Start off with a checklist of things you want to be sure you bring. Make a new one for each event, or just cross out what you don't need for this specific one, whatever works best for you.
At least a week before the event go through the check list to make sure you have everything or at least know where it is. Take a couple of clean milk or OJ jugs full of water and freeze them a week before the event, so you can use them to keep your ice chest cold and have clean water to drink.
When was the last time you make sure your tent was intact, mold-free, and usable? Usable includes not smelling so bad you can't stand to be closed up in it. It also includes making sure all of the parts (poles, ropes, stakes, rain fly as well as the tent body) are there.
Are you planning on cooking on site? Do you have all your groceries? Wait as long as you can to get perishables.
Does the event write up say "no running water" or "no potable water"? If so, make sure you buy several gallons of water per person per day.
Start with the checklist provided, add to it and subtract from it as needed.
Some things you will want to bring regardless of who you are camping with, others can be left behind if you know someone else is bringing them. Everyone should make sure they bring:
It is usually a good idea to bring portable bottles of water and munchables that don't need cooling. Having a sling pouch to carry them in is quite useful. You can get amazingly hungry at camping events, especially if you participate in the fighting (water bearer, herald, marshal, spectator, as well as the fighters). Standing in the sun dries you out even if you aren't doing anything else.
Some of the common packaging materials involve sealing plastic tubs. These can be anything from small bins to huge containers, depending on weight and content.
Another thing to consider is how to light your camp at night. Flashlights and Coleman lanterns are very disruptive and should be kept to a minimum. Be sure you know if the site allows open flames before bringing tiki torches, and if you bring candles make sure they are in enclosed containers (like votives or hurricane lamps). If you bring lamps, don't forget the lamp oil.
Caravaning? Bring a FRS (Family Radio Service) channel radio for each car. Have a passenger in each car handle it, so the driver can concentrate on the road. It makes planning things like gas and rest stops much easier. Work out emergency signaling (blinking headlights, sounding horns in certain patterns, etc) as well, just in case.
The first thing you will do is go through gate. If you have made arrangements to meet/camp with people, check for notes on the message boards that are always there. If there is a large site map, that's where you look to see who is camping where. (People post on it once they have unloaded their car and started camp, usually.)
While at gate, look for a volunteer coordinator or signups. This is always a good way to meet people and get involved in the event. There is almost always a need for people to herald, constable, marshal, water bear and do many other things. You can volunteer for an hour or an evening, as your availability and interests dictate. Any help is greatly appreciated. I highly encourage volunteering frequently and for many different things until you find out what you enjoy doing.
Unload your car and put it away in the designated parking area before you set up camp or put on garb. This is a courtesy to the others attending the event. It is very distracting to look around and see cars all over the place. It also clears up space so others can get in and unload.
Don't wear garb on the trip down. You'll be setting up camp and doing other dirt-generating things and it just isn't worth it. You can change into garb once you get your car unloaded & parked and your camp somewhat set up.
At the event keep in mind weather as well as dirt conditions. Camping events are not usually the time to wear court garb. Many camping events do have courts, but no one (except possibly the Nobility holding the court) is expected to dress fancy for it.
Wear garb that is easy to clean and maintain. Also, think layers. An Tir weather is very veriable. It might be quite cool in the morning and amazingly hot by mid-afternoon. Layers trap heat (air pockets are good for you), and can be added or removed as needed during the day. Do not forget a cloak!
If this is your first event, borrow some garb from a friend or Gold Key. We ask that you make an attempt at period garb, but no one is going to get snooty (well, no one should get snooty) if all you have is a t-tunic. Attempt is the operative word here.
You will be doing a lot of walking, so sturdy boots or sandals are a must. Bring a walking stick if you have one.
Always wear sun screen, even if you think you are immune to the sun's rays. Even if it is a cloudy day. Even if you think you don't need to. I have seen a lot of people with screamingly painful sunburns at events and it just ruins their day. (Not to mention the 5-hour trip home.)
Are you camping with others or camping alone? If you are camping alone, it is easiest to pre-prep everything. Meal-in-a-bag is very popular. It's amazing what you can do with raw egg, shreaded cheese and mushrooms in a seal-a-meal bag and a pot of boiling water. (Instant Omlet). If you don't have access to seal-a-meal, you can use ziploc freezer bags. Lesser bags will melt in the boling water. Test what you're doing before you rely on it.
If you are camping with a group, or have good kitchen gear, you can be a lot more adventerous. The shire of Wyewood is locally famous for the food they prepare at events. They have a lot of people with cooking gear, and several ice chests to haul it all in.
Food poisoning is a very real possibility at events. Everything from keeping your food cold (lots of ice, especially large-block, is very good) to making sure you clean your dishes and cutting surfaces is important. Package everything in your ice chest in ziplock bags or sealing rubber containers to keep the ice melt out of them. Don't leave stuff in the sun for three days and expect it to be healthy to eat. Not even canned goods can stand up to direct heating like that for long. Bring cloth to cover your ice chests and other supplies with. Keep them under shade whenever possible.
It's obvious, but don't bring things that the event writeup says aren't allowed. Some sites don't allow live steel for example. Bringing your sword might just get you asked to leave the site. (Unlikely, but possible.)
Some people think the SCA is a great place for drugs. I've watched more than one person being taken away by the local police as a result. It is a horrible way to end an event, and hard on the people you are camping with. Do everyone a favor and leave them at home.
If you are under age to drink in the state/province the site is located at, please don't bring alcohol. Most of the time it is not noticed, but when it is it becomes a serious problem. The entire camp gets evicted when someone under age is cought with alcohol. Do you want to do that to your friends?
The SCA can be a very friendly society. It is no secret that a lot of sexual liasons happen. Most of them are between consenting adults in the privacy of their camp sites. Many households bring condoms and other supplies in their first aid kits. Some merchants quietly provide condoms when asked (look for the sign of the trojan horse).
However, just because you are at an SCA event doesn't mean you shouldn't be responsible. Make sure your partner is able to give consent (not just age of consent, but state of sobriety come into play here). It is the responsiblty of all parties involved to prevent the spread of disease. Show respect for your partner(s), insist on safer sex. Keep in mind that the age of consent is different in almost every region of An Tir, so someone who may be legal where you live might not be legal where the event is.
The SCA tends to draw many alternative lifestyles. There are people into all kinds of things because we are such an open, welcoming group. If someone opportunes you for something you are not interested in a polite "no, thank you" should be enough (wether it's vanilla or tripple-X kink). However, if they perist, do not be afraid to ask for assistance from a campmate, friend or constable. If it gets really bad ask a member of the Chivalry (Knights or Masters at Arms) for assistance. You are there to have fun, not to be a target.
Cloven fruit is occasionally passed around in camp. The significance of it varies from region to region, but it usually means a request or an offer of a kiss. If you are interested (or, not disinterested), taking a clove out of the fruit with your teeth shows it. If, on the other hand, you don't want to kiss, you can remove a clove with your fingers (a kiss on the hand is the usual rule there), or demure politely. Once you have been handed the cloven fruit, it is your turn to hand it on. Some people feel that special meaning lies in the last clove of a fruit, so exercise caution if offered a fruit with just once clove. If you are unsure of their meaning, ask them.
Getting drunk is another common past-time at events. It is probably one of the safest places to do it, since you won't be driving home afterwords. Try not to be a burdeon on your camp mates, though, and try to be considerate of others camping near you. Loud singing at 3am is not a good way to make friends.
The basic message here is not to squash your fun with mind-altering substances (drugs, alcohol, endorphins, pheremones, sugar, etc), but to ask you to be responsible in your use of them. An it harm none, do as though wilt.
Some people like camping together so much they form a household. There are a lot of households in Madrone. Some are open for new members, and some are not. If you have a group of friends you enjoy camping with, you might consider forming a household with them.
Households can be anything from "we just camp together" to closeknit groups that do everything together, inside and outside of the Society. Make sure you know what is expected of members before you join households, and what the formation and purpose of the household is. Some households are 'party houses' that just exist to party at events. Some are service households, some are arts & sciences, some are just friends hanging out.
Once you become a member of a household, it might or might not be easy to move to a different one if things don't work out. It is always best to wait a while (I recommend a minimum of a year) and see what is out there before commiting. Try to camp with a household through several events before you agree (or ask) to join them.
Households that camp together tend to acumulate all the needed tools and items for a good camp. One member brings the stove and another brings the food. A third one brings the dayshade for the kitchen, and another brings the dayshade for the sitting area. Another might bring 8 or 9 chairs.
Some households are very formalized, with dues paid to provide lighting and seating and food, etc. Almost all of them have chores schedules, especially at the longer running events like Egil's or September Crown.
I like to follow the example of Caer Luturs, a household in Adiantum. They always stop for pizza on their way home as a transition point from SCA to the modern world. It gives you one last chance to see everyone before the parting of the ways. It also gives you a chance to use a flush toilet and a sink with running water to get some of the camp grime off.
Plan your departure time to miss as much traffic as you can, but to get you home earlier than you think you need to. You will discover Just How Tired You Can Get shortly after you get in the car. Once you stop moving, you tend to fall asleep. Allow time for rest and cafine injection stops on the trip home. If you car pool, rotate drivers as needed. Use the FRS radios to chat between cars and keep drivers awake.