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Pennsic — Foot Care

Pennsic — Foot Care

I’m one of the co-mods for the Pennsic War Facebook group and make an annual post about foot care at Pennsic. Here is the current version of that post:


All right, folks. Let’s talk about feet.

More specifically, foot care at Pennsic.

For those who are perambulatory, you’ve already started walking longer distances every day in anticipation of all the walking you’ll do at War, right? Good. (If not, today is a GREAT day to start! Even if it’s too hot to go walking outside, you can do laps in your home or office; get up every hour to walk for 3-5 minutes.)

So, here’s the thing. 1-2 weeks of walking everywhere *will* take a toll on your feet, especially if you are unused to it.


Good shoes are critical. You’ve been breaking any new shoes in already, right? Good. You don’t want blisters on your second day at Pennsic. Trust me on this one; I got a blister *between my toes* last year on day one and it sure made the rest of my week SUPER-fun.


Socks are as critical as shoes and are often overlooked.

Personally, if you can afford it, I’d skip the cotton socks altogether (unless you’re ready to change socks 2x/day) and go for wool socks, such as SmartWool, Darn Tough, or REI’s “generic” version. They make them in different thicknesses and sock lengths now, so you can get some nice ultra-light socks for summer! I’d rather come to Pennsic with three pairs of nice wool socks with appropriate arch support than two dozen basic cotton tube socks from a big box store. Three pairs means one on, one drying, and one washing — so you should always have dry socks to wear.

If your budget is tight, bring the socks you have and can afford. Simple as that. Consider budgeting for new socks for next year, if you can.

If you are prone to blisters between your toes, there are some companies like Injiji that make hiking toe socks, which should greatly reduce the number of blisters you develop. Some companies (like Wrightsock) also make lined socks, which are amazing at reducing blisters across your whole foot.

If you are wearing sandals, remember: the Romans often wore sandals with their socks! While it’s a fashion faux pas today, it’s certainly period.  Try to save your feet; wear socks.


Do yourself a favor: buy some “construction worker” (high impact) gel insoles for your shoes. I waited tables for years and these were the only way I was still standing at the end of my shift. They won’t magically make your feet and legs not hurt, but I can tell you that you’ll notice a difference between days with the insoles and days without. The fatigue takes a lot longer to set in.

While insoles are designed for more modern shoes, I see no reason you couldn’t wear them in traditional or turned shoes. Cut them to the correct shape and off you go!


Okay, here’s the fun part. BRING A PUMICE STONE AND LOTION WITH YOU TO PENNSIC. The lotion is great for dry skin anyway. But a pumice stone (generally looks like a porous rock, if you’re not familiar with what they are) is basically a low-grit sandpaper rock for your feet.

Every time you take a shower, scrub your feet with the pumice stone — especially around your heels. Look to see if you’re developing any cracks or splits. After the shower, put lotion on your feet and put socks on immediately. If you shower at night, wear your lotioned-up socks to bed; this will help keep the moisture in your skin (this is also one of the few places where those cheap cotton tube socks would be a good choice). You don’t want your heels cracking and bleeding at Pennsic; it’ll make it difficult to walk.

I’ve also experienced this, although not at Pennsic. Still don’t recommend.

I personally bring Healthy Feet foot cream with me as well, but that’s because I’ve no interest in ever having cracked heels again.

I use Trail Toes to help prevent blisters (and I say that as a backpacker).

Closed shoes (boots, etc.) create cracked feet at a slower rate than sandals. If you wear sandals, it is really important that you look after your feet every night.

The general rule is if you wear socks all day, you don’t want to wear socks at night. If you do not wear socks during the day, you definitely do want to wear socks at night. 


Stinky feet? Gold Bond medicated powder in your socks, your shoes, etc. will help immensely. Also great for under-boob sweat or any place skin touches skin.

Stinky teenager? Remind them that we’re not re-creating the smell of the Middle Ages. Deodorant and Gold Bond. 

Barefoot? Please reconsider, but I can’t stop you. Do try to look after your feet, though!


I am not a doctor. If your doctor has given you medical advice about your feet (arch supports, shoes to wear, etc.), FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE. I’m simply an enthusiastic distance hiker who has already done most of these terrible things to my feet and learned my lessons. Learn from my mistakes!

Pennsic Prep — SCA side

Pennsic Prep — SCA side

Hey folks! If you haven’t seen my mundane/camping-side Pennsic Prep post, check it out here.

As with my camping post, this post operates merely as a jumping-off point. Please feel free to use it, customize it, disregard parts as you see fit. This is simply to get you started.

This post will also operate from the presumption that you’ve been playing in the SCA for a little bit and maybe have a couple of outfits, but have not been to a big war. If Pennsic is your first-ever event, hopefully you’ll have someone guiding you through who can loan you some garb to help fill out y our wardrobe a bit. If you’ve been in the SCA for years and have multiple outfits… I hope you’ll find this useful, anyway. Maybe it will encourage you to pare things down for Pennsic. 

Okay! Let’s get started.


First of all… all we ask is that you make an attempt. An attempt. Believe me, most of us who have been in a while can spot a newbie from a mile away and, in some ways, it’s actually helpful. You’ll get folks who are excited and enthusiastic and want to help you improve your wardrobe. Of course, there are always assholes. Thankfully, they are few and far between. Most of my friends know me as a historical accuracy nut. I hand-stitch most of my garb, do sheep-to-shawl, weave my own fabric, etc. I’m hardcore — and I don’t expect anyone else to be. Play your own game at the level you wish to play.

If anyone gives you a hard time for your clothes, kindly invite them to purchase a new outfit for you, if they’re so concerned about how you look. Or make you one. And anyone close enough to critique your stitches is close enough to get hit. Just sayin’. (Please do not hit anyone unless they have consented to that.)

All we ask is you try for a pre-1600 outfit. Pennsic is a bit more forgiving than other SCA events might be, but we still ask that you not walk around in jeans and a t-shirt (and truth be told, you’ll be WAY more uncomfortable in mundanes than medieval clothing).

Pennsic is generally warm. Highs are usually anywhere from the mid-70s (24C) to low-90s (33C) during the day. It generally gets down into the mid-50s (13C) at night. However, it’s been as warm as 100 (38C) and down to below freezing at night. It’s generally fair, pleasant, and with occasional rain showers. Pennsic has also had microbursts that flattened encampments, frost in the mornings, nonstop rain that sent cars slipping down the parking hill in the mud, windstorms, and heat waves so bad they canceled fighting for most of War Week. All of this is to say that you need to prepare for just about any weather, layer up, and check the weather report before you leave.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about material.

You’ll want to go with a natural fiber — linen, wool, silk, bamboo, nettle, cotton — whenever you can. Natural fibers are much safer in a place with so many open flames. If a natural fiber catches on fire, you only have to pat it out (or stop, drop, and roll if it’s gotten bad). Synthetic fibers such as rayon, nylon, etc. will bubble and melt, sticking to your skin. It is much, much worse. Plus, synthetic clothing is far more likely to go up in flames. Natural fibers smolder. 

Linen is by far your best choice for the layer closest to your body. It wicks and cools and will help keep your outer layers clean by keeping the oils and dirt of your body off the outer layers. It acts as protection going both ways. Cotton is far less ideal (it gets really clammy really quickly) but still an option. Linen is more expensive than cotton, which I get. If you can get to a Joann Fabric with a 50% off coupon, they do actually carry some 100% linen, usually for around $15-$20/yard, which then becomes $7.50-$10/yard. Linen under $10/yard is a good deal. It comes in a variety of weights, too. Be mindful: most of their colorful linen is a linen/rayon blend. Workable, but not ideal, as rayon is highly absorbent (even more so than cotton!) and so works against the linen with regards to your comfort levels. You can get linen online from reputable vendors, although that’s a bit outside of the purview of this post.

Wool is actually fine in summer, so long as you don’t go too thick. Wool typically comes in different thicknesses. If you can get a tropical, or very thin, wool, it will serve you well. Wool is naturally water-repellent and is actually warm when wet. You can, of course, use linen for an outer layer. This is what most folks do, especially for Pennsic. Again, cotton is an option but definitely less than ideal. 

I also want to note that most folks only had a handful of outer layers in-period and anywhere from three to a dozen or more shifts/close layers. You do NOT need 14 days of clothes for Pennsic, or even seven. You *need* three shifts/close layers and maybe three outer layers. Maybe. If you have more, great! But if it’s your first Pennsic and you only own one or two outfits… fear not! In the middle ages, most folks only had a couple of changes of clothes, but they might own anywhere from three to a dozen or more “shifts” — the layer of linen closest to your body. You would “shift” your closest layer at night before going to bed. This kept your bedclothes clean for longer and also meant you weren’t sleeping in filth. I recommend following this habit at War; strip down before you sleep, wipe down your body (wet wipes, damp washcloth, damp square of linen), put on a new shift, and go to bed. Or you could have an outfit you only wear to bed.

To illustrate this, I wore the same outer layer for five days in a row this past Gulf Wars (an event held in Mississippi in mid-March). Why? It was cold and pouring rain for most of the week and the outer layer I wore was the only wool outer layer I owned. I live in Ansteorra/Texas, where wool is not needed most of the year, so I only had one wool item besides my cloak. I always took the wool off at night and hung it up to dry in my tent. It was generally dry by morning. I had several people comment on how I’d worn the “same thing” every day. My response was always to point out that I’d changed my shift every night. I have several shifts in bold colors, so it was easy to tell. I never felt gross doing this, by the way. Changing the closest layer was by far the most important thing.


We’re going to work from the inner layer out. I’ll do my best to keep things gender-neutral, although I will have to draw some things out.

  • Shifts/Undertunics (3 minimum)
    • This is your closest layer and one that was in use for most places and times in Europe, up through the end of our time period. There are a couple of ways to sew a shift.
    • A period set of instructions
    • Period Norse (Viking) tunic
    • Non-authentic, but definitely passable
      • You can literally fold a piece of cloth into quarters, fold a t-shirt in half, then trace the t-shirt (giving a good extra 3/4 inch for a seam allowance!), expanding the arms out to the edge and the hem as far down as you’d like it to go. Flare or not. Make it a tunic, make it a shift, make it an outer dress. Using a shirt that fits well will help immensely.
    • You’ll want at least three shifts. One on, one washed/drying, and one backup. Make’em all white or do them all different colors so you can tell which one is which. Totally your choice.
  • Bras (if you wear them)
    • bras are not required. Many folks find the clothing they have is supportive enough without them. If you do bring them, though, bring at least three.
    • I personally wear bandeau bras.
  • Underpants
    • natural fibers are your best bet. I like to bring enough for a full week and wash’em every couple of days. You could get away with three pairs if you were diligent about washing and drying daily.
    • Folks who wear boxer, briefs, jockeys… you may find jockeys to be most comfortable at war, but I understand some folks like the breeziness of boxers or the security of briefs. You do you; just bring enough and be sure to change every day. 
  • bike shorts/yoga shorts/Undersummers/anti-chub rub
    • some folks find that deodorant or Glide running cream works best for them.
    • I bring two pairs of Undersummers and wash’em every other day. They help prevent the worst of my chub rub.
  • A belt
    • If you don’t have a long leather belt, you can acquire one for about $25 at Pennsic. You’ll want to be able to hang things from it, cinch your clothing in, etc.
  • SOCKS (5+ pairs)
    • I like to bring a week’s worth of socks.
    • Do yourself a favor; if you can, don’t bring those cheap, white, cotton socks. They are not supportive, they don’t wick away moisture, and your feet will hate you if you wear them.
    • Assuming you don’t have a wool allergy: wool socks. I like Smartwool or Darn Tough. Get a light or medium weight sock. You’re going to be walking a lot; you’re better off with three pairs of good, wool socks than two dozen pairs of crummy, cheap, tube socks from Walmart.
    • If you have blister issues, consider Injiji or Wrightsock, which both do double-layers.
    • Please see my separate post on foot care at Pennsic for more discussion on this.
  • Male personas/dressing masculine:
    • Get yourself at least two pairs of pants. These can be linen pants or plaid PJ bottoms (which, once you put a tunic over them, look impressively period). WASH THEM REGULARLY.
  • Outer layers (2-5)
    • Peplos/Bog dresses/etc.
      • Fast’n’easy
      • Bog Dress instructions — I sew mine up higher along the sides and often leave folds hanging down. These are nice, if long enough, as they can double as a quick hood if the skies open up.
      • Can be worn on their own or over an under-tunic
    • Norse smokkr (AKA the apron dress)
      • These take me about 90-120 minutes to make. 
      • There are several theorized ways that can be easily googled. I use this one or this one.
    • T-tunics
      • Fast’n’easy, can knock’em out quickly
  • Head covering
    • Just about any look (for whatever gender you are!) is vastly improved by the presence of a head covering.
    • What you use will depend heavily on your presentation, era, etc.
      • Norse: Dublin or Jorvik hood (all genders; a great hand-sewing project), large rectangle tied at the nape (women), large rectangle knotted (women), six-panel hat (men)
      • Generic medieval: coif (all genders), wimple (dozens of styles; if you’re going for quick-n-dirty, a long rectangle can be properly wrapped around the head), veil (women)
      • Head covering will depend greatly on your era and location — but a quick internet search should turn up plenty of results.
  • Shoes
    • Don’t feel obligated to own period-authentic turn shoes. If you decide you want a pair, there are a half-dozen shoe vendors at Pennsic.
    • If you have medical issues that require you to use sneakers or orthotics… use them.
    • If you can, though, avoid wearing neon/brightly colored shoes. A pair of black sneakers or those non-slip work shoes (used in service jobs) will go miles towards both your own comfort and not breaking others’ experiences with obvious mundanity.
    • I personally wear a pair of low-shin leather boots from Teva with a zipper up the inside. They look medieval, are waterproof, and are comfortable as heck because they’re broken in. 
    • Err on the side of foot coverage and leather. 
  • Rain shoes
    • Whether you wear galoshes/wellies, have pattens, or just slog it out, you should have a plan for what you’ll wear on your feet when it rains. It can get pretty muddy. On rainy days, everyone just ignores the galoshes because we all understand that comfort and safety is more important than looks. 
  • 1 set of mundane clothes, sealed in a large ziploc bag. 
    • if possible, store in your car. A lot of folks do this and then change once they’re about 20 minutes off-site after Pennsic so they have clean, dust-free clothes to put on.



  • Parasol, straw hat
    • I bring both, but I’m also blindingly pale. 
    • Protect yourself from the sun. A good cloth parasol or a wide-brim straw hat will serve you well and both are totally period.
  • Mug or goblet
    • I tend to keep a mug in-camp and carry around a metal goblet. The mug is ceramic and the goblet has survived falling into a six-foot deep ditch, so I feel good knowing I’m not going to end up with a broken mug if something happens.
    • Either way, you’ll want a way to drink water or anything that’s offered to you. There are often water jugs set up all over Pennsic that you can use… if you have your mug with you. Carry a water vessel of some kind.
    • Some folks like to buy a mug from Beast & Boar in the food court. You get free drinks from them for the duration of war if you do (lemonade, water, etc.). I’ve never done this for various reasons, but you may find it suits you well. If you do get one, buy the insurance. That way, if it breaks during War, you get a free replacement. 
    • If you have a tasting mug (about the size of a shot glass; there are vendors at Pennsic who sell them), be sure to bring that. Great for trying booze at someone’s camp without committing to more than a sip.
  • Linen napkin
    • Handy to have, especially to cut down on paper waste in the food court. Throw your napkin over your shoulder and wipe your hands as you eat!
  • Cloak
    • A circular cloak is nice, if you have the time to make one. It’s also a great beginner’s sewing project. Do make sure you make this out of wool.
    • Medieval cloaks did not have attached hoods. Most folks will overlook this, but it’s worth knowing.
    • Early period cloaks are basically large rectangles. They were often collected at the shoulder of your dominant/sword arm with a brooch or pin. You could use a wool blanket (navy blue, a dark/earthy plaid, or similar would blend best) and buy a brooch or pin to hold it in place.
  • Hood
    • There are dozens of hood styles. The easiest one to make is the Skjoldehamn hood, which is basically a series of rectangles. If you make it to “SCA” size (rather than its authentic size), you’ll find it’s breezy and comfortable. I have one with a linen lining and wool outer. Very comfortable and nice. (I also made one in its authentic sizing but it’s best for cold winters.)
    • This is a pretty quick and easy sewing project on a machine, and a great opportunity to practice hand-sewing if you like, especially the more visible parts like around the face.
    • Recommended: a thin wool for the outer layer and linen for the inner. This way, it can help to keep you warm at night when out and about and should shed water well. (If you’re concerned about whether it will shed water, you can always treat the fabric with water-proofing spray or lanolin.)
  • Jewelry
    • Necklaces, bracelets, oath-rings, turtle brooches, pins, clasps, rings, etc. 
    • If you need a way to pin your bog dress or smokkr closed until you can acquire some turtle brooches, you can purchase some large pins/brooches from a craft store. Look for natural materials (wood, bone, metal, tortoiseshell, etc.) and buy two. They’ll tide you over until you can purchase something more authentic. Remember, it’s often about decreasing obvious mundanity, rather than necessarily looking 100% authentic. 
  • Basket
    • You’ll want a way to carry your shopping and various things around Pennsic.
    • You’ll see a LOT of folks have baskets from The Basketman. He’ll be there and his stuff is awesome — but the prices reflect that.
    • I waited until my second Pennsic to buy my purse from him. And I still have a hand basket I use to carry stuff around in.
    • You’ll want something big enough to hold your purchases but not so big that you’ll be tempted to weigh it down.  I used a cheap-o picnic basket my first year.
    • Goodwill and other thrift stores usually have baskets available for cheap. Just make sure it’s not busted up or the handle’s at risk of going out.
    • I keep a smaller, closeable basket (called a “housewife”) in my bigger basket. It’s full of my sewing kit — linen thread, beeswax, needles, naalbinding needle, tiny shears, a bit of wool, etc. If you’re not a handsewer, you may still find it useful to keep a small sewing kit on-hand for repairs.

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about a good attempt. If you have loads of cash and don’t want to do a lot of prep, you could basically put one outfit together on your own (which could be as simple as a bog dress) and buy everything you need once you get on-site. There are loads of clothing and accessories vendors who would be happy to exchange money for their product. 

Pennsic Prep Post — Mundane Side

Pennsic Prep Post — Mundane Side

I joined the SCA in 2015. Pennsic 44 was my third event. I have been twice and will be attending again this summer; I missed last summer due to the eclipse.

I have several friends attending Pennsic for the first time and thought this would be a good opportunity to put together a couple of lists. One is a general camping gear list and the other is a garb list.

Of course, these are all only suggestions; you can camp rough or glamp it up as much as you’d like. This list is meant as a starting point and assumes you will be going for the full two weeks.


  • something to sleep in
    • A tent. It can be mundane. You can get one off of Craigslist and waterproof/seam seal it yourself if needed. Early summer is a good time to do this, as a lot of folks are replacing their old gear.
    • If you can get a canvas tent, do. They’re SO much more comfortable. (On the flip side, mundane tents are usually SUPER-fast to put up and pretty light. So, whatever works for you.)
    • a tarp to put under your tent
    • tent stakes
    • If you don’t want to hassle with that, there are companies that will rent a tent/yurt to you for Pennsic — they’ll set it up, tear it down, and it’s a fun way of testing out one to see if you like it. It’s not the cheapest option, but may be worth exploring. Personal recommendation: Traders of Tamerlane. The owner is a campmate and friend and I think his yurts are awesome. He and his people are always professional, courteous, and helpful. While I’ll fully admit bias on that rec, you can also check out their reviews (5 stars on FB as of this writing!). There are plenty of other rental companies out there, too.
  • Something to sleep on 
  • something to sleep under
    • Sleeping bag, comforter, sheets, a pile of furs
    • It can get down to freezing at night. It’s usually in the low 50s, but… it can get cold. Be prepared.
  • rest your weary head
    • pillow(s). I use old pillows that have been cycled off my bed so that if they get ruined, I’m not sad.
  • doormat
    • I do recommend getting one, though. Even a cheap, $7 mat will make a huge difference. Put it outside your door, use it to get dirt and mud off your feet. It also makes it feel more “homey.”
  • Interior doormat
    • I use a beat up, old towel for this.
    • Basically, it’s where you step right after you come in. Use it as the spot where you take your shoes off so you don’t track dirt/mud all over your tent
  • Interior rug
    • I have a plastic RV “rug” that I lay out on the floor of my tent. It lets sand, dust, etc. drain through and leaves the top looking nice. 
  • ways to store things
    • If it floods or we have a microburst, you’ll want all your stuff in containers. Trust me on this. I use a couple of medium Rubbermaid bins and toss a light blanket or shawl over top. If you have a cot, get bins that will fit underneath.
    • I also use a set of plastic drawers (like you’d use for craft storage). Doubles as a bedside table.
  • camp chair
    • folding is best, but even just a little stool you can perch on is good. But bring something you’d be comfortable sitting on for a couple of hours around your encampment’s fire.
    • if you want to conceal obvious mundanity, bring some muslin or a cheap sheet from Goodwill and toss it over your chair.
  • rolling cart
    • A lot of folks use drag-behind carts for shopping, gear toting (esp if you’re a fighter), and ice runs.
    • I did not have one my first year but brought one my second, which was handy for toting my class materials to and from Pennsic University.
    • Most camps will have multiple carts and all you have to do is ask their owner if you can borrow the cart for an ice run if you need it (please only borrow within your own camp!)
  • Clothes rack + hangers
    • Great to hang your garb from when wet/freshly washed
    • Also nice to let things hang out so they de-wrinkle before wearing
  • Lantern (please, no flashlights!!)
    • Either get a cheap candle lantern from IKEA or…
    • Find a way to disguise your modern lantern, whether that’s painting the light bulb orange, wrapping rice paper around the clear part, or something else. It’s one of the easiest ways to pull someone out of a magic moment and also one of the easiest things to handle.
    • a *small* flashlight to take with you to the privy castles at night, preferably with a loop so you can hang it on a hook
    • I took IKEA lanterns, re-finished the windows with rawhide, and put electronic candles inside them. They look awesome and are not a fire hazard at all. 
  • Bottle opener
    • Always carry a bottle opener/corkscrew combo on you. Even if you don’t drink, others will thank you for being prepared.
  • Trash bags
    • one per week for your tent. You can use a half-dozen small plastic bags instead, if needed. You’ll want to have them on-hand in case you don’t want to get up to walk halfway across camp to your communal trash can in the middle of a meal/the middle of the night/right after waking up/whatever.
  • Laundry basket
    • I have a flat-pack mesh laundry basket. It’s not much, but it keeps my dirty clothes in one place. And since I have to do laundry at least every four days, it’s handy.
  • Matches/lighter
    • same category as the bottle opener. It’s handy to be able to relight someone’s lantern, get a taper going, or even start a campfire.
  • Paper towels
    • you don’t need a huge roll, but they’re handy to have around. Whether it’s cleaning up a spill, using as a napkin, or whatever, I like to have a half-roll with me
  • TP
    • I only ever bring one roll, but it’s nice to have in case your privy castle runs out. 
  • Cutlery
    • One of the best tips I got was to carry my cutlery in my bag with me, because it’s not uncommon to be pulled off the road into a stranger’s camp to help them finish off a huge meal. I thought that sounded silly but it actually happened to me my very first Pennsic! I recommend getting a bamboo set with a carrying case; as a bonus, mine came with chopsticks. Chopsticks are CRITICAL at an event like Pennsic — they help keep you from touching your dirty hands to your food and reduce the risk of getting the plague.
  • scissors
    • Preferably in a medieval style, but even just a pair of embroidery scissors would serve you well. Infinitely useful.
  • Sunglasses
    • Protect your eyes. We all ignore sunglasses as a rule, as they are a disability aid and a way to protect your eyes from the sun. Use them.
    • Don’t forget the case.
    • If you have a choice and are so inclined, get some round, wire-rim or tortoise-shell sunglasses. They look more period. 
  • Portable, battery-powered fan
    • I don’t take mine around, but I do leave two in my tent. They basically run all night and keep the air circulating, which is particularly important for me when it’s hot.
  • Notebook
    • A way to take notes in classes.
  • Hand warmers
    • On the flip side of the fans, it can get cold at night. A couple of biodegradable, single-use handwarmers are GREAT to have. I’ll activate one and toss it into the footbox of my sleeping bag about an hour before I go to bed and it keeps things nice and toasty for me.
  • Washtub + scrubboard
    • I have a Japanese 2-in-1 I ADORE. Most camps do NOT have a clothing-washing area (mine does, but we’re one of the oldest, most established camps at Pennsic). You’ll want to be able to scrub your clothes and hang them up
    • I also bring a small tub juuuust big enough to soak my feet in. Really nice to drain ice-cold cooler water into it at the end of a hot day of walking and stick your feet in. I originally used this as my washtub.
    • DO NOT PLAN ON USING THE WASHING MACHINES AT PENNSIC. No no no. There are so few and they’re almost always busy. And once the woods battle happens, you definitely do not want to use the machines. There is a lot of poison ivy in the woods and peoples’ stuff gets coated in it. That oil gets all over the inside of the machines and into the clothes of whomever uses it next. Just plan to do laundry in-camp.
    • Some folks wash their clothes with them in the shower. I wouldn’t, but you do you.
  • Rope


  • deodorant
    • Please do not attend Pennsic without some kind of deodorant. People didn’t like B.O. in the middle ages, either. I don’t care if you bring something modern or use an in-period recipe — just do what you need to to reduce your stink. (This also means showering at least every few days; more, if you’re a fighter or sweat a lot. Please don’t be That Person.)
  •  earplugs
    • Several pairs, because you’ll inevitably drop at least one.
  • Comb
    • I don’t bring a brush with me, nor did I even when I had long hair. I brought a fine-tooth comb (sometimes called a beard comb or a lice comb) and combed out my hair in the morning and evening before re-braiding it and covering it up. I don’t bring shampoo, either, and my hair actually does fine. With super-short hair, I still bring a comb, but skip braiding. 
  • Shampoo and conditioner
    • I don’t bring it, but I know others do. Bring the travel bottles. You do NOT need to wash your hair every day. 2x/week is ample, short of some medical condition. 
  • Soap
    • I bring bar soap. If you want to be clever, use a cheese slicer and cut off slivers, then pack them in layers of wax paper and put all of it inside a ziploc bag. Take one out and wrap a washcloth around it, then lather up in the shower. You’re not likely to go through a whole bar of soap at war, so this is an economical solution.
  • washcloth
    • I bring two; one for my face and one for my body.
  • towel
    • a light towel is best so it doesn’t take up a lot of room. I have two quick-dry, thin, microfiber towels.
    • If you want to get “fancy,” get two large, cheap bath sheets (I got some from IKEA) and make a bath bog dress. If you want to add pockets, two washcloths sewn to the front will do the job nicely. 
  • shower shoes
    • Old Navy flipflops or similar will do. If you don’t already have a pair, try to get black or brown or something else equally unobtrusive.
    • most encampments have their own showers; please check with them to confirm. There are solar showers dotted around Pennsic, as well. I’ve never needed to use them, but by all accounts, they are reasonably nice and usable.
  • lip balm with SPF
    • It’s gonna be dry and dusty. You’ll want this, trust me. Make sure it’s unscented or else it will attract bees. I use blistex.
  • lotion
    • unscented, or else you’ll attract bees. I like Aveeno, but bring whatever you prefer.
  • small mirror
    • I have a little hanging mirror that I use to check my visage before leaving for the day. Handy to make sure you’ve put on sunscreen evenly, too.
  • meds
    • whatever medicines you’re on, make sure you’ve got enough for the duration and then some. I store mine in an Altoids tin.
    • This includes an inhaler if you need one.
  • febreeze
    • they make travel-size febreeze. Get you some. It can freshen up your tent and make your clothes smell SO much better, even without washing them.
  • Sunscreen
    • BRING A LOT. Do not bring any with avobenzone, oxybenzone, or any other -zone in it. Kids’ sunscreen is usually best for this (I use Banana Boat kids!). The -zones interact with the hard water found on-site at Pennsic and will instantly rust-stain any clothing that happens to have it on it. -zones also interact with linen and stain them an ugly yellow. Don’t ruin your garb! Use stuff that only has zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide
    • Related: the BEST way to avoid a sunburn is to cover up! Wear long, loose linen. Wear a wide-brimmed straw hat.  Carry a parasol. You can minimize your sunscreen use if you’re clever and careful.
    • I went to Pennsic for two weeks in 2016. I wore sunscreen just a handful of times, and only on my face and hands. I did not tan or get a sunburn.
    • Also, bring aloe. If you do get burned, you’ll want to treat it quickly. Staying hydrated will help you heal.
  • Bug repellant
    • Don’t spray it anywhere near a synthetic tent; it’ll melt it. Anything with DEET can melt plastic, too — including sunglasses. But you’ll want it; mosquitoes and ticks are both plentiful at Pennsic
  • Tick removal tool
    • It’s worth it. Find a buddy and do tick checks every day. (Which, remember what I said about long clothes and covering your head being good protection against a sunburn? It’s also true for ticks.)
    • Lyme disease is a real risk. If you find you’ve been bitten by a tick, get tested for Lyme as soon as Pennsic is over; it can be cured with antibiotics if caught early.
    • While tweezers are nice for splinters, I’m talking about specific tick removal tools. 
  • Wet wipes
    • first of all, do NOT throw these in the privy castles. Put them in a plastic bag and throw them in the trash
    • great for “sponge baths” at the end of a day. Wipe down your body and feel fresher. (Also achievable with a washcloth and bit of water, or even a square of linen!)
    • I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hand sanitizer at war. Soap and water is BY FAR the most effective tool (please wash your hands properly whenever possible!!) but hand sanitizer is a good second choice to slow the spread of whatever this year’s Pennsic Plague is going to be.
    • Get several mini-bottles and their holders. Keep one on you at all times in your bag/sporran/knapsack/purse/whatever. Seriously. AND THEN USE IT. Offer it to others around you!
    • USE HAND SANITIZER AFTER USING THE BATHROOM, touching yourself, anything. Refrain from touching your face. 
    • Seriously. We are not attempting to recreate THAT part of the middle ages. 
  • Box of tissues
    • I keep one big one in my tent and have the little mini-packs that come with me in my purse.
  • OTC meds
    • antihistamines, cold remedies, anti-diarrheals, Pepto Bismol, Alka-seltzer, pain meds, etc.
  • Rx meds
    • If you need them, of course. Make sure you have a copy of your prescription. Also, make sure that someone in your camp knows (1) where to find them and (2) what you take and for what. 
    • For example, I carry an epi-pen with me because I am deathly allergic to bees, wasps, and other stinging insects. My friends all know I keep it in my bag that goes with me everywhere.
  • For menstruators only:
    • If you’re expecting your period during Pennsic, make sure you have enough supplies, whether pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup. Pads and tampons cannot go in the toilets or privy castles; you must throw them in a bag and take the bag to a trash bin. Menstrual cups can be emptied into privy castles. I personally do so, then use wet wipes to clean them out fully before reinserting. Remember: you want your nails clean before you go in to retrieve it. This means clean under your nails, and either wash your hands (preferred) or at the very least use some hand sanitizer. Then, obviously do the same after. Sometimes I go deal with this at the flushies (up in the building across from the main barn).
  • Contraception
    • While not applicable to everyone, it’s a good idea to have a pack of condoms on-hand. Whether you need them or a campmate does, they’re good to keep around. There are a lot of three-month-olds at Pennsic each year; if there’s even the slimmest chance you could sleep with someone where one of you ends up pregnant and you don’t want to be one of those people with a three-month-old, then bring some along. 
  • CPAP
    • If you use a CPAP machine, please check out the SCA CPAP Support group on FB. They can give you tips and tricks for getting through Pennsic intact.


  • solar charger + portable battery
    • I use a small solar charger and use it to charge a portable battery. 
    • I charge the battery during the day and then recharge my electronics at night. Sometimes, I take the battery with me during the day in case I need to top off
  • e-reader
    • I bring a fully charged kindle paperwhite with me. I like relaxing by reading at night. If you don’t have an e-reader, bring a couple of books, whatever falls into your easy reading category.
  • power cords
    • make sure you have the right cords for your electronics. If you have a Fitbit, smartwatch, or another electronic item that has a special connector, you’ll want to bring that with you, too.
  • Medieval phone case
    • Smartphones are part of our modern lives. We all know and accept this. However, there are things you can do to reduce obvious mundanity!
    • I use a leather wallet-and-phone case combo that looks like a little prayer book. It holds my cards, cash, ID, and phone, which is all I really need it to do. My phone stays protected, my wallet stays with me at all times, and it’s not obnoxiously obvious that it’s a phone.
    • If you have a neon or brightly patterned phone case, you can do a couple of things to reduce the obvious mundanity:
      • Get a black or grey phone case. It makes it less obtrusive.
      • Some folks get specialty cases made and put their heraldry on the back. This way, if it gets lost, it can easily be returned to you (assuming your heraldry is registered). Related, some people just get a sticker printed up and slap it on the back of their phone case.
      • There are wooden cases out there that would at least be less obnoxious than a neon pink and lime green phone case.
      • Some folks hollow out a book to fit their phone. Some even carve out a hole for the camera.
      • There are specialty leather phone cases that look like medieval leather belt books, if you have some cash to drop.
    • A friend uses the phrase, “Hold on, I need to consult the oracle” whenever she uses her phone to look up something. It always gets a chuckle and I’ve started using it, myself. 


Many camps have a fully decked-out kitchen. If yours does, ask them what you’re expected to bring (some folks bring their own spatulas or wooden spoons, for example, while others expect you to bring a pot or kettle to contribute to the camp collection). If your camp does NOT have a fully decked-out kitchen, you will want to decide ahead of time if you want to do any camp cooking (over heat) or go cold for the duration. I’m a cold person, myself, so I do a liquid breakfast smoothie, a sandwich for lunch, and some kind of no-heat dinner. I’m also a fan of Medieval Munchies and will often get their pierogies when by the food court.

If you DO have to bring your own kitchen:

  • stove
    • gas for the stove
  • pots and pans
  • griddle/skillet
  • something to set the stove on (camp kitchen, wooden table, something!)
  • wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • tongs

Whether you bring your own kitchen or not, you’ll want:

  • A cooler
    • Something large enough to store what you need for several days.
    • freeze gallons or 2L of water, then use them to keep your cooler cool. You can drink them once they melt.
    • The Coopers (the folks who own the property we use for Pennsic) have ice available for purchase up by the barn. It comes in heavy bags of ice cubes OR you can get solid blocks. Solid blocks last longer.
    • Drain your cooler water off daily. Water accelerates ice melting, so draining it off is a smart call. You may have a designated spot in your encampment for this — perhaps a sump by the shower, or a kiddie pool in the common area where everyone soaks their feet when it’s hot out. Ask your campmates. 
    • To minimize melting, stay out of your cooler as much as possible. One way to help with this is to have a smaller, secondary cooler that you use exclusively for drinks.
    • Toss a blanket over your coolers during the day to help insulate them from the heat.
    • There are dozens of ways to improve the R-value of your cooler that don’t involve dropping $500 on a specialty cooler with 8 inch-thick walls. Check out some of the SCA FB groups (Better SCA Camping, Cooler Camoflage (SCA)) for inspiration. 


A note on reducing obvious mundanity: I get it, doing this stuff costs money. But some of the fixes are so cheap or free that it’s something to really consider. You may or may not have heard about “magic moments.” These are moments when you suddenly feel transported to another time. You can’t force them or chase them; you can only create opportunities for them to happen. I’ve had a handful so far and each time was at War. My first Pennsic, I found myself sitting outside the Cooper’s Barn, eating a spinach and cheese kolache while gazing out at the western half of the market. I was enjoying the sounds of a hurdy-gurdy busker and having a quiet moment. Then, I noticed that (completely by chance) everyone walking past me was wearing garb from the same century. The late afternoon light was golden and the hurdy-gurdy player started playing my favorite medieval song. It was magical for all of 30 seconds… and then a golf cart came whizzing through. But for half a minute, I felt completely transported to another time. It was marvelous. 

My second magic moment was my next Pennsic. I went down to the bog to meet up with a friend. I never did find her encampment and ended up deciding to just go back up top to my camp and go to sleep. I took a shortcut back to the main road and found myself gazing up a hillside dotted with campfire and lanterns. There was no artificial light source in sight. It made me think of the old Scottish clan gatherings. It lifted my heart with joy and I just stood there, transfixed. A couple of people walked past with candle lanterns, no problem. But after about two minutes of admiring this beautiful scene, someone came around the corner with a blue LED flashlight. Something so small but so obviously mundane really drew me out of that moment. And while golf carts are a fact of life at Pennsic, flashlights do not need to be. My magic moment would have had to end eventually, but the flashlight ended it for me. 

I try to approach reducing obvious mundanity with an eye towards, “If I go mundane on this, will it ruin someone else’s magic moment?” Obviously, cost becomes a consideration, but there is so much that can be done for little to no cost.


I hope you have found this guide useful. As a reminder, it is just a guide. Please use it as a jumping-off point, but do not feel you have to do/buy/use everything on this list. I realized after a couple of wars that I hate cooking hot food when it’s 90F out. You may find you enjoy a good gourmet, home-cooked, totally period meal. There are very few ways to do Pennsic “wrong.” Just breathe and enjoy yourself — and know that if you’re missing anything… you’ll likely have helpful campmates who can loan you gear, folks who’ll go with you on a town run to pick up stuff you forgot, or you’ll just make do without. It’s really not that bad. 🙂 

A separate post will go up soon on clothing prep! Edit: Post is up!