When SCA camping, trees are a luxury. Usually we don’t end up with any in our camping allotment. That and since we covet Eric space, trees are hard to come by. That means we either have to suffer in the sun (no fun at all) or make our own shade. Option two is the option of choice. There’s not a whole lot published about sunshades.
I’m a software engineer not a structural engineer. This means that although I can envision beautiful concoctions, I don’t know if they will stand up to the lightest wind. This also means that making my own sunshade has been a long (and ongoing) learning curve.

First Sunshade at Estrella XX (where it didn’t rain
and the sunshade functioned beautifully)

My first sunshade was made of a blue cotton twill with white cotton stripes. It was a lovely sunshade. It wasn’t a rain fly. I really didn’t think about what would happen when it got wet. It turns out, when the sunshade got wet, everything under it got wet.
This “sunshade” was essentially a 14’x18′ sheet held up by poles (4 corner poles at 8′ tall and 2 center poles at 11′ tall) in the shape of a gable. The 14′ stretch across the middle was a bit much so I also ended up using a rope across the ridge of the gable to give it some structure.
– Leaked like a sheet when wet. No water protection
– Wind sluffed it around madly. It was a horror when the wind kicked up.
– Since the blue and white fabrics were different they shrank at different rates making this a very pucker-y sunshade.

Second sunshade at Estrella XXII
Yes, that’s me with the goofy grin.
Ignore that and focus on the sunshade.

So I made sunshade number two. I ordered some baby blue water resistant canvas from Bob at Itex (the guy from whom I’ve bought all of my water resistant canvas) and used some of the leftover sunforger from building my wedge (I wanted a similar blue-with-stripes) sunshade for the encampment. This is essentially a 21’x28′ tarp held up by poles.
Originally we set this up with the same gable configuration as the first sunshade (4 – 8′ corner poles, 2 – 11′ center poles). The addition of the weight and water resistance makes the canvas more wind resistant. This mean that when we used this at its second event it shattered one of the tall center poles. I then added more grommets and we reconfigured. This sunshade is currently supported by 8 – 8′ poles (4 corners and 4 centers of the outside edges) and 1 center pole (11′ tall usually set on top of a cooler to make it about 13′ tall). This gives the sunshade a vaguely hipped appearance (as in, like a hip roof). All of the “hip” appearance is caused by stretch in the canvas. I’m fairly certain this stretching is bad. Since the tarp is no longer strictly square, it doesn’t fold up as nicely as it did originally.
– Wind sluffs it terribly (not as bad as the first sunshade.. but I still fear pole breakage)
– Too big (I know, how can it be to big? It just is. I don’t think the structure we currently have in place is sufficient to support the forces this tarp can exert. More shade is good… but it’s scary when a pole shatters into 3 pieces when you’re sitting under the sunshade.).

BC style sunshade.
Picture from DragonWing Pavillions site

The BC style is very popular and although I’m friends with Duke Flieg, the BC doesn’t please me.
As I said, we covet Eric space. Mostly this is because we love watching the fighting from our own shade. The BC style of sunshade only allows viewing out of the front of the sunshade. If you’re at the back of the sunshade, your window of viewing is very small. I want at least a 180 degree viewing area. So no BC for me.

How did -they- do it?

There was sun in the medieval time (even though it’s called the “dark ages”). How did medieval man deal with it?
I dunno, but I can guess.
– Sit under a tree. Camping isn’t all that prelevant in the middle ages. If you wanted to get out of the sun you sat under a tree. Not really an option given our constraints.
– Tough it out. Soldiers on the campaign trail would just sit in the sun. Not an option I want to consider. I’m delicate (shut up, I am!).

From Il Cuoco Segreto Di Papa Pio V
(The Private Chef of Pope Pius V),
by Bartolomeo Scappi, Venice, 1570

– Set posts and add more wood to make a firm structure to support the canvas. I don’t have time set posts.. but I might be able to work with this to come up with something comparable. Maybe posts with guy-ropes.

Images from the Siege of Florence Fresco 1530:
That said, these seem fairly small. 10×15 or so. Possibly a good size for a kitchen tent but not big enough for a sunshade on the Eric.

Not sure of exact source. By dress I’d say 14th century.

– Open the walls of your marquee so the roof provides shade and the breeze can waft through. I like this plan except that I have a wedge tent. That said, I’m partial to the idea of making a marquee-like roof to use for the sunshade.

– NOTE TO SELF: Scan picture from 10,000 Years of Costume of the Italian sunshade.
– NOTE TO SELF: possibly worth looking into pictures from the crusades.. western europe fighters + desert sun maybe equals sunshade …

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