Tents, for the in-game field and off it. Advice and recommendations


#1

Empire has a few things in common with a large festival. Notably from the players’ point-of-view, a lot of tents.

As we’ve months to go before the next event, and January sales round the corner, I thought I’d say a few words on the canvas constructions of the field.

Please add any reccomendations of tents that you’ve bought, good places to get them, things to avoid, and any tents for sale, below.

General Tips

  1. Buy your tent well in advance of the event. This gives you some time to put it up and down again, in a garden, the local park, whatever. There are worse ways to start an event then by trying to erect an unfamiliar tent, in the dark, in mud, but not very many.

  2. Have a tent for your needs. This includes a weather eye towards to the weather (you can get away with quite a light tent in the summer, but you’ll still want some way to keep the rain off), enough room for you and your kit, and some storage space. I find that a “3-man tent” is a spacious pad for 1 LARPer and their kit and costume and food and so on. Smaller than that I would discommend, but it depends what YOU need, and in some cases, what you can carry.

  3. Plan a location in advance. If camping in the Out-Of-Character (OOC) fields then it’ll mostly be an issue of finding a good spot where you can. If you need it, there is space put aside for easy access camping, but I think you’ll have to book a spot with PD in advance.
    If camping in the In-Character fields, then keep an eye out on these forums and/or your national Facebook groups for the camp plans being assembled. Then when asked, supply the details of your tentage (usually size, any special requests, preferred position) to the busy people trying to assemble scores of tents into a plausible encampment. A week or so before the event, they’ll post the completed plan (again on the Forums and/or Facebook) and you should be able to pick out your camping niche. When you arrive, take that niche or as close as possible, as soon as possible.
    (If you are not on facebook, get a friend to watch for you and pass on details as needed. I did this for years.)

  4. A few useful accessories. Extra pegs, a mallet, and a blanket/old towel or something to soak up mud are obvious. What I found handy was also something to flag your tent out as yours. Sometimes an actual flag out the front, sometimes something easily visible. I threaded a bright fuschia piece of knitting through the front guyline at a couple of (OOC) camps. Made it much easier to find it again during daylight, and at night, I can reccomend an LED light (the imitation candles are good) which you can leave on inside to help find it in the dark.

Out of Character tents

Often pitched in rows on the OOC fields, these can be all colours and makes, and often people are camping beside their vehicles. Available from a variety of places, I would suggest having a poke around and buying to your budget. A few examples below:

https://www.millets.co.uk/tents-camping/162600-eurohike-avon-deluxe-3-person-tent-red.html

In Character Tents

This is where it can get tricky. Consider whether or not you NEED to camp on the IC field. What will you be using a tent there for? Storage? Socialising? Sleeping? If you are joining a group that’s in play, they may already have a tent for the first two that you can grab a corner of. They may even have room for an extra bed in a corner.

But if you need your own tent (or are starting a group), ask around and check what style it is first. You can get away with plastic guy-lines and aluminium tent poles, but you’ll want a reasonably appropriate fabric: white canvas is popular, as is heavy cotton :slight_smile:

Again, keep in mind that it’s FOR. The IC tents have a huge variation, from tiny peaked tents for individual sleepers, through bell tents which can be great for sleeping and storage, but tricky to get into, to large pavilions which can and have hosted banquets and councils. Even if it’s a group meeting tent, you may not have all the group sleeping in or near it; often a bell tent with a canvas awning is all that a good size group needs.

With the IC tents, it might be profitable to find one second-hand, and ask fellow players about whether it would “fit”. There’s also a fair bit of national variation: the bright pavilions of the Brass Coast, the striped marquees of Dawn, the utilitarian white bell tents of Wintermark… This sort of thing adds to the atmosphere a lot, so if you can pick something of suitable style and colour, go for it.

Bell tents are popular, as are pavilions, dutch pyramids, and I’ve seen a few yurts about (in Varushka, I think).

If buying an IC tent, either new or second hand, your best bet is probably to flag the advert or details up here (of Facebook) and we’ll have a look, give any advice, and perhaps ask if they have any more :slight_smile:

Some advice on bell tents here:

http://www.campingwithstyle.co.uk/should-i-buy-a-bell-tent-guide/

There is also some good advice on this thread from last year, still valid:

As for me, I’ve had the interesting conundrum these last few years of a small child along for the ride. That meant a large dutch pyramid tent, heavy white cotton, with two rooms at the back, and a large canvas porch at the front. Enabling us to put the Small to bed in the evening, and sit out the front socialising.


#2

I thought I would add a few things, point by point. This is all for OOC

For point 1, I suggest being able to set your tent up in 10 minutes or less. If you physically can’t do this, then maybe your tent is too big for you. If you turn up late, setting up the tent will take away from game time and if it is raining, it will mean your stuff will be getting wet.

For point 2, I have the double rule. If you have X number of people then you want a tent that fits 2X people. You want to be sure you have enough space. It really sucks being cramped in a tent, especially with another person. I know all about this. I’ve had been woken up by my friend trying to fight my feet to get more space, even though he is already taking up more than his share. Side point: With most tents you will have a corridor or porch area that is at the front of the tent or separating two halves. This is a great place to store certain things, you just have to be careful when opening the door in the morning. Look out first before opening the door as if it is really flooded then you may find that suddenly, a lot of water is in your tent.

For point 3, usually you just have to check that you aren’t at the bottom of a hill or ditch or that there are stones or twigs underneath you. Luckily you don’t have to check for snake burrows.

For point 4, I suggest also bringing bin liners. They are great for storage as well as temporary mats when things get to dirty. Some rope or paracord is good as well. It can be used to tie things together, create washing lines and if it is strong enough, help pull your car out of the mud if it gets stuck. Tape can also be useful for quick repairs. If you have a small knife to go along with it (make sure it is legal) you can pretty much do anything for basic survival. It is unlikely things will get this bad but better to be safe than sorry. For lighting, be careful of lanterns. I used one last event and it just created shadows. Test your lights out before you go and make sure they have charge or battery (spare batteries are good).

Now a few things about making things a bit more comfortable.

  1. Always bring something to put on the ground like a sleeping mat, it can get really cold otherwise.

  2. Do not push against the sides as it lets water in. If you feel you will accidently do this in your sleep, put a bag between you and the sides so if you do roll over, there is some insulation and if you do push enough to allow water in, at least it is going on the bag instead of you.

  3. When turning a light on, make sure all your doors are closed as it will attracted creatures in. Also try and have something to eat over so spilt food doesn’t get everywhere. Once you have finished, put this and the rubbish bag into the porch or corridor so ants and other creatures aren’t attracted to you.

  4. Bring some stuff for comfort. This can be some emergency biscuits, a phone, a photo, anything like that. If you have had a rough night then you will want something to cheer you up. Morale is important for surviving the first event as after that, you’ll be hooked and won’t need it. If you are with friends, this should be easier.

  5. When you do get back and wash your tent, do not use soapy water. It will remove the water proofing and you will be sorry. If you do remove the water proofing then you will need to find some. You can get sprays and stuff for this.

The more prepared you are now, the easier it will be so good luck. (I just read you said recommendations for tents and not recommendations for camping, I hope you don’t mind. I find that as long as the outer skin is significantly water proofed and the inside is big enough, it should all be fine.)


#3

Also when considering buying your tent please do also think about storage, transportation and where you could dry it if it has to be taken down wet.

For a plastic OOC tent these are usually simpler problems. It probably packs down quite small (Although do take note of how it was folded when you get it out, and practice re bagging it if you can!), is relatively light, and takes longer to go mouldy if packed damp. If it’s a basic 2-3 man tent you may even be able to dry it over your stairwell banister.
Try to go for the best hydrostatic head you can (that’s how much rain it can take before leaking) and go for one that goes up outer first or all in one otherwise you can have a damp bed compartment for the start. Avoid single layer plastic tents, they are for sunny summer festivals only.

For a canvas tent it will be heavier, generally larger, and really needs to be dried off within a couple of days or it will develop that nasty black mould quite quickly. (Damages the tent canvas and not good for your health either, and requires effort and time to remove). I can dry my damp 4m bell fairly easily laid out on my double driveway, but if it’s really wet I have to take it round to my parents to put up properly so consider where you could pitch it local to you if necessary.

Also do think about the weight. A fairly fit person can shift a 4m zipped in groundsheet bell fairly easily, a 5m with some effort, but anything bigger you’re probably going to want some help, both shifting the packed tent and pitching it. Remember you’ll also need that help (and/ or a trolley) when you unload at home too.

Looked after a plastic tent will last several years, up to a decade depending on what Anvil throws at it, and how much sun it gets. Canvas should last 20+ years if looked after, and some of the stuff that saw WW2 is still going, so it is an investment, and the resale value is pretty good too.


#4

NB bringing clear plastic bin bags (not black ones) for storage (sometimes sold for recycling) will help avoid you or someone helpful throwing away important bits of your wet and muddy kit or tent thinking it’s rubbish.


#5

See I get around that by basically being an animal. No one comes near my tent and everything stays in there until the end of the event.

Also about weight, I haven’t found a tent that is size 2X that can’t be moved by X amount of people, sometimes it does require the bits to be spilt up, but it can be done. If X amount of people are trying to shift a 3X sized tent, then it might be too heavy but it will also probably be unnecessarily big.

I think this would only be a problem if you are walking some of the way. If this is a case then definitely get a good backpack. Like anything heavy (such as armour) it should rest on your hips and be supported by your shoulders, the other way round will start to hurt after a while.

The weight of the tent shouldn’t matter too much while setting it up, the hard part is making sure the tent poles (which are also great for the game ‘lose my hat’) don’t go pinging out and hit something or someone. Remember, your weapons may be larp safe but your tent poles are not.

If you are putting up large tents, make sure your friends help you and aren’t doing their make up instead. If you do end up doing it on your own, make sure you at least get a pizza out of them for your troubles. If you are doing it on your own, take the wind into account, it loves tents and can’t get enough of them, unfortunately, that means, if you haven’t pinned it down, you may find you are chasing it across a field. You won’t want to do that as you are unlikely to get any good RP from this.


#6

My top tip would be, regardless of whether you are camping IC or OC, buy some hardened tent pegs to replace the (usually) cheap and bendy ones you get with the tent.

Look for Rock Pegs; they’re amazingly durable and offer much better support for most types of tent.


#7

Regarding warmth specifically for a moment:

  1. Don’t be tempted by a tent with an inner that is much too big. Remember you are the radiator, and larger volumes require larger energy investment and radiate more energy from their larger surface area.
  2. A tent with an inner is much warmer, I’d almost say essential. This can also, if it only fills part of the tent, give a smaller volume to warm at night and a convenient space to dump your OOC stuff.
  3. More layers under than over. Dirt will leak heat away from you much faster than still air, so if you’re putting effort into keeping warm, make sure that includes your underneath layers.

That is all. That has changed me from “just some guy, you know” to “true hero of the night time warmth” in the eyes of some girl I was courting, now my wife.


#8

The big one my wife champions is the idea of a porch or transitional area. If outside is muddy and the sleeping bags are not, you want a space to leave your dirty gear or, even better, a place to get changed out of your gear. Slipping out of armour and untying your weapons-belt is fine, but things get more complex when you need to remove muddy trousers without a) dirtying your sleeping area and b) flashing the neighbours.

Our OOC tent has an enclosed and porch without a groundsheet. All the windows can be covered with integrated blinds, so we can strip down to underwear if we have to. It might not be too warm, but it’s private enough.

Our IC tent is a 4m-diameter bell tent. That means no porch, but it’s big enough to have three of us sleeping in the back on a thick rug while still retaining a space at the front with a coarse mat (like you might have in your house) where you can strip off in private and wipe your boots.

If I am honest, cooking is the hard part. Never cook with gas in an enclosed space! You can usually cook outside your tent (if you are careful), but have a back-up plan for what to do when the rain is coming down in sheets and the gale keeps knocking your windbreak over. That might be communal cooking in a large faction tent, but it might as easily be the onsite vendors.


#9

I’ve just seen this tent recommended as it’s in the new year sales at £68, which is great value for a solid weatherproof tent.

https://www.blacks.co.uk/equipment/162600-eurohike-avon-dlx-3-man-tent-red.html