building and planning in addition to a trailer to haul it to war. Give yourself plenty of time for projects and critically evaluate your packing list for things you need immediately and can afford. It is best not to spend too much in case you aren’t interested in SCA camping in the long-term.
One of the first things you will want to do is go thrift store hunting. Do some basic research on your persona and what sort of things they had during that period so you know what you are looking for. If you can, take someone who has that knowledge with you. Then, go looking for items like feast gear, lanterns, tents and chairs, boots and belts, and tools. Other good places to look include military surplus stores, classified ads/Craigslist, and garage sales. Keep you eyes open, you never know when Target will have a sale on wooden bowls or you’ll pull the perfect Viking metal chair frame out of the garbage.
WAR SURVIVAL TIPS AND TRICKS
Write your packing list in advance and use the time to get the items you are missing.
- Set up your tent and waterproof. Make sure all of the poles, ropes and stakes are present and do any repairs.
- Figure out who you are camping with, and learn the heraldry. Often it will be on display, and you can use that to find your spot or get directions from others.
- Pre registration can make the process of entering site very low pressure. Many of the larger events will have a website with more information about this. Expect ACCEPS (the service that accepts credit cards for site fee and allows for pre-registration) to close 1-2 weeks before the event.
- Check the weather within 3 days of the event (the day before you leave is best, since all forecasts farther out than that are model driven and are less reliable). http://www.nws.noaa.gov Be realistic, if it looks like it will be cold and rainy, go ahead and pack a rain poncho and those waterproof modern boots. Everyone would rather see you having a good time wearing a wool sweater and combat boots than freezing in a thin cloak and getting your slippers stuck in the mud.
Pack in reverse; your tent goes on top. You will want to remove your tent and set it up before you get out your bedding. Your pillow may end up in the dirt if you don’t, which is a very bad thing.
- Use ways to keep things dry. Plastic bins with lids kept on are great for this. Also, it gives you a small surface for putting things. Use zip lock bags for wet clothes, and pack dry emergency socks in a zip lock bag. Consider leaving a set of modern clothes in the car. Packing matches, fire starter material, and small bag of charcoal in a sealed plastic bag is good too that way no matter how bad it rains you will be able to start a fire after the storm.
- Stage things and give yourself plenty of time to walk through and see what you missed while packing.
- Packing can be like Tetris. Know your space, use heavy flat items as your base, and learn some strapping basics. Use a tarp or something large to keep items from flying out. Be smart and vigilant. Check for items sliding or shifting after traveling part of the distance. If you are nervous, caravanning with others can be a good way to have someone check your load for you and watch it on the way.
- Learn to adequately and correctly lash down your load. Do not exceed the wide load maximum and anything projecting over 4 feet beyond the edge of your truck or trailer needs a red flag at least 18” square. (Arizona Revised Statutes §28-935). Remember that it takes very little effort to crush things with a ratchet strap, and that ropes and knots can do the job equally well. Knowing a few good knots can help keep your load safe all the way from home to camp and home again, and can also come in really handy at the camp-site. And, they’re period!
and for the advanced…
Arriving at site:
Hopefully, you have made arrangements for camping space. It is useful to know who in the group will be arriving first and where they are getting space. At the Front Gate (Troll), there may be a map of the site layout. There is usually group information written on the map with dry erase maker to help you find your camp. You can ask someone there to point out where your group is, the roads to take to get there, and how to find parking afterwards.
Setting up camp:
Check with the person coordinating the space to find out where to put your tent. Encampments can also be like Tetris in order to maximize the amount of communal space, and often the camp will be drawn out on graph paper or laid out before everything is erected to ensure the best fit. When you have your area, clear it of debris and check for signs of gopher holes, hostile ants, etc. Bring up issues with the camp coordinator if you need a different space. Use a shovel or rake to clear and level the space if needed. Some sites, such as agricultural fields, may have restrictions on leveling or ditches, so check the site rules. Consider digging a small trench to divert water if weather and the lay of the land conspire to flood your tent. Check for sources of shade and morning sun orientation. Sometimes camping in the shade of a large pavilion can enable you to sleep in. Look at the pathways and align your door accordingly. Also make sure you let the coordinator know ahead of time if you like to be in a quiet area of the encampment or if you have pets or kids that are loud at times. That way everyone can enjoy the event.
When setting up, the number one rule is; get off the ground. This is because cold and wet travels much faster through the ground than through air. A foam pad, a cot, and beds are great ways to do this. I have never met an air mattress that hasn’t failed at an inopportune time. Put a layer of carpet, tarp or blanket between the foam and the ground (foam=sponge) and between your air layer and you.
Items on the ground are subject to the same issues with getting wet. Keep clothing in bins or drawers. Hanging can cause the clothes to press against the side of the tent and wick in water, but is great in dry weather. A layer of tarp and/or carpet will keep things cleaner and is much nicer for walking on. Try to keep coolers in the shade and keep a flashlight or lamp somewhere you can find it in the dark.
Missing meals or eating junk food can leave you feeling run-down, achy and tired, and less able to enjoy yourself. Try to plan healthy meals that don’t require so much work that you are tempted to just skip them instead.
- Caffeine is a harsh mistress. If you intake caffeine on a normal basis, bring what you need to make coffee or tea. On a related note, an event is a poor time to drastically change your intake of anything. Bring your medications, don’t over-indulge in food you are sensitive too, and party within your limits. Increase your water intake since you sweat more being outside.
- Sniff check your food for spoilage, wash hands before eating or preparing food, and be sure to cook thoroughly. Bring hand sanitizer, and bleach and rinse coolers and water jugs before filling for war. Keeping coolers out of the sun, freeze items such as stew, and limit the amount of time food is out and coolers are open to help keep food from spoiling.
- Have something easily accessible for snacking such as a protein bar, shake or healthy comfort food. If you are doing a lot of fighting or walking, remember to keep an adequate calorie intake.
More on clothing:
One of the first lessons you will learn about life in the Middle Ages is the glory that is natural fibers! Linen and light weight wool will wick away sweat and as air moves through the weave, it will provide natural swamp cooling. Cotton has a similar effect, although not as effective. Heavier wool will wick away moisture…and keep it. A layer of wool or fur will keep air from passing through and trap your body heat. Metal will transfer cold and heat, leather is always hot, and silk will keep you warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot, although that is dependent on the weight of the material.
- Keep in mind that everything you wear will be subjected to dust, smoke, spilled food or drink, and possibly multiple wears. Clothes that will stand up to years of hard wear and can be washed in the machine are ideal.
- Pack a coif, a sun hat, and a warm hat. During the day, hats will provide shade. Shade keeps you cool and less sunburned. A coif will wick away sweat and cool you as it evaporates. Also, everyone is covered in dirt, overdue for a shampoo, and hasn’t seen a blow dryer or product for days—but with a coif, veil or turban, you don’t have to know that. At night, hats are essential for keeping warm. Most body heat escapes from your head, followed by your feet, so these are the most important areas for keeping warm. A hat that covers your ears is best. Wearing a hat and dry, clean socks is the best way to keep warm while you sleep.
- Dress in layers. You will be able to add and subtract layers as the temperature changes and the weight will be easier to carry than an enormous cloak of doom. Don’t forget to include gloves, a scarf, a second pair of socks, or even a second hat as candidates for layers. Plan on changing your under layer daily since it is absorbing the sweat. It can be aired out and worn again in a pinch. Changing your shirt after fighting or before the sun goes down can make a huge difference in comfort.
All encampments have boundaries. Some are obviously roped off, others are suggested by the ring of tents. Remember, if it isn’t a road or tent-free, it isn’t a place to walk through. If you wish to enter, go to the nearest/most obvious entrance and say “Hail to the camp”. Someone will reply and invite you in. On occasion, there may be someone standing guard. Approach the person and ask what is going on and if you may enter. If there is a private event going on, come back later.
- Don’t go into someone’s tent without permission and help keep things secure. Zip up your tent when you aren’t in camp, lock your car, and if you see someone going through a tent or things that you know belong to someone else, ask them what they are doing and if they are looking for the owner.
- Don’t leave fire pits, candles, or heaters unattended. Keep fire extinguishers handy in front of every tent and by fire pits and stoves.
- Don’t assume your children or pets will be automatically watched by the encampment; specifically ask someone to watch them before leaving them behind. Unattended children or pets are grounds for removal from an event.
- Tent walls will transmit sound and shadows. Be mindful.
- Make sure your trash goes into trash bins/ dumpsters and that your camp remains clean.
- Don’t leave food out. We are camping and there are wild animals in many of the areas we use.
- Once you arrive to the event and are in garb turn your cell phone to vibrate.
This is the whole point. All of the rest of the advice is only so that you can have the best chance of having fun. Here are some things to try while you are at an event:
- VOLUNTEER! It is personally rewarding and you get the chance to meet wonderful people and win prizes.
- Get around and see the event. Go to the battles and merchants’ row, take a camera, and ask questions. Chances are you will see someone doing something you are interested in doing too. If it is after dark, it is a good idea to take someone you trust with you.
- Plan some down time. Bring a book, take a nap, or find a quiet spot out of camp to work on a project.
- Being with the same people in close quarters for several days can be stressful—take a break.
- Help and ask for help. If you are overwhelmed or overexerting yourself, get assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for directions. If you see someone working too hard and burning out, offer to help or give them the opportunity to take a break.
Tent – Poles, ropes, stakes (10 inch nails), ground cloth/tarp, carpets, tent, broom
Bedding – Futon mattress/cot/foam pad/inflatable mattress (repair kit and inflator), sheets, pillows, sleeping bag, blankets
Camp gear – Cooler, ice, drinking water (1 gallon/person/day minimum), washing water, lamps and mantles, heater, hammer, claw, chairs, flashlights, stove, matches/lighter, fuel, broom, trash bags, fire extinguishers (1 per tent, stove, and fire pit REQUIRED), table, covers for modern items, zip lock bags, sewing repair kit, scissors, can opener, bottle opener, extra batteries
Clothes – Day clothes, night clothes, fighting clothes, court clothes, shoes, hats, gloves, cloak or jacket, accessories, totes/hangers/drawers, personal bag/pouch, jewelry/award medallions and award favors
Fighting gear – Armor, weapons, authorization card, repair kit, fighting shoes, personal protection, duct tape
Toiletries – Towels, shampoo/conditioner/soap, eye drops/backup glasses, medication/basic first aid plus antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications, razor, brush, washcloth, baby wipes, sunscreen, toothbrush, safety pins, bug spray, roll of toilet paper
Food – Meals, snacks, beverages (hot and cold), feast gear (bowl, plate, fork, knife, spoon, mug/cup), pots/pans/cooking utensils/teapot/coffee pot, dishwashing station (drying rack, 2 bins for water, soap, cloth or sponge), paper towels
Money for gas, site fee, emergencies and merchants, strapping, directions, hand truck or wagon, travel itinerary for someone on site and someone at home, membership card, ID
Something to do
Project, book, list of classes, camera, 2 hours of time for volunteering, notebook and pen
Other lists online:
Written by Doña Perin de la Serena, Lady Cynneburga Thorisdohter, and HL Carys Concernu
Photo by Sigrid Ulfsdottir de Lacey