My first medieval camp – How best should I prepare for it?
Imagine this: You go initially to medieval markets as a guest, begin to fall in love with the ambience, and dress up for the first time in costume. You then begin to love the experience even more, and want to spend even more time at markets and therefore decide to set up your first medieval camp.
Either way, most of the people started their medieval camps like this. The beginning especially seems like one great big adventure; you learn, tinker, work and enjoy the community feeling. And so, to make it easier for you to get started, here are some tips on your first basic equipment list.
A small note in advance: If you are not already part of a wider medieval re-enactment community, you should try to find a camp group from your region or local area before your first foray into the world of medieval camping. There you can usually find a welcoming place in a tent and can borrow some storage utensils. You can usually also get helpful tips for setting up your own medieval camp from fellow re-enactors.
The period tent – the very centre of your medieval camp
Perhaps the most important equipment of a medieval re-enactor is the historically accurate tent. If you are still at the beginning of your own adventure, we recommend that you do not buy a tent yet. As already written above, it actually makes more sense to settle in with another group and gain more experience. Why? Well, if you want to buy a medieval tent, you should be sure that it will not only meet your requirements, but it must match your appearance!
True, there are markets where it is enough if the tent looks roughly medieval. But you don’t know which period exactly you might want to settle with later. And most importantly, you don’t actually know at the beginning if you’re sticking with this period. You may have started as someone who loves the Viking Age of medieval history, until after a while you may take the High Middle Ages to your heart.
What you shouldn’t do: Arrive with a modern tent. This destroys the whole atmosphere in the medieval camp and you will not be popular with the organizer or other campers.
This sounds trivial now, but compared to a normal camping tent, a historical tent is usually chunkier and heavier. The skin of our period tents, for example, is made of a heavy cotton fabric, which is made incredibly robust by means of heavy duty stitching. With normal camping tents, on the other hand, modern fabrics are used which are of course suitable for camping; but they do not look “historical”. So you should keep in mind that the tent skin alone is heavy and needs to be transported in your vehicle.
In addition to the tent skin, you also have the rods made of wood or iron. With our medieval tents you can often divide the poles again into separate pieces. In our shop the lengths are always indicated in the product description, so that you do not experience any nasty surprises during transportation.
Of course, you can still upgrade later by purchasing a luggage tent and/or various tarpaulins. But it is great if you already have a good idea of how much space you will need in your tent, i.e. how big the tent should be. With our tents you can often choose from several different sizes per tent type and you will usually find in the product description an indication of how many people it can comfortably accommodate.
However, it is certainly not easy to initially determine the required size of the historical tent if you have never camped before.
Your camp sleeping place
Of course, it would be great if you had a chest bed, really. But let’s face it: probably no one had that on their first medieval camp. Therefore, we give you a small overview of how you can sleep affordable and yet comfortable.
First of all, be advised that it would be a good idea to get a sleeping bag if you don’t have one yet. The nights can get really cold, even in summer. When buying one, make sure it’s not too big and not too small, so the warm air can circulate well. Under the sleeping bag you could place a camping mat so that it doesn’t get too cold from below and you can lie a little more comfortably. In theory, this is enough to be able to camp.
In addition, it is worthwhile to make the following purchases:
- A wool blanket – you can put it over your sleeping bag if it gets really cold, and you can also use it during the day to make seating more comfortable
- Various animal skins can also keep you warm, are cozy and visually make something more aesthetically pleasing
- Field bed or folding mattress: the alternatives to the camping mat are a bit more comfortable, but cost a little more, take up more room and are less easy to hide during the day
Anything that is not part of your presentation should be hidden during the day – at least as long as visitors are on the market. You can use anything for this: Jute mats, cotton blankets, skins. Depending on what kind of tent you have, you may be able to close it during the day, but you have to go in from time to time, so a hiding from plain sight option would be better. After a while of being part of the medieval camp community, you might decide to buy a nice large wooden chest or make one yourself. A certain eye-catcher in the tent!
Depending on how cold you could get potentially, we recommend taking thick wool socks and sometimes even a cap. We may repeat ourselves occasionally, but it gets really cold at night…really!
Camp kitchen – food and drink as in the Middle Ages
This is a huge topic and we could spend hours talking about what you need for your optimal storage kitchen. But here we are limited to the essentials.
Knives & Mugs – A must have!
Let’s say you’re in a medieval camp and you’re allowed to borrow the local equipment, but then it would be nice if you could actually call at least a cup and a knife your own, neither item should cost the earth.
You basically have the medieval cup half the day about your person, because from it you drink all your drinks, from the water to mead. Of course, you could also borrow a mug, but this purchase is really worth it. A rustic clay cup also looks rather stylish on the local kitchen shelf.
This is also the case with a knife: everyone who could afford it had their own in the Middle Ages. It was not common for a household to provide knives for their guests, so each guest brought their own knife. Usually, it was attached to the belt in a leather sheath. If you have such a utility knife, then you also have a sleek accessory to your medieval garments! Make sure the knife is sharp, because you may actually have to chop your ingredients in the kitchen. You may need to sharpen your knife when you buy it at first.
Whether you need anything else, your camp mates will certainly be able to tell you, but usually the rest is already there for your use, or to borrow!
Your own cooking area
If you camp on your own, you must also arrange your own cooking area. A tripod and a pot are highly recommended. You can build the cooking tripod legs out of sticks, but that doesn’t last too long and actually poses a safety risk. Make sure the pot is actually big enough for all your ingredients; and please remember that you need at least one S-hook to attach your pot to hang it from.
As an alternative to the tripod, there is the option of using a cooking rack. The advantage of a cooking rack is that you can both place a pot on it for cooking and grill food on it!
Other important equipment for your medieval kitchen:
- Water buckets for extinguishing your fire (the most practical are those made of canvas, because you can fold them down during transport)
- Boards for cutting the ingredients
- A pot and a pan
- A ladle for serving and wooden cooking spoon for stirring during cooking
- Dishes (at least one plate and one bowl per person)
- Possibly a storage pot for hot drinks
- A large (wood) bowl for washing up afterwards
Kitchen equipment – nice to have
Your medieval kitchen is now fully equipped and ready for you to work with. If you wanted to upgrade a little bit, there are a lot of things that can be also useful.
The knife was the most important cutlery at the table, but spoons and forks are also practical when eating. The use of forks in the Middle Ages was certainly controversial, especially if they had more than two prongs. If you want to be on the safe side, you forgo their use. You can find a detailed blog post on the topic of cutlery in the Middle Ages here.
A great medieval prop is the wooden serving dish, both for decorative and practical reasons. It is not without reason that it is called “the Tupper can of the Middle Ages”. It looks nice when you, for example, display some fresh fruit in one. Such a dish can also used to prepare meat, if you are about to cook it.
But you can also place smaller items in it, such as handicrafts like needle and thread.
In our online store you buy a wooden serving dish in three sizes:
- 18 cm long: great for serving small snacks such as biscuits, strawberries or nuts
- 30 cm long: larger snacks such as apples, pears or rolls
- 45 cm long: perfect for serving roasts or bread
Also, don’t forget to oil your wooden products – trays, plates, spoons, and bowls well before first use. It darkens the wood and makes the wood grain look beautiful. In addition, the oil closes the woods porous surface and thus protects the wood.
The dining and recreation area
This is about the area where you take your food with the other re-enactors, or where you usually spend yourself to sit, clear and / or do light handicrafts.
Ideally, this area consists of at least one table, and seating enough for each person. Medieval camps are usually a sociable affair, so you will quickly find that one or the other camper likes to come by for a snack. Then, of course, it would be nice if you could offer him a seat, but basically that’s not totally essential. In the worst case scenario you can seat them the floor and get them a coat or a blanket to sit upon. No one will take that away from you, don’t worry!
If you don’t have stools/chairs yet, vintage wooden boxes can be suitable as a replacement. Make sure they don’t look too industrially crafted. With a few simple steps, for example, you can remove the brackets and replace them with historical screws. In case of emergency, you can also take a normal stool and disguise it with blankets and skins.
Dining area roofing
It is important that this area is covered. Either you have a tent with an additional large canopy, as is the case with our Saxony tents for example – then you can place your dining area there. Or you also get a tarpaulin. These are the two most elegant solutions.
If necessary, you can set up a makeshift dining area in your sleeping tent. However, this is not actually recommended, because it is usually not easy to entertain and your guests cannot properly interact with you. So, you are unlikely to invite people into your tent, because that is your private area by unwritten rule. Having to invite them in will be quite a squeeze, because you already have your equipment and your sleeping place in this tent.
In short, setting up the dining area in the tent here is more of an emergency solution.
Well, your dining area is now set up and waterproof, now you might want to upgrade it a little bit. For a nice touch you can equip the dining area with skins and blankets so it looks really cosy! What must also not be forgotten is a source of light, and with this, we come to the last big issue.
Let there be light! – Fireplaces, lamps, torches and candle holders
There was no electricity in the Middle Ages so you have to create your own historically accurate light sources. Especially in spring and autumn when the days are not quite so long, you will gather around such a source in the evening in a friendly and sociable circle. The possibilities of illumination are manifold – and depending on the size of your wallet, you can really get creative here.
The easiest form of creating light is the use of a larger fire pit, such as a fire basket or a fire bowl, because it will illuminate a fairly large area. Usually this light is enough so that all those sitting around it can see enough to be able to bring their clay cup to the mouth and eat. The disadvantage, however, is that you need wood for this. Some organizers may provide the firewood, some don’t. You should find out about this beforehand, because you will need it for cooking anyway. And as a rule, the organizer will send you a confirmation of your location on the camp site, in which such information is listed. Also actually whether open fires are allowed, and if you should bring a fire extinguisher.
Also don’t forget to bring along a small hatchet and maybe even a small chopping block with you, so that you can divide the larger logs into smaller pieces for kindling. And if the weather is a little more unpleasant, a lighter is very helpful.
Candles and torches
It can also increase the overall ambience when you place several smaller light sources in the medieval camp, for example a few torches around the tent or some candlesticks in the seating area. Our lanterns are also handy when you need a mobile light source that is not prone to being extinguished by wind, and also because even the walk to the latrine is sometimes precarious.
Our tip: Encourage your circle of acquaintances to bring their own candles, especially in the Christmas season when large groups of people usually come together. With this solution you can then light up our Oseberg lamp cheaply.
Other light sources
Even if you want to stick as meticulously as possible to medieval life, you should keep a flashlight or an LED candle handy in the tent. Especially when you are awakened in your sleep, sometimes you don’t have the time to light a real candle. Alternatively, you can use a mobile phone with flashlight function, but maybe you can also enjoy the mobile-free time on the medieval campsite. If you bring one, make sure you have a power bank with you!
What else is often forgotten when packing to go to the medieval camp
The first time you set up your medieval camp, you’ll probably find that it’s more of the everyday things you forget to take with you. You should definitely not forget to pack these things:
- A small emergency kit with the most important medications as well as sticking plasters and bandages
- Sunscreen, even if the weather report tells you otherwise
- Tea towels/towels
- S-hooks for the pots and the installation of the lamps