Ever since I was a teenager, fan conventions have been part of of my life. From supporting my friends' cosplays to moderating panels, to my humiliating stint as a "geek comedian" I've attended dozens of cons and let me tell you, it can get ROUGH. Who would have thought that giving thousands of geeks cart-blanche to walk around in costumes for 72-straight hours with full reign of a convention center could be chaotic?
So I'm now imparting the wisdom I have gained from years of late-night raves, awkward hentai panels, and way, WAY too many boxes of Pocky. These are some clutch items that should find a place in your messenger bag before you hit the harsh concrete convention floor. With these key items in tow, you might find yourself crowned LORD of the fandom since most of these items aren't just going to help you, but also make you the personal savior of at least a handful of ill-prepared cosplayers that you'll meet along the way.
I've attached amazon links for all the entries here, and full disclosure, if you buy anything after clicking these links, Dorkly will receive a commission which we will greedily use to pay for things we need.
One of the worst things about cons is the food situation. Most of the time your options are going to be either crappy concession stand pizza, junk food from vending machines or crappy local delivery pizza (just going to assume you're not one of those rich weirdos who can actually afford room service). But to get the most out of your weekend you need nutritionally balanced foods with protein, complex carbs, and low enough in sugar so that you don't spike and crash. That's why I recommend the aptly-named Protein Puck. While pricier than a snickers, these dense discs will provide slow-burning energy to keep you on your feet. Bring a bunch, they're gluten-free and vegan so you can share the life-giving nourishment with your suitemates or just become the new best friend of the person who's been waiting on the same line as you for the past 3 hours.
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While you THINK your phone has an all-day battery, once it enters the RF thunderdome that is a fully packed convention center, it'll be begging for juice like a cranky toddler in no time. And if you think that puny power stick you got at the airport 4 years ago is up for the task, you're kidding yourself. That cheap thing has been cycled so many times you might as well hook your devices up to a potato. The Jackery Bolt on the other hand manages to pack an impressive 10050 mAh (the standard "stick" style chargers hold around 2000 mAh) along with some VERY convenient quality of life features, including built-in lightning and usb-c connectors (so you don't have to fumble around for a separate cable) and pass-through charging (meaning you can leave the phone plugged into the battery and charge both from a single outlet). That last feature is pretty clutch, considering the last time I tried that with a charger that DIDN'T have pass-through, I MAYBE SORTA almost set fire to my hotel room.
Now, hear me out. YES, this is an unconventional item. YES, most con volunteers wouldn't be happy knowing you have a flesh-searingly capable device on your person on their premises. BUT, the fact remains that there isn't a single problem that can't be solved with a hot glue gun. Cosplay falling apart? Patch that shit up with some hot glue and make your way to the masquerade with confidence. Your prop Zanpakutō snap in half before the big photoshoot? Turns out your bankai power is quick drying adhesive polymers. Did you slice your finger open on that cool batarang shuriken that you bought for "display purposes only"? Be your own field medic thanks to the miraculous abilities you have thanks to your newly acquired cordless hot glue gun.
Folks, please drink water. You need it to live SO BAD. It's really important you guys. Most proper conventions have lots of water coolers set up to keep their attendees nice and moist, but if you don't have the time to loiter around refilling a thin paper cone over and over again, consider filling a nice 1L bottle that you can stash away when you don't need it. There's literally no situation you can come across that won't be improved by being nice and hydrated, from the hot tub to the rave, stay cool, stay wet. You'll be glad you did.
Try to imagine this nightmare scenario. You're wandering the halls aimlessly, trying to kill time until the next big panel when all of a sudden you bump into the artist/voice actor/cosplayer/podcaster/celebrity you've been dying to meet this whole time and THEY'RE ACTUALLY PRETTY COOL ABOUT IT. You two chat for a second and you work up the courage to ask for a sketch or autograph and THEY SAY SURE. Suddenly, you realize YOU HAVE NO PAPER. Rummaging through your bag, sweat pouring down your forehead, you pull out A FREAKING NAPKIN and WATCH IN HORROR AS THEIR SHARPIE TEARS THROUGH IT. The moment has passed and YOU BLEW IT. Don't let this terror become reality by getting a nice blank sketchbook with a hardcover. Heavyweight paper means that you won't suffer the indignity of ink bleed-through, and the stiff cover means that you won't be scrambling for a flat surface when the perfect moment arrives.
For those of us who enjoy the agony and the ecstacy of caffeine, there's nothing worse than suffering through an impossibly long starbucks line just to get your next fix. That's why you grab your chemical dependency by the tongue and have a tin of these refreshing caffeinated treats to keep your dopamine flowing and your breath nice 'n minty. Made with germ-impairing xylitol, these sugar-free lozenges are packed not only with caffeine but as much B vitamins as an energy drink, which come in clutch for high-stress situations and hangover recovery. I'm not saying you need to self-medicate to enjoy yourself, but if you DO, this is the most convenient way to do it.
One of the weird little bonuses that people don't really acknowledge about conventions is that it's one of the only places where Nintendo's dream of wireless streetpass utopia becomes reality. Itching for an IRL pokemon duel, or want to start an impromptu mario kart tournament? Grabbing a 3DS (or 2DS, or whatever permutation you prefer) is a great way to get some fun during the quieter moments of the weekend. An increasingly rare opportunity to engage in play with total strangers brought together by a love of culture and narratives. Just don't bring your Switch though, that shit will get swiped the SECOND you turn your back.
The "Con Flu" is no joke. There have been CONFIRMED cases of mass infection thanks to the sheer density of unwashed masses at major fandom gatherings. So while you're packing that mini-bottle of hand sanitizer that I KNOW you were bringing anyway, I just want to shout out these hippy-dippy herbal candies that have saved my weak-ass immune system from certain doom countless times. Supposedly, the zinc in the lozenge makes your nose and throat more inhospitable to viral infection, preventing sickness or minimizing the severity of the cold. I'm no doctor, but anecdotally these things have at the very least placebo'd me to safety when things seemed grim. All that being said DON'T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS.
Many neophytes underestimate just how many MILES you'll trek while hoofing it across the convention floor throughout the day, oftentimes on harsh concrete floors that are brutal on the ankles, knees, and back. So when you're finally ready to take off your ludicrous full-length steampunk boots and relax, make sure you have something soft and squishy to bounce around in (and for god's sake don't be that weirdo who's just barefoot in public). These indoor/outdoor slippers are an affordably comfy option that will keep your little piggies warm and safe, great for late-night wanderings or for early-morning continental breakfast runs.
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I can't believe we're 3 decades deep on American otaku culture and the reality of "con funk" is still with us. I get it guys, you're up all night, crammed with 8 people in a room meant to house 2, and you REALLY want to get to the "how to get a job in fansubbing" panel on time. Sometimes the basic human decency of bathing is TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR. Well fine, modern capitalism has SOLVED THE PROBLEM FOR YOU. The oh-so appropriately named "NASTY Body Wipes" are extra large and disposable so you can scrub down and de-stinkify on the go when there are no other options. The wipes contain moisturizers that will leave your skin feeling cool, refreshed, and most importantly at least mitigate the Bio-Organic Stench you've amassed in your manic, sweaty quest to get the most out of your 120 dollar full-weekend pass.