Encampment by Design

by Conchobar and Liadan

A few months previous to 3YC, we sat down to start planning what we wanted to have together for the Big Event. Our old (mundane) tent wouldn't do any longer, so we decided to make in a couple months what most people seem to accumulate over a period of several years.

Part of the problem was that we didn't have a pickup or van like so many folks in the SCA do. Also, it seemed that when you accumulate stuff, it never packs well, which leads to a lot of wasted space, necessitating the aforementioned large vehicles. Then there is the need to pack and unpack the van or truck (or be willing to drive around with a ton of tourney gear all season, like most of our friends).

A trailer seemed to be the perfect solution. We could leave it packed with most of the gear between events, and it would easily hold twice what our Honda wagon could. So a solid metal trailer was bought, and the wooden sides put togther. A frame hitch was welded on our Honda, and we moved on to phase two.

The next thing was to design a packing system that would take into account both the things we needed to carry and the dimensions of the trailer. The largest item was the mattress, rolled as tight as we could manage. 3 boxes of this size would just fit in the width of the trailer, with an inch and a half left for manuevering them in and out. We had about 20 inches left over at the back, which holds a couple coolers nicely. On top of this is a space roughly 51 by 92 by 14 inches, which holds most of the rest of our gear. When it's all packed, we put the tarp that's our groundcloth over the trailer and tie it down along with the poles from our dining tarp that are a foot or two longer than the trailer.

The lids from two of the boxes are combined with folding legs (that fit in one of the boxes) to make a sturdy table. Two of the boxes, combined with a few slats make up the foundation of our bed. There's lots of storage space underneath. We sleep comfortably, the bedroll in the center box in the picture is a Beautyrest from a sleeper sofa. The third box goes down the side of the pavilion for putting things on top of or inside. The lid is our cooking area, for the stove, dishpans, etc.

When we go to longer events , we bring along a "portable closet" made up of 1x4s. It breaks down into a bundle about 4x4 inches by 6 feet long and packs into one of the big boxes. On events shorter than 4 or 5 days, we leave it at home and center the bed in the tent somewhat, using totes to hold garb and for storage.

The pavilion was based on a sunshade we found at Costco. It's a little under 10 feet on a side. It has a good solid frame, and has stood up to 40+ mph winds when properly staked. We covered the aluminum tubing of the frame with woodgrain contact paper. We sewed the roof out of Sunbrella material. It's good and waterproof, but difficult to sew, being nearly as stiff as thin cardboard. The canvas walls are attached by means of metal shower curtain rings, allowing us to reconfigure the walls somewhat. A happy accident was that when we put together the wall panels, both 20 feet long by 6 feet high, we didn't allow for an overlap at the front. So we made up a 3 foot wide section for the back that's velcroed on. This allows us to unhook it from the frame at the top and to tug it down, making a back window, and definately helping to keep the tent cooler, much more so than the vent flap we sewed into the roof.

As much as we could, we designed everything to have multiple uses and to be self-storing. This minimizes how many things we have to bring, and at the same time seriously reduces the volume and weight of our gear. For next year, we're working on a better camp kitchen and lighting for the encampment.

By being able to leave the trailer packed, we just need to round up garb and food, and we can hit the road to go to an event on a whim. We hauled the trailer over mountain passes going to September Crown, and both it and the Honda are doing fine.

A note, 2 years on: Finally, the load of the trailer is getting to be too much for our trusty 13-year old Honda. We've added more heavy stuff, like metal firepits and portable holes, and the trailer now weighs half as much as the car. This is a real strain on various systems of the car (notably brakes and suspension), and for the sake of safety, it has gone to pasture with other members of our household, and we have purchased a new Subaru Outback.

And 8 years on: We've sold the tent and boxes to Robert and (my apprentice) Temair of Hawthorne and the trailer to Sir Octamasades and Mistress Achaxe. We now have a 20 foot diameter tent and an commercial enclosed metal trailer. Deep in the throes of trying to organize this stuff, too ;-)

Interested in more pavilion ideas? Visit Medieval Pavilion Resources

Plans to build these boxes are in PDF format.
Plans like these for kitchen boxes can can serve double duty as seating in several sizes are available at http://www.blueskykitchen.com/.
Plans for a large (household-size) kitchen box are at http://home.epix.net/~hawkmtn/jambpb.html.