Navigating Nationals as a 3-Weapon Fencer

Author: Nickolys Hinton

Editor: Casey Leming

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually recommend following the actions described in this post and going to Nationals a 3-weapon fencer. It's...anything but easy or straightforward. However, I’m a 3-weapon fencer, 3-weapon referee, 3-weapon coach, and I just love being out on the piste as much as possible!

I’m so, so glad that I fenced all 3 weapons at Nationals because it taught me so much! The athletes operate faster, more intensely, and yet, somehow, more smoothly than in any other event I’ve competed in. Video replay just simply does not do them justice and I can only hope that I can bring home some of what I experienced to convey to my students across lessons going forward.

Fencing aside, I hope this post can help future Division fencers when they travel to Nationals; especially any other solo-traveling, 3-weapon fencers, with events spanning multiple days! Though there’s resources out there for family traveling, 1-weapon fencers, and single day events…no existing materials were able to really prepare me for the phenomenon I was about to experience; so I’d like to try and pass on what I’ve learned!

  1. Packing:

    1. Buy this case: SKB 4816

      • It’s 80 inches total Length + Width + Height and when fully packed it should weigh a bit under 100lbs.

      • This is the maximum size case that most airlines will allow you to take onboard, with Southwest Airlines allowing 80 inches and 100lbs for oversized bags. When fully packed, mine was 70-80lbs. *Note: this did cost an additional $75 to fly with me, as it is so large and heavy, but it made it on and off my flight(s) without (too many) issues!

      • This case locks and can double as a ‘room safe’ while you’re out fencing.

    2. Pack in the case:

      1. 3-4 of each weapon.

        • I went through 5 of my weapons during Nationals, and having backups made me so much less stressed.

        • Limitations: Putting the weapons in individual hard tubes took up a lot of space, and I’m actively searching for alternative methods to protect tips on future trips.

      2. 4 of each body/mask cord.

        • I had 1 epee and 1 foil cord suffer a screw/nut falling out, but thankfully no actual/major failures.

      3. Uniform and Lames.

        • If my weapons get lost in transit, I’m probably not going to be able to fence well, if at all, so I’m willing to take the risk of packing all my equipment together.

      4. All 3 masks.

        • This is part of what necessitated such a large case in the first place.

      5. A smaller fencing bag.

      6. Armory equipment.

        • Wrenches are a bare minimum!

        • I brought emergency tip repair and replacement supplies, but there are also armorers on site that can fix your equipment (for a fee!).

      7. Fencing Shoes.

        • I overpacked with an additional pair of running shoes; next time I’ll save the space and just stick to my actual fencing shoes.

      8. Drinks/snacks.

        • This part is critical!

        • I drank ~5 bottles during each event and I kept snacking to keep my energy up; something absolutely crucial to fencing all day (and all night!).

      9. Towel.

        • With the strips at Nationals being slick metal on concrete flooring, your feet will likewise become slick quickly. Having a towel to wipe them with is essential.

      10. A change of clothes (optional).

        • If you plan on going out immediately post events, pack a change of clothes too!

      11. Collapsible chair/stool (optional).

        • With how crowded and contested seats can be, I was so, so glad that I brought my own.

        • This is the stool I used:

    3. Pack a carry-on and/or checked bag:

      • Everything else goes in these!

      • Make sure to pack plenty of clean, dry socks!

  2. Equipment Stenciling:

    • Depending on what event(s) you’re fencing, you may need/want parts of your uniform stenciled with your name and/or country code! This may take a full 12-24 hours to cure, so I recommend finding the vendors providing this service the day before your event.

  3. Try Before You Buy With Gear Vendors:

    • Ever wanted to try on every single manufacturer’s glove without having to buy them? Nationals!

    • Ever wanted to find your exact size in a shiny new FIE jacket without having to buy and return 4 of them? Nationals!

    • Ever wanted to feel the difference between twenty different epee blades by the same maker? Nationals!

  4. Collecting Coach’s Badges:

    • Are you a registered USFA Coach? Then go and collect your swanky coach’s badge from the front registration desk! It’s cool, and some vendors will recognize it and automatically give you a discount.

  5. Planning a Sleep Schedule

    1. 8:00am – Events start – Check-in closes

    2. 7:30am – Fence warmup bouts

    3. 7:00am – Venue opens

    4. 6:30am – Travel to the Venue

    5. 6:00am – Breakfast

    6. 5:00am – Wake up

    7. 9:00pm – Lights out, bedtime

  6. Navigating Events with Multiple Pools:

    • If your event has staggered pools, warmup with the earliest pool to make sure you have the chance to warm up!

    • I made a poor assumption that having a saber pool at 3pm meant I would have time to warm up and do some warmup bouts against people while the 2pm pools were running. That was a terrible assumption and nearly meant that I had no one to warm up against; everyone was focused on cheering on teammates or watching the 2pm pools, rather than having any interest in warmup bouts themselves.

  7. Foraging:

    1. On the first night, find a nearby grocery store and stock up on the following:

      • Case of water

      • Coffee (prepackaged for easy drinking) & any creamer/milk

      • Ready-to-eat meals that can be prepared/eaten in your hotel

      • Nuts/fruit/jerky/etc.

      • I splurged a bit to stock up, but this lasted me for 6 days and then some. Compared to searching for restaurants, it was absolutely worthwhile.

    2. Explore the city and try the local fare!

    3. *Disclaimer: For those with dietary issues like me, I recommend also packing your own protein powder and snack foods.

And above all, make sure to have fun! I only made it out of pools (and then into second round DEs!!), in one event, but I had a blast the entire time!

Nationals is an experience, and I’m so glad I took the trip this year. Paired with the adventure of having never been to Minnesota before, it really made this a fantastic experience. Here’s hoping this advice proves useful for those of you planning on attending Nationals in the future! I’m excited for next year’s event and hope to see some of you there!


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