We often have to ride that fine line between being practical and looking somewhat authentic. One of the jokes I make when someone dismisses some of our equipment. (We are performers first and only in a limited capacity reenactors) my response is
“Historically if they could have used it, they would have!” and we have a good laugh about it. That’s why we have tapestry covered folding chairs, bungie cords and other items. But one has to be inventive about hauling around equipment and storage so I’m sharing some of the ways we do that or-
How a troupe has used perfectly ordinary items for a nonintended use
Tool Rack–This is a Rubbermaid tool rack. It collapses down into two bases and some short plastic legs and it fits flat in the car. If you’ve packed up a car for an event, one can appreciate a device that anyone can manhandle out of the car and can sit in the boot of most SUVs. We have two troupe-colored covers fastened with elastic and a safety pin. The rack is held in place by the very bungies that kept it a unit. It’s a terrible tool rack because it is HARD to take tools in and out but a GREAT sword rack because handsy people can’t just grab things and it is always a good idea to move a sword, slowly and carefully within the confines of a tent.
Car roof webbing: This turned out to be too elastic for most of our rooftop needs but when even the sword rack takes up too much room it makes a great hanging web for storing those same swords. One of the limitations is that it does not have the same capacity as the rack but if you have few people but need more real estate inside the tent-it’s ideal. And it takes up even less room than the tool rack. Available at most automotive stores
Hockey bags-Over the years we’ve tried a number of different sword bags. We use gun cases for our more expensive swords. (Aside, did you know that at certain southern airports no one blinks at a gun case but tell them that you are checking in a sword and they freak out? Just sharing that information so you are prepared) But frankly, the gun cases take space and so we have found the most tough and resilient bags are hockey bags. They are built to hold skates with blades, meant to be manhandled and some of the larger ones come with wheels. Golf Bags are also a good all-around choice for a number of items-we use them for tent parts, sword bags and general equipment. They are easily available and inexpensive so can tide you over until you can invest in something higher-end. We generally buy at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Pop-ups and poles-we used popups for years. I honestly thing these are the heart of all small renfaires. The bigger festivals can afford to be fussy but this is the town that appears overnight so that you can have a renfaire. Also some folks have limited hands and mobility so this is much easier than a canvas and pole set-up which generally takes a minimum of three-to-four people. We love having our tent but when doing one-day festivals, or when it rains, I miss having a popup. And you can really make them zing with covers and accents and in some cases, I think they add a certain insouciance that reminds stuffy faires of their roots. Some folks have cover designs online and some folks sell them. We used to buy our tents at Dicks (see above) or there are good sales to be had in the winter at Elite Deals. And if you can’t afford sides you can grab inexpensive tapestries (see below)
Organizer bits-our favorite is the hanging shoe rack which is perfect for all those faire gifts, wallets, glasses etc. and did you notice that it packs flat?
Bedspreads/tapestries/Curtains –these are great for covering gear, coolers, setting up change areas and dealing with water control. We pack a bag of nothing but these to bring with us. I generally but from Indian Bedspreads but if you are inventive and crafty you can do canvas floor cloths as sides (google will bring up a host of DIY sites)
The last item I have on here is not authentic but such a great windfall that I have to share. We use an inflatable cooler for keeping water and other items corralled. The Inflatable Pirate Chest. it’s cheap, it’s ugly and it is hard to blow up but it does the job and packs into a tiny bag. We didn’t have high hopes but it has survived two years with us.
Two of our members-Valkyrie and Monica are amazing at coming up with new ideas for making us light, mobile and efficient (several of these are their brainchild) And I am sure that many of you out there are coming up with some great stuff. So feel free to share in comments and I hope you found this useful. With any luck, we’ll have found a NEW batch of artifacts in a few years and will be revising this blog post!