First Person:
Steve Donohue

A Viking We Will Go

This tale is of a less than strenuous excursion. Basically, all Steve did was to sleep outside - for the rest of the weekette, he was inside as often as his fellow campers.

When the Viking theme was selected for Winter Camp XIX, I thought it would be a great chance to put some of my Viking garb to use. As a member of the SCA, I had some appropriate clothing and a very large tent. Using it in Winter was particularly appealing because I'd never quite gotten around to waterproofing it (still haven't).

Setting up the tent isn't very hard, but it does require several helpers. The tent is 15' long, 8' wide and about 7' tall. When it's up, it looks more or less like an A frame. It has a wooden base and the canvas tucks underneath it on the sides. There are two poles at each end, which lock into the base, then another poll stretches across the top.

To help keep it sturdy and to spread the canvas better, loops of rope are stretch from the front right corner, over the ridge pole at the back, and back to the front left corner. A similar rope goes from back to back. Once pitched, the tent is very sturdy. For this occassion, I also put two tent platforms inside the frame (yes, it is that big).

The hardest part of sleeping in it was the complete inability to warm the tent. It afforded shelter from snow and wind, but little else in the way of warmth - it's just too big for one person to make a difference. I'm sure if there were several people it might have helped. On the other hand, condensation was not a problem.

For sleeping, I had two goals. First, I wanted to be warm. Towards that end, I used the platforms, a piece of carpet, a closed-cell foam pad, and a 20 degree bag. Because of my size, I can usually get an extra 10 degrees out of a bag (at least). To make it look more viking, I covered the rugs and pads with two sheepskins and pulled a homemade blanket over myself at night.

All things being equal, it was a pretty good experience. I don't remember being cold other than once when I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night and even that wasn't too bad. If it hadn't been for fresh snow though, I'd probably have walked a little further. Probably the worst part was trying to be at Winter Camp and do all these things.

Winter Camp is generally a soft camping event - the activites we hold may be gruelling, but sleeping on cots in heated cabins isn't. I had brought along proper equipment to sleep outside, but I had a lot of other items in my tent that didn't take the cold as well as I did, like shampoo and toothpaste. Additionally, having to walk to and from the tent at night and in the morning was cumbersome.

When we took it down, the temperatures had warmed up and I wound up with more than 50 pounds of wet (no, not damp - wet) canvas to dry out. Having no other alternatives, I rigged some ropes and hooks and left it hang for more than a week in my basement.

On the other hand, I managed to become the first person ever to spend every night of Winter Camp outdoors, so I think it was worth a little frozen shampoo.


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