Thursday, July 3, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 2: The Con Bag


Don't leave the hotel without it!

The Con Bag

Once you leave your hotel room your Con Bag is your lifeline while in the convention center or walking around downtown. Nothing sucks worse then getting in line for the panel you're dying to see only to discover your hungry, thirsty, or getting sunburnt. 

As for the bag itself, do not skimp. Get a sturdy bag that will hold up under the weight you'll put in it and being lugged around for 4 days. Shoulder/Messenger bags look cool, but they can strain your shoulders and hit your legs or hips when you walk. So I recommend a quality backpack with lots of room and compartments for all of your stuff. They also often have specific pockets for water bottles and cellphones. Plus it’s fun to decorate it with all the free pins/buttons/badges that get handed out on the floor of the Exhibit Hall.

The convention gives you a cool collector bag for free when you pick up your badge, but I don't suggest using it. Those bags are huge, unwieldy and often more valuable intact as a collectors item. So just fold it up and store it in your actual Con Bag. 

Essentials Supplies

Now there are obvious things you're going to bring like your cellphone and wallet, but I'm going to suggest other items to keep in your Con Bag to help you through the day. It looks like a lot of stuff, but you'll need it and you can always get things in travel size to cut down on weight. 


Refillable Water Bottle. Staying hydrated is a priority. You can fill it in your hotel room before you leave, and there are lots of drinking fountains around the convention center for refilling. This bottle allows you to take a drink no matter where you are. 

Sunglasses. If this isn't an option because you wear glasses bring a hat.  It’s summer in California. Save your eyes.

Sun screen. Put a coat of sunscreen on before you leave your hotel room, but keep a small bottle with you to reapply it at least every two hours if not more frequently (per skincancer.org). Again, it is summer time. You’re going to be outside a lot. Even if it’s overcast you will get sun burnt if you don’t protect your skin. Nothing ruins comic con like being laid up in your room with a horrific sun burn. Special note: If you have tattoos it is especially important to be diligent with applying sunscreen regularly as sun exposure can fade your ink.

Camera. This is optional if you have a smartphone with a built in camera. I prefer to take quick pictures with my phone, because it's easy to pull out or I already have it out. But if you want to take high quality pictures a camera might be the better way to go. If you're going to use it regularly keep it close at hand or on a strap around your neck. 

Phone Charger. Do NOT let your phone die. It is your lifeline to stay in touch with friends and keep up-to-date on what's happening at the con. Keep it charged. 

Portable Charger. Even with your charger cord outlets at the con can be hard to find and people are often already using them. That's why portable chargers are a great back up plan. You charge them up overnight in your hotel room and then use them to recharge your phone, camera, ipod, etc. You can find them online or at your local electronics store. They usually cost between $20-$30. I have a a portable charger that doubles as a case for my iPhone and I also carry a another portable charger with me.  

Batteries. Don't for get to pack these for any electronics that take old fashioned batteries. 

Reading material. There’s a lot of waiting at Comic Con, in line, waiting for panels to start, etc. So bring something to read. You can read the guide book the con gives you, but that may get boring after awhile. So why not catch up on your summer reading list while you wait.  I suggest a small book or an ereader. You don’t want to run down the battery life of your phone reading on it.

Extra bag. Between all the free stuff or things you buy you bag can get heavy. There are a lot of SDCC exclusive that are just plain huge. Bringing an extra bag gives your the ability to move all the stuff you don't need right away into out of your Con bag. Then you can leave this extra stuff Bag check costs between $2-3 dollars, there are few locations in the convention center (bag check can fill up by the afternoon so try to plan your purchases accordingly). 

Snacks
Con food is overpriced and not that good. Starbucks is decent, but the lines are hellaciously long. So it’s best to bring snacks with you. Pack stuff that travels well and won’t get squished in your bag. Be sure to switch up your snacks each day so you don’t get burnt out on eating the same thing.
  • Trail mix/Snack mix
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars/Power bars
  • Crackers
  • Jerky

Geek Supplies

Ziplock bags. I usually have one of each size (sandwich, quart and gallon). I use them to collect all the free swag of various sizes (fliers, pins, patches, postcards, etc) and keep them organized in my bag. I also pack a few extra gallon size bags for garbage in case I’m in line far away from a garbage can. Littering isn’t cool. 

Plastic pouch/Poly Envelope. These are great for small prints, comic books or autograph pictures. It keeps them dry and unbent. If you want to reenforce them you can cut out the side of a cereal box and slip it inside to make it nice and stiff. 

Poster tube. They give away free posters all over the Exhibit Hall as well as on the streets of downtown san diego. A poster tube allows you to store them safety for later. I slip mine into my backpack. It sticks out the top, but usually doesn’t get in my way. The Fox booth gives away free poster tubes ever year, they come with shoulder straps. I usually bring last years tube with me and grab a new one while I’m there. They make great gifts. If you're with a group only one person needs to bring a tube and the whole group can use it. Then you sort through the booty later on at the hotel room.

Markers (sharpies of various colors). These are great for autographs and they work on all kinds of material (t-shirts, posters, books, etc), but be sure to have metallics for items that are dark colors. Also keep an eye out some vendors give these away for free. I got two that came on lanyards last year from the Showtime booth.

Pen. Also good for autographs, and you never know when you’re going to need to write something down. 

Small note pad. You never know when you need paper to write on. 

Sketch Book. A lot of artist prefer to do sketches in them, and it works for autographs too. Plus you can decorate the cover with all the free stickers you get from the Exhibit Hall.

First Aid

You can get a small travel kit for basics, but I would add some more items to it. Here’s the list of basic things I keep in my first aid/survival kit.
  • Bandaids
  • Painkillers (Advil, Tylenol, etc). 
  • Allergy meds (if you need it)
  • Antacids
  • Cough drops. You don’t want to get a coughing fit during a panel. 
  • Safety pins.
  • Moleskin. This is fantastic for preventing blisters. You can put it on your feet in rubbing spots (back of your heel, top of your toes) before you head out for the day, but also keep some with you in case you get one while your out walking around.

General Supplies

Tissues. Boogers happen. It's best to be prepared for them. Tissues are good for all kinds of things. 

Wet Wipes (baby wipes). You can clean stains off your clothes. Clean your face and body. They're just generally awesome things to have. 

Hand Sanitizer. Cons are germ heavens. Stay healthy and use it generously. 

Lotion. You’d be surprised by how dry your hands and face can get from all the recalculated air in the convention center. 

Chapstick. Chapped lips suck. 

Breath mints/gum. Hours of eating, drinking and sitting around your breath gets rank. Do everyone a favor and use them. And maybe politely offer them to others. 

Deodorant. Sweating happens and body oder is a result. Be considerate and freshen up regularly. You could also bring a small bottle of Baby powder to freshen up. 

Change of clothes. Remember when I said to bring extra socks and underwear? Yeah, this is where they come in handy. Changing into a fresh pair of underwear and socks (maybe even a t-shirt too), along with a coat of deodorant, can change your whole outlook like life. You can use one of those spare ziplock bags for your soiled/stinky clothes. 

Contact solution. Contact case and Glasses. If you wear contacts they can become dry or irritated after a fun day of wearing them. Sometimes they just need some rewetting drops, but give yourself the option to just take them out.

Hair clips/hair ties. If you have enough hair that it can get in your face or make you sweat, consider bringing something to put it up.

Comb/Hairbrush. You can get small travel size versions of these. It helps with putting your hair up or just help you fix a bad hair day. 

These are just some of the basics things I like to pack. You can always add more, or leave off stuff I take. Feel free to comment with your recommendations too. I'd love to know what essential items other people pack in their Con bags. 

In the next post I'll talk about the panel schedule, offsite events and deciding what you want to do. 

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