LARP 101 #3: Equipping Yourself
Updated: Oct 2
Alright, you’ve got your character all ready to go, now you just need to gather your gear and-- wait, what should you bring? How are you going to make your gear fit in? Fear not, there’s plenty of options for getting LARP gear, and we’re here to help you pack everything you need for an unforgettable adventure.
Bags, Pouches, and Storage
If you’re going to be bringing gear on your adventure, you’re first going to need something to carry it all in. The good news is that plenty of options exist. As usual, it’s good to ask yourself a few questions to narrow down your choices.
What do you plan to carry?
Make a list of items or gather them together in one place. For example:
Water bottle - Hydrate hydrate hydrate! More on these in a bit.
Journal & pen/pencil - Journals with leather covers often look great and last a really long time! They can be expensive though.
Snacks - More on these in a bit as well, but generally anything that isn’t wrapped in plastic and is non-perishable makes for great options!
Spell packets - We’ll show you how to make these at home!
Props - ie, potion bottles or magic focuses
Depending on how much you’re carrying and how big the items are, you may need a bigger or smaller bag with you. It’s also important to have space for anything you might find on your adventures! Plus, if you’re going to be carrying camping gear like a bedroll and a tent, a measly pouch on your belt just won’t cut it.
How much weight are you going to be carrying? How heavy is your costume?
Let’s be real, you’re not going to want a 15-pound bag on top of 40 pounds of chainmail armor. If your costume is heavy, consider keeping your everyday carry light. A belt with a couple of pouches and a scabbard will go a long way for carrying small items. If you have a lighter costume, belts and pouches still may be the way to go if you’d like to be able to move quickly.
If your costume's weight is not a concern, consider a satchel or backpack if you plan to carry a heavier load. Make sure your bag is a proper fit so you do not hurt yourself. In the case of backpacks, sturdy back support and buckles around the waist and across the chest will further spread the load. The more weight you carry, the more you want to distribute it across your body.
What kinds of bags would your character carry? What does your budget look like?
Is your character a merchant selling a litany of items from their bulging backpack? Are you a swift messenger dashing across the city to deliver messages? Refer to our previous article if you have yet to build your character, but if you’ve got them already, understand what sort of equipment your character may carry.
You won’t want a bag that’s going to tear open on you in the middle of the woods. Finding something that’s in character and durable can be difficult. Take a look at the bag you’ve already got, and compare them to your setting. If you decide to thrift, thick canvas or leather is generally the way to go, since they’re long-lasting and versatile settings-wise. Military surplus stores can have lots of really good, durable carry options for cheap that work for a variety of settings.
If you’ve got the money to buy new, look on LARP-specific marketplaces for in-character gear, or browse Etsy for something handmade. Generally, the smaller the bag, the lighter and less expensive it will be. Makers in the LARP community often know what LARPers are looking for, and sometimes will offer customizations that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.
Food and Water
Everyone gets hungry while on a good adventure-- just look at the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings! For the sake of your health and sanity, it’s good to keep hydrated and fueled on your journey. So what should you bring?
Snacks on the Go
This mostly pertains to the food you’ll be carrying on your person. If your event is overnight, see if you can find meal times and learn about the caterer, or if everything is made by event staff. The event coordinator will likely have the most information in that regard.
Generally anything non-perishable and not wrapped in plastic or foil will make for a good snack. Look up trail snacks for hiking. Nuts, dried fruit, jerky, all of those are great options for travel food. If you’re up for it, making your own meals can allow you to add that personal touch. Plus, who wouldn’t want to try making Lembas bread? Mm…
When searching the stores for your next nibble, don’t feel bad if you can’t find anything without modern packaging-- generally, you’d have to go to stores that are specifically eco-friendly for that. Instead, you can transfer food to cloth bags. Another alternative is beeswax wraps-- cloth soaked in beeswax so it’ll hold its shape and is water-resistant. I’ve never tried them personally, but they’re hailed as an alternative to plastic wrap and look perfect for any non-modern setting.
Important safety note: If you do pack foods that contain common allergens, such as nuts, gluten, or dairy products, make sure that they are labeled as such. Keep in mind that others can have serious dietary restrictions and allergies can be life-threatening. Please be respectful of others’ dietary habits, regardless of reasoning. When you get with your group, or even prior, double-check with your event coordinators to keep things safe.
Water and Liquids
There’s a saying that’s often thrown around the Story School, “Hydrate or Die-drate.” It started as an in-joke among campers, but it’s also an extremely important message. When it comes to exercise, especially in warmer weather, hydration is key to staying on your feet and having fun. You don’t want heat exhaustion, or worse, heatstroke.
Thus, you’re going to need a water bottle and something to drink while on your adventure! Some LARPs will allow you to use modern water bottles regardless of setting, others will hold you to the environment. Check with your event coordinators to see what your circumstances are. Some LARP marketplaces will offer potion bottles or waterskins to carry liquids around.
You’re going to want a water bottle that won’t leak, that can be strapped to your person or is easy to carry, and that can be jostled around. That means you might want to avoid glass, corked potion bottles. Unless you can carry them securely, and you’re sure nothing will spill, a metal/plastic flask or water skin is probably a better choice. I’d recommend keeping them tied to your belt for easy access, just don’t let them swing around too much. You will get bruises on your legs from your water bottle hitting you while walking.
As for what goes in your bottle, I have three favorite options! First, good ol’ H2O. Normal water is easy to get and easier to consume, plus you won’t have to worry about washing your bottle due to sugars. Second, electrolyte drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, etc. Being bright and colorful, they can double in for potions. They’ll also give you a small boost in energy and replenish the electrolytes you’re sweating out while wrecking your enemies on the battlefield. Just make sure you rinse your bottle out thoroughly before putting it aside, once empty. Lastly, protein drinks! If you can’t carry snacks on the go, filling a water bottle with a protein drink like Ensure will let you keep calories on you while you adventure! Unfortunately, you’ll also need to wash out your water bottle once finished, but I think it’s worth it.
Footwear and Climate
In our first article, we stressed the importance of your LARP’s location, and knowing the climate of the area during the time you’ll be there. Here, we’re going to discuss layering costume pieces and choosing the appropriate footwear for your journeys!
Footwear. First things first, here are a few things to absolutely avoid if you’re headed to an active LARP:
High Heels - Just don’t. You WILL ruin your feet and you WILL get blisters.
Flip-flops - Unless you’re going to be showering/bathing there, keep flip-flops out of your bags. They’re a tripping hazard on their own.
Crocs - See above.
Heelys - They’re going to be out of place for almost any setting other than modern/urban ones, and the wheels can be a tripping hazard. Plus, it’s unlikely you’ll find any smooth, flat surfaces to use them on.
Now, with that out of the way, what SHOULD you bring? You’re gonna want something comfortable, with good arch and ankle support, and that’s easy to get on and off. Prioritize comfort. If all you’ve got are a pair of beat-up sneakers or some hiking boots, that’s alright. Some LARP markets sell shoe coverings, which you can use to hide the fact you’re wearing something totally out of the setting. You can also look into costume coverings for footwear by smaller makers-- especially cosplayers specializing in hooves.
However, lots of LARP markets also sell leather boots to use, which can be great but carry all the same risks of buying shoes online. Plus, you might have to put in inserts for arch support, and they’re not necessarily water-resistant. Your event coordinator can’t control the weather-- so make sure you’ve got something you’re comfortable in, rain or shine.
I do have a personal favorite type of shoe-- work or tactical boots. They’re waterproof and offer steel-toed options, and are the same boots some paramedics and firefighters use on the job. They provide tremendous ankle and arch support, and they’re subtle enough for most settings. I’ve only just barely worn a pair out after wearing them every day, rain, snow, or shine, for three years straight. Plus, as mentioned above, you can hide them with shoe coverings if necessary. Expensive? Yes. Worth it for how long it’ll last you? Absolutely.
Okay, so let’s say you’re headed someplace cold.
The good news? Layering costume pieces to stay warm is super simple! Let’s break it down.
The first layer is going to be the lightest-- it’s your simple clothing that will be against your body. Depending on your costume, it may or may not get completely covered, so think about whether you want to use some modern sportswear. Moving around will have you sweating, so you’ll want these to be made of a fabric that will wick moisture away while keeping you warm. That means NO WOOL against your skin. Wool will absorb moisture for sure, but then it starts to draw heat away once wet.
Wool works better in the next layer, which is an insulation layer. This part is more likely to show through, but it’s generally also kept covered by the outermost layer. This is where your body heat will be trapped and kept from radiating out into the cold, keeping you warm. This layer includes sweaters, socks, and vests, most often.
The outer layer is the one that everyone will see, but it’s also the one that’ll be exposed to the elements the most. This is where knowing your climate comes in real handy; if it’s going to be snowing, choose something water-resistant. If it’s going to be windy, grab something thick to break the windchill. Also make sure you’ve got a hat, gloves, earmuffs, and a scarf to protect your extremities!
Headed someplace warm?
Flip the above advice on its head a bit, and remember that everything will be more visible. You’ll still want any layers touching your skin to wick away sweat, but you’re not going to want anything more than two layers if you can help it. Choose fabrics that are light and breathable, so that heat from your body can escape and sweat can evaporate. Leathers and metals are not breathable.
In addition, consider a wide-brimmed hat to shade yourself from the sun. Sunscreen is always a good idea, and keep yourself hydrated! If you’re feeling the heat, run your wrists under cold water. It’s a good refresher until you’re able to get out of the sun. If you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, head to the shade and sit down for a drink, and let your event coordinator know. Heat exhaustion can come on very quickly and can progress rapidly to heat stroke if you’re not careful.
Getting Your Gear - Message from the Story School
If you’re looking for places to buy gear, there are plenty of options. But when considering gear for Story School adventure programs give the Storytellers of The Story School a call at 781-214-1174 as they are a wholesaler for a number of costume and prop outfitters. They can recommend items for use in their activities. This is especially true for weapons that can be used in their programs; buying directly through them is the only way to guarantee the weapons you purchase can be used in their camp, afterschool, and school break programs.
For other places to shop for LARP costumes, armor, and accessories check out some of the links below.