Part of the appeal of Knight Realms is being outdoors and in the woods. The campsites that KR uses are all near developed areas, and most have modern amenities like hot showers and electricity in selected buildings. Nevertheless, there are several issues that a KR player needs to keep in mind while at an event. The four main concerns for KR players are dehydration, hypothermia, nutrition, and wildlife encounters.
To have a safe and enjoyable game, please pay attention to the following.
A human needs, on average, one liter of water a day to remain healthy. If you are being especially active, as most KR players are, then your need for water is going to be greater than a liter per day.
And while it's obvious during hot weather that you need to be drinking more water, it is just as necessary that you drink more water in cold weather. Every breath you take in cold weather dehydrates you, as the dry, cold air leeches moisture from your lungs. Dehydration in cold weather can be just as dangerous as in hot weather, as your blood thickens and becomes less efficient at distributing heat throughout your body. Frostbite and hypothermia are both much more likely to strike a dehydrated person.
Dehydration does not begin when you feel thirsty. At that point, you are already dehydrated. You should drink frequently and in small amounts when not active to maintain hydration, and seek out water immediately after a period of activity to re-hydrate yourself. There are many ailments which accompany dehydration, the most severe being heat-stroke and heat-exhaustion. These conditions occur when the body can no longer produce sweat, and is therefore unable to regulate temperature. Symptoms include dizziness, hallucination, and very red, hot to the touch, skin. A person who is in such an advanced state of dehydration must be given pure water, and given it quickly.
The smartest thing to do is to avoid any emergencies by simply consuming enough hydrating fluids, on a regular basis - regardless of whether you feel thirsty or not.
The term "hydrating fluids" essentially includes all non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages. Of these, water is the best and most direct hydrator. If someone appears to be in distress, give him or her only pure water. Active people also might consider supplementing their water intake with a moderate amount of a sports beverage such as Gatorade (which remains the best in its class). These drinks will replace lost electrolytes, which are mainly expended through athletic activity.
The Inn always has drinks available - if you don't want to pay for a drink In-Game, ask for it Out-Of-Game to stay hydrated. Active players are also encouraged to keep liquids on them, in a water skin or canteen. when outside.
None of these suggestions should be treated as any kind of polemic about what you can and can't drink. Drink whatever you like. Just make sure that you're getting some pure water as well, and especially make sure you get some water or sports drink after any extended period of activity.
Update (11/2003) - A recent British study has suggested that the adage about dehydration beginning before the thirst reflex is a myth. The study evaluated the health problems of marathoners and discovered that many of the runners were suffering from over-hydration, rather than dehydration, at the end of the race. Over-hydration occurs when the amount of water you consume dilutes the electrolyte content of your blood.
As with all health science, it's too soon to say how far-reaching this study could be applied. Our best advice at this time is to continue to drink frequently and in small amounts. If you start taking too many trips to the bathroom, then you're obviously well hydrated and should lay off for a bit. For the most part, KR players will not come anywhere near the activity level of a marathoner, and so the likelihood of problematic over-hydration is very small.
Hypothermia is a condition which occurs when your body temperature drops to dangerous levels, usually due to exposure to cold. A major misconception about hypothermia is that is works similar to frostbite. Hypothermia, however is quite a different beast.
Hypothermia can happen quickly, such as after a sudden exposure to extreme cold (falling into a lake in winter, for example). But hypothermia can also happen slowly and gradually, from extended exposure to even mildly cold (above freezing) temperatures. Detecting hypothermia is often nearly impossible for the victim. Very often the victim will begin to feel warmer, rather than colder, as hypothermia sets in. The victim's mental capacity will begin to erode, such that hallucinations or memory loss may occur. But all of these effects have a tendency to set in without the victim taking notice. Rather, another person must be alert and mindful of the victim's disposition and state of mind if the condition is to be caught before the end-stage. The end-stage of hypothermia is that the victim collapses, often delirious, sometime completely comatose. Death can be less than a minute away once someone has collapsed from hypothermia.
At any stage that hypothermia is detected, the victim needs to be warmed up as quickly as possible. The torso is the most important area to warm up, as heat radiates outward by the flow of blood, and because the greatest danger of hypothermia is organ failure. If you get the victim's torso warmed up, the body will take care of warming the limbs.
The best way to avoid hypothermia is to stay warm and dry. Dress in layers in the winter, so you can add or remove clothing as you heat up from exertion or cool off afterwards. In general, you should dress so that you are warm when simply standing still. This means you will sweat when you become active, but as long as you change clothes as they become wet, or wear moisture-wicking clothes that continue to insulate even after they become wet, the sweating will not be dangerous. People who plan on being active outdoors should invest in a good set of thermal underwear that wicks sweat away and keeps your body dry.
Cotton is simply the worst fabric for cold weather. It holds water, and becomes useless as an insulator once it is damp. As an outer layer, for costume clothing, cotton may be unavoidable. But if you manage your layers beneath your costume clothes with polyester/Lycra thermals, you can still keep your core warm while looking good.
For all the dark and dangerous scenarios of hypothermia just discussed, the important thing to keep in mind is to stay warm, watch your friends to make sure they are dressed properly, too, and change clothes that become damp if the weather is cold. Hypothermia isn't a disease or a rabid animal, it only strikes when you allow it to, either through ignorance or carelessness.
We're not going to get carried away here, because obviously this could be an obscenely long discourse. The main point of nutrition to be discussed here is: make sure you eat enough. Players tend to get swept up in everything that they're doing, and that's great. But you need to remember to eat regularly. In cold weather or hot weather, food plays a vital role in helping you endure difficult conditions. It's also the fuel you burn to carry on more and more adventures.
In general, then, you should make sure that you have something to eat every eight hours, at a minimum. Candy, while fun, is a disastrous choice as your sole food source. Instead, eat fruit, bread, granola, and other naturally high-carbohydrate foods. All of these can be stored easily and require minimal preparation to be eaten. A favorite backpacker's standby that also gives you a healthy dose of protein is a jar of peanut butter. Dip a granola bar into a jar of peanut butter, and you have plenty of energy for the long haul, and also a quick meal that tastes mighty fine.
And of course, there's the Saturday night feast, which is a full meal. In addition, the Inn typically serves some dishes which can help you stay fed.
Regular eating isn't as vitally life-important as staying hydrated and warm/cool, but you'll find that you'll get the most out of your weekend if you keep your body constantly supplied with calories to burn.
There are many different kinds of wildlife you might encounter at a Knight Realms event. For the most part, keep your personal belongings secure by keeping your cabin closed, and you'll be fine. But the one animal everyone worries about meeting is a bear.
In the northeastern United States, there is only one type of bear about - the black bear. Black bears are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both meat and vegetables. Black bears are also occasional carrion-eaters.
In general, black bears are very timid creatures and are easily scared by humans. They will not often approach a campsite while a KR event is happening, as the noise we generate is enough to keep them at bay. Some adventurous or especially hungry bears, however, make occasional forays into KR campsites.
The best way to handle a black bear encounter is to get out of its way. Don't flee, as it might decide that you're prey, but calmly relocate yourself. Alert others to the bear's presence so that no one accidentally surprises it, and alert someone on the KR staff. Secure any food or drink, especially sweet smelling items. KR staff will then communicate with the park rangers of our campsite to resolve the encounter.
To avoid black bear encounters, keep all food and drink stored securely in cabins when you're not eating or preparing it. The only way to completely isolate the scent of your food is with a "bear canister" - but these items tend to be expensive, and are more than are really needed for KR.
Also, if you roam around a section of campground which is remote from the main center of activity, make noise as you go, either by banging a stick on the ground and on tree trunks as you walk, or simply by conversing with people that are accompanying you. A small amount of noise will alert a bear to your approach, and it will typically retreat from the area before you even see it.
In the extremely rare event of an encounter with an aggressive black bear, do not run (the bear is faster), do not climb a tree (the bear can climb better), and do not play dead (black bears will eat carrion, as noted above). Your best option is to make as much noise as you can, and to flare out your limbs in a way that makes you look at big as possible. Banging a tree branch around and yelling while making yourself appear bigger can intimidate the bear and send it on its way. While this may seem like a joke, making yourself look big to a bear, it is practical advice. Black bears have very poor vision, so creating the illusion that you are monstrously bigger than you are is quite easy when dealing with a bear.
As with the other topics discussed in this section, dangerous wildlife encounters are extremely rare, especially since none of the campsites KR uses is anywhere near backcountry territory. For the most part, the bears keep to themselves.
There is, of course, much more information out there about all of these topics, and about additional topics related to outdoor health and safety. Some links to these resources can be found on this site, as well as some links to vendors of camping and active outdoors products.