The Steam Tent Co-operative - Extraordinary Camping.

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A few of my recent posts have generated interest in what we are up to at the moment so I thought it might be time to tell you more about it.

For many years I have been organising and participating in living history camps with some of the major re-enactment societies that recreate Viking life. I have also worked with Iron Age, Roman, Medieval and Civil War groups as well. Sadly, because I now require glasses, that chapter of my life is starting to close.

As a result, I have shifted my attention to the world of Steampunk where many of my skills and equipment are transferable and there are no stitch counters to tell me I am doing it all wrong.

The only drawback is that many Steampunks seem almost unaware of the pleasures of camping.

The Steam Tent Co-operative is on a mission to change that.

We are collecting together a group of individuals that share an interest in camping and outdoor life with a historical/old school/Steampunk twist. This might suit anyone interested in Re-enactment, Historical, Victorian, Western, Mountain Man, WWI/WWII, fantasy LARP style camping or just someone who loves doing things in a different way with lovely old fashioned kit.

For anyone that does not know, Steampunk is a very broad church. Imagine an alternative world where for some reason steam technology had not been superseded by electronics and plastic. Perhaps the Martian Invasion described by H.G.Wells had actually happened or Dr Frankenstien had really reanimated his creation and the World had moved in a different direction. This is the world of Captain Nemo, Sherlock Homes and the Time Machine. It's old fashioned but slightly bonkers. Mad science combined with Victorian values.

That doesn't mean we all have to be "characters" from a fantasy novel, although you are welcome to do that if you like. It is the aesthetic that most Steampunks enjoy. For many this involves anything from top hats to flat caps, waistcoats to safari jackets, military uniforms to lab coats. A quick image search for Steampunk on Google or Pinterest will show you that there are almost no creative limits. The only real "rule" that most Steampunks profess to is "Be splendid to everyone".

Building upon the skills and much of the equipment many of us already have, the idea is to build alternative style encampments. We are aiming for that Steampunk aesthetic where wood, canvas, steel and brass replace the cheap synthetics of the modern age. Many of us would just describe it as "Old School" and you are free to go as far down that path as you like but you may also discover some fantastical Heath Robinson contraption around the corner and that is fine too.

Bell and Baker tents, cast iron and old Primus. Hurricane and candle lamps, Tin plates and cups. If that is the kind of gear you like, this might very well be the type of camp you would enjoy.

To be clear, we are not aiming for a public display, we are doing this for our own enjoyment. The events that I have lined up at the moment are private camps in places where we have the logistical facilities we need but we are relatively free to do things the way we want.

There may be craft workshops at some of the events, others might be entirely sociable. All are welcome, within the limits of site rules of course, to participate in the camps in the manner they please. The only thing we ask is that people get into the spirit of it and do their best to build and maintain the aesthetic.

That might mean transferring your food to a tin plate in the privacy of your tent instead of unpacking it by the cooking fire. Making sure that any modern gear is covered by a blanket if your tent door is open. Decanting your evening tipple into a tankard or old fashioned bottle before settling down around the communal fire in the evening. Things like that.

This is a co-operative enterprise so no one is aiming to make a profit, we just have to cover our collective costs such as site fees and firewood. Those costs will be divided equitably between all those attending. The only thing we ask is that people make an effort to create, maintain and enhance the atmosphere for everyone's enjoyment.

The Steam Tent Co-operative is currently being organised as a FaceBook group but I am willing to act as a bridge through here for anyone not into FB.

I know this will not appeal to everyone here, many of you I am sure, will think we are quite mad. But if like me, you would like to live a life less ordinary, you might just find this a bit of fun.

We are planning a couple of "out of season" photo shoots, like the one these pictures came from, but our first organised event with full facilities is set for the 2018 Early May Bank Holiday at Rough Close camp site near Coventry. Those facilities also include access to a Scout hut for running craft workshops or retreating from inclement weather if needed.

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Full Member
Brings back memories of camping in my childhood. I wish my Dad was still around so I could tell him he used to be a punk.
Some of those tools are still in use in my household today, and that copper kettle is just what we use everyday except that is shinier.
Good luck with the project. I await future posts eagerly, but it occurs to me that your gradual evolution puts you in potential danger of eventual futuristic scenario enactment!

PS. Currently reading first volume of Philip Pullman's "The Book of Dust". Some resonances here.
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Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
It's a lovely thing that's been created there. Little touches and attention to detail like the coca wine bottle (Queen Victoria was a fan of Marianis version) make a fantasy world I'd be happy to spend time in. Good work.

Oldtimer, let me know how you find that book, I'm looking for something in that vein after enjoying the G.W Darlquist books a while ago.
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It's great fun finding or creating things like the bottle labels.

I've spent so long being limited by historical authenticity, this gives me far more creative outlet.

Although my natural tendency is still towards "accuracy" after so long aiming for that, it is quite liberating being able to do stuff just because it would be fun or might look cool.
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Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
Mid Wales
I definitely like this idea! Camping is getting a bit too gimmicky :)
I'll dust down the old primus and Tilley lamp (can we have a modern fire extinguisher hidden away somewhere though please? :) ).



Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
On that note, my Dad and my Uncle used to sail and fish down the sea lochs, and when out they brewed up on a tilley stove in the open boat. To stop any couping or problems with spilled boiling water, paraffin, meths, etc., they used the stove inside a big galvanised pail :)



Very sensible idea.

There are always going to be health and safety issues around camp sites, we have the same concerns on living history exhibits. Things like fire buckets and boxes with first aid kits in them are part of everyone's equipment, the trick is that they just blend in so nobody is aware of them except us.

In the same vein, I'm thinking of building a proper hay box to store my food in instead of my modern cool box hidden under a blanket. Not because the cool box is a problem but just because a hay box will actually be more convenient and become a visible feature. Until now, the cool box has worked well enough but now I'm ready to make something better. This is how our kit evolves.

The trick with living history is "What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over". It should be the same here really. Stuff done, or stored out of sight is never a problem to anyone. But having the right stuff, in sight, is splendid.
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Full Member
Nov 17, 2016
East Kilbride
This looks absolutely ace

Love steampunk....often find myself googling it and spending ages looking at all the outfits and kit and stuff.

This is a fantastic thread...informative, well written, great photos...I shall be following intently.

Hope you all have a ball!

All the best,

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
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