At my local box store, the swimming pool stuff just got moved to the front of the store, so you know what that meas – IT’S CAMPING SEASON! But this year, I don’t want to do the whole “glamping” (glamour camping) thing. That’s so 2015. Let’s make this year the year of “vamping” – Viking camping! Let’s also think of a better name, because I think vamping might already mean something else.
I’m not gonna pretend that living like a Viking is something I could ever actually do. They had it rough. But roughing it a little in the great outdoors is endlessly appealing after a cold winter of being cooped up inside. Ah, the toasty fire, roasted meat and veggies, the stream running by, the sound of the wind through the trees – it stirs up something totally primal.
The first thing you’ll need to camp like a Viking is mead. It’ll make your campfire stories better, it’ll make you warmer when it gets chilly, and sharing a communal boozy drink is in our heritage. You wouldn’t want to deny your heritage now, would you?
First, let’s think about how Vikings would have camped, or at least how they would have dealt with the elements while traveling. Modeling after what we know about the inside of Viking homes, one ideal setup to camp like a Viking might be a large cabin-like tent able to hold a woodburning tent stove inside to mimic the hearth of a longhouse. The inside of the tent would be large, allowing for communal gathering, eating, cooking, and sleeping.
On the one hand, if Vikings were alone in the wilderness, they probably wouldn’t have been too concerned about the style of their tent. On the other hand, while traveling overland, Viking armies would have done a whole heckuva lot of tent living, so the insides of tents would be similar to the insides of their homes.
The needs of an army on the move hasn’t changed much over the centuries – warriors would have needed a place to sleep that was as warm and safe as possible, and longer stays in one spot would require a central mess area where they could take a meal together. Officers would need an area to meet and strategize.
With all of that in mind, we found a few tents that the Vikings would have probably found useful.
A cabin tent would allow for cots on the sides to snuggle up into your sleeping bag or, if you’re going full Viking, all of your warm winter furs with enough room to spare for a tent stove, which would mimic the central hearth found in Viking-style homes.
A large house tent would be best suited for a large group. It could serve as a Viking-style longhouse, with room for relaxing and eating around the tent stove. It even has windows.
Canvas Family Tent
If you’re just looking for sleeping quarters, a tent like this would suit your Viking family just fine. The flap over the top gives us a Viking military camp feel, where it would be possible to store things outside the tent (like weapons or muddy boots) without leaving them vulnerable to a sudden downpour, which, as you know, ALWAYS happens when you’re camping. Plus, how else will you do woodcarving on a stool right outside your tent? You definitely need a flap.
This one sorta reminds us of this:
Personal Pup Tent
In a Viking military camp, leaders may have had fancy tents, but front line warriors would have had lean-tos or pup tents similar to what modern day military soldiers would be carrying in their packs. This 2-person tent is carried in two pieces intended to be split between two people each carrying 5 lbs. Minimal and timeless. In all honesty, the only real way to do Viking camping would be to rough it as much as possible, as they were tough.
They were much tougher than I am, as are many of you, so I will stick to the tents that look like cabins, but in all honesty, the only real way to do Viking camping would be to rough it as much as possible in a pup tent.
Meanwhile, in the wall-tent…
Is there a way to safely recreate the cozy Viking hearth using a tent stove like this one without burning your tent down? Well, if you use a wall tent that is ventilated correctly while protecting the floor underneath the stove, you’ll be using this stove as intended. Make sure the stove pipe leads outside, similar to this set-up:
When we go camping we do bring our sleeping bags, but we also bring the covers off our bed, since it’s oh so much nicer to wake up and snuggle under our own covers, assuming neither of us needs to pee.
The Vikings would have likely brought their covers from home as well, since the furs and hides they would have used would have had many applications throughout their journey.
A faux fur blanket is a very cozy way to bring a Viking look to your campsite, and it could double as a cozy fireside cloak.
Bonfire, Eating, and Drinking
Camping is great, but drinking while camping is TRADITION. If you want to drink like a Viking, you should probably be drinking what they drank: ale or, just for fun, mead.
Mead is a growing industry in the US. In fact, it’s the fastest growing segment of the US alcohol industry at large. Chances are, you can pick up some mead near you. If you’re lucky, you’ve got good craft mead being made and sold in your neck of the woods. If you’re not so lucky, you can still pick up Bunratty and drink like a Celt.
If you’re going to be camping for a while and you have room to spare in your caravan, you could also bring some meadmaking supplies and brew a quick batch of short mead, or whip yourself up some white wine cheater mead.
Easy to pack and practically designed for ruckus bonfire adventures, the AleHorn is a Viking camping essential, if we do say so ourselves.
While the Viking style horn would look great in your hand and does come with a stand, you may want to keep it simple and get a horn tankard so you can set it down easily on the ground without having to worry about losing your mead or ale.
Even when they weren’t traveling, Vikings cooked their food in huge pots or on spits, so bring a mess of meat and veggies with you and get ready to have the best smelling campfire at the whole campground. We like the idea of this Viking beer chicken if you’d like to add some alcohol to your food as well as your cup.
While the Vikings didn’t exactly get up each morning to a steaming cuppa Joe, I don’t care who I’m trying to camp like – I’m having coffee in the morning. I’m sure some of you feel the exact same way.
If the Vikings did have access to coffee, we would assume that they’d want the strongest there is. For us, that would, of course, be Death Wish Coffee, which is “the world’s strongest ground coffee.”
Don’t forget to bring a kettle with a handle to boil your water over the fire, hanging from your sweet Viking cooking tripod.
Anyone who’s been camping knows how important tools are, and roughing it hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. You’ll need a knife, just like all of your ancestors did going all the way back. From cutting veggies for your stew to filleting fish to poking an air release in your grocery store water container, food prep is just one use for a good outdoor knife.
Once you’ve got your tent pitched and your meat on the fire, what’s next? Vikings were as good at passing time as they were at anything else, and next to drinking, their favorite way of passing time was competing with each other.
If you want to know how Vikings really passed the time away, check out our article on Viking drinking games. If you want to bring a few modern-day, Viking-themed games out to your campsite to while away the golden drunken hours, we’ve chosen a few great options for you.
Don’t Fall in the Mead Hall
Don’t Fall in the Mead Hall is a pretty simple game, which can be played family style (sober) or Viking style (while drinking!)
The object is to keep your little Viking dudes standing, having avoided falling to drinking or fisticuffs. The wonderful thing about this game is that while the makers are working on a larger version, the current version comes in a small box that’s the exact perfect thing for travelling.
As Jereme tells us, our modern idea of Vikings isn’t always true. They actually liked being at home quite a lot, and loved being fancy and clean. The thing that’s definitely true, however, is their love of a good feast in the mead hall. This little board game allows you to re-enact a Viking feast, and there can’t possibly be a more appropriate board game for Viking camping.
Kubb – the Viking lawn game
One outdoor game that survives today with apparent Viking origins is Kubb.
The objective of Kubb is to knock over wooden blocks of various sizes, by throwing wooden batons at them. Think Angry Birds meets tiny javelin throwing. The playing field where Kubb is played is called a ‘pitch,’ but doesn’t have to be grass – Kubb is played all over the world on grass, sand, or snow, or even ice. Pieces are set up on the pitch, and players take turns trying to knock over each others kubbs. Once you’ve knocked over all of your opponents smaller blocks, you then must knock over the King Kubb to win. This game is also sometimes called “Viking chess.”
There’s not really any documentation out there to back it up, but the game is thought by some to hail from Viking era Gotland. It spread all over the world after sets were commercially produced in the 1980’s, and now there are national and international tournaments every year. The international tournament is held in Gotland, which the natural one is always played in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which has hilariously dubbed itself North American Capital of Kubb. Needless to say, no Eau Claire PE class supply closet is complete without a Kubb set.
All that aside, if you’re camping (and drinking) like a Viking, I can’t think of a better pastime than trying to knock things over with sticks. Play on teams or cheer on solo matches. Plus, it’s a one-handed game, so you don’t even need to set your horn down.
Never heard of the tafl games? We aren't surprised, but we are ready to open your world and mind to them. You may have heard of Hnefatafl, which is also called Viking chess.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
In actuality, there are five different tafl games: Hnefatafl (Scandinavia), Tablut (Icelandic), Tawlbwrdd (Welsh), Brandubh (Irish), Ard Rí (Scottish), and Alea Evangelii (Anglo-Saxon). All of these games take place on some kind of chess board and involve uneven numbers of pieces. These pieces represent armies that are set up to attack each other in either fictional or historic battles.
A simple Google search can bring you to copies of this game available for purchase. Hnefatafl is the easiest to find-- which is good, because many Hnefatafl copies sold today contain rules for the other four games as well.
Cards Against Humanity
Amazon recommended I also order Cards Against Humanity with my Kubb set, and while the Vikings weren’t lucky to have the card game that will surely define our generation, Vikings would definitely have played this raunchy, hilarious game if they could have. So, good idea, Amazon – let’s definitely tag that on.
If you don’t already know how Cards Against Humanity works, congratulations, you might be a nice person. You may not be invited on the camping trip, though.