Vardos and Their Cousins

I have been playing actively in the SCA for over twenty years. When I started we were mostly day tripping to events, because we still had kids at home that required at least some supervision. Many of our friends also day tripped because of work schedules and other obligations, and the area of the kingdom that we lived in (East Kingdom) had huge numbers of events within easy driving distance of our home.

Our first real camping event was actually the Pennsic War in PA. We purchased a new cabin tent for the event, loved it, and put Pennsic as a permanent event on our schedule. But at this event we were exposed for the first time to Gypsy Wagons. There weren’t many of them, but they were really cool. This wagon has been in the same place on the same street for as long as I can remember.


We also saw a giant Pirate Ship!


Jump ahead a few years and we were in the West Kingdom. I never saw any gypsy wagons there (or Pirate ships), but RVs were becoming increasingly common and there were also some tent campers and camper vans. We had an RV ourselves. I have to admit it was pretty awesome. No folding up the clothing; the carefully ironed tunics and gowns were simply hung in the closet. And with the greater distances that we often drove to an event, we could roll in to a site at midnight and be in bed at 12:10 AM, with an inside flushie as a bonus. We were set up with a propane heater, a frig, a propane stove, and ceiling fans. If we had a hook-up, which we did at some campgrounds, we even had a microwave and an air conditioner. Luxury camping at its best.

Jump forward another twelve years and we are in Atenveldt. And this is where we were exposed to the use of Vardos at weekend events. To be honest, we had never heard of the term. Technically speaking a Vardo is a traditional horse-drawn wagon that is used by the Romani people of Great Britain (gypsies). But except for the horses, and the lack of a wood stove, these camping wagons looked like Vardos. We actually knew two couples who had built their own canvas covered Vardos. Like the RV that we used to have, they had the advantage of being a self-contained dwelling. You could just roll in to a site, chock it so that it didn’t roll away, and have a “home”. The chance of snakes, scorpions, or high water from a rain storm being an issue was minimal. You couldn’t easily level it the way you could our RV, but it was still an amazing camping solution.

This year the proliferation of Vardos and other wagons at Pennsic was really noticeable. There have never been any on our block before, but this year there was one directly across the street from us, and several more down the block.

Next Time: Investigating the Wagons