You can't continue the fight if you get frostbite: how to live at a protest and learn from the Occupy movement

By on Nov 11th
Occupy Wall Street Chihuahua 2011 Shankbone 3

Photo by David Shankman. Used under Creative Commons license.

We live in interesting times — times when thousands of people around the world are claiming their rights to free speech extend to the right to occupy a public place as a statement of protest. Now, there are plenty of people not living at Occupations who are still participating in the movement, but an important part of the movement involves the people camping. Here's advice from the lines.

Pack wisely

Consider carefully what you really need to take with you. I'm not going to make a list of everything you should pack — I think y'all can handle that. But I do have advice!

  • Opt, wherever possible, to select stuff that multitasks. Tools, toiletry goods, clothes. You won't have a ton of space and you maybe have to move frequently — many Occupations must move all tents every few days so as not to kill park grasses.
  • When I camp for long periods, I plan to be able to carry everything in two sizeable bags: one for camping equipment, and one for daily use with clothes, toiletries, and tools. Ideally, both are easy to carry.
  • Plan to share. Occupy camps are all about all-for-one-and-one-for-all, so if you forget to bring moleskin for your blisters after a march, hopefully someone else will step in. And later? You might be able to provide someone with a much-needed safety pin or clipboard or pair of gloves. Remember, the movement needs bodies, so even if you can't get together everything you need, just show up. At our camp? We've had some people show up with three tents and others show up without any.

Winterize, winterize, winterize

  • Eschew cotton. It collects moisture instead of wicking it away like synthetics. It'll make you cold. Maybe even hypothermic.
  • Layers, layers, layers. Layers help trap warm air, adding more insulation, and being able to remove layers can help you avoid breaking a sweat.
  • Don't break a sweat. It's dangerous when it's cold.
  • Improve your tent: put a small tent inside a bigger tent and stuff the intervening layer with leaves. You might also consider laying insulation under your tent, stacking straw bales or bags of leaves around the walls of your tent.
  • Stay hydrated. Getting up to pee will keep blood moving, and being well-watered makes it easier for your body to regular temperatures.

Get along

Day 12 Occupy Wall Street September 28 2011 Shankbone 22

Photo by David Shankman. Used under Creative Commons license.

There are particular peculiarities in the leaderless commune that is an Occupation. When there's no leader, people have to navigate society missing an important buffer: someone else to blame things on. Instead, everyone deals with everyone else, and that can make for a prickly atmosphere.

  • Introduce yourself to everyone. This seems super common-sense, but I see lots of people at Occupy Des Moines skip this step.
  • Deal with people directly when you have a problem. This might seem like an overly-obvious tip, but bear with me. Everyone avoids head-on confrontations at least some of the time, but when you're trying to work in a "leader-FULL" group, you have to let all the buck stop with you because there is no Mommy or Daddy or Teacher or Bigger Badder Best Friend to solve your problems when you can't or would rather not.
  • Participate in camp goings-on. As conditions change, other campers will share information. I don't know what other Occupations are like, but I'd bet many are similar to ours — with a stereotypically burly man in plaid who warms everyone's heart and is the de facto Facilities Committee charman. He's a nice dude and you should be friends with him — you'll have the flyest, warmest tent around.

If you need more ideas about how to prepare yourself for winterization, Occupy Together has a good list of tips. If winter isn't your problem, the Occupy Together manual has loads of useful stuff, too.

If you've joined an occupation — or, heck, you've spent two weeks camping in the Badlands every summer since high school — share your best tips in the comments.

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.