Going to Your First Rendezvous
Kind of an odd post for Orion, but this is an email I threw together explaining what kind of kit you really need when going to your first WFT (Western Fur Trade) event.
Just some basic info, piggybacking off of my articles on buckskinning.org, but a good summary of how to not overdo it at your first Voo.
Rendezvous are more or less reenacting events where people come out and portray the American Fur Trade, generally about 1800-1840. It’s the time of Jim Bridger, Mariano Modena, Liver Eatin’ Johnson, and a host of other characters who opened up the west and lived on their own in the trackless wilderness of the pre-old west.
But, . . . I don’t have a full set of buckskins!
You’re damn right ya don’t, ya flatlander, but don’t let that stop you from coming out. Though period dress is required for these events (and you can go wild with options), you don’t really need a whole lot to blend in. And honestly, after doing this hobby for ten years (sheesh) there is not a lot of my original gear that I still use . . . so you don’t want to run out and buy a bunch of crap, only to have to sell it to some sucker later, but I digress.
Here are some simple things I recommend to “blend in” to your first event:
Period shirt – this is one of the easiest things to acquire and the good news is if you don’t like it later, you can always wear it under your other clothes. I have a few spare shirts, but picking a good one up shouldn’t be a big deal. What you are looking for is a work shirt-style cut that is in a simple pattern (they were hand painted back then, so no one would sit around and paisley up some linen). Here are some examples on eBay – http://www.ebay.com/sch/Costumes-Reenactment-Attire-/163147/i.html?_nkw=mountain+man+shirt, but Crazy Crow and Panther Primitives also have some that are inexpensive and perfect for rendezvous. RenFest-style shirts are usually ok, too – provided that they are not too shiny.
Pants/trousers – for your lower half, the best thing to wear is modern pants (the untucked shirt will hang over the top of the pants, covering up the modern stuff like pockets, belt loops, etc), as long as they are not cargo pants. Jean material is ok – as long as it is not blue jeans (not invented until 1849), and tan, brown or even white jeans (remember the 80s?) are great. Tan, brown, or white chinos are good, too (just don’t have the pleats in the front). No OD green.
Footwear – Academy sells some cheap, moccasin-style house shoes that are perfect rendezvous starter shoes. They are usually around $5. Just make sure you get the ones without rubber soles. For the more ambitious, Tandy Leather sells a moccasin kit that is inexpensive and easy to assemble.
Staying warm – the best, simplest and most period way to stay warm is with a wool blanket. You don’t need to run out and get a Hudson’s Bay or anything like that, but a regular surplus military one will be great (just not OD green). Sportsman’s Guide always has a ton of these. The wool-blend “red cross” blankets are generally crappy, but one’s like this are great – http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/cb/cb.aspx?a=772917 (100% wool and only $15!). Buy two of these and you’ll be set for years. When you upgrade to a better blanket, you can cut these up to make leggings, a shooting pouch, or a rain poncho. For the true woodsman, there is no better multi-use material than wool!
Eating materials – this is the most important category, since you can’t drink out of an aluminum can or beer bottle at a period event, you must have a tin cup. If you have one and it’s legit, you are great (ask me if you need to), if not, this is probably your most important piece of kit. You can drink from it, eat out of it and most importantly – it holds your beer. The quart size is better than the pint (you can fit more in it), but either is fine. You can buy these at most events, or order one here:
You will also need a spoon (or a fork, if you are gentrified), but a regular wood spoon is all you really need.
Sleeping – if you are camping out, you can sleep in one of my lodges or a friend’s lodge, so your sleeping bag is ok, as long as it’s out of sight. Better yet, wrap yourself up in a wool blanket or two and sleep period style!
Other stuff – if you wanna shoot, we’ll have spare guns. Same for knives, tomahawks, firestarting kits, bows and arrows and all the rest of it. Don’t go out an buy a black powder gun until you have an event or two under your belt, or we have spent any time in the field with them. A leather belt is great, you can tie your tin cup to it, etc. Just make sure it has a simple buckle (brass preferred). There are generally one or two traders at an event, so you can pick-up some plunder there, too.
What do I eat? – most of the time when you are new, you “camp dog,” which basically means eating off of other people’s viddles. We do use coolers, but they are covered up and out of sight to keep the scene working. Jerky is great, but you can really bring whatever, provided the packaging is put away until ready for use (stored in your lodge or whatever). If you are coming out, just bring whatever you are comfortable eating and/or throwing on the fire. I’ll have plenty of pots, pans and related devices. Don’t worry about picking one up for your first event . . .
For more details, check out my website where I discuss a lot of these topics in even more detail:
See you down the trail!