The year has turned back towards summer and whilst you may no longer need to wear lots of layers and adventure bundled in cloaks and scarfs, preparations should be made to ensure your kit is appropriate for the season. As I’ve said before, I know most LARPers are perfectly sensible, however as the days grow warmer people start to do silly things and end up in some sort of discomfort.
This is my personal outlook on summer kit and summer preparations.
There are three main problems faced in the summer – sunburn, dehydration and overheating. These problems can be prevented with a little forethought, reasonably easy to solve but painful to recover from.
I am someone who likes to be prepared and consider the likely conditions before packing for an event. I normally have my own water bottle, pack sunscreen in my monster kit, consider a summer kit change and incorporate a suitable head covering into my gear, rather than relying on other people to provide for my needs.
Sunburn is caused when the skin is exposed to UV radiation, normally found in sunlight. The more sunshine, the more UV you are likely to absorb, though you can get a partial sunburn on a cloudy day. The best way to prevent looking like a boiled lobster is simple – just follow the motto “slip, slop, slap”. Slip on a covering garment, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat, though there are other mottos that include seek shade and slip on sunglasses. However, it’s not always so easy to do all three.
My best solution is to use sunscreen. Use lots of sunscreen (of a suitably high factor), making sure to cover all exposed areas of skin. Wearing a chainshirt over a sleeveless shirt this summer? Make sure your shoulders are creamed up. Don’t forget to sort the back of your neck as most of the time you’re looking down and taking off kit from around a sunburned patch can be very painful. Reapply the cream regularly throughout the day (before the first mission, around lunch, maybe even topping up before the second mission depending on how you’re sweating). The type you use is up to you, but I know advocates for both the spray and traditional cream sunscreen. Just make sure you get a decent covering and pay attention to the parts you might not normally cover – backs of necks, shoulders if you’re in sleeveless top and anywhere you have bare skin under armour (unless you want to look scaley with sunburn patches under chainmail).
If you can, wear a head covering – hat, shawl, hood, bandanna – to prevent your scalp from getting sunburned and to provide a little bit of shade for yourself. This is particularly important if you are prone to burning on the scalp and are away for several days – as you’ll be compounding the damage done to your scalp each day and it’s hard to apply sunscreen when you’ve got hair.
Seek shade where you can around the middle of the day to give yourself respite from the sun and its UV rays.
It you start noticing that you’re getting a little red, or that the reddened area of skin is beginning to get painful (or blister), you need to treat your sunburn carefully. Seek shade, cover the affected area with light clothing or a clean towel and move indoors if possible. If the area is pained and hot to the touch you need to cool the area to minimise the burn, either by dabbing skin lightly with cold water or by soaking the area in a cold bath for about 10 minutes. If the burned area is just a little red, soothe with aftersun cream or calamine lotion and try keep the area covered to avoid making it worse.
Recovering from sunburn
So you hadn’t realised quite how much sun you caught until the end of the day. That rosy glow isn’t just from the drink (if you’ve been imbibing) but is a sign you’ve damaged your skin and have sunburn. Depending on how badly you’ve burned depends on how you should care for your skin. As discussed above, aftersun creams and lotions contain soothing things like aloe vera which helps cool the area and help the skin heal – because, after all, it has suffered a burn and is damaged the same way as if you had touched a hot piece of metal.
Serious sunburn, where the skin is hot, painful and beginning to blister, requires medical attention as the peeling and blistering skin presents a potential infection site.
Preventing overheating and dehydration
It’s summer, so you’re probably hoping it’s going to be hot. But even on a pleasant spring day there is a chance of overheating, particularly if you are playing a character who is required to wear lots of layers such as the knights, mercenaries or some priests. You are out doing exercise when you’re larping and lots of layers inhibits the ability for your body to emit heat and moisture out into the surrounding atmosphere – just feel how warm your inner layers are the next time you go out on a daysite.
Cut down the layers you wear if you can (I know certain people can’t) by removing ooc layers (as discussed in the winter post) without affecting the overall look of your character or start afresh with a “summer” garment which is chosen to be lighter and more comfortable.
If you are unable to cut down on your layers, then carry drinking water. I am a firm believer that everyone should carry water regardless (because you just never know what’ll come up – needing it to make new holy water, to quench your thirst, to wash your hands etc) but especially anyone playing an active or armoured character. In the summer armoured characters sweat a lot and this lost water must be replaced. So get a canteen or water bottle and sling it from your belt, put it in an in-character bag or hang it from your shoulder. If you choose not to carry water in character then you should have plenty of water with you to drink at lunch or during your monster session. You will thank yourself later when you don’t feel groggy and hungover on sunshine.
Solving overheating and dehydration
If you notice that you feel tired or really thirsty when out and about you should drink some water. Paying attention to your body’s need can help avoid the nasty aftereffects later. As I said above, drink water at lunch, drink water whilst monstering, drink water whilst playing if you feel you need to. I know our referees carry some water for the monster crew and try to allot watering breaks in their games, but do not assume this is the case. They might be kind enough to help you out if you’re struggling, but assuming that the crew will have made provisions for your need is not fair. Particularly if you’re an armoured character.
Signs that you may need water/fluids to replace the water you’re sweating out are typically having dry eyes and dry/cracked lips, feeling light-headed or confused or maybe simply a headache or a niggling tightness /cramp in your calves. Take a break, sit down in the shade and drink some water slowly. You might also need to work the cramp out of your muscles if it doesn’t ease on its own.
Recovering from overheating and dehydration
Taking things easy and drinking plenty of water in slow sips will help cool you down. Overheating itself is not serious, but the added dehydration may need to be monitored and if, after drinking normal water, you don’t feel to be getting better you may need to drink some rehydration solution or an isotonic drink (like lucozade or similar) to replace the salt you lost through your sweat. This is not an excuse to snack on some ready salted crisps though!
If you still feel unwell or get worse, you may have suffered from heat exhaustion.
When overheating goes wrong – heat exhaustion and heatstroke
If you’ve been out in the sun; run around at LARP in all your layers of costume; and forgotten to have a drink during the day, you might suffer from heat exhaustion. This comes on gradually and is caused by your body generating too much heat in a hot environment and being unable to cool down. You might have a headache, or feel dizzy and confused, get painful cramps in your limbs or stomach or feel physically sick. If you see someone looking pale and clammy, but sweating, they may need to sit down and take a break.
Best thing to do is sit in a cool shady place, lie back and maybe raise your feet a little to aid the blood flow round your body. When it’s hot the heart is pumping like mad trying to circulate the hot blood to the skin so the heat can be released, so helping this flow will help your heart, which is a good thing. Try and drink plenty of fluid in small sips. Someone should be with you (given that LARP is a social thing, this won’t be too difficult) and they will probably keeping an eye on you and asking how you’re feeling. Don’t try and weasel out of it – they want to know exactly how you’re feeling for a reason.
Once you’re feeling better you will probably need to check with your doctor to make sure you’ve not done yourself any serious harm. You probably will feel better after a bit of a break, but if you don’t – tell them. Heatstroke can be very serious, particularly if you’ve been feeling like this for a while.
Heatstroke is when the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature fails, typically caused by prolonged overheating. When someone stops sweating but have hot, flushed dry skin; become confused then unresponsive; this is a sign their body is shutting down and they need help. This is something serious and requires medical attention, but you can do a number of things to help your friend cool down. Try and remove as many of their outer layers as you can, and either fan them or dab their skin with cold water to simulate the cooling effect sweat has. As their temperature drops back to a more normal temperature keep them covered to prevent them from getting cold. There is also a risk that your friend many lose consciousness and they need to be helped with their breathing by tilting the head and chin backwards to clear the airway. If someone loses consciousness then if you hadn’t done so already, an ambulance must be called to get them to a hospital and proper medical care.
However, these are both extremes and can be caused by many things, not just running around in the sun.
But don’t forget about the evening
As glorious as larping can be in the sun, hanging around in camp should also be considered for the evening. Frequently the clear blue skies of summer do not cloud over towards sunset and these cloudless skies (whilst giving beautiful starry backgrounds to your epic night time activities) can result in a sudden drop in temperature. This should be considered when doing a night time event, so keeping a few layers to hand or a cloak/robe/shawl to pull round your shoulders as the nights draw in will keep the chill at bay. You probably won’t need the number of layers you cultivated for the winter, but swirling that cloak around you provides that layer of air around your core that can help keep you a little bit warmer.
If you are outside in a tented compound, try and keep moving if you start feeling a chill and avoid sitting for long periods of time on the ground. The ground is not warm and will absorb heat from your body which can lead to you suddenly feeling cold if you’ve been sat on the grass for a long time on an evening.
Keep yourself hydrated through the evening to lessen the effect that day’s dehydration might have on the next day, and just be aware that if you’ve caught the sun and are feeling a little queasy that you might be suffering from mild heat exhaustion. If this doesn’t ease as the evening progresses and you’re at an event with designated first aiders, you might want to highlight your symptoms to them. It’ll probably be nothing but an overindulgence of a tasty beverage late in the day, or just needing some more water, but they may be able to offer some advice or help.
So, to summarise – try and minimise the layers you wear during the day, wear sunscreen and cover your head if possible, drink plenty of water and carry a supply with you and pay attention to what your body is saying – feeling thirsty with a headache? Drink more water!
Enjoy your summer of larping