by Chimene des CinqTours

Some of the statements below may seem so obvious as to "go without saying". Unfortunately, a certain percentage of any group of campers will be short in the common-sense department to some degree, and/or will be very inexperienced campers.

Ravensgard Packing List, with commentary

We are middle-aged, circa 25 year SCA campers. We are authenticity wonks, have allergies, cook real food at events, and no longer sleep on the ground, so our camp packing list may be a bit elaborate by some standards. However, it is pretty complete. We don't take every item to every event.



Basket 1

Kitchen box

Cold Box


Hot Box

Household Chest



Events are exciting. Don't forget to eat and keep your fluid intake up. Seriously, letting your fuel reserves get depleted can lead to all kinds of problems.

Especially if you're planning to work all day, sit up at the Bardic or at the Gate (in the cold) all night, and/or just drink all night.

If you know or suspect that you will forget to eat, try to find someone who will feed you or will remind you to eat.

Just because some can do a 3-day weekend on 3 sixpacks, beef jerky, cheese, fruit and nuts, doesn't mean you can, or should try to. Think - in advance - about what you're going to do for food for the weekend. If you're not used to feeding yourself, talk with the people who usually feed you (parents, roommates) about how to manage. Folks who have medical diet issues usually know how to deal with them in ordinary circumstances; camping may provide new challenges.

A little planning can make feeding yourself for an event a lot less costly.

And there are also logistics issues to be considered if you plan to/need to cook any part of your food for the weekend. Will the event be providing anything? Breakfasts? Stone soup on arrival night? Will there be a camp from your group where you can cadge hot water? Or borrow cook-fire space? Or is there anyone in your group who will feed you for a fee? Or is your group going to be having a group kitchen, with a pre-planned menu and with everyone helping cook and clean? Will there be food vendors among the merchants? Can you afford the event if you buy any or all of your food from the merchants? Etc. In the future, we may add a few simple food suggestions here.


Camping events happen outdoors. This seemingly simple and obvious fact has a lot of ramifications that are not apparent at first glance (ask the chirurgeons who deal with hypothermia). Modern people are simply not used to being outside continuously for 48-72 hours. Even those who work outdoors, as I once did, get to eat and sleep inside, when we're at home.

The wind blows all the time (or else you're stifling because it isn't moving); it is too dry or too wet, too hot or too cold - all the time. Just having the air moving on/over your skin for long periods can be a major contributor to a kind of sensory overload.

And of course, we all start out calm and rested. After a least a week of furious work on last minute construction, cooking, sewing, etc. projects; planning, packing and then a 6-10 hour drive after a full day's work?

No matter what time of year it is, take warm bedding or a warm cloak for the evening hours and for sleeping. If you have limited bedding, it's more important to insulate yourself from the (cold/damp) ground underneath yourself, than from the (cold) air above. You can wear additional costume items to sleep in, or use them to add layers under or over you.

If you're not from a camping family - or not used to camping with only the small amount of gear you can squeeze into your 1/6th of the car, you will need to seek advice and plan in advance how to stay as warm and dry overnight as possible.

When considering tents, either to purchase or construct, consider the fabric, especially its burning characteristics. Canvas may be heavier than petro-chemical wonder fabrics, but it doesn't burn as fast, or produce fumes or "napalm". Even different petro-chemical fabrics may have different burning qualities, and you will want to consider these as well as the water-proof-ness, etc.

No matter what time of year it is, take something to wear if it gets really hot. Bring your own sunscreen, and use it. A hat or veil will keep the heat off and shade your eyes in a period manner. TIP: Most garden shops these days have low-crown, wide brim straw hats from Asia at reasonable prices, which look reasonably period.

Try to incorporate a head covering into your costume or wraps. About 80% of body heat loss or gain takes place above the shoulders (head, back of neck). (Wool will keep you warm when you're soaking wet like few synthetics - that makes it worth the extra expense, and it's period.)

Layering clothing items sounds like a fashion magazine cliche, but it works. Having garments of different weights to wear at different times of the day is one way to do this; for example having a heavy overtunic for morning chill and after dark, and a lighter-weight one for the warm mid-day.

After reading Bart's Pennsic notes, and the Estrella appendix, I probably need to identify the weather conditions here... these notes were written from the temperate Pacific Northwest, usually not really hot, not really cold, but OFTEN soggy 8-). Tent camping is the norm in An Tir, from March thru October, and it rains. Sites are usually fields or parks, so the surface underfoot is usually green grass. Things do get dry, and by July, raised fire sources (usually minimum 12 inches off the ground) are often required. The longest events we usually encounter are 3-4 day holiday weekends, at Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. We try to do a period-appearance campsite; not all do.

In future, we expect to add a sample clothing list, with commentary.


Fire is pretty. Fire is dangerous. We are basically modern people and are not used to living with open flame.

Fire safety awareness can be learned. If you don't want to think about fire while you're at the event, think about it before-hand. When you're buying fabric and designing and making tourney costumes, selecting camping equipment, packing the weekend's potables.

  1. Speaking of potables, don't drink and play with fire.

  2. Never attempt to move a liquid-fuel lamp (ie, Oseberg lamps) when (the lamp is) lit!

  3. Use only metal or stone containers for candles, never plastic or wood (on the principle of: Don't put burning material in flammable containers). As we know from Pennsic history, sand will not provide a safe barrier between burning material and a flammable container (a tent fire-ball started with a candle left unattended in a Tupperware bowlful of sand).

  4. Fireplaces are not to be dug into the ground without permission from the autocrat, at most sites. Since we use many "primitive" (undeveloped) campsites, be prepared to bring a cook-fire that can be kept off the ground (i.e. a hibachi, Coleman, or portable fire-pit). Fire restrictions and/or regulations are usually clearly specified in advance in event copy these days.

  5. And, last but certainly not least: Firewood is brought with you, provided by the autocrats or gathered from the forest FLOOR. Firewood is NOT cut off of living trees, nor are living trees cut down to provide firewood (without permission). Especially not when we're using public lands. (These comments prompted by personal autocrat experience, sigh.)
TIP: Lighter fluid is not necessary for lighting cook fires. (It tastes awful when cooked into food, and can be dangerous to use. Practicing fire starting at home is a very good idea; it only takes a half dozen tries to really build up your confidence -and- your skill level.) Hardwood shavings will start commercial charcoal even in the rain, even all weekend long (personal experience). If you have no other source, you can buy commercial firewood bundles at the supermarket (on the west coast, anyway), and make shavings from part of it to take with you. Or cultivate the woodworker in your group, or the local high-school shop teacher, etc.

TIP: Burn-testing fabric. Adapted from my Elf Hill Times article, "Fire!", EHT no. 13, January 1983.

Burning technique: You need a twist of threads or a small sliver of fabric (i.e. 1/4 by 1 inch)*. Samples are small and some fabrics burn so quickly and fiercely they literally explode. Assuming you want to keep your fingertips, hold the sample with tongs, tweezers, or pliers, over a sink or other non-flammable surface, even outside if possible (some synthetics smell really bad). (*You don't need much to test, but don't try to sneak snippets out of the fabric store before you buy; talk to the staff instead. They may give you a sample, or allow you to buy an inch or two. Also, don't try burn testing IN the store!)

Be careful of what YOU are wearing, and where your hair is.

Bring a candle* flame near and observe: does the fibre shrink away and/or slowly char and burn, or melt, or does it leap toward the flame and flare up, first sputtering and spitting in the flame, then dripping red-hot drops of melted plastic? How and if the flame dies out. (*A candle is the easiest to control, and to keep alight; much easier to use than matches or even a cigarette lighter.)

IF sample burns steadily like a candlewick, leaves a soft ash, smells (if at all) like -dry- paper burning, THEN it's linen, cotton, other plant fiber (hemp, jute).

IF sample burns to a soft ash, smells like burning hair, THEN it's silk, wool, cashmere, mohair (protein fibre) WOOL IS SELF-EXTINGUISHING! (Depending on condition, treatments, contaminents, etc. However, small sparks from forge or cookfire will self-extinguish, normally.)

Note: Permanent press finishes may increase flammability of natural fibers. Some fire-retardant treatments may make cottons burn more readily once they catch.

IF sample melts away from flame, burns eagerly, leaves hard dark bead of residue, may smell like plastic or petroleum burning, THEN it's a synthetic (petrochemical) fibre; ACRYLICs drip molten plastic (many fake furs are acrylic), NYLON & POLYESTER burn a bit more slowly and don't drip.

Experience will improve your skill at analyzing burning characteristics and residues; practice with samples from your fabric stash (that you're pretty sure what are - hope you don't get any nasty surprises). Blends can be analyzed this way too. College level textiles textbooks will have an even more extensive chart of burning characteristics, but the above points cover the basics.


Making messes in sanitary facilities (bathrooms/washrooms, toilets, sinks, porta-johns, showers, etc.) that others must use after you is pretty uncouth. Drunk is NOT an excuse. If you're ill, ask a friend to help - real friends will. The alcohol wash in the porta-john dispensers, as per the information on the dispensers, is NOT the anti-bacterial equivalent of a regular post-toilet soap-and-water hand-washing.

Hot-water-and-soap handwashing, and dish-washing, will keep you a much happier camper.

Dish water disposal: don't fling it into someone else's camp area, not onto public paths, not onto delicate plants.

If the event is providing gray-water collection, do read and comply with the rules about not putting food in with the gray-water. Leftover food also does not go in the plumbing or porta-johns; it goes in your kitchen garbage bag, which will either go in the event dumpster on your way out, or will go home with you for disposal there.

If you have ashes and/or other fire debris to put in the garbage, make sure it's absolutely cold. Coals can hide in the ashes, hot enough to start fires, for days.

The Society leaves its sites "cleaner than we found them" - that means that after you have packed your tent and sleeping bag, you clean up the area where they were (cigarette butts, food scraps, etc.). If you have any dead (broken off) tent pegs still in the ground after taking down your tent, try the autocrats; they should have better tools, like shovels, and may even be able to provide you with help. You may even help with the general clean-up of areas like pathways and the eric. Help with final clean-up is always appreciated by the autocrats and it's a good way to get to know the royalty and peerage, as they'll be there. (Does that last comment about the royalty and peerage sound old-fashioned? I hope not. It used to work that way.)


An encampment is just the same as someone's home: one doesn't enter a tent or encampment without permission, and one doesn't handle the contents without permission.

Noise and Sleep

No matter how great a right the modern you has to express yourself in 20th century America, in the Society we try to behave gently toward one another. This means that even if 90% of the reason a person comes to the event is to get roaring drunk with their buddies, the other people at the event deserve the courtesy of a quiet sleeping area for at least part of the night. In return, maybe the Dawn Patrol will hold down their disgusting morning cheerfulness (and general breakfast racket) in the night-owls' vicinity. Many events these days have designated quiet and loud camping areas.


One of the greatest disruptions to creating a medieval atmosphere is the "laser" lantern - the ones you can see for half a mile through solid stone? If you have one of these implements, please keep it inside the tent, or build a screen for it.

When on the way to the biffy at night, using a flashlight to light your path is one thing - flashing it into the faces of people you meet on the way is SOMETHING ELSE! Especially if they have no light or are using candles, they are using their night vision and it really physically hurts their eyes to be "flashed" this way.

Pavilion equipment

Remember to flag tent ropes with something light-colored so they can be seen more easily in the dark. This practice really does cut way down on the incidence of shattered ankles and torn ligaments, which is why it's Kingdom law in a number of places.

All types of tent pegs can be dangerous, depending on how they are installed. However, some types are less likely to tear up the unwary foot, shod or not. The 8-inch spike nails, with or without the little plastic cone, the plastic-hook type or some forged types are much safer than the aluminum or steel machine made folded-with-hook types.

© Copyrights 1997, 1998 Patricia R. Dunham

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Last updated 1/29/98.

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