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UPDATED FOR PENNSIC 45! About to attend her 38th Pennsic, Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope has compiled an array of tips and ideas on how to have the best possible experience at the War. In part one, she’ll list some things you can do now to prepare for Pennsic, including what to bring along and how to ensure that you’re ready.

Serengetti and Fort from Mt Eislinn AW

Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope

Pre-Pennsic Things to Do

  • Walk. Get used to it beforehand because you’ll do a lot of walking at Pennsic. A WHOLE lot. Walk at lunch or before/after work, and wear the shoes (you do have at least 2 pair, right?) that you’ll be wearing at Pennsic so you get them well broken in. Blisters do not a happy camper make.
East Royal sheet wall road

We’re walking, we’re walking…. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

  • Make lists. Keep a running list of the things you need to do, make and pack. You’d be surprised at the things you forget at first that pop up later, and you’ll need those lists to ensure that you have everything at packing time.
  • Sew. Concentrate on light-weight simple underclothes (shirts, shifts) of breathable, natural fabric, preferably linen or silk, though cotton will do. Make as many as you can (one for every day you’ll be at Pennsic, if you don’t want/plan to do laundry). Overtunics/gowns can be worn more than once if you have underclothes to soak up the perspiration. You can get cheap cotton at those Wal-Marts that still sell fabric or from the bargain racks at JoAnn Fabrics.
  • New fighters and fencers: authorize on time. For Pennsic 45, if you are a fighter and are not yet authorized, you must get your authorization in at least one weapons form by Sunday, July 24. If you are a fencer, there is no deadline date except that you must have your first authorization before Pennsic. If you are already authorized in at least one form, you can authorize in additional forms at Pennsic as long as an Æthelmearc Marshal is available with the appropriate paperwork. You may not use a weapons form in which you are not authorized in any Pennsic tournament or battle.
Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato.

Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato.

  • Repair any damaged gear. If you’ve been in the SCA long enough for your armor, weapons, clothing, or other equipment to have some wear, check it for any needed repairs and then make them. Don’t wait until you get to Pennsic to discover that the buckle on your cuisses needs to be replaced or there’s a seam coming apart in your favorite gown. While you’re at it, set your tent up in the back yard and check it for any issues. If you’ve just bought a new tent, set it up at home in daylight and good weather so you know how it goes together. This will make it far easier if (when) you have to set it up in the dark and/or rain when you get to Pennsic.
tent reflected in lake - Joe

Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

  • Shop wisely. To avoid spending a fortune, keep an eye out for sales and/or shop at thrift stores and dollar stores.
    • Photo by Lady Aine ny Allane

      Photo by Lady Aine ny Allane

      Thrift stores: candles, goblets/tankards and other feast gear, baskets, bedding, sometimes even camp stoves, bota bags, candle lanterns and hats.

    • Dollar stores: plastic totes, candles, sunscreen, toiletries, flashlights, canned and vacuum-sealed food items, small plastic tables for your tent, towel racks and sometimes folding chairs.
    • Some items become cheaper in late July, like folding camp chairs, while others become hard to find, like small propane canisters or inflatable wading pools.
    • Some things should not be economized on:
      • Buy a good sleeping bag or you may freeze if (when!) it gets really cold at night.
      • Get heavy tent stakes – not those rinky-dink little plastic ones, but 12-18″ long ones, preferably metal, so your tent doesn’t go rolling across the field in a strong wind.
      • Buy sturdy leather shoes and break them in before Pennsic, though flip-flops or crocs for midnight porta-john runs or showering are useful too.
      • Get a wool cloak. It will stay warm even when it’s wet. To economize, you can buy a big wool blanket or two at the thrift store and make it into a cloak.
  • Pack as much as you can as far in advance as you can. Don’t make yourself crazy packing at the last minute. As soon as you’ve attended your last pre-Pennsic event, pack the items you won’t use again until Pennsic in a tote and stick it in a corner until it’s time to load the car. Then check those items off your list. That way you won’t be wondering later whether you packed something or not.
  • Pre-register. It’s too late now, so if you haven’t pre-registered with a group, you will have to find a single-camping space. Single camper space is not for “single” (unmarried) people, it’s for people who did not pre-register with a group. For next year, I strongly recommend camping with a group like your household, shire or barony. Camping with a group often gives you access to amenities like an in-camp hot shower, a communal canopy and a fire pit, as well as neighbors who can lend a hand when needed. Random Scadians usually help each other in emergencies or when they see a need, but when you’re not feeling well or need a small favor, it’s easier to get assistance when you’re part of a group.
  • Pick your campmates very carefully. This is your time off, do not spend it with people who will annoy you.
  • Check the Pennsic website, www.pennsicwar.org. Look at it frequently, because its content changes over time! Study the map of the campground. Read the schedules, lists of activities, and classes. Create your own schedule (or even day planner) listing the events and activities you want to attend. There will be too many things to do, and it will be easy to forget the ones you want most if you don’t write them down.

Pennsic website banner

  • Budget. Save ahead of time for Pennsic, remembering that you can apply grocery and entertainment money that you would have spent back home. Decide how much you are willing/able to spend on Pennsic, and stick to your budget or you will be paying for Pennsic until Christmas! Consider all the costs: entry fee, meals, drinks, gas, entertainment, and shopping. Decide what one or two big purchases you want to make AT Pennsic (A sword? Armor? A new gown or tunic? A particular book? A musical instrument?), and save up for them.
 Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

Helms for sale at Pennsic. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

  • Waterproof. This includes your tent, the hem of your cloak, and your shoes. Even in the unlikely event that it doesn’t rain, there’s always dew. Scotchguard and Mink Oil are your friends. Pack socks and undies in ziplock bags, line all suitcases with plastic bags or use those plastic totes. Leave a full change of clothing, both warm and cold, locked in your car in case of monsoons.
Photo by THLord Juan Miguel Cezar

Photo by THLord Juan Miguel Cezar

  • Protect yourself from your own stupidity. Almost every first-timer overspends. Leave enough money for gas/food to get you home locked in the glove compartment of your car, or make sure you have a credit card with room on it.
  • Trim your fingernails short immediately before leaving. They’ll probably get broken and dirty anyway, especially during set up/tear down of your tent. If you can’t bear the thought, ladies apply a thick coat of polish and/or acrylic nails to protect them.

What to Bring

  • Lots of people have packing lists, and they will vary widely from person to person. There’s a pretty good one at www.Pennsic.net.
  • Don’t stress too much about little stuff. The Cooper’s store carries batteries, rope, tent pegs, sunscreen, bug spray etc. along with food, drink, bottled water, propane. and ice. They even charge reasonable prices instead of gouging like a tourist trap.
 Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

The Coopers’ Store. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

  • Bring drinking water. Pennsic water is safe to drink (don’t believe people who tell you otherwise; it’s been tested) but it is filled with a lot of minerals, especially iron, so it doesn’t taste good, doesn’t look appetizing as it turns orange in the sun when the iron precipitates out, and could upset your stomach if you’re sensitive. To save money, save up empty water jugs before Pennsic and fill them from the tap at home, but make sure they’re tightly capped to prevent spillage en route. Don’t try to clean milk jugs – it’s almost impossible to get them clean enough to avoid the sour milk smell and taste. Note that the Coopers are adding filtration to the water system but it hasn’t made it to all regions of the campground yet, and it may not do much for the iron issue.
  • Group your packing list by type of object, to make it easier to avoid missing items. I use the following categories:
    • Shelter (tent, tarp, dining fly, ropes, poles, stakes, hammer, etc.) It doesn’t need to be a pretty medieval pavilion; a modern nylon tent will do.
    • Bedding (air mattress or cot, sleeping bag, pillow, blankets, sheets)
    • Clothes (garb, modern clothes, hats, shoes, fans, and other accessories)
    • Cooking equipment (pots, pans, camp stove, dish detergent, feast gear including a mug on a strap to hang from your belt)
    • Food (cooler items including fruit, veggies and cold cuts, boxed/canned non-perishables, drinks including water and alcohol). The camp store has real food – fruits and veggies, bread, pastries, even some meat and dairy, and there’s a Super Wal-Mart about 20 minutes from the site, so don’t bring a week’s worth – it’ll only spoil in the heat and rain anyway. And yes, you can eat at the food court instead of cooking, but it will cost a lot more than making it yourself.
 The food court at Pennsic. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

The food court at Pennsic. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato.

    • Toiletries (soap & shampoo, towels, medications, 1st aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, earplugs for light sleepers, safety pins, plastic trash bags, clothes pins to hang wet clothes, tissues)
    • Misc. (basket or tote bag, blank book or note book with a pen/pencil, folding table, candles, flashlight, batteries, banner, book to read and/or board games, plastic basin for washing your clothes, dishes and feet!)
    • “Toys” (armor & weapons, scribal supplies, musical instruments, embroidery, archery equipment, throwing weapons, etc.)
  • Leave room for the stuff you’ll buy at Pennsic to come home! If possible, come with your suitcases/totes about 1/4 empty – even if you don’t buy much, stuff never packs as tightly going home as it did getting there.
 Yes, you can buy socks at Pennsic. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

Yes, you can buy socks at Pennsic, in every color of the rainbow. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato

  • Ladies, expect your monthly cycle to get out of whack, so bring supplies even if you’re not expecting to need them.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss what you should do once you arrive at Pennsic.