Monday, March 10, 2014

modern medieval family : Wagons

Often, event locations are situated away from parking areas, and more often that not, cars are prohibited from driving directly up to where you want to set up.  While we could all certainly do with the exercise of hauling our stuff load after load several yards at the start and end of each event, add kids into the mix, and you quickly realize you could use a little assistance.

Oseberg Cart, 9th Century, from

Wagons are a great addition to any family's kit.  In addition to giving you a convenient way to pull your kids around with you, they can greatly reduce the effort you put forth in setting up and taking down. The real bonus is that wagons (in general) are period!  A wide variety of wagons and hand carts are available for purchase. The crafty family could even try making their own.

Before making your wagon choice, think about your needs.  Take into account the following:
  • How "authentic" do you want to be?  If modern wagons are OK, that greatly increases availability.
  • How many children do you have that you will likely use the wagon for?
  • Would you like to use the wagon for hauling more than just kids at events (like your armor)?
  • Do you have room in your vehicle for a wagon, considering how much you already bring?
  • Will you reserve the wagon only for use at events? If so, where will you store it when not in use?
For our purposes today, we'll look primarily at wagons suited for child-hauling, then I'll share what we're using.

At events in general, you'll probably end up piling light-weight items into any wagon you have, like garb, banners, rugs, etc. when you're setting up and taking down, but while you're at the event, the wagon won't get much use beyond toting your children.  The easiest child-haulers to get your hands on are also mundane wagons, working as a toy for your children at home. They are by far the easiest to shop for, as they are available from almost any big-box store.

Classic Radio Flyer wagon from Retro Peddle Cars

The most obvious wagon is the one most of us grew up with- a Radio Flyer wagon.  You can find both the regular wagon and the "traveler" type (pictured above) in various places for a reasonable cost.  The authenticity here is obviously compromised, but there's nothing that says you can't do a fancy paint job (though you'd have to be willing to lose that tell-tale red).  Remember that the size of your average metal wagon is on the small side, which is great for packing in the car, but may limit its use in the long run if you have more than one child.

Step2 wagon from Amazon

A completely modern option, and one that's very popular at large camping events, like Pennsic War, is one of the many inexpensive plastic wagons, like those available from Step2 or Little Tikes.  These types are big, though, and will require a good portion of space in your car.  Periodize it a little by adding a removable canvas canopy and maybe painting it to look like a wooden wagon.  Or how about going with a red and white striped canopy, Viking-style shields lined along both sides, and sliding a stuffed, brown, "carved" sea moster head over the handle?  Or maybe a cover that looks like a dragon? If you plan to make use of the wagon outside of events, these sorts of wagons offer modern convenience, like storage in the seats.

Handmade wooden wagon (plan) from uBuilder Plans

Go more authentic with an all-wood wagon (though I think I would compromise on including all-terrain wheels instead of wood).  The style options with wooden wagons is a pretty broad range, especially if you make it yourself.  Keep in mind that, depending on your choice of wood and finishing, you may be limited in how much you can use an all-wood wagon (rain, anyone?)  If wood working isn't for you, consider commissioning a wagon from someone who works with wood in your local group.  Also think about making a soft insert (or throwing in a sheepskin) to make the ride a bit more comfortable for your kids.

With any wagon choice, try looking for "break-down" options, or wagons that can easily be worked into your packing arrangements.

We've recently begun using a utility wagon meant for yard work. It is heavy duty- not strictly a child-only type of wagon, and is obviously modern, but all four kids fit, and it has proven to be extremely useful when hauling our day camp to and from to the car from the far-out archery range.

Available from Amazon

We put a padded mat in the bottom, and with the fold-down sides it can also double as a bench in a pinch (and it has!). The kids take ownership of it at the event, but its somewhat cumbersome size helps to keep it nearby. They don't take it too far away and end up getting into any "Calvin and Hobbes"-style trouble.

So, have you tried any wagons with your kids at events? If so, what are you using, and how has your experience been?