"BART'S PENNSIC THINGIE: An Instruction Manual for Pennsic War" by Bartholomew the Bewildered. Bart's Pennsic guidebook w. Estrella addm.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
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Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
BART'S PENNSIC THINGIE: An Instruction Manual for Pennsic War
******************** Campaigner's Notes ***********************
When I came into possession of a copy of the original issue of
this document (I had lost my last copy more than three years previously), I
decided to update it. The reaction that first update received has
prompted me to continue to expand on the idea. Originally this was a
checklist of things to take, but it has steadily grown to include other
The original was targeted for Pennsic XII (back when it was a
week-end war), but it is useful for most camping events. Add more of any
item as you see fit for longer periods and delete items for shorter
events. This is all meant as advice, I am not associated with anyone
making policy for the War.
What follows is a list of useful things to know and to have
along when campaigning in the wilds of western Pennsylvania. As well as an
extended and reorganized checklist, there are sections on things to be wary
of (see Section 2, WARNINGS), hygiene (Section 3), and thoughts on dealing
with food and eating. The style may seem severe and the warnings stern,
but do not let these scare you off. These issues are raised in this manner
to alert and instruct so that you may better enjoy the War.
There are possibilities for danger in any camping trip,
knowing what they are and how to deal with them can be the difference
between a little excitement and a disaster. Included here are some
of the things to be aware of, and have plans for, when you go to Pennsic.
This is by no means a complete coverage of dangers, but it hits the points
that cause the most trouble to most folks.
I would like to emphasize a climatological fact. The area the
War is held in is part of the Great Plains weather pattern. This means
the area is subject to disturbances at the leading edge of a cold
front (a 15 to 40 degree temperature drop). Friends from the East (and
West) Kingdom have variously referred to these as monsoons, typhoons and
Storms_of_Great_Ferocity_and_Note. Those of us who grew up in the Midwest
call them thunder showers, except for some folks I know from Kansas who call
it mild rain (no twister and it did not flatten the crops). These storm
cells are 15 minutes to three hours of high winds (50 plus knots), heavy
rain, and spectacular lightning. A storm may be followed by several hours of
rain. The fronts seem to roll through every six to nine days in August.
I advise all to expect at least one storm.
The people who grew up with the weather do not ignore the
storms, these folks respect and plan for the weather. It is
unpleasant, but need not be a disaster. Some things to remember:
* Do not panic. If you are truly terrified, tell someone
so they can keep an eye on you, keep busy so you will not
have time to panic until the camp is secured, and then
find company and cuddle or sing or give back rubs or
whatever it takes to get through the storm (this can make
* Storms usually come from the west. Avoid setting up your
tent with the door facing due west. A slight cant to the
north or south will keep things drier and lessen the
chance of having the tent blow down or tear.
* Make sure that your tent is set up with all of its pegs
and tie downs (dome tents may need extra guy lines; once
they start rolling, they are hard to catch). If you do
this in the first place, you will spend less time in the
rain doing it after the storm hits.
* If you are camped on an incline (probable), then you
might consider a small drainage ditch on the uphill side
of the tent. This channels water around rather than
through your tent.
* Do not use heroic measures to save a dining fly or
awning. Some things were not meant to stand high winds.
A flapping piece of plastic with a pole attached to it
can do a lot of damage, both to people and to property.
If the wind gets high and the fly starts to take off,
drop it down over what you want covered and weight the
2.2 Temperature Extremes
A more subtle climatological fact is that the average
temperature and humidity in August is horrendous during the day, while the
nights can be down right cold. (Can you say frost? I knew you could.)
Either of these extremes can lead to health problems that have one symptom in
common: the affected person gets stupid. As someone who has suffered from
these medical conditions, I can think of no better description. The
mental processes slow
(or shut) down and you are in a walking stupor. The sufferer stops
listening to reasonable advice and will do things that will seem stupid
to them when they have recovered. Many other injuries at the
War are probably related to these conditions. Watch your friends and
Daytime high temperatures average in the high 90's with
humidity to match. If you are not used to this, or are not in prime
condition, take_it_easy. More people, fighters and spectators, are
lost to heat than all other types of injuries. Folks who are
used to desert heat are as likely to drop as any. The high humidity,
which they are not used to, slows heat loss via sweating. If the
temperature and humidity get high, drink lots of water, stay in the shade,
eat fruit (especially bananas), and occasionally taste metabolite
replacement drinks (drinks that replace minerals that the body sweats out).
While Gator-Aid is not the best, it is easy to get (too high a concentration
of mineral salts and too much sugar; dilute with water for best effect). If
Gator-Aid does not taste bad, drink up until it does, you are in trouble.
(How is that for rough and ready sports medicine?) Go easy on
the alcoholic beverages. An occasional beer or wine cooler is a
relief, but alcohol speeds dehydration by replacing water in the body and
then using more to be metabolized, so, in quantity, it is a very bad thing.
Other symptoms of heat disorders include flushed and dry skin, lethargy,
no sweat, and, as I said, acting stupid.
* NOTE *
If you are not used to eating lots of fruit, you may
experience some intestinal changes. Some fruits can
cause constipation, others make you watery. Heat
illnesses and water change can have similar effects,
especially diarrhea. Just another warning.
The large difference between daytime and nighttime
tempeatures (night temperatures range from mid 30s to the 50s, e.g.
chilly) common to the area can also lead to another problem
encountered at the War, hypothermia. This is a drop of the core temperature
of the body, which can lead to coma and death if not treated. Treatment
is to warm the person up as quickly as possible. It is easier to avoid
hypothermia by changing out of wet clothes, drying off, and getting warm.
If a friend is wet (say after being out in the rain) and getting cold
(since the temperature dropped 30 degrees in the last hour) help them out. Get them into dry clothes and get them warm. Strong drink (liquor) is
not advised if they are still wet or cold. While they may seem to feel
warmer, drinking alcohol speeds heat loss, which is what you are trying to
The next point I will touch on moves from cold back to hot,
i.e. fire. This wonderful tool is like any other, it will turn and bite
you if you mishandle it. The Chirurgeonate would like to mandate a
minimum of 10 feet between open flames and tents. I wish them luck since
common sense is hardly common. The rule of thumb I use is far enough
away so that the fire cannot be knocked into the tent. Never have an
open flame in a tent. Lanterns in tents are an issue I will not address
except to point out I use battery lamps in tents. Most modern fabrics
melt too fast and too hot for me to want to take chances.
In case of tent fires (Heaven forfend!), the Autocrate has
demanded 3.5 feet between tent walls, hoping this will keep a fire
from spreading if and when. If this seems like a lot, look at the guy
lines from a properly set 3-person A-frame tent and you will find that two of
them will end up having their walls three to four feet apart. If they
use that much (my pavillion uses more), I find this request resonable.
As for campfires, if you are not good friends with
Prometheus, be very careful. Amateurs make me nervous. There are very
few people in the world (let alone at Pennsic) who are good at
treating amateur fire gods who become burn victims.
2.4 Invertebrates (Bugs)
If you have never been camping, you are about to find out one
of the less thrilling things about nature; God must love insects, he sure
made a lot of them. Something for folks from the left coast to remember
is that there are a lot more insects, both type and number, on this side of
the Rockies. I never saw a tent with zip-out netting until I helped Duke
Paul set his up at a Pennsic. They just are not sold in the Midwest or
East. Bring mosquito netting and bug spray and remember to keep garbage,
coolers and tent netting closed. If you are allergic to bee stings,
bring your medication! Some types of note:
o House flies - That friend you thought you left at home
is here at the war, too. Just like at home, he never
wipes his feet before landing on your table (or food),
no matter where he was last. Keep food and garbage
covered and clean food preparation areas, just like at
o Horse and deer flies - While you can go the whole war
without seeing them, these beauties are not uncommon in
the area. They both bite and leave a welt. Horse
flies are slightly larger than house flies. Deer flies
are dark with white "eyes" on the wing and are slightly
smaller than house flies. They are both easily
discouraged by using insect repellent.
o Ticks - Both Woods and Deer Tick are indigenous to the
region, each can vector for some nasty diseases.
Insect repellent works, but a "tick check" twice a day
is still a good idea.
o Mosquitos - While not in the same class as the ones in
Alaska or Minnesota ("It is awe inspiring to watch as
the mosquitos majestically flap their wings as they
carry off sheep and small children."), mosquitos are a
pest in the wooded and low areas. Insect repellent
makes the evenings more pleasant (and pungent).
o Ground Hornets and Wasps - There are usually several
nests in the woods. If you find one, mark the area and
walk away passively. Do_not disturb the nest. Contact
site security about it, if it is in a high traffic area
they will probably bomb it.
There are other bugs out there -- ants will find any open
food, given time, and a cricket is not an ideal tent companion
-- but they are not threats to health or comfort. Some are
downright good companions. A Cranefly (Mosquito hawk), for instance, looks
like a mosquito, but eats several times its weight in mosquitos a day.
Spiders are also on your side, unless you rile them.
For many folks, Pennsic is their first and/or only camping
experience. When camping, the standard rules of hygiene apply. There
are also other, camping related, practices to be aware of that help make
camping safer and more fun. It does not take much to turn camping from
fun into a nightmare. Many of the of the causes for discomfort can be
linked to disregarding some sensible rules.
3.1 General Hygiene
This topic is an old one. I had it from my parents, in the Boy
Scouts, and in High School Gym class, but it is still important. If
these precautions seem trivial and unnecessary, think again. The
heralds have cried these through the camp for the last two Pennsics. These
* Wash your hands after using the privy.
* Wash your hands before handling food, especially if you
are preparing it for more than yourself.
* Use clean surfaces for food preparation.
* Store food correctly. This means meats and milk products
in a cooler, bread in plastic in the shade, et cetera.
All meat should be kept in a cool place, even sausages.
Sausages with a high fat content, even if smoked, can go
* Cover or close your garbage container. This makes it
harder for flies to spread diseases.
3.2 Camp Hygiene
Camping also requires some special provisions for hygiene
beyond those above. Looking through my Scout manuals reminds me of
several that were so ingrained I take them for granted. I was also
reminded of some safety and courtesy rules that make camping more pleasant.
Some of these are:
* Keep your cooler(s) closed tightly. The ice lasts
longer, the food stays cooler, and the chances of an
insect invasion go way down. Another good thought is to
keep drinks in a separate cooler than food.
* Check yourself occasionally for ticks and rashes. Poison
ivy is no fun, but can be contained if you catch it
early, as can Lymes Disease (which has been reported in
* Wash dishes completely and carefully. Get them clean!
- Wipe off excess food before you start.
- At least use a basin of soapy water and a hot rinse.
Use a final rinse with a sanitizing solution if you
can, especially if someone in your camp is sick.
- Change the water (especially the rinse water) if it
starts getting dirty.
- Air dry dishes on a clean surface. This may seem odd,
but it is less likely to spread disease than using a
* Dispose of waste water carefully. Under normal
circumstances, this means keep it away from the fresh
water supply, but it also applies to not dumping dirty
water around the spigots. After a day or so, the area
around the water spigots becomes a quagmire from people
washing dishes and performing their personal ablutions
there. Put the water in a bucket and do your washing
* Use a sump hole or grease pit to dispose of waste water
and liquid waste (e.g grease). This is your home for a
while; would you pour out dish water on the kitchen
floor? This hole can be sited either near the fire pit
or in some area that will not be used as a walk way.
Mark it to keep people from stepping in it in the dark.
* Use a fire pit. Cut away (and save) the sod and dig a
pit larger than your fire and surround the outer edge
with stones. This reduces the chance of grass fires.
* Never leave a fire untended. If you are leaving the area
for a while, or going to bed, bank the fire carefully.
If you do not know how to bank a fire, put it out.
(Actually, Security will probably put it out any way and,
considering the way some encampments were set up, I don't
* Do not throw refuse in the fire. Most common plastics
release toxic fumes when burned, glass bottles can
shatter (explode), and cans will still need to be
disposed of after the fire is out.
* Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. Clean up
as you go (this really makes the whole trip more
pleasant). When you are leaving, cover your fire pit and
refill any other holes you have dug (replacing the sod is
a nice touch).
Eating during the War is a problem with several solutions. If
the weather is typical (hot), you may not feel like eating much. Do not
give in to this! Drink lots of fluids and force yourself to eat fruits and
easy to digest protein during the day. This way, when it cools off at
night, you will have enough energy to eat carbohydrates and other
difficult to digest foods that you need.
4.1 Supply Yourself
Bring some or most of the food you need. It can either be
preprepared and frozen or brought as ingredients if they are not perishable.
Perishables (vegetables, ice, and such) can be purchased at Cooper's Camp
Store (which has gotten quite large) or from a store in town. Butler is 15
miles east on 422 and New Castle is 10 miles west. There are grocery
stores, state stores (liquor and wines), and beer distributors in
both cities. There are also department stores in case you need something
else, like a new tent. (Mine blew up in a storm one year. That is right,
not down, up. The front blew right off. I have witnesses.)
4.2 Join or Form a Food Plan
There may be taverns on site that charge a set price to feed you
for the week, however, many groups do their cooking together. For
information on how the local group or your household is doing things, ask
at local meetings. If you do pool resources, set it up beforehand. I advise
cash in advance and an agreed upon work schedule. People resent someone who
appears to be free-loading.
4.3 Catch as Catch Can
The taverns open for general business after the folks who have
prepaid (if any) have eaten.There are sometimes people wandering around
selling food ("Bagels and cream cheese!" "Here, over here, my good man.").
There are even some folks willing to feed a waif who wanders by at meal
time. The latter may be the most expensive choice of this most expensive
method. (You could wind up doing dishes for the rest of the War!)
5. WHAT TO TAKE
This is the real reason I started writing this, to give a
basic checklist. For ease of reference, the list is broken into two
Sections: that which you need and that which might come in handy.
The following should not be left at home. If you have
limited room,the items on this list can all fit in one duffel bag or two
medium sized bags.
* Enough of any medication that you need for the length of
your stay. It can ruin your trip if you run out, and
convincing a local Doctor to write a new prescription can
be difficult, if not impossible.
* Sleeping bag and pad. You can always bum a place to
sleep, but you ought to have something to sleep in, even
if it is just a couple of blankets. This area can get
down into the 50's on warm nights. This is no joke. The
pad can just be something to keep you off of the cold
ground; a thicker pad adds to comfort immensely.
* Rain gear. Rain coat or poncho, boots for mucking about,
wool socks, plastic tarps. While a heavy, somber toned
poncho most resembles an oil skin cloak (period rain
wear), use what you have. Better safe than soaked; I
have found mundanity is accepted when it is bucketing
rain and you are holding down a tent (especially someone
* Hat. This gets a separate item because it is important.
A hat keeps the rain off, cuts body heat loss in the cold
or at night, and keeps the sun from boiling your brain as
quickly. Sun stroke and sun burn can be a drag. The hat
should be mediaeval looking, but that leaves a lot of lee
way. All oriental hats, many straw hats, and some
leather cowboy hats look right. A note on hat etiquette:
remove your hat in buildings, tents, or even shade. As
well as being polite, wearing a hat out of the sun is
almost bad for you as no hat in the sun.
* A warm cloak (or a friend that has one) or a plain
blanket that can be worn as one and can be sat on.
Again, the nights get cold and the dew falls heavily even
(especially) after the hottest days.
* Portable light sources, both for camp and the port-a-
castle. Authentic if possible, but a hand flash is
sometimes more convenient. If you use propane lanterns,
be aware that they are bright. They can hurt the eyes of
those of us who adjust well to the dark and provide quite
a show if used as out-house illumination in a plastic
* Toiletries. The usual stuff (soap, towel, toothbrush,
etc.), and do not forget the shower gear.
* Money to buy fresh food, fire wood, drink, trinkets,
instruments, garb, armour, art, or whatever else you
cannot live without.
* Sun screen. This is new, but only because I over looked
it. If you are typical, this is the most sun you will
see all year. Getting severe sunburn can take a lot of
the fun out of the War; armor chafes in new places,
tunics rub, and you feel crummy. If you are fair skinned
and/or do not get much sun, take precautions.
* A bottle opener, can opener, and/or cork screw. I have
seen people offered peerages for these things.
5.2 Et Cetera
What follows is a list of things that are handy but may be
left out if you do not want (or cannot afford) to overburden yourself.
* Armour. This is not mandatory, unless you want to fight
or scout. There is still lots to do without fighting. I
know a couple of knights who have just left their harness
at home and relaxed at a War (O.K., so one marshalled a
couple of times and the other was doing his thing as a
* Instruments. Whether to just use at bardic circles or
for more serious music, instruments can add to the fun.
If you are a serious musician, or would like to be, this
is about the best place you will find for S.C.A. jam
* Garb. This is an S.C.A. event, and some attempt should
be made to dress in period as much of the time as
possible. Mundane costumes are fine for under armour or
for going into town (but you might get complaints even
then). The following should suffice:
- Two to four simple tunics or dresses in some light
colored solid, with trousers or skirts to match, if
desired. These should be a natural fiber that breaths
well (e.g. cotton, linen, et cetera), as light as
possible, while preserving modesty.
- A warm piece of garb, or an over-tunic to pull on over
a light tunic (layering is very effective), for cold
nights or days. A solid colored cheap velour or heavy
trigger work well for this as both have a high
polyester content and do not breath much.
- One good or semi-good outfit for court, going to the
taverns, or visiting the campsite of someone you wish
to impress. If the piece in item 2 is well made, it
will do admirably.
- Light shoes or sandals, unless you want to slop around
bare foot. Be warned, the gravel on the roads is
- Heavy shoes or boots if you plan to go into the woods.
- Accessories. A belt with a pouch and knife are good
things to have around.
* Change of other clothes for the time spent plus two that
is wrapped in plastic to keep dry. If you do not have
extra socks, you will need them, and there is nothing
worse than getting clean and then having to climb back
into dirty, sweaty clothes. While washers are available,
it is best not to rely on them, unless you like hanging
out in laundry-mats. It is a good idea to have at least
one change of mundanes in your vehicle in case all of
your clothes on site get soaked.
* Song books. Bardic circles, or a large tent during a
storm, are a great place to sing old favorites and learn
* Eating utensils. What type depends on how you plan to
eat. If you are taking care of yourself, you will also
need cooking and clean up gear.
* Grill, spit, tripod, camps stove, or some other way to
tame fire and hold cooking pots. Which of these you use
depends on preference, experience, and level of
* Swim suit and towel. Many folks skinny-dip at the
swimming hole but a) I am not skinny, b) the water is
better at the state park down the road, and c) I am shy.
* A tent or tents. An extra tent allows more room for
storage and hospitality. While pavilions are nice,
modern tents are acceptable.
* Coolers are always welcome. They also can be packed with
gear during travel.
* Plastic jugs of any size for water and mixed soft drinks.
Canned and bottled drinks are good, but powdered Gator-
Aid and Kool-Aid are cheaper and easer to pack.
* Extra and/or fancy garb.
* Camp lights. Kerosene torches, candles with chimneys,
hurricane lamps, or what ever. They give a campsite a
nice look and keep people from literally tripping around.
* Hand Fan. It may not be 100 degrees in the shade, but a
fan is still "a good thing."
* Books and games in case things get slow (or hot).
* Bandanas, Band-aids, bug spray (Avon Skin-So-Soft bath
oil is an effective and pleasant smelling substitute),
hatchet, jack knife, matches (or flint and steel), rope,
string, sewing kit, safety pins, and anything else that
is handy in camp.
This is not a complete list, nor should it be taken as one. It
is a start based on more than 10 years of War experience and more general
camping experience. I still tend to use my old Boy Scout manual checklist, I
just substitute "garb" for "uniform" and go. If you forget, or do not have
an item, you can probably obtain it on site or near by. The main thing
to remember is to have fun. See you there!
(c) Copyright Paul S. Kay, 1988, 1989, 1990. This document
may be freely reproduced as long as the author's name
and this copyright notice are included.
Bartholomew the Bewildered, Carillion, East Kingdom
(mka Paul Kay, 58 Winchester Dr., Tinton Falls, NJ 07724, USA)
ADDENDUM: Camping at Estrella War
-Ioseph of Locksley
2.5 Bugs at Estrella, and other Wild Life
o SCORPIONS: Scorpions look like a cross between a spider and a
crab, and come in all sizes. The -small- ones have a more
virulent poison than the large ones. they hide under rocks, logs
boards, in shoes left out overnight...anywhere it's dark and cozy.
The effects of being stung range from a sensation of a mild bee
sting to severe shock. DON'T MESS WITH THEM.
o SPIDERS: Most are harmless, but Black Widows and the Brown Recluse
are quite poisonous. DON'T MESS WITH THEM. They hide in out of the
way corners, and under things that have not been moved in several
o SNAKES: Yup, we have rattlesnakes in the area. They will usually
keep away from people, but if you see or hear one, GET AWAY, and
report it's location to the Constable. DO NOT MESS WITH IT.
GENERAL ADVICE ON BUGS AND SNAKES:
-Don't put your hand where you cannot see.
-Kick a rock over with your foot before you pick it up.
-Shake out your shoes in the morning.
o TWO-LEGGED PREDATORS: This is a public park, and mundanes of all
types can be expected.
2.2.1 WEATHER AT ESTRELLA WAR
Estrella War is held over President's Day Weekend, in a very large
park at the foot of the South Mountain/Estrella Mountain ranges.
These mountains will channel the wind, and therefore you must be
prepared for high winds, blowing dust, and occasional rain with
high winds. The wind -usually- blows from the west, so take that
into consideration when you set up your camp.
The park is on pretty level ground, so ditching around the tents is
5.1.1 ESTRELLA WAR NECESSITIES
o Sun Screen is a MUST. The Sun in these parts is Not Your
o This is an official SCA "event." Garb is REQUIRED.
o Glass containers are -not allowed- in the Park.
o Loaded firearms are -not allowed- in the Park. Leave them in
o "Recreational chemicals" are a FELONY in Arizona. Don't even
bring them along.
CHILDREN AT ESTRELLA WAR:
The main thing to keep in mind here is the warning about bugs and
other critters, and to impress on the kids the ABSOLUTE necessity
of NOT wandering out of the main Park area (the War is held in a
large, grassy and treed area within an oval formed by a road.) Tell
your kids NOT to wander across the road, and NOT to wander in the
scrub-brush area to the west (where the broken-field battles are
To the south, across the road, are the Estrella Mountains. To the
north is the Agua Fria river-bed (snakes, bogs, and Here-there-be-
Monsters.) To the east are more mountains. The scrub-brush is to the
west, along with a golf course and the Ranger station. These are Not
Nice Places for kids, especially small children with no outdoor
experience in desert lands. They can get lost in these areas VERY
ESTRELLA WAR GENERAL:
There are motels, hotels, restaurants and so forth within 5 minutes
of the Park. There are also stores, hospitals and so forth in -very-