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Preparing for LARP

So picture the scene – you’re at an event and you go to sit down and you hear the terrible sound of fabric ripping itself apart; or as you buckle yourself into your kit you feel the strap in your hand pull away; or you roll over in the morning to find a pool of water in your tent from a hole that’s letting in the rain.

Such things can be an annoyance or total disaster when you’re out in a field for several days at a time, and can seriously impact your game or health if left as they are. And so I include below thoughts on ways to prevent a major kit disaster, or even minor discomforts, when you should turn to your trusty emergency repair kit.

But what should that kit include? Find out below …

 

I always carry a small sewing kit at fests, but I know that not everyone wants to sit down and sew a patch when the fight is kicking off. If you’ve brought enough spare gear you could probably pack the damaged item away for repair at home and carry on regardless. However, not all of us pack mountains of kit (just some of us …) so patching things in the field, even if only temporarily, will let you get back to the game relatively unscathed by your kit malfunction.

 

A quick repair kit list for those in a hurry:

The Basic Fest Repair Kit

  • Sewing needle and black/grey thread
  • Safety pins
  • Leather Hole Punch
  • Leather needle and linen thread
  • Spare leather straps
  • Spare buckles
  • Duct tape
  • Knife
  • Paracord line
  • Lighter / decent collection of matches

 

The Everything-but-the kitchen-sink Fest Repair Kit

  • Sewing needle(s) and (lots of) black/grey thread
  • Pins
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Spare buttons (if you have lots of buttons on your soft kit)
  • Cloth scraps (if you regularly need to patch holes in knees or elbows)
  • Leather Hole Punch
  • Hammer
  • Awl
  • Rivet mini anvil and setter
  • Pliers (minimum x 2)
  • Leather needle and linen thread
  • Spare leather straps
  • Spare buckles
  • Spare rivets and “sam brown studs” (if applicable)
  • Spare chainmail rings
  • Leather cording / thonging
  • Duct tape
  • Superglue
  • Knife
  • Paracord line
  • Lighter / decent collection of matches

 

Soft kit

A needle and thread can usually sort most problems when it comes to kit malfunctions or tears in things like sleeping bags – you laugh, but I have spent the first morning of a fest sewing up the layers of a sleeping bag that got popped during the night. I usually pack black and white thread, though black and grey will usually blend with most colours and will do for a temporary fix in the least. You don’t need to make your repair fantastic, only good enough to last you through the day / event / until you get a chance to fix things properly, so taking things like patches and such are probably a bit over the top. The following stitches will probably sort most things from tears along seams, torn knees or various holes:

~ Running stitchBack stitchWhip StitchSlip Stitch (and other hemming stitches) – Ladder Stitch ~

Bear in mind that if you are having to repair areas that receive a lot of stress you’ll probably need to put in a couple lines of stitches, especially for crotch seams in trousers or along shoulder seams in shirts or gowns. If there is anything left of the original seam for you to work with, try and copy how the seam worked before as you make your repair, pinning the various bits together as you work. Knees are a pain, particularly if you do a lot of kneeling. Stitches will form a ridge in the material that will press into your knee, so I try to ladder stitch any holes in knees to hold the edges of the hole together until I can sew a proper patch at a later date. Because such stitches end up lying fairly flat it is less likely to dig into your knee when you’re trying to be that quiet scouting type in the bush.

If you’re not a sewing type then safety pins are your friend – carry a collection in your normal kit bag and you’ll be surprised how often a safety pin can help solve little mishaps or affix shiny badges and trinkets to gear. Safety pins can also act as normal pins if you’re hand sewing in a hurry, but I would avoid using them anywhere that will regularly pull or rub against you, or that you might fall directly on during combat. The last thing you probably want is something sharp and pointy digging into delicate places.

 

Armour

I will first say that if you seriously damage any plate armour at a LARP event there is probably little that can be done quickly in the field. However if you wear a chain shirt for any real length of time you are likely to find that you are shedding rings, and the leather straps holding your armour together will pull and distort over time. My OH takes an armour repair kit along to events that include a small number of various styles of rivets, ‘sam brown’ studs for closures on our pouches, spare rings for chainmail and some scrap pieces of leather, straps and buckles to cobble together replacements bits if needed. He also takes a couple of pliers to work chainmail, a hammer, hole punch and the mini anvil and setter that is used to put rivets into leather; a couple of leather needles, an awl and a bobbin of waxed linen thread to sew up leather panels that have pulled apart; and a roll of duct-tape and superglue. With these tools he is able to add holes to belts or straps for armour, replace broken buckles, sew up torn leather panels, patch tears in chainmail if he has the patience, and if he doesn’t have the patience he can always strap parts of the armour back together with duct-tape and a bit of wishful thinking.

You do not need to take all of that, but if you wear lots of armour or have a mixed collection of materials taking a hole punch, some spare strapping, leather needle and thread and maybe a spare buckle or two will probably sort out most of your problems.

 

Camping Gear

We always pack duct tape in our repair kit because it can repair anything, period. With duct tape you can make patches for torn bits of tent canvas, tape down any torn corners on your camping bed cover and in a pinch plug gaps in your ground sheeting. Most tents are sold with repair patches which we usually leave in our tent bag just in case, and these will often do the job for most minor accidents. There is little that can be done to repair snapped elastic in tent poles when standing in the middle of a field, but they can often still be used intact if carefully threaded piece by piece into the pole casing (if it exists. If your poles just have a tent inner tied onto them and the outer draped over the top I’m not sure how the poles would work without their elastic strung through the middle …). Just don’t forget to repair any temporary repairs once you return home otherwise you might have a shock when you go to put up your tent the next year (probably under a thunderstorm and in a hurry, which is when the worst disasters strike).

Damage done to sleeping bags should probably be sewn up, and I would use hand sewing over machine sewing if making a permanent repair. If you are forced to make an emergency repair in the field I would take the time to try and sew the layers back together as they were e.g. lining to lining, zip to outer, outer to outer etc. so that you don’t create further areas of stress and more damage to the sleeping bag.

The only thing I cannot offer guidance on is if your campbed collapses on you. If the frame has buckled or snapped, you would be best not using the frame at all and getting a new one upon your return to civilisation. However, if you are able to salvage the cover from the frame you can lay it under your sleeping bag to protect you somewhat from the chill coming through the groundsheet and any ground damp. You might not have a comfortable night’s sleep without a mattress, but it’ll be better than nothing and if you can sacrifice a dry cloak, towel or blanket to act as another barrier you’ll be better off than lying directly on the ground.

There is lots you can do with a length of paracord, a knife and a lighter – you can bodge together peg loops to peg out the bottom of your tent, fashion a new guy rope when you snap one (especially if you can’t tie it back together) or hook up a washing line if the weather lets you dry out your sodden kit. A few good knots to know and how to splice (that’s tie together for those not of a scouts/outdoorsy disposition) a broken line together can be found here, though there are loads of resources out there on the internet! I include also a link to the Scout Association’s simple factsheet too, because when I think of knots I think of Scouts and Guides.

 


For other tips and thoughts on preparing for fest LARPing, please see the Tutorials page or read the selection of previous blog posts below.

~ First Aiding yourself at events ~ LARPing in the rain ~ Advice for summer LARPing (2016) ~ Travelling and camping at Fests ~ ~ Preparing a new character at a Fest

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