A summer LARP guide by Hawk Firestorm
Note: This previously published content is presented with permission of the author.
Summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) and everyone wants to play, including the bugs. So as you’re grabbing your gear and prepping for the next event, I wanna bring your attention to an oft-neglected portion of the LARPer kit: the practicalities.
I am not just referring to the things like your personalized first aid kit (those braces sized for *you* for joints that tend to go, your preferred NSAIDs for aches and pains, daily meds, substitutes for common treatments that you are allergic to, etc.) and toiletries, but those little things that you never think to grab till you’ve gone.
Sunblock, bug repellent, post bite soother, and after sun care. For the general camper, these are easily done at the gas station on the way if need be, but we LARPers have *other* concerns. For me, one of two biggies is makeup. The other is sweat. Just those two in tandem is bad enough, but if any of the above mentioned seasonal items interact with the surface (my skin) in such a way as to change texture or breathability, makeup will suffer. (It’s not just makeup people….this is your character’s FACE! and possibly body, too.)
Some recommend using a flea/tick collar around the ankle or wrist, but repeated long term use can have adverse effects as they are toxic, and designed for use not in direct skin contact- pets have fur. Most people don’t. I personally have sensitive skin, and tend to react badly to all manner of synthetic stuff, so I like natural-type remedies, which are usually plant-oil and mineral based. This means they are heavier and will last best if applied first- whatever this product is, it needs to be at the beginning of character creation.
Ideally, this can be your waterproof/sweatproof insect repellent/sunscreen, but finding a product that is a true all-in-one is difficult, so my preference is to apply a spray on sunscreen, let it dry, and then my bug-off. I prefer Repel’s(tm) lemon eucalyptus natural bug repellent- it works as well as Deet containing products, and lasts for about six hours. It even smells pretty nice, too!
Which brings us to another note. Ladies, most effective bug-off will have a scent- that is what makes it work, so please, don’t try to cover it with perfume! Especially if you favor a sweet or flowery scent. The first will attract ants and yellow jackets, both of which like food but are unpleasant company; you don’t want to hang out with them, so don’t smell like dessert. The second will attract gnats and yes, some butterflies, but also curious honeybees who might like a sip of nectar- be nice and let ’em find a real flower. Honey is tasty, and potential combat no place for a butterfly.
If you use a body paint which contains a significant amount of titanium dioxide (should be near the top of the ingredients list) and apply it thickly, this will serve as a sunscreen, but how well depends on the makeup, and the application. Should you choose to make use of this property, you should apply your makeup as usual before your repellent as the oils will be absorbed, preventing flake-off but possibly enabling streaking. Some people I know have found a layer or two of hairspray helps in this. Otherwise, your order should be sunscreen, body makeup, and then bug spray, possibly followed by hair spray as a fixative.
Water/sweatproof is the way to go for de-bugging and sun-proofing, but sometimes no matter what your pre-prep, you end up bitten/burnt/having died in poison oak/sumac/ivy and find yourself in need of ‘make it stop so I can kill things’ goo.
This is where you simply cannot go wrong with a slightly modified staple- aloe with lidocane added to liquid Benadryl gel. It kill the itch (Benadryl) from all manner of causes, help it heal faster (aloe), and will soothe a burn (lidocane). Since I don’t think you can find it as an all in one, try mixing the aloe/lidocane gel with the Benadryl gel at about a 1:1 ratio.
After that has dried, it is fine under makeup and doesnt add larp-gunk to your now-not-hating-you skin. These steps will of course add time to your gear-up, but they are well worth it. The hardest part is to remember to re-apply your bug-off partway through the event (this would be why the after-care blend comes in handy).
In some areas of the world however, there are small creatures who are more difficult to deter. In my own region we have deer ticks, and while insect repellent helps, it is not one hundred percent, so tick checks are a must. If you wish to minimize your risk still more, the only answer is skintight, smooth surfaced layers.
Something that drapes, or that you can see light through is not going to be effective against these little buggers. I wear leggings with a ‘leather look’ coating as late into the season as I can stand in the heat and they do a very effective job- I’ve not had a tick on my lower body anytime I’ve been wearing ’em. The downside is that they are hot, so hydration is a must.
I have heard a lot of people say that you need not worry about deer ticks, as they come off in the shower, but I am not convinced that this is the case. They can be disease carriers, so no matter your costuming or precautions, please do check for the lil bloodsuckers- LARPing is for fun, and not to feed the wildlife!