Tips on Streamlining Your Convention Gear For Year-Round Fun!

10 May

Fan Expo EntryBy Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Being prepared for any broad spectrum / pop culture convention can be easy. With shows taking place anytime and anywhere, I’m sure what I’ve learned over the decades still applies. After attending many shows ranging from Anime Expo to Emerald City Comicon up and down the West Coast and varying what I want to carry, I’ve come to streamline what I consider are essentials for each event.

I want to make the most of the show without having a massive backpack meant for hiking on me. Even if I’m just there for two days out of the three (or four as some have expanded to), nobody wants to carry Fort Knox on their back.

Checklists are beautiful but not everyone will make one when considering anything can be found in the exhibit hall. Walking in here is like wandering into a shopping centre. Depending on the show, it’s like finding most of the shops of West Edmonton Mall compressed into one-third the space! State-side, I’m sure comparisons can be made with the Hollywood & Highland Center. I’ve been to “The Cube” in Kyoto, Japan and that’s tough to beat! People will find stuff they either want to buy, get autographs from or get a photo with. Comic collectors will find those tables seek out those titles to finish their collections with and toy enthusiasts will have a fun time trying to load up on all the boxed or unboxed figures to put on display.

No matter what the approach, I find a few key items are a must for an art collector, autograph hound, comic book aficionado or photographer to have when tackling a show. The essentials always boil down to a notepad and pen, but in this digital age, everything can be done with a smartphone and the right carry-all accessory. All the items I recommend can be bought on Amazon (highlighted as a link).

Further customising my Rothco Classic Messenger Bag this year helped me big time. This military grade carry-all survived a dozen conventions since acquiring it three years ago! I had easy access to my dedicated camera pocket that I velcroed onto the strap. In my Rothco, I had an independent pocket for my phablet and business card holder. Like some artists I saw, they had pens along the strap or independently hanging on its own leash and a separate space for the water bottle.

Some people advise carrying a spare pair of socks. When I’m in convention mode, I do wear sports socks that claim to offer a blister-free experience. After four years of going this route, so far so good!

In the essential congoer’s toolkit, the following items are recommended:

2 in 1 USB to Lightning / Android connector (like EasySMX’s) for that favourite Power bank (I like Anker’s Astro E1 5200mAh Candy bar-Sized Ultra Compact Portable Charger) to recharge one’s cell phone / phablet / tablet. If that mobile has a removable battery, carrying a spare makes more sense than finding an outlet to charge with.

Note: I find a fully charged mobile has better service than one at half charge, but mileage will vary depending on the cell phone provider. Having an external antenna may help in problem areas but ultimately the problem lies with which service towers are nearby and the increased number of people trying to access it at the same time.

A stylus / pen combo like WizGear’s, Teviwin® or iDream365 come in handy for those electronic transactions. With some vendors having electronic payment options and don’t often have a soft stylus to use, sometimes it’s better for me to be prepared. I find finger autographs awkward. Before a show, I make sure I have one in both my pant pocket and messenger bag.

An 8.5×11″ portfolio like Itoya to store sketches or put autographed photos in is important! I’ve seen some con-goers carry either Strathmore Series 400 or Masterclass series sketchbooks to get drawings from their favourite artists. Either type will do since items like comics, cards and cards can be sleeved within the sturdy binding to prevent accidental bends. While HotFlips.com come in handy for those not prepared for what they buy at the show and take home safe, sometimes having the right container at hand before arriving at the con can save some dollars. I find transporting my comics in this is better than lugging a comic book stor-folio” by BCW (which occupies a larger space in a bag) around.

Note: Should you accidentally leave the sketchbook/portfolio on a chair or vendor’s table, keep a page reserved with your contact information (i.e. cell phone number especially so you can be reached about where it was left behind). Sticking a few sheets of paper in here is handy for quick notes for contact information exchange.

A telescoping poster tube like  INSTABER is definitely needed for those poster hounds (I recommend an expansion size up to 32″ in width) for those prints you don’t want to get damaged on the plane trip home. Small-sized tubes, measuring 16″ can be found for $15 or less, but for expandable options, I recommend this company over others.

Water Bottle

Contigo’s line of water bottles is just one brand to choose from. Tritan also has a 25 Oz Leak Proof Flip-top line.

A water bottle and your choice of snacks in a zip-lock bag are always needed (especially if some of the chocolates start to melt)! Some bottles are designed better than others and the worse thing that can happen is spilling liquid all over a floor. Accidents happen but it’s embarrassing. I recommend an auto-seal kind like Contigo’s

Any brand of travel-sized Hand sanitizer will do, like Purell Jelly Wrap. Conventions are notorious as a breeding ground for germs. As any health conscious attendee will warn, if someone near is going to sneeze or cough and is not doing so hygienically, shaking that hand is going to be gross.

For those folks who don’t like wearing their convention pass around their neck, creative options include a finding luggage tag big enough to snap onto the messenger bag, to loop around a belt or hang on the shoulder belt of a backpack. I’ve done all of the above depending on my mood, and I have to be aware it’s showing the information when walking by security checkpoints. They want to be able to clearly see the tag.

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