I’m not Leah, so this isn’t a Minion Monday. It would be, but Empire LRP is on and so Leah and Wookie are making sure that The Monster Room gets carefully packed down and large amounts of kit are returned to the Mandala Workshop.
Empire LRP is running to the bitter end today. We will time out at 1500hrs this afternoon despite the weather throwing everything it has got at this event. It was driving rain Thursday during setup, and then blazing sun so strong that I burnt a set of panda-eyes onto my face from my sunglasses on Friday. Saturday was a lovely morning, but then the wind started in the later afternoon and things haven’t really got any better yet.
Before the battle on Sunday Profound Decisions issued a letter to the player base on site telling them that the conditions were only going to get worse and that we, the crew of PD, would help everyone get off site that wanted to. I won’t lie, the thought was vaguely terrifying but we did it. We got hundreds of people packed down, back to their cars, and through the gate so that they could get home before the worst of the weather struck at midnight. Myself and my partner left site to head back to Banbury at 10.45 having given up trying to push out the last van of the evening.
But I don’t want to talk about the heroic achievements of our great big extended family that is the Empire Crew, I want to talk about something far more delicate (although I fear our crew might be rather delicate Wednesday morning after a few beers). I want to talk about money, and I really hate talking about money.
Some people have lots of money, and some people don’t. Most people are somewhere in-between. This causes lots of problems in LRP but one of the most difficult to resolve is when it comes to the equipment that people can afford for camping.
Most LARPers consider camping a necessary evil. There are very few people on a LARP field who are there because what they really love is camping. Even I – someone who really, really loves camping and spending my time on mountains – try to avoid LARP camping wherever possible. But the result of people seeing camping as this necessary evil is that many people try and spend the bare minimum possible on their sleeping arrangements, thinking that ‘it’ll do’ because it’s not really the important part of the game.
Well, I’ve got news for you. We live in the UK and we have extraordinarily changeable weather conditions. I’m sitting here in my lounge right now and the weather report for Silverstone suggests 53mph winds this morning.
And then there’s the flooding – I moved here to Oxfordshire almost three years ago, and we’ve had astonishingly bad weather the whole time. I mean we all saw the images from 2014 where Oxford was underwater, right?
I saw that Simon Morgan from Eldritch had posted this morning on Facebook after he’d got home:
The thing to bear in mind is that almost any field anywhere would have been soft and soggy. We’ve had one of the wettest winters on record with flooding in places, and the ground hasn’t had a chance to dry out at all.
I’ve done half-a-dozen events this year already, all of them had fields that were cordoned off because they were just marsh-like and incapable of supporting cars, let alone vans.
And of course, lets not forget that the new PD site is literally across the road from Silverstone. Or to give the race track it’s previous name – RAF Silverstone. RAF Silverstone was a WWII bomber base, opened in 1943. The important thing to know about these gigantic metal birds is that they require huge amounts of assistance from the winds in order to take off – RAF Silverstone was built on one of the windiest sites that was available. It’s deliberate. And the wind won’t go away. I’ve spent many weekends watching racing at Silverstone and I can’t think of a single event I’ve been to that wasn’t wind. It’s great conditions for flying massive aircraft, it’s an awful lot less good for camping.
So, I guess what I wanted to talk about was the fact that the tents that you sleep in at LARP events need to be good enough for the job. If you’re going to sleep under IC canvas then there are a few basic precautions you can take. You can buy long 12″ iron pegs from the blacksmiths that come to LARP events. Even a few of those knocked in around your bell tent will make a huge amount of difference (but you’ll need a sledgehammer). And your guy ropes – don’t be afraid to replace them when they don’t hold tight anymore. It might seem like a big expense but it will stop your canvas going slack while you’re not with your tent. Slack canvas means you’re more likely to find your canvas ripped or the canvas even lifting off the top of your centre pole. And don’t forget to take your canvas out between every event and inspect it for any tears, rips, loose eyelets or missing brailing loops – and if those things do break then get them fixed professionally.
If you’re sleeping OOC then you can afford to get a bit more hi-tech. Festival tents and popup tents are basically designed to be temporary solutions that are only really suitable for good weather. Sure, a load of people will now chime in to say how their popup tent has lasted them 72 years of LARPing (and actually, I only retired my ten year old £30 Eurohike tent two years ago) but honestly, they’re not really a reliable solution.
I wrote before about my tent, but here’s the things I look out for when I’m looking for an OOC tent:
- Top of my list was the ability to pitch both the fly sheet and the inner together. They stay attached when you roll the tent up and pack it away, and it means that you can pitch in quite considerable storms without the inside getting wet.
- A groundsheet that has some depth to it. The groundsheet on my inner tent comes up about four inches off the ground at the sides. I’ve pitched it and woken up to a small river running under my tent, and not even noticed because it doesn’t come over the top of the raised edges of the groundsheet.
- Good pegs. I use the nail pegs that you can get now. They are literally six inch nails with plastic hooks attached. They’re heavy, but they’re pretty incredible (you have to buy these separately). Having said that, my tent also came with very tough lightweight pegs, and I usually just use those. With tent pegs you really do get what you pay for.
- A repair kit. You know what a repair kit tells me about a tent? It tells me that the manufacturer expects you to use it in conditions that might damage the tent. That’s a good sign. It doesn’t indicate shoddy workmanship or cheap materials, it indicates that the manufacturer expects you to be able to continue your activities even with a damaged tent. And it suggest that actually it shouldn’t be too hard to repair if it does fail.
- High quality attachment points on both inner and outer tents. The guy ropes on a good tent shouldn’t really be used in anything but the worst winds. Your tent should really stay up just by the tents themselves being pegged down. And for that reason…
- Avoid really tall tents. I know it’s nice to be able to stand up, but really tall tents with lots of flat sides (like awnings and similar features) are going to make your tent less and less indestructible. If you’re pitching your tent next to your car you don’t need oodles of storage space. Tents that are low to the ground and rounded will deflect the wind much better than a tall tent.
Oh… and don’t forget to look at the weather forecast and take a compass. Check out the weather forecast I added in above – it indicates the wind direction. Position your car next to your tent in such a way to buffer as much wind as possible. Your 1200kg car is not going anywhere. Use it to your advantage.
I am aware that so much of this post requires you having a decent amount of money in order to be of any use – but this is important guys. Being wet and cold is no fun, and is the quickest way to make your weekend miserable. Before buying that lovely new armour for your character, or a fancy new weapons, make sure you consider your personal safety at LARP, and just have a think about if your kit is suitable for purpose.
Stay safe for the rest of the season everyone – and I’m always up for a nerdy chat about mountaineering gear in a field!