WHERE'S THAT DUCT TAPE
"Dammit, the stew pot's really gotten hot. I can't even lift it off the fire. Did you bring any leather gloves?" "This ground's hard as a rock. The tent stakes just won't come out. Anybody got a claw hammer?" "How're we supposed to carry water from the dining hall all the way up here to our camp? I wish we'd brought a plastic milk jug or two." "Aw shit, last night's storm left a big rip in the side of our tent. Do we have any duct tape?"
If you've ever been camping at a Pagan festival, chances are that you've forgotten to pack some things that a few days later you sorely wish you'd brought. It's easy to remember the fun stuff, mead and condoms; but no one wants to anticipate trouble, so you're less likely to remember a hammer, gloves, and duct tape. This is especially true if you're a first-timer; but even experienced campers often neglect to include items that they need.
Used to be, whenever I'd return home from a camping trip, I'd make a mental note that next trip I'd bring things I'd forgotten this time and needed. Yeh, right. It never worked. Next trip I'd forget the same things and need them all over again, or I'd bring those things but forget others that I needed just as much. Finally I decided to write up a list of all those items I actually used in camping and revise it after each trip until it was complete. Now I think I've finally got it.
I gave copies of the list to Pagan friends who attend festivals too and invited them to use it. Maybe none of them brings as much stuff as I pack, but they all reported that it helped them to include stuff that they otherwise would have forgotten, stuff that they used and were glad that they had. Now it's time to donate it to the world, so here's my list, brilliantly titled "Stuff To Take To Festivals."
It may not be immediately obvious why some of these items are on the list; so I'll select a few of them that you may find questionable and explain why you need them:
BINOCULARS: you can use these for watching birds and other distant objects of interest.
WOODEN MALLET AND CLAW HAMMER: you need the mallet to pound in tent stakes because steel hammers break the heads of plastic stakes—you know the really good kind that don't pull out of the ground during a severe thunderstorm. On the other hand, only a claw hammer can pull tent stakes out of truly hard ground, ground that may have been soft after the last rain but has turned to adobe under days of relentless sun.
BUCKET: if you've ever been stuck in your tent during a thunderstorm and needed to pee, you'll know what this is for.
CLIPBOARD, NOTEBOOK, PENS, AND PENCILS: if you attend workshops or meetings, you may want to take notes, and you may want to write down names and addresses of new friends that you make at the festival.
CLOTHES LINE AND CLOTHES PINS: if you want to wash clothes, or if your clothes get wet during a rain, you need some way to dry them, and there are no driers in the woods.
COOK STAND, FOLDING TABLE, LAWN CHAIRS: unless you're lucky enough to have a picnic table at your campsite, you'll need these items so that you don't spend the entire festival cooking and eating off the ground--which is no fun, I can assure you.
DROP CLOTH AND TARP: you'll need something to cover your stuff with in case of rain and/or to erect a sunscreen if the sky is clear.
DUCT TAPE: this stuff fixes anything; bring it.
DUSTPAN AND WHISK BROOM: after a few days of walking in and out of your tent, it can get pretty gritty inside.
EXTRA BATTERIES: for your flashlights, camera, headset, and lantern. You're sure to need them.
FACE PAINT, BRUSHES, MIRROR: only if you like to paint your face (or whatever).
FOAM PAD: sitting on the ground at meetings and workshops can give you a sore butt pretty fast. A foam pad solves that problem.
FUNNEL: if you bring tiki torches, you don't want to put them back in your car or van with oil still in them; it spills all over everything. Use a funnel to pour the oil back into its plastic bottles.
HATCHET AND SAW: a few little stumps or saplings under your tent can punch holes in the floor after only a few days. Cutting them off at ground level before putting your tent up is a good thing (to paraphrase Martha Stewart).
LEATHER GLOVES: these are good for lots of jobs, not the least of which is handling hot cooking utensils.
LEVEL: if your liquid fuel stove isn't level it won't burn very well. Trust me on this one.
Although this is a pretty complete list, it does not include two categories—food and clothing. These are such individual categories that no one's list would apply to anyone else. If the festival that you're attending includes a meal plan, maybe you don't need to pack any food, or a cooler or stove, at all. On the other hand, doesn't everyone enjoy a hot drink in the morning or a cold beverage in the afternoon? So even if you're taking the meal plan, maybe you do want a stove and cooler. See what I mean? As to clothes, all I can advise is pack for warm, cool, cloudy, sunny, rainy, and dry weather, and bring ritual garb.Here's the list. Feel free to make copies of it, share it with friends, and cross off items as you pack them.
This article previously appeared in vol 6, issue 3 of The Rune