It seems appropriate, given the recent wet week we’ve been having, to offer a few hints and tips on caring for gear in the rain. You can picture the scene – a day out in the woods with the sky overcast, then the heavens open and you go from being warm in your kit to being a wet rag. If in doubt of the usual expression, go search for wet owls on google …
If you can reach the safety of home and dry relatively quickly you’re in luck! Sadly if you’re out at an event with sodden kit, these tips and thoughts might be a help.
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Dealing with wet gear – Day Events
Assuming that you’ve gone somewhere local or in your car you can escape the worst of the weather to change. Shun your outer layers and get things put in a bag quickly, ideally putting the worst of the wet gear (normally the cloth kit) into a plastic bag. We keep a roll of bin bags in the car for such eventualities and just chuck all the sodden larp kit into a bag to sort when we get home.
If possible you should get into dry clothes before travelling – most likely your mundane clothes that you arrived in unless you travelled in half your kit. If you can’t get into a layer of dry kit at least put on a jumper or fleece overlayer on top (don’t forget to pack something like a jumper / coat / hoody when you set off for your day out) to give you a chance at warming up. Wet weather, especially cold wet weather, can draw alot of heat out of you as your body tries to dry off, and can leave you feeling ill. Get some food inside you if possible.
When you get home get your wet clothes into the wash as quickly as you can. For things which can’t be easily washed get them hung up to dry as best you can before you start dealing with the mud that will be there. Sometimes this can be brushed off outside once dry, or mopped off with a clean cloth or kitchen towelling when damp, but try not to handle your kit too much in case you spread patches of mud around your house. Your parents / housemates / OH will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Armour should be placed somewhere to dry and all pieces of wet or damp kit rooted out of kit bags and allowed to dry – yes, even all the trinkets and things inside pouches. Check the lot! You’d be surprised how water can seep through layers and you probably don’t want nasty surprises later …
Dealing with wet gear – Weekend Events
Unfortunately weekend events need prior planning to cope with the wet. You are unlikely to have somewhere to easily dry gear whilst away at an event, and it’s likely that you’ll be having to share any indoor drying space with everyone else on the site. You can either try and dry out items as best you can, or accept that you’ve got sodden kit and act accordingly. As I’ve said, we always have a roll of bin bags in our car … stuffing wet and dirty kit into big bags if you’re willing to just put the kit aside to deal with later only works if you have dry kit to replace these sodden garments, and the bin bags must be sorted out once you return home! This means lots of gear to take with you … but also means being dry and toasty rather than sodden and cold! Just keep your smugness to yourself and have compassion on your friends who are probably cold, sodden and suffering in the onslaught of the British Summer.
As I said above, I always take spare layers of clothing for weekend events just in case I’m soaked through day after day. Packing a few extra items of “intimates” i.e. underwear, socks, walking socks and any shirts / tops worn close to the skin can help you feel a bit better about the situation if you can tackle it with warm feet, and don’t take up as much room as a whole new wardrobe. I find nothing is worse then putting on wet socks and wet walking boots. Try to pack several walking socks if you don’t choose to or can’t take lots of extras “just in case”. This allows you to have a pair laid out to dry in your tent whilst you put on your spare set to brave the weather.
Drying clothing inside your tent introduces moisture into your tent and is generally a bad idea. However, if you try to keep your drying area outside your sleeping area then you won’t be breathing in as much moisture as you sleep, which will reduce the moisture that will be getting cold as the temperature drops overnight (thereby avoiding catching a cold). Wring out your garments as best you can before attempting to dry them. Lay them out as flat as possible on a clean patch of floor, or put up a temporary clothes horse inside your tent using kit bags / shields / camping chairs over which you drape your larger garments. If the weather does break, try and string up a washing line between two sturdy points (not tents!) and put out your clothes to dry. Maybe get your friends to help with stringing up the line and let them share …
Wet walking boots can cause problems as they begin to soften in the wet. When not wearing them leave them open and loosely laced, ideally with newspaper or similar absorbent paper stuffed into the toes to dry them out. Change this paper regularly if you can. Scrub off the worst of the mud with an old toothbrush or kitchen roll or a rag and leave them be. Accept that you’ll probably have cold damp boots come the morning, but you can properly dry them out when you return home.
Latex foam weapons and shields can go a funny colour when totally sodden – don’t panic if you start noticing discolouration or pale patches on your weapons. This is just the latex getting sodden (you might notice it around the places you’ve held them with wet hands or where they’ve been lying in water). This does not mean they’re ruined, just that they need a bit of tlc. Let them dry out naturally and you’ll find they return to their usual colouring in no time. Just be sure to give them a quick rub down with a silicon spray or similar and a rag to refresh the usual protective layer and to extend the life of your latex. You should treat your larp weapons and shields etc a rub down of silicon every once in a while just to help extend their life and to prevent them sticking.
Dealing with wet gear – The Aftermath
If you’ve been wearing leathers or metal armour you need to give these some tlc too and not just focus on the kit you can chuck in a washing machine or leave up to dry. Water can cause problems for these items – leathers can become misshapen and metal can start to rust. Lay these items out and with a damp cloth try to remove the best of the mud and dirt as you can (chainmail may need to be hung and then given a good shake once the mud’s had a chance to dry). Lay these items somewhere dry away from direct sources of heat e.g. radiators, fires and make sure as much of the surface is uncovered to dry naturally. You might have to turn items through the drying process to give some areas a chance to dry off. This may cause the leather to stiffen or change shape slightly, but this will remould itself to your body/limb when next worn due to your body heat. Think back on when you first got those bracers and how they were once flat, but not fit to your arm!
If you do find patches of rust on your metal gear, don’t worry about it unless it is a huge patch (!). Chainmail can be put in a heavy duty bag e.g. a canvas shopping bag you’re willing to donate to the cause of chainmail, sprayed with a light oil or WD40, and then shaken back and forth. You can get a rolling action going by jiggling the contents of the back by pulling on one side of the bag then on the other. This rolling action causes the chain to jumble together and roll over each of the links, effectively rubbing away at the rust. This takes AGES! and lots of elbow grease, but if it becomes part of your care regime it’ll become a habit that extends the life of your chainmail for larp. Rust on platemail can be gently scoured off using a scouring pad and water – we use the cheap brillo-style pads you can buy at the supermarket – before rinsing off the rusty scummy soap and leaving behind your metal surface. Dry thoroughly and wrap up when storing, though persistent patches of rust may need some serious work to remove. But what I’m trying to show here is that, with a bit of love and care, rust is not the end of the world for your kit.
So you accidentally let some of your leather gear linger in a bag and it’s developed a beautiful collection of colours and textures on the surface … fret not! Mould is an unpleasant problem and can ruin some items of kit if allowed to spread / linger, but there is a way of dealing with it. Pour an amount of mouthwash in a small pot and dip a rag or cloth in it before giving your leathers a good work over. Work the mouthwash into every crack, crevice and seam to remove any patches of mould or mould spores then leave the item out to dry naturally.
If you can you should also wash out your kit bag if you’ve had a mould growth, just to make sure everything is clean when you put your gear back into storage. Ideally turn you kitbag inside out and either – spray and wipe down the surfaces with dettol or similar surface cleaner if you’re using a plastic bag or box, or run the canvas bag through the washing on its own. Sports bags are pretty good at handling this sort of treatment. Make sure it’s dry before repacking.
Dried mud of kit can often just be brushed off, though lingering patches or stains may need to be damped with water and scrubbed with a rag or old toothbrush to loosen the particles. Sometimes running the cloth garment through the wash (ideally with other similarly coloured items or just by itself) can solve the problem, otherwise taking the item outside and giving it a thorough brushing will at least reduce the impact. For outer wear like cloaks or robes this isn’t too bad and will probably rub off during your next gaming session, but on normal clothes or intimate layers you should probably try and get these washed. This is the reason why everything I make / buy is washing machine ready. Make sure your clothes are stored dry, not damp, to prevent growth of mould from an unseen mud patch.
If you are storing clothing for a long time e.g. seasonal wear, you should take the time to air your garments occasionally and check them over for wear and tear, torn seams or dirty patches that were missed during the wash or brush down you last gave them.
Dealing with wet gear – The Tent
The tent has its own section as it’s its own beast. My OH deals with our tent and whilst I pretend I know how to a) put it up, b) take it down and c) pack it away, I’m normally having instructions directed at me. However I do know that packing down a wet tent is bad news, and usually involves me unpacking it the first day of sunshine, settling down with a book and guarding the flapping mass of tent (minus innards) to prevent it from taking flight.
As often with British weather the skies are often cloudy and overcast with the threat of rain for the entire event. It’s not until pack down day that it decides to chuck it down and you see groups of larpers wrestling their wet tents into wet bags with rain running down their faces or pooling in their shoes. Packing down a wet tent is not ideal, but it can happen.
When packing down a tent normally you take out your belongings and let the structure air in dry conditions, before zipping up the doors, taking out the poles and folding (with the help of a minion) the tent down. You ease out what air your can whilst folding / rolling it up, and then pack away the separate layers (if applicable) in the bag before hunting up all the pegs and giving them a quick clean before putting the peg bag in the tent bag. In an ideal world that tent would not need to be unpacked except for the check over prior to next event.
However, in the rain letting things dry is a non-starter. What you have to do then is this – wipe as much mud off the tent as you can (because rain + people = mud), rub a clean cloth over the tent to soak up some of the moisture then pack the tent away as best you can. When you get home you take the tent out of its bag and get it up to dry naturally as soon as possible. This could involve putting the tent up or hanging it outside on the washing line or pegging it out on the ground, turning it occasionally so that the different sides of the tent are face up. Storing a wet tent can encourage problems like mould growing on your tent / bag or damage the fabric and seams from being twisted together when wet. As a side note on pegging out and drying, grass does “breathe” and moisture trapped in the soil can be evaporated and condensed onto your tent due to the canvas acting as a warm blanket when in the sun – just in case you have ever despaired over your tent not becoming touch dry even after hours and hours in the sun …
Go Outdoors have a guide to tent care on their website should you want to look up more.