A war is in many ways different from most events here in Meridies. At a war, you camp, no cabins. Yes you can camp at some other events, but at a war, you must. You are also responsible for feeding yourself, ie. no feast. There are several things to remember when you go to your first war, and I hope this missive assist you in preparing.
Bring lots of it. The weather in this area can be a bit finicky. It might be in the 80s during the day and in the 40s at night. It is VERY period to wear your clothing in layers. If you get too warm, shed a layer or two. If you get cold, put on a layer. If you have a cloak, bring it. No mater what the time of year, a cloak is a handy thing to have, even if you use it for nothing more than something to wrap in when nature calls in the middle of the night.
Try to plan ahead. If you know you are going to attend a camping event, make sure that you have a few extra tunics or dresses. If you do not, then make some, or ask the shire to help you make some.
If you still do not have enough garb, just ask. The shire keeps a good supply of loaner garb available for the newer members. I am a good person to ask as well as the Seneschal. Our shire has lots of loaner garb and it is here to help new people get started. You should of course make your own or buy it, but that takes time.
And once you get to the event, there is merchants row! At wars, the merchants really come out and sell their wares, so it is a great place to go and purchase some garb. However, I will warn you to not go to a war and assume that you will be able to purchase everything you need. You never know what the merchants will have, or not have.
In a perfect world everyone would have a period pavilion, but those are expensive and take time and lots of effort. Almost no one starts in a pavilion, so if you are like most of us you will start with a mundane tent. Any size or style is fine as long as it suits your needs. If you do not have one, feel free to ask your shire members. Someone might have one they can loan you. It never hurts to ask.
Bedding is important. Most people use an air mattress because they pack up small. This is a good option, but ALWAYS put a blanket between you and the air mattress. As the air inside it cools at night it can draw the heat from your body and make it impossible to stay warm. Bring extra blankets because it can get cold.
The most common chair for anyone to start with is the “bag chair” which is available at Walmart and other such stores. I encourage anyone who uses these to at least cover it with a large cloth drape to hide the mundanity of it. I also do workshops for people to make a more period looking wooden chair which fits what we do much better. Just ask me and I will let you know when the next one will be.
There are several ways to handle food at your first war.
1) You can simply run off site and grab a burger or what ever you desire when it comes to meal time. This simplifies packing and storing and preparation of food for the weekend. The down side is that you must actually leave the event. Take your site token with you so you can get back on site when you return.
Bring simple food, such as cereal and milk, fruit or bagels for breakfast, and sandwich fixin's for the other meals.
2) Bring a small camp stove and cook a simple meal. You could try going medieval and cooking over a camp fire if you like, but if you plan to do this, be sure to check and see if fires will be allowed prior to going to the event. Sometimes fires are prohibited due to site restrictions or fire risk levels.
3) Get with some one who has a meal plan and see if there is room for you to join in. This usually requires a fee to cover the cost of the meal. It is also traditional that if you are on the meal plan you will spend some time helping in the kitchen as well. This is a great way to get to know some other people as well.
And most importantly, your good Attitude:
Do not be afraid to approach people. Everyone you see at an event started exactly where you are. We were all once new to the SCA, and full of wonder and excitement. There is nothing wrong with approaching someone and saying “Hey, my name is John, and I am new. What does that crown on your head mean?” Ask questions. Meet people. Watch. Learn. Do. I autocrated an event a few years ago. Toward the end of the day I was speaking with a young lady who was there as her first event. I asked her if she had enjoyed herself, and she said no, there was nothing to do. I looked at her and asked if she had gone to the Scriptorium to paint scrolls? No. To the archery range? No. To the gaming pavilions? No. To the live weapons range? No. To shoot the Balista? No. To shoot the trebuchett? No. All those activities were there for her, and she had not bothered to go to any of them because she was new. There will be all kinds of things for you to do at these events, but it is up to you to go and actually do them. Not only will you learn new things and have a good time, you will also meet other people at these activities, and in truth, that is what this is all about, meeting people and making friends.