Furry camps - My experience at World Wild Fur Camp
Spring is in the air and the snow is melting. Gone are the seasons where furs bundle up in their homes, and here are the days where they come out to frolic in the sunshine. But perhaps instead of going to a big city to a stuffy hotel, you may be interested to know that there are other fur gathering styles that are becoming a bigger staple in the furry fandom.
The fur camps are gatherings that take place in parks and other such outdoor facilities that put emphasis on connecting the fur with a bit more of the rural wilds than the urban jungles. Camp Feral!, which takes place in Algonquin leads the pack with estimates of around up to 200 guests. Today I go over my first experiences with one of these cons, and how they differ from their hotel-bound cousins: World Wild Fur Camp, which took at a YMCA camp just north of Cincinnati Ohio in the fall of 2018.
A Camp; not a Con
One thing was made particularly clear to those that had slipped up to call the gathering in Ohio a convention, “This is a ‘camp’, not a ‘convention’”. With that in mind I have to note that while would have been the smallest “convention” I had attended, I now have to say it’s the smallest weekend gathering instead with a head count of around fifty attendees.
The cool thing about such a smaller meet like this is that you actually get to know your fellow attendees in a way in which a crowded convention would not allow. To those that like to get lost in the crowd, there is no crowd to get lost in here. There are, however, woods to get lost in. But if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself with people sending out search parties after you, that is not recommended. It was overheard that one such overzealous scavenger hunter, searching for the pages left by “slenderfox” got in too deep and had to be retrieved during the gathering’s initial days.
Which brings up the concept of the buddy system, having someone you check in with or keep tabs on would be in your best interest. They don’t have to be a babysitter but you should at least have someone know where you are off to. If you are to go exploring, having someone with a good sense of direction can help. In fact this isn’t a bad idea for the more urban conventions either.
Also, this may go without saying, but if you are not fond of outdoor activities then this kind of furry gathering may not be for you. Though, I do have to say this due to the fact I heard from one guild leader that they were told by one of their members that “they were not into the outdoors” and they were staying in the cabin as he was out walking the paths. So don’t make the same mistake.
Bringing the Stuff
The supplies I brought with me were what I would normally bring to an urban con, which for me is not that much. This was a mistake. luckily the person I had brought along with me was more an outdoorsy sort, so he had brought a bunch of items that became instantly useful to the guild in various ways. Some items of use to consider bringing that you normally would not bring would include:
- Water Bottle/Canteen/Thermos - To bring water with you, as there are not going to be watering stations scattered like in urban cons. A way to easily drink it in costume if you have one. For WWFC though I’d avoid “silver” canteens that are stereotyped for carrying alcohol since the facility is a dry one.
- Power strip and USB Chargers - To charge your phones and be able to plug in multiple devices. The cabins tend to have few outlets. So designating a station for the cabin will become necessary to keep the cell phones charges for those emergency moments.
- Medkit - Basic bandages and medicines. Technically you should probably have these for urban cons as well, but with less connectivity, good medic supplies become all the more vital.
- Toiletries - Most people who attend conventions typically bring their own shampoo and soaps anyway, however if you do take advantage of those that the hotels provide for you, you aren’t going to get those here. There is running water so you can take your one shower a day, but you’ll need to bring your own soap. And some water resistant flip-flops to avoid the foot fungus is a must.
- Fursuit Cleaning Supplies - While in a more sterile environment you can do with just a brush, some glue and sewing supplies and leave the rest of your kit at home you may want to be ready to clean out the dirt on site if you plan on using the suit outdoors. If you don’t want to risk getting it dirty though, perhaps leaving the suit at home would be more advised.
If you have connections with your other guild members you can designate certain members to bring particular needed items to help avoid holes and redundancies in your guild’s supplies. Other quality of life things depend on what you want out of the trip. S’more sticks, and general fireside supplies are an option. Just don’t bring any natural woods from off site, as you don’t want to introduce bugs from out of area to the locals. Seriously, the grounds keepers will be unhappy, as will the local governments. If you want natural wood you’ll have to find fallen wood along the trails on site. If you wish for more water than fire, then bring fishing supplies could be a good idea if that’s your catch.
With these items you can get a bit creative as well, as campers will tell you that you have to be in some cases. Since my tail tends to drag if it’s just left hanging, my fox friend was able to jury rig a way to keep my tail off the ground using some fishing hook, some wire, and a clip. This kept the leaves and debris out of the tail for the most part. Of course he taunted that he’d attach a light up lure or bobber to it next time. Luckily anthro-fish furs are rare enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting my tail bit in that case, but it’s a risk I’d have to be wary of.
One of the bigger differences between the rural convention and the urban one would be the sleeping arrangements. At this site the cabins had three rooms, each with a handful of bunk beds in them. In this manner you could be sharing a room with anywhere from six to ten furs if the room is full. This is opposed to the four maximum generally allowed for a hotel room. So if you’re a bit skittish about sharing a room with that many people, of which some will more than likely be strangers that you didn’t have contact with before the gathering, then you may want to think carefully about going forward with this. See the above suggestion of having one person you for sure know and trust joining you in your guild so that you don’t feel too isolated.
In addition, there is no room service here to clean up after your (or others’) messes. For those of you who don’t make a mess that’s going to be a benefit as you don’t have to leave money each day to someone to basically walk in and fluff your pillows. Unfortunately if you’re most of the variety of furs that I’ve roomed with, who seem to make a huge mess in a very short period of time, that means you’re going to have to put on your big-boy pants and clean up after yourself.
In essence, it’s as a sign at the facility says, you get out of camp what you put into it. So try and come up with a system to prevent large messes from accumulating in the first place and then you can spend your time doing more enjoyable things. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
There are other things to note about this particular gathering as well. Alcohol is not allowed in any way shape or form on the property, which can be a saving grace or a deal breaker depending on the furry. For those who do like to drink you can go off site to the local bars, of which there is a selection, given a large brewery is located only a block and a half away.
It’s important to also highlight since the beds are smaller bunk beds and there is no real way to prevent people entering the rooms with little warning, if you’re another kind of thirsty this also may not be the best convention to be ‘quenched’ in that metaphorical sense either. Such activity is certainly not impossible, but it would be pretty cramped and prone to the possible incidental walk-in. But I suppose if it’s going to happen “life finds a way”, as Jeff Goldblum may say.
In return for some of these inconveniences, the price you see is the price you get, it is very possible to get away with the just the $115 registration and travel expenses if you plan things well enough. No additional costs like meals, room and board, parking, and so on. In addition, without a full on dealers den pawing for your cash you are likely to spend less on trinkets as well. You could buy knick-knack to support the facility, however.
The included meals were decent for the most part. If you’re a connoisseur you’re not going to be writing ballads of it, however I would rate the food better than those you would receive at on-site concessions at the urban cons. You know, those overpriced snack food or hamburger stands they typically have right near their dealers dens? I will say that the coffee the YMCA had on site was pretty dang good coffee. Hot as a volcano eruption when it leaves the spigot so you’d have to wait a good fifteen minutes before you could risk putting it down your muzzle, but well worth that wait.
I had an opportunity to speak with the chair for a few minutes, when she wasn’t running around. One of the things she wasn’t quite prepared for, it seemed, was the amount of “VIP” sponsors there were. This can probably be attributed to the low cost differential of 30 dollars between the regular and sponsor tickets. It seemed the VIPs outnumbered the regular attendees creating logistical challenges, particularly around the sponsor dinner, which ran a bit late and whose menu was a bit different than advertised. If people were hoping to get to converse with the guest of honor instead of their fellow VIPs, they were going to be sorely disappointed.
This is no different than any other convention’s sponsor dinner, however. The only other “VIP” experience I had was at Fur the’More’s second year where they had opened up the sponsor dinner up to people since there were no shows. In this one, likewise, many of the guests sat at their own tables, usually far and away from the honored guest. Just don’t go in expecting you’ll get access just because you’re in the same room and you’ll be fine.
One of the other challenges that they had to adapt to was with the guilds. Some guilds had many people while others had few. In fact, the guild that was Pokémon-themed only had their guild leader. To help them deal with the challenges of the games alone, the guild leader was allowed to have the YMCA staff as part of his team. This gave him a good advantage since it is their home turf. In the end, apparently, they were a bunch of board game nerds who ‘ran the board’ and got many points doing that activity clinching them the victory in the end. Proving the Pokémon guild leader was the very best, where no one ever was.
Further from people, but more humanizing
Being further away from the bustle of large amounts of people has its advantages. You get to know your fellow fur attendee more thoroughly. I mean, I actually got to talk with the guest of honor briefly, which typically never happens. While my short conversations with my fellow YouTuber didn’t cover much ground, I was one of the last furs to see Mark Barks with his beard before he shaved it off and grew it back, so there was that.
There are many activities that you can partake in, including archery, rock climbing, heck you can even fly around your drones without having the cops on your butt about it being a no fly zone. As you participate you earn points for your guild, who you will learn about over the course of your weekend. For instance one of the ladies in my guild was quite the marksman with a bow, while I, well I'm no Robin Hood.
You can also gather around the campfire for more intimate conversations. Out of fursuit of course, those things are flammable. One topic I had brought up was “who do you think the worst singer at Karaoke was?”. The first reply, by Delta, a young artist from Indiana, was “that guy who sang [Gorillaz's] 'Clint Eastwood'.”
An awkward silence filled the air as I looked back to my fox pal who couldn’t help but snort. Let’s just say one of the best parts about fursuiting is that when you’re out of suit people are going to be brutally honest about your performance in it if they are unaware that you were the performer. There’s a reason I don’t sing for a living, I guess I should just continue writing instead.
In the end, if you want to have a good time in a more relaxed space and get away from the hustle and bustle of the high intensity conventions, you should most certainly check your local area for a fur camp. Or start one of your own. Just remember the buddy rule and you’ll be fine.