Before attending Comic Con, I read that the days there start early, end late, and have been compared to a marathon. Now that I've attended I can say that yes, this can be very true depending on your schedule. Especially if you're panel camping and can't leave the room easily for any great length of time.
Several blogs I referred to as I prepared myself for my first SDCC emphasized the survival bag or daily backpack. When I've been to conventions/conferences in the past it has been sufficient to just bring a small tote or shoulder bag with my wallet, some snacks, my camera, and a notebook. But those were smaller events, or I was staying in the hotel/resort where the conference was being hosted. For SDCC we stayed in Mission Valley (no super-quick jaunts back to the hotel to drop things off or take a break for thirty minutes between panel lines) and there was loads more to do every day than at any event I've ever attended before.
Enter the survival bag. I used a backpack I bought back in high school for band camp but never really used, and decorated it with badges and pins celebrating my favorite fandoms.
Using the guides I've found at Nerdy Girlie, SDCC Blog, Crazy4ComicCon, and this video by The Con-Fluence, I created a list of the items I planned to pack each day in my backpack. I also drew some snack inspiration from this post by Chixelate.
This is what I planned to pack each day:
- Extra foldable backpack*, for any extra purchases we might make. It uses a drawstring to bundle up into a small baseball sized wad when it's not in use.
- 25" Poster tube for larger paper items and free posters
- Folder(s) with plastic sleeves for autographs, comics, and small paper items
- Notebook for autographs or sketches
- Headache meds, pain-relievers, and Tums
- Hand sanitizer - trying to avoid the con funk!
- Extra insoles for my shoes
- Light hoodie for chilly evenings and blasting AC
- Lip balm
- Water (I originally planned to bring an aluminum water bottle, but we just reused a couple of Dasani bottles. They were lightweight and we could ditch them if we needed to and just buy new later, and it wouldn't matter if we lost them)
- Snacks - apples, snack bars, nuts
- Sharpies in black and silver, for autographs
- Various charging cables
- Anker brand portable charger
(I gave it a try before the Con - it charged completely from my computer within a few hours, and charged my iPhone 3GS to 100% from 10% within 2 hours while the phone was on and receiving push notifications from Twitter. 15 hours later the phone was only at 79% battery. I used it a few times throughout the Con and never had any trouble with it.)
- My travel notebook - filled with panel, autograph, and exclusives info, booth numbers, our panel schedule, restaurant ideas. I also use it as a travel diary, writing down restaurant and museum names, what I ate or saw, beers I liked, and other notes about my day.
- Program/convention map (this came from the official guidebook distributed with the WB Swag Bags and badges)
My boyfriend was going to have his own pack, with his own snacks, water, folder, Sharpies, hoodie, sun hat to protect his head, and his iPhone.
Since this was my first SDCC, I wasn't sure if anything would end up being unnecessary, or if there was something else I was forgetting.
After we got to our hotel and were packing for our first day at the Con, we decided to keep all the snacks and water in my boyfriend's pack since it was smaller, and we would use my backpack for our shopping and free goodies. This arrangement worked well for us because we never split up during this Con - we considered it at one point when there were different panels we wanted to attend, but we ended up skipping those entirely. It was useful having my larger backpack available for giveaways and shopping, and it was full every day I brought it (on Saturday I carried the small green collapsible pack I mentioned above because I needed something smaller and it matched my cosplay).
Other than the day I used it for my cosplay, we never used the collapsible tote, though we came close one day. I also never used my lightweight hoodie - and it was an especially lightweight one. But we also never line camped overnight, and the days were hotter than expected, so I'm not surprised. I also overheat really easily and never felt chilly in the Convention Center, so I just stopped packing it. We also used the Purell less frequently than I expected, and didn't need to reapply sunscreen as often because we stayed inside so much, but those I would continue to carry just in case we needed them.
Despite meeting Zachary Levi and Felicia Day at their offsite events, we never needed our autograph materials - the sharpies and the notebook. And thanks to the Comic Con app, I rarely pulled out the physical map. As for the insoles, I never swapped them during the day but I did change them in my shoes at the beginning of each day so there was a fresh pair. So I wouldn't carry those with me again, but I would definitely bring them in my luggage again.
The poster tube was of varying usefulness. The first day I got a free poster and rolled up the art I bought to protect it. The second day we made a conscious choice not to bring it, seeing as how the only items that we used it for we had deliberately sought out or purchased, but of course that day we received a single free poster that ended up getting creased. And the same on Saturday - we forgot to bring it, despite our experience with the free poster the previous day, and wound up with several free posters including the ones printed for us at the Vikings Experience. But we were able to roll those up and place them in an outside pocket of my boyfriend's backpack, and they were safe all day. Sunday we brought the tube again, knowing we would be on the exhibit hall floor again, and received a bunch of free posters.
Overall, most of the things we carried were very useful. We over-packed on snacks - we had rations of everything for all four days and ate maybe half of it. Actually, a little less than half. But other than that, everything we didn't use could have been useful if we had changed our schedule a little, or pursued an autograph session, or found more free goodies. We never felt weighted down by it all - my boyfriend carried the poster tube and found it a little awkward, which is why we left it behind on Friday, and I was a little burdened by all the scavenger hunt prizes in my pack on Friday when my shoulder started hurting at the end of the day, but I was mostly fine and hey, free stuff is great! We could have shifted one of the games to the other pack if I had needed it.
Thinking over this list, I would carry the same pack again. And I can't think of anything we didn't have that we needed (except the poster tube on the days we didn't bring it!) Based on my experience, I would recommend the resources I used and my list to any new con-goers as a great starting point in building their survival pack.
* My sister (the Batman fan) gave me this small backpack as part of a zombie bug-out bag themed Christmas present. How cool is that? It held doggy biscuits (for my dog), a bottle of vodka (for me), a small first-aid kit, fishing line and hooks, and zombie targets (mine were cooler looking than those). There might have been flares or a fire starter too... the vodka and dog biscuits are gone, but I should probably check the expiration dates on those other things...