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15th Alabama Company G

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Camp Tips

  

Camp Tips

 

1. Have water in your tent -- either in wooden buckets or in plastic jugs, depending on your level of authenticity. I try to have at least a gallon or two most of the time. It's my reserve, in case they cut off water to the camps.

2. Piggybacks on 2 -- Find at least the two closest sources of water. If they are tanks, one may be drunk dry. If they are spigots, the line might be incredible at certain times, having a back up plan can help keep tempers cool.

3. Take a pin-light flashlight or your candle lantern with you to the port-a-johns after dark. At  events there are horrifying sights concealed in those little houses after a certain point on Saturday night. Look before you sit.

4. If you are not wearing a hoop, please avoid using the handicap accessible bathrooms. The fewer of us who use them, the cleaner they will be. There are often large number of disabled veterans and seniors who attend these events with wheelchairs, walkers and just plain mobility problems. If you know anything about transferring from a wheelchair to a john stool, you know that it usually involves putting your hands on the john stool. The less that those of us who are more able-bodied or wearing corded petticoats or very modest hoops use those johns, the better.

5. Pack a little supply of toilet paper in a zip lock bag in case of rain or floods. Don't take a whole roll, just a certain number of squares in case the johns run out of paper.

6.Think carefully about where you camp. Considerations are drainage (slight slope is better than at the bottom of a ditch), and shade if any is possible.

*Want a cooler tent at night? Rather than pitching your fly as a porch over the front of your tent, look at some period photographs of military camps and pitch your fly over your tent, leave a space of a foot or so between the fly and the tent. Amazing the difference in terms of the coolness of the tent.

*Take a shovel and trench around your tents. Might not be needed, but in case of rain, it's so much better to be high and dry, with a moat than sitting in the middle of your tent watching your belongings bob around you and float out the door.

7. In addition to your sunscreen, pack your insect repellant and your sturdy fan.  

8. If you aren't camping with cots (I can't sleep comfortably on them, myself), consider making yourself a straw tick out of canvas or bed ticking -- just sew it like a huge poke bag with one open end. Ask about  a bale of hay at registration, stuff your tick and then scrooch around on it until you get the straw distributed to your satisfaction. Make it up just like a bed, with a straw mattress. Heavenly sleeping.

I don't recommend sleeping in loose straw, however, as it often is a terrific home for ticks, and I've got an ambition to avoid Lyme disease.

9. Make sure that you have at least one bucket of water next to your fire pit at all times. Some folks also swear by a second bucket of sand.

10. Try to always have someone in camp through Friday as everyone else arrives, and keep other people from pitching their tents closer than 4 feet or so from your tents. Also have a space between your tents of at least four feet. This is a fire break, and is the distance that the military manuals of the time recommended, for exactly the same reason. Several years ago some children were playing with burning straw in a high wind and 3-6 tents went up in a blaze -- luckily no one was badly burned, but several families lost all their reenacting gear.

11. If you feel it's not too farby, take along a small fire extinguisher and make sure everyone in your camping group knows where to get it in case of an emergency. I'd like to say that everyone who attends something like this will have taught themselves and their children basic fire safety, but sadly it's not true.

12. Be careful around the fire when cooking, and I'd recommend not letting anyone cook wearing a hoop, as it is very easy to forget exactly how wide you are, and get the fire going up inside your hoops.

13. Watch your neighbors' practices regarding fire safety as well. And I recommend getting very assertive if you see them doing stupid things -- like using bales of hay to surround their fire, using gasoline to start their fire, refusing to use a bucket or have any way of putting the fire out, using lamp oil to start a fire, throwing lamp oil on each other when drunk and then trying to light matches, ignoring a fire when there is a high wind and it is licking 1.5 feet horizontally out of it's fire pit, all of which I have personally seen. Remember, civilian camp is usually filled with children, tents too close together and a lot of people who know very little about 19th century fire safety. Keep a weather eye peeled.

14. Don't bring oil lamps into civilian camp. If you do, make sure that you have several buckets of sand at the ready. Burning lamp oil, fallen from an accidentally overturned or knocked over lamp will actually float and spread the fire when you try to throw water on it.

15. If you have a hatchet or axe in camp, put it out of sight whenever it is not in use. Spectators do ridiculous things, like try to press their thumb down hard on the cutting edge of an axe. I once saw a little male spectator pick up a carelessly neglected hatchet and take off at a run with it raised over his head chasing his sister.

16. Watch out for unattended toddlers -- believe it or not some parents actuallyy leave a child of 6 or younger to 'watch the baby" while they go to the sutlers. I've heard three different stories about reenactors who suddenly found a spare 2 years old wandering through their campsite on it's own.

17. Don't forget to take your water bottle with you to the dance -- you don't actually have to take it into the tent, just stash it in the area, so you can get a drink in between reels if you are thirsty.

18. Carry ID on you at all times. If you have any allergies, or medical conditions, write them on an index card and stash it in your dress or in a pocket where the EMTs will find it if you pass out. Tell your friends where it is on you. Include your emergency contact person's name and phone number in case it is needed.

19. Unless you want to spend much of your time at the event cooking, take food that you can keep in your basket and eat cold. 

20. Go to bed early -- you are going to be waking up when the military camps blow reveille or when the birds start shrieking with dawn. Keep in mind that the cornfield battle will start early. There's no sleeping late, at least for me, at reenactments. A nap in the middle of the day is perfectly period, however.

21. If you are planning a "fashionable" impression, with dressy bonnet, invest in a parasol to keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes -- a ripping headache is perfectly period, but will put a real crimp in your enjoyment of the event.

22. If you are not visiting the johns every two hours, you are not hydrated enough. I never attended a  event without at least 3 people getting heatstroke. Mothers are usually prime candidates for this, as they are always looking after everyone else and forgetting to drink water. Start upping your water intake 2-3 days before the event -- I like to get up to 3-4 liters of water a day in the days before the event. It's terrific for your skin, and it makes a huge difference in your comfort level.

23. Don't let yourself get too tired, too hungry or too hot. Remember that you are wearing clothing that is an extra challenge and take good care of yourself.

24. Leave early for the battles if you want to get a good spot to see them.

25. Plan to bring everything you need with you, and don't try to go "out" again in the car once it is parked. The traffic on the country roads surrounding an event is sometimes absolutely amazing.

26. Minimize the amount of food you bring that needs to be kept on ice. The more ice you need, the more time you will spend worrying about will the ice run out, or fretting about the cost of ice, or checking the cooler. 

27. If it rains, make sure that nothing in your tent touches the canvas inside, as that will break the surface tension of the water on the outside of the canvas, resulting in a leak.

28. Bring NOTHING with you if having it ruined would devastate you -- the tintype of gggrandpa, the antique trunk, the silk hanky you inherited. Leave them home -- your stuff may be rained on, dragged through or fall into the mud or any number of catastrophes.

29. Don't leave items lying around camp --   If you see spectators goingg through someone else's trunk or tent, speak up. They might just be curious and disrespectful, or they might be casing the joint -- several expensive rifles were stolen recently in Oregon.

30. Take a ground cloth for the inside of your tent.

31. Take a number of warm blankets -- you would be amazed how the temperature can fall at night, even in the middle of summer.

32. Completely change clothing before going to bed.

33. Have your matches and a spare candle in a tin cup or a peach boiler at a spot that is easy to find in the dark -- I usually have this at the base of a teent pole, so that if you need to strike a light in the middle of the night, you can do so quickly.

34. Set up your bedding and your clothing for bed while it is still light, before going to dinner or the dance or chatting with friends. When you want to go to bed, you don't have to grope around in the dark.

35. Remember that even a small candle lit while you change for bed casts a very clear shadow of you on the side of your tent wall -- a very entertaining show for a certain element of the male side of the hobby.

36. Make yourself a huck towel, and in one end of it roll up a chunk of soap. Voila! instant hand washing supplies. And I much prefer the way my hands feel with soap and water to the waterless hand cleansers.

37. Cut your nails short before the event -- the amount of filth that you get at an event is amazing.

38. Bring some small handwork that you can whip out and work on while in lines or waiting for things (battles, to get your picture taken, for stuff at the snack bar, etc.) I always have my sewing somewhere on me...and it transforms the sight of a line into a thing of delight.

39. Leave the clean, dry 21st century clothing for the trip home in a specific bag (preferably waterproof) so that you can easily find it.

40. Leave a set of clean, dry sweats or a pair of jeans and a turtleneck in the car in case of freezing rain or sudden cold. I also leave a gallon of water in the car as my emergency stash as well.

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In rememberance and for the future.