SCA Camping 101

SCA Camping 101

Whether or not you’re an experienced camper, SCA camping events lend a whole new facet to spending a weekend in “the great outdoors”. This article is geared towards people who are considering camping for the first time in their lives. It will discuss what you need to spend a weekend camping and some of the special extras SCA camping requires, both in equipment and behavior.

There’s no way this article can cover all the details of camping. Instead, it will focus on some of the larger needs and issues of camping in the SCA. In particular:

The Bare Necessities

The House
- Choosing a Tent
- Caring for Your Tent
- Other Shelters
- Choosing & Preparing a Tent Site

The Bedroom
- Bed
- Bedding
- Sleeping Comfortably
- Lighting

The Closet
- Garb
- Shoes
- Swimwear
- Modern Clothing
- Packing Your Clothes

The Bathroom

The Pantry
- Planning a Menu
- Kitchen Equipment

The Extras
- Furnishings
- Entertainment

Packing
- Packing Gear
- Packing Food: Perishable Items
- Packing Food: Nonperishable Items
- Packing the Car

            

Campground Etiquette

Encampments
Noise
Modern Items
Fantasy Items
Pets
Cleaning Up and Waste Disposal
Fire


Health & Safety

First Aid
The Heat

- Sunburn
- Dehydration
- Overheating

The Cold
Happy Feet
The Plague
Our Little Friends


Breaking Camp

A Working Packing List

A Sample Menu Planner





The Bare Necessities

When you get right down to it, you really only need three things to survive a weekend outdoors: shelter, food and clothing. If you want to be a bit more comfortable, we add bedding and toiletries to that list. If sandwiches and cold Pop Tarts aren’t your cup of tea for an entire weekend, let’s add cooking equipment to the list so you can make that cup of tea.

So now we have shelter (the house), bedding (the bedroom), clothing (the closet), the bathroom (toiletries), food (the pantry) and cooking equipment (the kitchen). This is really all you need. More than this is icing on the cake and merely adds to your comfort and enjoyment.

 
Tent Equipment List
  • tent
  • tent stakes
  • ground cloth/tarp
  • rope
  • mallet or heavy hammer
  • whisk broom

The House

If this is your first time camping in the SCA, look to purchase a modern tent. “Period” tents (pavilions) are expensive, bulky and involve more work to store, transport, set up and take down. Modern tents can certainly be expensive, too, but there’s a wider range of costs, sizes and styles available.


Choosing a Tent
When choosing a tent, consider a variety of factors:

  • Cost
  Try to find something that fits your budget. Small, quality domes generally begin around $150-200; a decent 12'x12' cabin tent can run $400, and they go up from there the fancier they get.
  • Size
 

Always figure a tent will comfortably accommodate about three people fewer than it claims. Gear equals a whole person, so further reduce that number by how many people will be staying in the tent. Pup tents or domes are great, but you might want something you can stand up in to get changed.

  • Style
  There are lots of shapes out there—A-frame, dome (large or small), cabin (some with rooms!). Choose what’s right for you. I personally recommend external frame over internal frame—they’re easier to set up, and you can generally do it all by yourself, even for a large tent. I also recommend a freestanding tent (one that does not require stakes to remain erect).
  • Fabric
  Canvas tents are harder to find in camping goods stores these days, but they’re certainly still available through military surplus and other such outfitters. For your first tent, I recommend avoiding canvas—it’s heavier, bulkier, more expensive, and harder to care for. Modern fabric tents are much, much easier to deal with.
  • Rain
  Choose a tent that has a rain fly (an extra layer of fabric that goes over the tent). A fly provides a critical barrier to rain. A tent may claim that it’s water resistant, but that’s not enough. The fly should be supported away from the main tent fabric, should cover at least 75% of the tent, and should provide adequate shelter over tent windows and doors in a manner that guides sheeting water away from the windows and door.
  • Floor
  Choose a tent that comes with a ground cloth or tarp, or purchase one. Even if your tent has a "bathtub bottom" (a reinforced, waterproof, plastic floor that wraps up the sides like basin), a ground cloth is a good idea. The ground cloth protects the floor of your tent from moisture seeping up through the ground and from sharp pointy things (roots, rocks and sticks). The ground cloth should match the dimensions of your tent and not peek out from under your tent at any point. A ground cloth that sticks out somewhere is a perfect water trap and channel, and you’ll soon find yourself sleeping on a giant water bed—or in a puddle.
  • Poles
  Of all the varieties out there, I highly recommend shock-corded poles. These have sections connected by strong elastic cording, and you simply let the poles snap together—no hunting for the right sections, and the poles don’t come apart by accident. Fiberglass is great for smaller (pup or dome) tents; aluminum is the norm for larger (cabin style) tents.
  • Repairs
  Accidents happen—poles bend, fabric tears, zippers jam. Try to choose a tent that has an adequate service backup, such as a large company with easily obtainable spare parts.
  • Quality
  If you buy a cheap tent off the shelf of your local department store, you’re probably going to get what you bought. Remember that there's a world of difference between "inexpensive" and "cheap." When it comes to tents, cheap is generally cheap. It may also be harder to locate replacement parts or repair service. Go online, visit camping goods stores, and take a good, long look at the brands and styles available. Choose the style and brand you like, then shop around for the best price. Think of your tent as an investment: Spend $300 now and have a tent that lasts 6-10 years, rather than spending $150 now and needing to replace your tent every few years.

Caring for Your Tent
Caring for your tent is very important. Be nice to your tent, and it will last you a long time. You really want to take good care of a several hundred dollar investment.

Other Shelters
Many campgrounds will allow you to use a camper or RV. If you have one or plan to use one, check before you bring it. The SCA generally doesn’t like to look at such hulking modern items at events, but, in all likelihood, you’ll have to park it in a special area of the campground, anyway.


Choosing & Preparing a Tent Site

There are lots of factors involved in selecting the ideal tent site, and you are frequently faced with mediocre to poor choices at SCA events. In general, try to find a spot that’s level, upslope, relatively free of debris (natural or man-made), not too close to a stream or pond that could overflow in heavy rain, and with a source of shade (not always an option). When you’ve picked the ideal spot (or the best one available), clear it as thoroughly as possible of all debris—trash, sticks, rocks. This will both protect the floor of your tent and increase your sleeping comfort.

As a small tip, I recommend studying the slope of your site and where sunrise will be. Sleeping with your head lower than your feet is awful, as is spending your night rolling downhill onto your tent-mate (or being rolled onto). Waking up with the sun in your eyes at 5:30am is also a nuisance. You probably also don’t want your tent door facing onto a main, public thoroughfare. Orient your tent to best advantage, taking all these factors into account.

 
"Bedroom" Equipment List
  • sleeping bag or blankets (several warm ones)
  • sleeping pad, mattress or cot
  • pillow
  • lantern and/or flashlight
  • spare batteries

The Bedroom

There’s no question that you can survive a night or two sleeping on a pad or a blanket on the floor of your tent. But will it be comfortable? Probably not.


Bed
The best thing is to choose something that will raise you at least a foot from the floor of your tent. Cot, air mattress, layered sleeping pads, whatever—a raised surface will increase your comfort and get you away from the floor of your tent, where it’s coldest. Cots have the added advantage of under-the-bed storage space.


If you’re going to use an air mattress, remember to consider pumps and batteries. Please bear in mind that camping neighbors really, really detest the sound of a loud battery-powered (or car engine powered) air pump anytime after sunset.


Bedding
The simplest way to go is a sleeping bag. I recommend synthetic, outdoor camping bags rather than cotton, indoor-use bags. Cotton and down may be comfortable (and down is certainly warm), but both of them are miserable to use when wet, and that’s always a high risk when camping. Synthetic materials have the advantages of being lightweight, of packing into small bundles, of retaining their warming abilities when damp or went, and of drying quickly. If you’re like me and don’t like to sleep inside a tube, you can always unzip your sleeping bag and use it like a blanket.


If you prefer to use blankets, use a lot of them. Layering is the key to staying warm, and you can always remove a layer if it gets too warm. Cotton or synthetics are all right for sheets and one or two blankets, but bring at least one good wool blanket—wool retains its warming abilities when wet or damp.


Don’t forget your pillow!


Sleeping Comfortably
A tip for sleeping comfortably and warmly at night: Don’t sleep in any item of clothing that you wore that day. Damp clothes equal cold clothes, and no matter how dry your clothing may feel, it has absorbed moisture from your body and the air during the day. If you’re still cold after completely changing your outfit and piling on every blanket or sleeping bag you have, put on dry socks. If that still doesn’t work, add a hat. (Head and feet are the two areas of highest heat loss on the human body.) If you’re still cold, consider a trip to the bathroom. The body spends a lot of energy and heat trying to keep the liquid in your bladder warm. If you’re still cold even after that… find a warm body to sleep with, even if it’s just another body in the tent with you (not necessarily sharing your blankets). I’m serious.


Lighting

Naturally, you’ll need some way to see in your tent after dark. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using modern flashlights or lanterns, and absolutely everything wrong with using candles or enclosed flames. No matter how carefully and responsible you think you are, accidents happen, and tents are quite flammable, no matter what the tag says. For interior lighting or for finding your way to the johns at night, plan on using a modern flashlight or lantern—it’s safest for you and everyone around you.


For external lighting (on the picnic table, along pathways, to light up your group’s common area) you can consider using the light of flames. Popular items are candles, candle lanterns, campfires and tiki torches (those oil-cans on sticks you use at the beach). In all these things, consider safety first. Make sure they are well away from tents or other flammable items and that you have taken every precaution against someone knocking into them.


 
Clothing List
  • warm weather garb
  • cold weather garb
  • plenty of socks and underthings
  • winter/warm hat and gloves
  • heavy cloak
  • choice of footwear (cold and warm, wet and dry)
  • swimwear (garb item or bathing suit)
  • couple of changes of modern clothing

The Closet

Of course you’re going to need garb when attending an SCA camping event. But what other clothes should you plan to bring?


Garb
In general, plan your wardrobe to include one garb outfit for each day of the event, one or two modern outfits, something to sleep in at night, swimwear if the event offers swimming, plenty of socks and underwear, and good shoes.


Most camping events occur during the warm season, which can get very, very warm. However, even the warmest day can be followed by a damp, chilly night. Besides cool evenings and cold, damp nights, what are you going to do for a cold, rainy day?


Answer: Bring some warm clothing. The key here is layering. This extends to nightwear—bring something warm and comfortable to sleep in. I always suggest bringing a winter knit hat and gloves in case it gets really cold at night. A hat and some good, thick socks help keep you amazingly warm while you sleep!


Remember that the same garb can be worn day after day without discomfort or social stigma, but bring plenty of underthings and socks!


Shoes
I cannot stress enough the importance of good footwear! Lots of people (like me) are die-hard barefoot addicts. But even I will swear to the amazing difference good shoes can make. You generally spend the majority of your time at camping events on your feet—walking and standing on pavement, dirt roads, gravel, grass… you name it. Good, comfortable, supportive shoes can prevent a lot of fatigue, not to mention protecting your poor feet from the many nasty dangers lurking about (exposed tent stakes, loose ropes, splinters, pebbles, glass, bottle caps, sharp gravel—you get the idea). Never mind if the shoes aren’t period—you don’t want to step on a tent stake and ruin your shopping plans! If you wear period shoes, consider modern support inserts. Be good to your feet, and you’ll have a much more pleasant camping event.


Swimwear
Most modern campgrounds with pools demand modern swimwear. Pay attention to the rules and obey them. If you’re unsure what will be expected, bring modern swimwear in addition to anything else you might wish to wear in the water. If swimming is available in a lake, consider bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet to protect your feet from the lake bottom. These could be the same shoes as your shower shoes.


Modern Clothing
It’s always good to have a couple of changes of modern clothing, not only for driving to and from the event, but for those trips into town you might need to go on. A lot of people just wear their garb on town runs, but you might not be personally comfortable with that. Also, in the middle of blinding downpour, it’s nice to have a T-shirt and pair of shorts to slip into if you need to do some emergency tent repair!


In general, avoid wearing modern clothing on site as much as possible. Exceptions include setting up and tearing down camp, preparing for combat (many people wear modern clothing under their armor), walking to the car for a town run, and at swimming facilities which require modern swimwear. At all other times, make every effort to present a period appearance, even if it means throwing a cloak or blanket over your modern clothing as you head for the pool.


Packing Your Clothes
To pack your clothing, feel free to use your small suitcase or a duffel bag. You could also consider using Rubbermaid™ tubs, which are waterproof (always handy in case of tent leakage) and double as low tables or benches.


 
Toiletries List
  • deodorant
  • hairbrush and comb
  • hairbands, barrettes, scrunchies, etc.
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • washcloth
  • soap
  • antibacterial hand cleanser
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • shower shoes
  • towels
  • face towel
  • nail clippers
  • small scissors
  • razor
  • shaving cream
  • feminine necessaries
  • heck, male necessaries!
  • insect repellent

The Bathroom

Personal toiletries are your own business! You know what you need to survive for a week or so. However, there are a few things to note about campground bathing facilities that may change your personal packing list.

The Pantry

What the heck are you going to eat???


First, let me point out that it’s perfectly acceptable and possible to survive a camping weekend on Pop Tarts, sandwiches, condensed soup or Chef Boyardee, and soda or juice boxes. It’s also perfectly possible to prepare elaborate “home-cooked” meals just like you would in your kitchen at home.


For your first camping event or two, I recommend one of two things (or both):

1. Keep your menu extremely simple.
2. Camp with experienced campground cooks who are planning communal meals.


Planning a Menu
Start by making a grid that has each day of the event listed across the top and the meals of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) down the left side (see the sample menu planner). Cross out any boxes that don’t apply (for example, Friday breakfast, when you’ll probably still be at home). Then think about what you’d like to eat for each remaining meal.

A few things to think about when planning your menu:

After writing down what you want to eat, go back and write down every single ingredient and condiment you’ll need or want for each and every meal—cream, honey, salt & pepper, milk, spices, sugar and so on. Remember to include beverages (juice, coffee, tea, soda, drink mix). Don’t worry about writing the same things over and over again in each block of the grid.


Now go through your list one more time and write down every single item of kitchen equipment you’ll need to prepare each meal. Really think about each step you’ll take to create that meal. If necessary, go into your kitchen and pretend to make it. Anything you reach for or pick up should go on your list. Again, don’t worry about writing the same things over and over again.


Now go back and combine all the mini-lists into one big one. Remember to bring enough of an item for multiple meals, if necessary.


 
Kitchen Equipment List
  • camp table
  • camp stove
  • extra fuel
  • matches
  • cooler
  • washbasin
  • dishrags and dishtowels
  • dish detergent
  • paper towels
  • garbage bags
  • extra plastic bags (Ziploc™)
  • aluminum foil
  • sponges and scrubbies
  • jerry jug (or other water container)
  • pots and pans
  • mixing bowl
  • cutting board
  • can opener
  • colander or strainer
  • cooking utensils (spatula, serving spoon, stirring spoon, cutting knife, ladle, whisk, tongs, meat fork)
  • potholders
  • eating utensils (cup, mug, plate, bowl, knife, fork, spoon)
Miscellaneous
  • binoculars (for watching your favorite fighter on the field!)
  • materials you need to work on your latest SCA projects or hobby
  • books
  • playing cards
  • musical instruments
  • cassettes and player
  • radio
  • portable board games (period games preferred, of course)
  • chairs
  • tiki torches
  • lamp oil
  • extra blankets, throws, or sections of fabric to disguise modern chairs and coolers
Kitchen Equipment

What you pack in terms of your portable kitchen depends entirely upon what you plan to cook. In all likelihood, your actual kitchen list will look different from the sample list included in this article.


A few things to keep in mind when planning your portable kitchen:

Another item to consider for your mobile kitchen is a dining fly. This is simply some form of roof over your head while you’re cooking—wonderful on a rainy day. Your dining fly can be a nice modern screenhouse tent or a plastic tarp elevated by poles or the awning of your tent. Whatever you use, make sure that all fabric and rope is far enough away from your heat source (fire or stove) to prevent melting or fire.


The Extras

Now that we’ve covered the essential basics, let’s look at the little extras that make camping events more fun and enjoyable.


Furnishings
Many people bring along rugs for the bottoms of their tents and chairs to sit on. It’s all right to bring and use modern deck chairs or director chairs, but please plan to disguise them with a blanket or other drape of fabric. Remember that coolers and packing crates make excellent benches. And, of course, you can always just bring a few blankets to sit on. Rugs are your own business, and they’re very handy for protecting the floor of your tent and giving them more warmth and atmosphere.


Entertainment
People always welcome simple games, period or not, which they can play in pairs or groups as they relax in the shade. As for music, it’s generally acceptable to have a radio or tape player playing quietly for your benefit. Of course, playing your own instrument is even better! There is some etiquette to observe when it comes to music. See the section on etiquette to find out what it is. You can also bring your latest craft or hobby project to work on.


Packing


Packing Gear
Space is going to be at a premium when you pack for Pennsic. Here are some tips for making everything fit into your limited space:

Packing Food: Perishable Items
It’s important to keep your perishable items (meat, dairy, temperature sensitive vegetables) cold. Here are some very important tips to consider when packing your perishable items:

Packing Food: Nonperishable Items
Your nonperishable items (canned or dry goods) can be packed into a box or crate. I do not recommend packing your food into paper or plastic grocery bags. They are wasteful of space, tear easily and disintegrate in poor weather. Your dry goods should receive the same care and attention as your perishable items. Make sure they’re well protected in plastic bags (double-bagged again) or other tight-sealing containers. Items like crackers, cereal, flour, pasta, sugar, powdered drink mix, tea (bagged or loose) and coffee are good examples of what should be repackaged in this manner. Your enemies here are moisture and insects (it’s amazing what an ant can get into).


Packing the Car
Before you do anything else, remove all emergency gear items from your car—spare tire, jack, toolbox, spare gas can, extra oil, windshield fluid, and so on. Set all these items aside and pack them last of all. You do not want to have to unload your entire car because you get a flat tire, especially if it’s raining. If you do not have the above listed items in your car, you should seriously consider stocking up for your trip.

It may take you several tries to get all the gear into a good configuration so that it all fits.

Campground Etiquette

There are many, many unwritten Codes of Conduct in the SCA, and there’s a whole page or two reserved for camping events. For the most part, small camping events (one or two nights) tend to be more relaxed and informal, but larger/longer events require a little more attention. The following notes on campground etiquette should be applied to all camping events as much as possible, regardless of what you see other people doing around you. The best course is to set a good example.


An excellent question to ask yourself when camping—whatever the decision you’re trying to reach—is: “What if everyone did it?” I call this the Ethical Question.


Encampments

Many people tend to camp together in social groups, and sometimes these groups will create an “encampment”. Most encampments mark their boundaries in some manner, whether by the arrangement of their tents or with rope and colored flags. At larger events, groups may even surround themselves with walls of sheets or wood to hide their encampment from casual view. However it’s marked off, every encampment will have at least one designated entrance.


Campground courtesy demands that you respect an encampment’s “walls,” however minimal they might be, by entering a camp only through its entrance. It’s also polite to “knock”—stop just short of the entrance and say “Hello, the camp!” loudly enough to be heard. Someone should answer. Tell him or her who you’re looking for, ask if that person’s around and whether you may enter to speak with him or her. Don’t be discouraged if the person who answers isn’t familiar with the person you’re looking for—most people will try to help you as much as they can. If no one answers your call at the entrance or if the person who answers your call isn’t comfortable with letting you in at that moment, come back later to try again. Don’t just wander in anyway.


Wandering into someone’s camp when they’re not around or without their permission is a bit rude—it’s like walking into someone’s house when they don’t answer your knock at their door.


Some groups really don’t care who wanders through their camp, but others are very strict about it. Rules in a stricter camp may become relaxed enough for you to wander in at will if you are or become familiar with everyone in an encampment, or if you’re in and out often enough that most of the group is familiar with you. Whatever the situation, just be polite. If you must know, ask the camp what they’d prefer, but the general rule of thumb is to follow the encampment etiquette of “knocking” before entering.


Noise

Radios and “boom boxes” tend to occur at camping events. Even the most stringent period-police-type is apt to bring a radio along if only to keep track of the weather. It’s common to hear period music coming from an encampment, often at high volume, created either by live musicians or by a “bard-in-the-box.”


Be courteous with the noise you create, be it by radio, live music, or your voice. Remember that tent walls are really thin and that sound travels very far and very clearly in a tent city. Most people will not appreciate hearing heavy metal or an argument blasting away a few tents down. Many people will, however, enjoy listening to period jigs, ballads, pavannes, etc., but not necessarily at all hours of the day. Keep your noise volume to where just you and your immediate associates can hear it instead of including every tent in a two-block radius.


Some camping events have areas designated for “quiet camping”. In these areas, you are expected to follow a sort of noise curfew. People camping in these areas are often families with small children or people who just like to get to sleep early.


Modern Items

A general SCA courtesy is to keep visibility of modern objects to a minimum. Everyone expects camps to have coolers, modern tents, camp stoves, modern cooking equipment, etc. But there are ways to camouflage them so that they’re not quite so obvious.

None of this camouflage is required by regulation or enforced—it’s just highly encouraged. It’s nice to let everyone enjoy his or her fantasy of actually being in “period” without the constant distraction of a barrage of modern equipment. People go to events to forget the modern world for a while. The sight of radios, plastic brushes, day-glo lawn furniture, and blue jeans is not overly welcomed by most people. Be courteous.


Cameras and video cameras are obvious items to tote around at camping events, but be courteous in your use of them. Taking pictures of people and/or their encampments without their permission is a step on the rude side. Ask first. Most people are happy to be camera-hogs, but if they say no, just leave it at that. If you yourself are asked to pose for a photograph, bear in mind that it’s perfectly all right to say no. But again, be courteous. Everyone appreciates politeness.


Try to avoid wearing modern clothing at all times. Events are for personae… try to dress in period as often as possible! If nothing else, throw a tabard or cloak over it. You will see some people in modern clothing here and there. These people are generally either campground staff or modern campers, a fighter in the process of armoring up or down, someone who has just arrived and is still setting up camp or someone who is on his or her way into or back from town.


Of course, like any event, it’s generally considered polite to avoid discussing modern topics anywhere on site. You never know if someone within earshot is trying to maintain their period atmosphere, and bursting their bubble with unwelcome modern conversation isn’t very nice. Of course it happens, but you can certainly choose not to add to the poor examples.


Fantasy Items

At any event, fantasy costuming is strongly discouraged. It may be fun for the individual, but it ruins the atmosphere for those who are trying to experience “The Dream.” Again, be courteous to those around you. Don’t spoil their good time with your fantasy costume—it’s not appropriate garb for an SCA event.


Pets

Some camping events allow pets; others don’t. Nowadays we even have hound coursing at some events, which sort of requires that you bring a dog to participate.


When allowed, people frequently bring pets, most commonly dogs and ferrets these days. If you’re a pet owner and wish to bring your pet to a camping event, think it through very, very carefully. Does your pet tolerate being tied up or left in a small kennel for most of the day? How are you going to protect your pet from heat or dehydration while you’re off enjoying the event? Does your pet like to make a lot of noise? How does your pet react to large crowds and strange noises? Do you have the equipment necessary to clean up after your pet? How does your pet react to a small, charging child?


Bringing a pet to an event is a lot like bringing an infant. It takes the same level of care and attention, and the same consideration of neighbors who probably won’t appreciate being woken up during the night or at the crack of dawn by a noisy animal.


Cleaning Up and Waste Disposal

We like to pride ourselves in the SCA by leaving a site cleaner than we found it. This can only happen with your care and diligence.

Fire

Where there’s camping, there’s fire. It’s inevitable. However, sometimes it’s simply not allowed. Pay attention to the site regulations on open fires. Most sites will only allow campfires in the established fire rings provided. Sometimes weather conditions mandate that fires not be used at all (such as a very dry season).

When you’re completely done with a fire (i.e. not going to build another fire during that event), douse it. Use enough water to quench all embers and charcoal, but don’t flood the pit. Remember that another person is likely to need to fire pit within a few days. Use a stick to stir the embers and ashes to get them all wet; turn charcoal over and wet it down on all sides. When nothing hisses anymore as you pour water over it, it’s sufficiently doused. Remove any material that hasn’t burned completely and dispose of it properly.


If you have dug your own fire pit according to campground rules, you will probably have to fill it up again.


 
Health & Safety
  • SUNBLOCK!!!
  • sunhat
  • painkillers (aspirin, acetominophrine, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Band-Aids™
  • Neosporin™ or Bactine™ (or equivalent)
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • adhesive tape
  • gauze
  • Q-Tips™
  • thermometer
  • any necessary personal medications

Health & Safety

First Aid

You can usually count on a Chirurgeon to be on site, but I always recommend carrying the basics of a first aid kit. This includes the same sort of basic items you would keep in your bathroom medicine cabinet—adhesive bandages, painkillers, antibacterial products, cotton swabs, that sort of thing. You can build your own kit, or purchase a basic kit for not too much money at most pharmacies and department stores (like K-Mart or Target).


The Heat

Probably one of the most prevalent dangers at camping events is heat. A goodly part of many campgrounds (most notably the battlefields and merchant areas) have no trees for shade, which is coincidentally exactly where most people are going to spend the bulk of their time. People spend a lot of their day shopping or watching the battles, and are consequently standing in the sun for hours and hours on end.


Sunburn
Sunburn (and worse, sun poisoning) is not fun. It can even be dangerous.

You can never have enough sun block. Always remember that a key-neck tunic or low-necked bodice exposes different areas of skin than a modern T-shirt does, or that a single layer of lightweight, light-colored fabric does not protect your skin from the sun. The areas to watch out for are:

Apply your sun block often during the day. No matter what the bottle says, you will sweat or rub the lotion off in the course of the day.


A sunhat is ideal for shading your face, neck and shoulders. You will see a great many people in a variety of garb periods wearing a straw sunhat around camping events. This is not a question of being period—it’s just smart!


Veils are also excellent for protecting your head, neck, shoulders and forehead.


Don’t be fooled by cloudy days. Days with a total, high cloud cover are even more dangerous than sunny ones simply because people figure they don’t need their sun block and sunhat. Wrong! The clouds only block the sun’s light, not its ultraviolet rays, which are the real danger. Put your sun guards on whenever it isn’t raining.


Dehydration
Dehydration probably poses the biggest health hazard to fighters and non-fighters alike. It is the first step towards the progressively serious conditions of heat exhaustion, heat prostration and heat stroke. No matter who you are or what you’re doing at a camping event, you are a prime candidate for dehydration and its nastier cousins if you don’t pay attention.


The early warning signs of dehydration are increasingly serious degrees of headache, nausea and dizziness. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever had a hangover, it should. A hangover is nothing more than early-stage dehydration. You can avoid dehydration—and every potential hangover—by drinking plenty of water. If you begin to feel the warning signs of dehydration, find a place to sit down, rest and drink plenty of the right kinds of fluid (see below).


The things you should be drinking a lot of at camping events are water, juice or sport drinks. Juice and sport drinks (such as Gatorade™) supply you with the two critical ingredients for avoiding dehydration: water and electrolytes (salts). When you sweat, you’re losing both water and salt from your system. You must maintain a certain salt level in your body in order to use any water you drink. If you’re drinking plain water, you’ll want to replace your salts by noshing on some chips, pickles, pretzels or other salty products.


Things you should not drink during hot camping event days: caffeine and alcohol. These products are both diuretics—they actually draw water out of your body. Essentially, these beverages have a negative effect when it comes to staying hydrated. Do not drink iced tea and call it done unless the iced tea is decaffeinated. General rule of thumb: If the container doesn’t say “caffeine free,” it probably isn’t.


You should also avoid drinking fluids that are ice cold. They can shock your system if you’re already starting to overheat and may make you throw what you drink right back up. Fighters and other athletes are all too familiar with the results of chugging too much liquid too quickly or of drinking liquid that’s too cold.


Milk also doesn’t mix well with physical activity or hot days.


If someone approaches you at any camping event and tells you that you need to sit down and drink, do it. No matter how you feel at the time, he or she is probably right. And besides, even if you don’t really need it at that moment, the drink certainly won’t hurt you. On the other hand, if you spot someone looking a bit pale and non-sweaty during the high heat of the day, make them sit down and drink.


Overheating
It’s very easy to overheat at a hot camping event. Garb is often heavy, multi-layered and all-covering, which doesn’t leave much room for your sweat to evaporate. Pay attention to your body’s temperature and slow down if you’re getting really, really hot. Uncomfortably hot is one thing; dangerously hot is another.


The inside of your tent is not a safe place to seek shelter from the heat or the sun. Unless your tent is completely in the shade, it is a dangerous oven. Do not take daytime naps inside your tent if it is in the sun. It is extremely hazardous to your health.


The Cold

Most people know how to deal with cold days, but do you know how to deal with cold, damp nights? Besides arranging your bedding so that you’re off the ground and under layers, the single most important thing you can do before bed is to remove every single item of clothing you wore that day and replace them with clean, dry garments. Even if your tunic feels dry to you, it’s still damp with your perspiration, and damp clothing equals cold clothing.


Another thing to remember is that the two areas of highest heat loss in the human body are the head and feet. If you’re really cold, put on a hat and warm, dry socks. You’ll warm up quickly!


Another little-known tip is a trip to the bathroom. A full bladder is a lot of liquid that your body is spending energy on keeping warm. You have no idea how much warmer you’ll feel after a trip to the johns!


Happy Feet

I mentioned it before (under clothing) and I’ll mention it again here, because I cannot stress enough the importance of good footwear.


You generally spend the majority of your time at camping events on your feet—walking and standing on pavement, dirt roads, gravel, grass… you name it. Good, comfortable, supportive shoes can prevent a lot of fatigue, not to mention protecting your poor feet from the many nasty dangers lurking about (exposed tent stakes, loose ropes, splinters, pebbles, glass, bottle caps, sharp gravel—you get the idea). Never mind if the shoes aren’t period—you don’t want to step on a tent stake and ruin your shopping plans! If you wear period shoes, consider modern support inserts. Be good to your feet, and you’ll have a much more pleasant camping event.


The Plague

You’ll probably hear this mentioned mostly in relation to Pennsic, the longest camping event in the Knowne World. The Plague refers to the high occurrence of general illnesses at Pennsic. However, it’s pretty easy to get sick at short camping events, too, and just as easy to avoid the problem. There are a lot of contributing factors towards coming down with something at an event, and being aware of them can help you avoid becoming sick yourself:

Our Little Friends

Nature has bugs. It also has an assortment of small, furry creatures. You should be aware of the following non-human life forms with whom you will most likely be sharing campground facilities:

Breaking Camp

Packing up and breaking camp can be very time-consuming and frustrating. Frequently, you’ve been up to all hours the night before, and you have to be off site by noon.


The best plan is to pack up everything except the few items you’ll really need the day before site closes—just leave out your bedding, change of clothes, shelter, and any kitchen equipment necessary for making breakfast (if you’re going to). Get everything else as packed as you possibly can, ready to go into your vehicle. Then you can get up at 9:00 in the morning and do the following:





A Working Packing List

Packing up and breaking camp can be very time-consuming and frustrating. Frequently, you’ve been up to all hours the night before, and you have to be off site by noon.

General Equipment

Kitchen Equipment*

  • camp table
  • camp stove
  • extra fuel
  • matches
    cooler
  • washbasin
  • dishrags and dishtowels
  • dish detergent
  • paper towels
  • garbage bags
  • extra plastic bags (Ziploc™)
  • aluminum foil
  • sponges and scrubbies
  • jerry jug (or other water container)
  • pots and pans
  • mixing bowl
  • cutting board
  • can opener
  • colander or strainer
  • cooking utensils (spatula, serving spoon, stirring spoon, cutting knife, ladle, whisk, tongs, meat fork)
  • potholders
  • eating utensils (cup, mug, plate, bowl, knife, fork, spoon)
Food*

Obviously, you’ll need to work this part out for yourself.

Toiletries*

  • deodorant
  • hairbrush and comb
  • hairbands, barrettes, scrunchies, etc.
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • washcloth
  • soap
  • antibacterial hand cleanser
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • shower shoes
  • towels
  • face towel
  • nail clippers
  • small scissors
  • razor
  • shaving cream
  • feminine necessaries
  • heck, male necessaries!
  • insect repellent
  • lip balm
  • hand lotion
Health & Safety*

NOTE: There is no need to bring all of the following, but it’s always a good idea for an encampment to have at least one basic First Aid Kit at hand. For serious medical problems, seek a Chirurgeon.

  • SUNBLOCK!!!
  • sunhat
  • painkillers (aspirin, cetominophrine, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Band-Aids™
  • Neosporin™ or Bactine™ (or equivalent)
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • adhesive tape
  • gauze
  • Q-Tips™
  • thermometer
  • any necessary personal medications

Clothing*

  • warm weather garb
  • cold weather garb
  • plenty of socks and underthings
  • winter/warm hat and gloves
  • heavy cloak
  • choice of footwear (cold and warm, wet and dry)
  • swimwear (a garb item or bathing suit)
  • couple of changes of modern clothing

Miscellaneous*

  • binoculars (for watching your favorite fighter on the field!)
  • materials you need to work on your latest SCA projects or hobby
  • books
  • playing cards
  • musical instruments
  • cassettes and player
  • radio
  • portable board games (period games preferred, of course)
  • chairs
  • tiki torches
  • lamp oil
  • extra blankets, throws, or sections of fabric to disguise modern chairs and coolers

Special Interest Items*

You know what you need to engage in your particular special interest at an event (combat, archery, bardic, arts and sciences, etc.). Remember to pack it.

* These items or areas are explained in more detail elsewhere in this article.

A Sample Menu Planner

  Friday Saturday Sunday

 

 

Breakfast

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Lunch

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Dinner

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Snacks