With the nights darkening, the leaves turning in hue and the mornings often shrouded in mist – I can safely say that autumn is here! A time for smooth hot chocolate with marshmallows, snuggly jumpers, pumpkin soup and atmospheric adventures! Perhaps, with luck, even night sites dusted with snow or sprinkled with stars …
I thoroughly enjoy adventuring in autumn and winter even though I am uncomfortable with the cold. So, as usual, I enclose below a collection of hits and tips for the new (and not so new) LARPers in the community to help you keep gaming during this slower colder period of the year.
The key tip to doing any exercise in the winter – be it walking, running or LARPing – is to layer. Thin base layers, warm mid layers and waterproof or water resistant outer layers are the best. I often try to factor this into my equipment and wear ooc layers under the distinctive layers of my character kit.
Avoid cotton base layers as these won’t wick away moisture as you sweat. Wearing something like a running top or a thermal base layer or a thin synthetic polycotton/polyester top under your shirt and tunic will be best and should hopefully keep your core body temperature warm and toasty. You could wear thermals or tights under your trousers to help trap a layer of air between you and your clothes, but that’s up to you.
Of course, you will need to factor in the limits of your armour. If your armour is close fitting and adding extra layers isn’t really an option, investing in a cloak or warm hood or neck snood (like the sort worn by skiers) will help trap air around you if you’re standing still for any length of time. Thin gloves will help keep your fingers warm on cool days, but mittens are best for properly freezing days as they trap air around your fingers that has been warmed by your body heat. A hat isn’t a bad choice, but I can understand that wearing a fleecy hat as a dashing hero doesn’t quite fit the aesthetic you’ve been working on.
The long and the short of it is – layer. However, how much you layer depends on whether you’re playing or monstering. In my mind it is better to have too many layers and just take off a shirt, than to be stood shivering in your shirt sleeves because you didn’t think it’d be too cold. But being too warm to start with can lead to you overheating once you start exercising.
- If playing – layer only until you can feel the chill, as you’ll be moving around the most as you travel on your adventure. Take an outer layer or something you can open if you get too warm. If you’re stood around waiting for your companions to solve a puzzle or for your diplomat to do their thing, try to keep moving so that your heart rate doesn’t drop and you body doesn’t start to chill after your hard work earlier in the game.
- If monstering – layer up and take layers you’re happy to take off and carry. Don’t expect the monster crew to carry your gear for you! Something like a dark hoody is good as you can raise the hood if you’re getting chilly, but put the hood down if you’re too warm, and it generally doesn’t interfere with the fantasy element of your game. You are more likely to be sat around waiting for the players (especially on a night site), so don’t let yourself cool down too much. If you’re feeling cold, start moving around or walk or jog a bit to get your heart rate up.
Pack some extra kit if you can, in case your usual gear gets sodden (because its more likely to rain/stay wet in winter than in summer), so that you can swap into something warm and dry when it comes to monster/play or go home. If you’re walking from the bus stop or train station with your gear I would urge wearing a waterproof coat to minimise the chance of getting chilled before starting the day.
Wear good quality walking boots or combat-style boots, with decent ankle support and grip. These will be your friend in winter conditions – be it mud or ice or snow. If you are playing in icy conditions then try and go carefully across the surfaces to try to avoid unnecessary slips/trips/falls.
I included a few tips for winter/cold weather camping in last year’s blog post for your convenience.
It’s important to keep an eye on your health over the winter months. What starts as a snuffle can quite easily turn into a bad cold (and I’m not talking man-flu here guys!) or something worse like pneumonia! So, to avoid a hospital trip, I would wrap up warm and not play if you’re not feeling too good. Feeling a little snuffly isn’t too bad, and the fresh air and exertion might do you some good. But if you feel a bit like death warmed up, or the idea of staying in bed feeling rotten is more appealing than running around, or you’re running a temperature – don’t go out into the woods! LARP is just a game, and your health is always more important than playing the game.
Don’t make a martyr of yourself or risk your health! This is wise advice I should listen to more often …
Just like in the summer you should be keeping yourself well hydrated – through drinking water or warm drinks like tea or hot squash. Carry water on mission with you if you can and keep drinking fluids in your breaks – you will be sweating even if you don’t feel like you are! If you don’t believe me, check the inside of your body armour after a game … Eating soups at lunch are a good way to warm up, get some fluids in you, and can be a very tasty healthy option. Try to include something based around carbohydrates or slow release sugars to give you a boost through the afternoon. though taking some quick release sugars like chocolate or fruit (if you’re going to try to be healthy!) can help give you a pick me up if you find yourself suffering in the cold. Don’t rely on chocolate though get you through the day! If possible try and have a hearty breakfast (maybe porridge) before starting your day, to stock up on plenty of energy before facing the world.
And don’t forget – if you’re feeling cold, try to warm up – be it by walking around, rubbing your hands together or doing something like star jumps. If someone in your group is shivering uncontrollably, keep an eye on them. If they stop shivering and start to go pale then they might be beginning to suffer from hypothermia (in its varying degrees), and may need to go and take some time to get their core temperature back up. Wrapping them in a borrowed cloak or a blanket will probably help, but if someone doesn’t look well, look after them!
Enjoy your winter season of LARP!