Geeks love conventions. Well, most geeks do; if you have major social anxiety issues, you may not love them so much. And, to be fair, I don’t love it when they get really crowded, which is why I simply cannot go to DragonCon even though I live just outside Atlanta.
I’m going to two conventions in the next few months, though, and one of the forum threads I participated in asked previous con-goers what they should bring. Now, I’m not going to spend a bunch of time reminding you to bring underpants and comfortable shoes, but here’s six of the best things you can put in your con bag — by which I mean the bag you carry with you as you meander through the con.
6. Non-Perishable Food — Obviously all fruit is perishable, but some fruit needs to be refrigerated and some doesn’t. I recommend apples, because they taste just as good at room temperature. Bananas are good too. And, if you feel industrious, homemade peanut-butter crackers are a great source of protein, salt, and mouth happiness. Eat and enjoy.
5. Refillable Water Container — Most cons I’ve been to lately have water available in large coolers, but do you really want to be running back and forth with a small cup? Of course you don’t. Get a double-walled insulated cup (they’re about four bucks at Big Lots) and just fill that up. I recommend against using plastic bottles or anything with a small opening, though, because you don’t want other people’s germs from their small-opening bottles getting on your small-opening bottle.
4. A Towel — Douglas Adams notwithstanding, it really does help to always know where your towel is. Even if the hotel or convention center has good climate control systems, you’re still looking at a lot of people packed into a relatively small space. You’re going to get sweaty, and you might want to wipe some stuff off as well. A towel is multi-use, folds up small, and is more environmentally friendly than the cocktail napkins you stole from the bar. I actually carry two, just to be safe.
3. An Extra Shirt — If you’re in costume, this one may not work for you, but I don’t dress up for cons. Even when I’m doing a panel, the most dressed-up I get is a polo shirt and jeans. But I’m also a messy eater, and I sometimes get sweaty. It doesn’t hurt to roll up a spare shirt, or even a spare undershirt (if you don’t sweat through your primary one). Given the stuff I said about item 4 and the fact that you might sweat even with the A/C on, you’re going to want a little extra comfort. Oh, and if you are doing costumes, make sure to pack something you can wear when you want to take the costume off — sometimes wearing it in the elevator isn’t easy, especially if you’re going as a jaeger or something.
2. Chargers — I’m not just talking about your own devices here, though obviously you’re going to want to bring a charger for your phone, tablet, and laptop. If you have spare chargers, throw them in the bottom of your bag. I guarantee you’ll make friends with anyone whose phone died and is in dire straits. I usually carry a couple of iDevice chargers and a couple of Android chargers, even though I only usually have my phone and maybe my netbook. The thing is, you have to have a place to plug them in, and that leads me to…
1. A Surge Strip (preferably with a long cord) — Look, not every hotel is up to spec when it comes to having places to plug your stuff in. Sometimes there’s only one or two outlets, and everyone wants to use them. Go to your local discount store and get a surge protector with a six-foot cord. Hell, get two of them. Then you can plug yourself in, and your new friends, and have a little party. Plus, it’s useful for certain airports ~coughFORTLAUDERDALEcough~ that have maybe 20 electrical outlets to be shared across five gates.
Checkout time at a hotel — especially when there’s a convention — can mean severely limited elevator access. When my parents took me and my sister to Las Vegas in 1996, we experienced something similar while departing from the hotel (and that was just a normal Sunday). One thing you can do is go up instead of down. Yeah, it takes extra time, especially if you’re near the ground level, but it’s worth it. We were on the 11th floor, I think, in a 20-something-story hotel, and every time the elevator got to our floor it was jammed full of people. So we went up to about 18 or so, and then rode back down. Problem solved.
Or, y’know, if your body can handle it, take the stairs.