Vardos and Their Cousins: Part 3

Last time we started looking at some of the types of Vardos that are being used as living quarters. And I mentioned that this Vardo was the first one that I ever saw at an SCA event.


When I first posted this picture I was immediately contacted by folks who knew the owner of this marvelous gypsy wagon. And fortunately for all of us that are really interested in such things, she has websites! The wagon in the picture is actually her second gypsy wagon. But to understand it, you really need to watch the building of her first one. So here is her original gypsy wagon website.  I was trying to think if I remembered the original wagon. My husband says yes, and the dates are certainly appropriate for me to have seen it. And here is her second website,  which follows the construction of the second wagon at the location of a professional “caravan” maker in Canada. I was familiar with the term from watching British television. They call all sorts of small RVs “caravans”. I should warn you about the caravan maker’s site. I found myself just wandering around in it and dreaming of owning my own caravan and designing in all sorts of cool things. Having spent quite a bit of time in and around RV’s I have a certain affection for the beasts.

There are obviously many different ways of making Vardos. The professional caravan site gives several ideas and shows a bunch of the types that she has made. But the canvas covered ones that I see most commonly in Arizona are made with a very different system. They use a light weight bow top, like the Conestoga wagons, to create a Vardo with a low center of gravity and an overall lighter design. This allows the Vardo to be pulled by smaller vehicles.


This Vardo belongs to some Midrealm friends. If you are interested in how they built this Vardo, they have a Pinterest Page that documents the process. Plans for this general type of Vardo are available through the American Vardo Site. A friend who made one of these assures me that the book that they sell is very good. They also have plans, and for impatient people, an e-book.

I love this picture of the three Vardos that magically appeared down the street from us this year. I love the differences in design and decoration. The use of bright colors on two of the wagons is very reminiscent of the painted designs that were used on traditional gypsy wagons in Europe.


Even the location of the door on the Vardos varies. The traditional gypsy wagons from Europe, that I have seen pictures of, all have the door at the back. That way they do not have to be unhitched in order for people to go in and out easily. But the Vardo on the far right in this picture actually uses the tongue of the wagon to provide a location for a landing outside of the door. The addition of a sturdy set of wooden steps completes the entrance way.

Next Time: Alternative Uses for Vardos and Wagons


Event Strategies – Fun or Not: Part 4 – Keeping it Real and Being Honest With Yourself

No matter how much we try to plan for an event, stuff happens. Only you can decide if your mental and physical stamina is sufficient to be able to deal with an event, especially if it doesn’t really work out the way you had hoped that it would. Do you have an exit strategy? Are you heat sensitive or cold sensitive? Do temperatures over 90 degrees, especially if it is humid, send you into a physical downward spiral that can end at the ER? Is rough ground a problem? How long a distance can you walk? Only you can evaluate the facts and make that decision.

I have friends who no longer attend camping events, or if they do, they sleep at a hotel or cabin. Bad backs, CPAP machines, the inability to deal with temperature extremes, and a lack of physical mobility are just a few of the reasons that they made this decision. When the stress of camping takes away the fun of attending an event, you need to reconsider your options.

Switching to a camper trailer or small RV has allowed several of my friends to keep attending events. Using an RV at SCA events, can be good and bad, depending on the event site. If there are electrical hookups available it can create a rather luxurious situation, with most of the comforts of home. But the downside is that you may be camping a much longer distance from the center of the event. Camper trailers and RVs are often shunted off on an edge of a event, so check ahead of time with the autocrat. Many event sites do not have any sort of hook-ups, electrical or otherwise, so you will need to understand exactly what your camper is capable of doing. Our old RV could easily do a two 1/2 day “dry” camping trip without running our generator. Generators are prohibited at a lot of sites. You also need to check for additional fees. RV’s often have to pay an additional fee at some parks, especially if there are hookups.

And then there is the Gypsy Wagon, or Vardo. They are towed like a trailer, but they are usually acceptable in camping areas and still provide a greater level of comfort than a tent.

Vardo 2

And sometimes things just get messed up even when you have done all the planning that you could possibly do.  A friend had been looking forward to a hands-on embroidery class. The teacher showed up to class without any supplies and announced that she would order in supplies and then teach the class again on a day that that my friend could not be at the event. Major disappointment.

Another teacher showed up for what was supposed to be a hands on nahlbinding class with no kits or notes, no class limit (she expected 6 and 30 showed up),and no note in the schedule about bringing your own supplies. In this last instance we have to question whether the teacher came from an area with low class attendance, was inexperienced, or was she suffering from a data entry error. Data entry error? Yes. I once had one of my Viking Knit Chain classes appear in the schedule as “Viking Knit Chairs”. Oh, and the class limit had magically disappeared, too. Fortunately I had enough supplies.

Assessing your ability to deal with an event is all about being honest with yourself. In 2015, when it looked like Pennsic was going to be a giant bowl of mud, several folks that use scooters decided not to attend because of the mud. Only you can decide if temperature, rain, terrain or other factors are going to make an event just too difficult. Plan it out, be prepared, and have a great time!

Event Strategies – Fun or Not? Part 3 – Distances & Other Challenges

I was listening to a conversation on Facebook the other day about handicapped accessibility and transportation at an event. One of the people who requires occasional transportation stated that they were told the site was “extremely compact” and it would only be about “1/2 a mile” from where she was to be camped to the main activities area. But for a lot of people, old and young, 1/2 mile is just too far to walk. You are the only one who can make that decision. But get real about it. A cane, a walker, a small portable stool for rest breaks, or an electric scooter are all possibilities at events. I was once confronted by someone who told me that our small baronial event (usually less than 400 people) should provide a golf cart for transportation for those who can’t walk. I was blunt and said it would not happen. It was just not likely to ever be in the budget.

In the past when I have recruited a helper for my booth at Pennsic I have warned any prospective folks that it is a comfortable twenty minute walk from our camp to my booth. We are by no means the farthest away camp, and our walk does not include any large hills. If you are planning to go to an event you really need to try to understand just how much walking you are going to be doing. I always told my helpers to make sure that they had at least two, and preferably three pairs of shoes with them so that they could trade off shoes if their feet got sore, and so that if their shoes got soaked from rain and mud, they would have dry footwear. I have even been known to change into flip flops or rubber muck boots  to keep my shoes dry. Several of my friends who have rather sedentary desk jobs start a walking program a month or two before Pennsic to build up their stamina. Sore feet or exhaustion from too much walking can really spoil your fun. And this doesn’t even count the weather. This is just a small portion of our “just in case” collection.


For a solid month before I attend a camping event I add that event location to my feed and check the weather there every day. I also look at the national forecast to see if there are any trends or major weather events that are likely to impact the area that I am camping in. Two years ago the forecast for Potrero war was cold and foggy. It had been that way for two solid weeks before the event, and it was forecast to be that way for the event. And yet people were totally shocked when it was cold and foggy. I warned my helper to bring her long johns, because it was likely to be cool. We were fine, but a lot of people were totally unprepared. No cloaks, no warm socks, and not enough bedding = less fun.

Next Time: Keeping it Real and Being Honest With Yourself