Eletiofe8 Best Gear for Surviving a Convention (2023): Bags,...

8 Best Gear for Surviving a Convention (2023): Bags, Water Bottles, and Portable Batteries


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The Best Gear and Tips for Surviving Conventions

The right equipment will help you stay connected, stay hydrated, and never get overwhelmed.

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Some Survival Tips

A Battery With a Wall Plug

VRURC Portable Charger with Built-In Cables and AC Wall Plug

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A Good Water Bottle

Miir Narrow Mouth Bottle

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Your Most Portable Work Supplies

The Happy Planner

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I’ve probably spent whole years of my life at conventions of one kind or another. I’ve caught up on new tech at CES, cosplayed at Atlanta’s Dragon Con, and most recently, reviewed movies and attended concerts at SXSW. Whether they’re weeklong events or one intense day, cons all have something in common: They’re chaos to navigate if you’re not prepared. Getting through conventions is a special kind of survival skill and requires its own kind of gear. Your body still has all the same needs you’ll have when, say, camping or hiking, but with the added challenge of needing to stay connected in an urban environment. These picks should help you survive.

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  • Image may contain Human Person Musical Instrument Musician Guitar Leisure Activities Sunglasses and Accessories

    Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

    Some Survival Tips

    First, there are a few important things you can do to improve your experience without spending a dime. (Or, at least, without spending a dime here.) These are general tips that are useful no matter what kind of event you’re attending.

    • Find your nearest drugstore. At some point during the week, you’ll need deodorant, bandages, painkillers, and maybe an energy drink or two. Drugstores are the best place to buy all these things at once (and without the markup on food and drinks you’ll get at a hotel or convention center). Find the closest one to you on day one and thank yourself later.
    • You’ll also need snacks. It’s a good idea to have pretzels or protein bars for when you need a boost between the real meals you’ll be spending money on. The drugstore you stop at should have a good selection.
    • Scope out rest areas. If you get a hotel room for a convention, that’s probably going to be your primary oasis. But if not, make sure you find a place (like a friend’s hotel room or even your car) where you can take a nap. It’s also handy to find a quiet spot near the action where you can rest your legs or scarf down a hot dog without trekking all the way back to your home base.
    • Plan (and communicate) ahead. It sounds obvious, but when someone’s phone dies, you’ll all be happy you already made plans to meet at the rave at 10 pm. Save your energy and your phone’s energy for when plans have to change.
    • Bring comfy shoes. It doesn’t matter how fancy the event you’re going to is, be sure to wear sensible shoes. Even if you spend a lot of your normal days on your feet, a convention can mean walking several times more than you usually do. You don’t want to do it in heels.
  • Photograph: VRURC

    A Battery With a Wall Plug

    VRURC Portable Charger with Built-In Cables and AC Wall Plug

    If there’s one piece of tech I can’t live without at a convention, it’s this specific portable battery. We have a lot of recommendations for power banks, but I use this one because it has a fold-out wall plug and built-in MicroUSB, USB-C, and Lightning cables. This one battery pack cuts down how much clutter I need to carry around. Plus, it fits perfectly in my pocket with room to spare, so I can charge my phone while walking around.

    If the battery pack itself dies, the wall plug means I can charge it at any outlet I find. I wrote a part of this guide while this battery was recharging in the wall outlet next to me at SXSW. Even a small break gives me enough extra power to get through the rest of the day. Without these features, I’d need to carry around at least two extra cables. I seriously can’t recommend this type of portable charger enough.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    A Good Water Bottle

    Miir Narrow Mouth Bottle

    Many conventions have access to free water, sometimes from a fountain, but just as often from a water cooler designed specifically to fill up your water bottle. You might already own a reusable water bottle, but if you don’t, the Miir is one of our favorites. It comes in insulated and non-insulated versions. It’s nice to drink out of, is durable, and the cap has a loop so you can clip it to your backpack. Check out our Best Reusable Water Bottles guide for other recommendations.

    Be sure to check the fine print of the events you plan to go to. Most conventions let you bring your own bottle, but some events within the con have their own restrictions on full versus empty bottles. All the more incentive to finish your water.

  • Photograph: The Happy Planner

    Your Most Portable Work Supplies

    The Happy Planner

    If you’re working at a convention, you’ll want to carry as few productivity tools as you can, and you want them to be light. If you’re a pen-and-paper sort, check out our favorite paper planners. We really love the Happy Planner, which comes in several different formats (dated and undated), and much of it is customizable to your preferences.

    If you prefer something digital, a good tablet might be an excellent option for working on the go, if your laptop is too cumbersome.

  • Photograph: Waterfield Designs

    A Comfortable Carry Bag

    Waterfield Designs Executive Messenger

    You’re going to carry around a lot of Stuff at a convention. In addition to the gear we recommend, you’ll have badges, tickets, cards, swag, snacks, and anything you pick up along the way. It’s helpful to have a bag that won’t weigh you down or leave your shoulders aching. If you’re working at the event, a messenger bag, like this favorite from Waterfield Designs, might be the best choice. You have easy access to your stuff without having to take off a backpack and put it back on at every table you stop at. It’s slim, flexible, and has enough structure to keep your gear safe. It’s also stylish! This one is on the pricier end, but check out our Best Messenger Bags guide for more budget-friendly picks.

    If you prefer backpacks, read our Best Laptop Bags guide for more recommendations. If you won’t be carrying big items like a laptop, we also have a round-up of smaller fanny packs and hip slings.

  • Photograph: Takwiz

    First-Aid Supplies

    Keychain Pill Holder

    You’re going to cut your finger, get a blister, or end up with filthy hands when you’re in public. Carrying a few first-aid supplies will always be a safe bet. Some hand sanitizer, a few bandages, and some blister-prevention tape can save the day.

    Additionally, one of my low-key favorite pieces of gear, when I’m out, is this little keychain pill holder. I keep my Xanax in this, just in case a panic attack starts to set in. However, in some places, there can be restrictions on carrying medications outside of their original containers—and even when it’s legal, sometimes law enforcement can make it a hassle—so keep that in mind as you travel.

  • Photograph: Monoprice

    A Power Strip for the Hotel

    Monoprice 8-Outlet Rotating Surge Strip

    Some hotels have done a great job updating rooms with several wall outlets and USB charging ports, but you’re rolling the dice on whether there will be enough or just one tucked behind a dresser. Save yourself a lot of trouble by bringing a power strip to keep everyone’s phones, tablets, laptops, and spare batteries charged. We like this one from Monoprice because the outlets can rotate, letting you fit bulky charging adapters next to each other.

  • Photograph: Hohem

    A Phone Gimbal for Video

    Hohem Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone

    If you take videos with your phone, do yourself and your future viewers a lot of favors by picking up a gimbal. Gimbals stabilize your phone so the footage is steady even while you’re stumbling around trying to dodge the shoulders of people around you. I use this relatively inexpensive model. It fits most phones and even extends enough to go around some smaller cases (though you might need to remove bulky cases). It takes very little time to balance compared to bigger gimbals for mirrorless cameras.

  • Photograph: Dermatone

    Sun Protection for Outdoor Festivals

    Dermatone No Touch Stick Sunscreen

    Don’t spend a ton of time outdoors without a plan to defend yourself from our deadly enemy, the sun. Read our Best Sun Protection Gear guide for more recommendations, but at the very least, pick up some sunscreen for any exposed skin outdoors. You can also grab a protective hat, blanket, or even a parasol if you’re feeling fancy.

Eric Ravenscraft is a product writer and reviewer at WIRED, based in Austin, Texas. He’s guided readers on how to use technology for nearly a decade for publications including Lifehacker, OneZero, and The New York Times. He also streams on Twitch for WIRED occasionally and can be found on YouTube… Read more

Product Writer and Reviewer

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