Let’s be honest: camping on its own can be harrowing to the inexperienced, but imagine layering on a LARP on top of that. It’s not easy, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. For several years, my friends tried to get me to join them at these weekend-long camper LARPs. I was interested, but hindered by thoughts of enduring the elements and camping and bugs and dirt and how do I eat and are there even bathrooms?
Now that I’ve endured two of these and came out mostly okay, I wanted to share some advice for fellow newbies looking to take the plunge into the exciting and immersive worlds of live action roleplay games.
- Create a packing list: Write down everything you will need to bring a few weeks in advance. If you know someone who’s done a camper LARP before, ask them for a copy of their list as a starting point.
- Borrow gear before investing: If you don’t already have camping gear, LARP-safe padded weapons, or armor, you should seriously consider borrowing these items first. The last thing you want is to spend all the money only to discover that you hate the experience or you want to completely change your character concept.
- Forget something?: LARPers are generally very nice people. If you need help pitching your tent, or to borrow a tool, or just need some advice, don’t be afraid to ask.
Tip #1: Costuming
When gamers create a character, usually the first thing they consider is their costume. In an immersive LARP where you are expected to remain in character the entire time, having everyone dressed appropriately helps to keep that immersion. Here are some things to consider when building your costume:
- Shoes: Insoles are your best friend. You will be on your feet more than you think. Insoles can absorb shock, provide arch support, and generally help your stamina. You want your shoes to fit snugly to your foot while still being comfortable. The less space your foot can move, the less likely you are to develop blisters.
- Socks: Bring extras. Change your socks every day, if not twice daily. Your feet will sweat, even in cold weather.
- Comfort: You will be wearing this costume for 12-24 hours. Will you be comfortable the entire time? Maybe a corset, wig, and heels isn’t such a good choice.
- Layering: Outdoor LARPs tend to have a range in temperature differences. Kai Norman of the Life. Action. Roleplay! podcast suggests having an outer garment as your “signature” piece, and layer warmer or lighter clothing underneath as needed. If you wear armor, you will need padded clothing underneath to protect your skin.
- Colors: Characters tend to have a color theme. Many people often go with blacks and browns, however, playing in the sunshine is not amenable to dark colors. Consider alternative looks that offer the style you’re going for, but optimized for weather.
- Makeup: If you want to play a character that requires heavy makeup, keep in mind that you may or may not have access to a reasonably sized mirror and good lighting to apply it. It’s also very time consuming, so you will need to manage your time. If you do wear makeup, bring some kind of makeup remover for the end of the day.
Tip #2: Self Care
Taking care of your health is vital to having fun. It’s very easy to slip into a bad habit of not eating, drinking, or resting enough because you’re so caught up in the gameplay.
- Take breaks: Sit down or take a nap for an hour. You can roleplay sitting down too. Sometimes your mind needs a break in addition to your body.
- Hydrate: Pack more water and drinks with electrolytes than you think you will need. Pickles are also excellent for restoring electrolytes. Applesauce and fruits are also good for restoring hydration as well as sugars.
- Meals: If your LARP offers a meal plan, buy into it. A solid meal with protein and carbohydrates will fuel you far better than constant snacking.
- Bring your meds: Depending on where you live, many LARPs cannot legally provide you with medicine, much like schools, due to liability. Pack pain relievers, allergy pills, digestive aids, and anything else you could possibly need. I also highly recommend band-aids for blisters or other scrapes.
- Toiletries: Bring whatever you might bring for an overnight trip such as a toothbrush and paste, comb, deodorant, contact lenses, glasses, moisturizer, etc.
- Wet wipes, tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and toilet paper: You may or may not have running water. Be prepared. You can use wet wipes to clean off sweat and dirt from your body.
- Pointed nail file and clippers: You are very likely to tear a nail and there is a 100% chance the undersides of your nails will get filthy.
- Sunblock: Make sure to always wear sunblock on your face and body. Reapply every 2-3 hours, even in winter.
- Bug Spray: There will be bugs. You will get bitten. Peppermint oil is a nice deterrent that also smells pleasant.
- If you feel sick: Stop, check yourself and get help if you need it.
Tip #3: Camping Supplies
Yes, you can spend the whole day playing, but at some point, you’re going to need to sleep. It doesn’t take much, but there are a few essentials.
- Tent: You don’t need a huge one, but you want something in which you can sleep comfortably as well as store your belongings. A cheap tent is usually a poor choice. You need something to protect you from the weather and bugs.
- Air mattress or mats: It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep at a camper LARP. Bring something you can fit on comfortably.
- Warm blankets: I recommend two types. The first is a fleece blanket because they warm you quickly. The second is some kind of polyester/canvas blanket or sleeping bag to cut the wind. The combination of the two should keep you toasty even on a cold night.
- Lighting: Bring both a lantern and a flashlight. It’s a pain rummaging around for something at night with only a dim lantern or your phone’s flashlight.
- Spare slip-on shoes: I learned the hard way that the floor of your tent
can sometimes beis painful to walk on because you’re often on rocks or twigs. Bring a pair of hard-soled slippers for moving about your tent without having to put on costume shoes.
- Cooler: A cooler is a good way to store your food. If you have a large Tupperware container, fill it with water and freeze it until you have one large ice block. Keep it in your cooler with the lid closed and it will help keep your food and drinks cool for a good 24-48 hours.
- Trash bag: Bring an old shopping bag or small trash bag for your garbage when you’re in your tent. There may or may not be a trash can at the site.
- Tools: A basic tool set is useful if something breaks. Always make sure to have a mallet or hammer to secure your tent stakes.
- Test everything: Make sure your supplies work, and practice setting up and tearing down your tent at least once.
- Consider where you’re setting up your tent: Do you want to be near the bathroom? Under trees for shade? On level ground? Is there soft grass anywhere? Do you want to be closer to or farther away from the action?
What tips do you have to share for LARPers? Tell us about it in the comments!
Featured image credit: Amber Lynn Nielsen
Image credits: Garrett Hallows, Loryanna Michalek