By: Nicholas Eskey
Attending conventions can be the highlight of anyone’s year. They allow fans to share their fandom with other likeminded individuals, purchase rare and exotic collectibles, explore new destinations, get the latest news from industry people, meet their favorite actors or artists, and maybe show off their elaborate cosplay creations.
However, attending conventions come with their own amounts of headaches. A counterpart to all the good times. There’s one that stems all the way from the start: Packing. “What do I bring? What will I need? How the heck am I going to tote all of this around?”
The idea alone is very daunting, the execution is laborious, and the carrying around can be tiring. I’ve experienced my share of conventions, both local and out of town. All the experience has helped me to streamline my convention pack to tailor my own needs. Mind you, my pack might not completely be suited for what you may need, but I want to share it with you so you can get ideas for your own. Also, some of the other Beat Staff will be chiming in with their own equipment as to give you more ideas.
When I travel, I like to be ready for many different eventualities. First thing is to start with a large enough pack that will be able to hold all of my necessities and gear. I chose a REI brand backpack. It’s meant for backpacking, so it comes equipped with many pockets, as well as a zipper that can expand the pack. Best thing, it falls within the airline’s carry on size regulations. You’ll just have to make sure it’s below the weight limitations. Often there are papers I need to bring, so I can’t forget those. I use a Nikon D300 SLR digital camera for all the photos I’ll be taking, and because changing lenses isn’t really a feasible option I use an 18 to 200 telephoto lens, which is great for travel and many other situations. A flash can also come in handy in low light situations or to counteract harsh light, so I use a Nikon SB-800 speed flash. Special batteries are required so the recharge is quick. I go for Energizer Ultimate Lithium.
A computer is very important for writing my articles. I use a Microsoft Surface tablet, first generation. It’s compact, can take a USB flash drive, and has touch screen capabilities. It’s also used to take notes during panels and for interviews. The detachable keyboard is an expanded battery for the tablet, and the leather case is to keep them both safe. As a precaution, I have a Moleskin notebook as a backup for taking notes. The printer is more of a luxury choice of mine. True, a number of hotels have business centers that are available for use. But I find that some of them are only available for rewards members or for an extra cost. I choose to bring a small foldable HP printer in case I need to print, and yes that happens.
After these, and of course clothes (which I always choose to measure out only enough for the days I’m attending) there are loose things like a pill box for medication, USB hub, tablet charger, extra battery pack for my cellphone (since the convention plugs might fry one’s cell), screen cleaner, business cards, wireless mouse, earbuds, cellphone cord, USB memory card reader, camera memory cards, camera batteries, a box with various toiletries, and a small should bag for carrying around the convention. I used to have a portable wifi hub, but found myself rarely using it due to complementary hotel wifi.
Victor Van Scoit’s San Diego Comic-Con Go Bag
I’ve honed in on an essential gear list from all my years of traveling, conventions, and music festivals. With this particular gear setup I’m pretty much good to go for any journalistic endeavor. I’m not a fan of “just in case” items because they rarely every get used. Everything you see here gets used other the entirety of San Diego Comic-Con, and nothing gets wasted. Maybe you’ll find something here that can make your SDCC go a little smoother.
- Nomadic CB-01 Wise-Walker Multi Compartment Day Pack | A dream of a light, tiny daypack that plays in the big leagues.It seems to hold everything I can throw at it while keeping it all organized with its compartments and pockets (some hidden). There’s a reason this thing has been around the world with me. They even made a fantastic messenger bag too. Sadly they’re both hard to find now, so make sure you get pockets on pockets because it all stars with the bag.
- Mesh Baseball Cap & Outlier Merino Wool Cardigan | The cap protects you from the sun as I zip between the convention center and offsite events. The mesh keeps the air flowing for maximum comfort. The wool cardigan may be a surprise, but it staves off a chill as some rooms’ A/C run cool. It’s also perfect for when the sun dips down, and works well as a dressy layer for night time festivities.
- Polarized Tortoise Shell Sunglasses | Keeps the peepers protected and the vision sharp for all those nerdlebrity sightings.
- Apple MacBook Air 11-inch | Don’t carry your laptop. You won’t need it. But for us writers on the run it’s a requirement and I’m just lucky enough to jump around on this light piece of kit.
- Apple iPhone 6+ | The do everything portal for the entire convention. Make sure to have the right apps setup to stay in tune (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope). I can even read a comic book preview in a pinch. Just mind that battery.
- Zoom IQ5 Stereo Microphone (iPhone) | I can’t believe how much better my recorded audio is because of this gizmo. I use it for recording audio interviews and it helps make my videos that much better because of the built in audio gain. Basically this can take your Instagram videos to the next level with so much clarity it can withstand the screams for Benedict Cumberbatch.
- olloclip Active Lens (iPhone) | Another invaluable piece of kit to amp up your photo and Instagram game with both a wide angle and telephoto lens. It’s also easy to hang from your lanyard, which makes it easy for quick draw photography.
- Moondog Labs 1.33X Anamorphic Lens (iPhone) | For the documentary auteurs this lets you film in full anamorphic video. That boils down to movie size vision. Maybe you heard of Tangerine, which was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival, because it was filmed using these lenses.
- Anker Dual USB Wall Charger | Dual, tri, or quad port this thing will help you charge all your devices back in your room. It’s also a good way to make friends in the convention by not hogging a wall socket, and instead sharing with everyone.
- MIMOBOT USB Drive | Any USB drive will do, but might as well add some geek fun to it. This is great for us writers to quickly share files with each other.
- Anker 16000mAh Power Bank Battery |In the evening I typically just take a light, pen-sized battery with me in case I need out of a jam. Otherwise I’m rocking this. This saves me from those times I can’t sit by a wall to charge my phone. It’s got two ports so I can share with a friend (and get the inside scoop). This thing is so beefy that I can make it the whole convention by getting 5-6 full charges from it.
- Extra long, 2-in-1 Micro USB/Lightning Cable | This lets me help my Android brethren who need that micro-USB. Go for the extra long varieties as you’ll thank me when you realize the closest plug to your bed is across the room.
- DUBS Acoustic Filters | Sometimes there’s too much input at the convention, and these help turn down the volume just a bit. It’s a perfect way to zone in and mentally recharge while keeping the world out as you browse the floor.
- Pen to Paper
- Moleskine Cahier Notebook | A simple thin notebook for story notes and perfect for a random sketch.
- Moleskine Weekly Diary Pocket | I rarely use it as a planner, but for archival purposes. On the left are the days of the week where I can note what I saw, ate, and enjoyed. On the right is a blank page I use to write down any discoveries.
- Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen | My stalwart friend ever since middle school. It looks more expensive than it is, and writes like a dream. You can even get gel ink for those of you that are into that.
- Eraser Shield | This paper thin sheet of stainless steel comes in handy more often than I’d expect. I never use it for its intended purpose, but it always seems help me out.
- Business Cards | Sure there are companies where you can upload custom images and have umpteen variations of business cards, but that typically just leads to analysis paralysis. Mandate Press makes it easy by providing templates with clean designs for letterpress business cards (95$). I don’t hand out many, but every time I do I get asked about them as they have a nice feel to them.
- Kindle E-Reader | I typically have little down time, but if I do this is perfect for waiting out the lines. No magazines here—a book keeps the focus and can help you forget you’ve been waiting in a line for two hours. It also helps to read before bed as it’s easier on the eyes (instead of catching up on your Twitter feed) and lets your mind wind down.
- Shure 215 Sound Isolating Headphones | “Music? Hasn’t he been complaining about all the noise?” True. I bring these along so I can focus on transcribing my audio interviews, or so I can listen to talking heads on a podcast. Music is only for the plane ride there and back.
- Cocoon Grid-It Organizer | Get one. Get three. I own four in different sizes. Better than a tiny bag for cables and other items, because you can see what you’re looking for and get to it when you need it. Perfect for keeping those odds and ends from winding up at the bottom of your bag.
- Cleansing Wipes Travel Pack | The convention is a grind and these things serve multiple purposes—bathroom saviors, afternoon facial refreshers, and all-purpose cleaners when used with #19.
- Purell Hand Sanitizer Travel Pack | It’ll not only keep the germs off you (is Zika still a thing?), but can be used to clean up a sticky spill.
- Vapur Eclispe .7L Collapsible Water Bottle | I can not say enough about this anti-water bottle. Empty it before airport security, fill it up after for your flight, and then collapse it to nothing when you’re done. If you don’t have a bottle holder on your bag, you can clip it. Don’t get the 1L version. You’ll be tempted, but the .7 is Goldilocks.
- SNACKS | You must have snacks!
Heidi MacDonald writes:
Wow, I’m supremely jealous of anyone who has the wherewithal to number their packing list. I aspire to such organization but in practice I just throw everything in a big bag, my beloved (and discontinued) Ibiza Flight Toe from Hayden Harnett. You can still get one on Ebay if you try. It holds my MacBook Air and just about anything else I need. I also keep all my smallish bits in my handy Hayden Harnett pilot clutch. Sadly that isn’t available any more AND it’s too small for my iPhone 6S but it’s still my all-time favorite wallet.
For light packing I also carry this duo of the smallest size Moleskine folio and notebook. The folio holds everything from money and credit cards to receipts, and the book is perfect for jotting. These can go in a badge holder and all you need is a smallish pen.
I also use pencil cases from Staples to hold computer cables, make-up extras, and sundries. These go on sale every August and they update them every year with new doohickeys. Plus they are usually dirt cheap — under $10 often under $5. I have a lot of pencil cases in a quest for organization.
As for clothes, one tip that everyone forgets: BRING A JACKET. Seriously. It may be a perfect day in the 80s during the day but at night it can get down to the 60s. I forget this every year and use it as an excuse to go to the mall and buy a new sweater. It doesn’t have to be heavy — a jeans jacket, sweater, nylon raincoat or Double Breasted Steampunk Aristocrat Jacket gets the job done.
Finally: TRAIL MIX. If you’re working the con this is the only thing that gets you through the day. Long time Beat readers will be familiar with my many tales of Donner Party-like privation and hunger through the con. Well, since I started packing trail max those days are gone! I just pop a handful during the day whenever I think of it and enjoy a hearty meal with friends every night.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.