Are you a cosplayer going to a con? Sick of sweating in your costume and losing your loot? Want to make your con-going experience better? Here is what you need AND WHY you need them. As people who have gone to dozens of cons, both big and small and over a decade, we have had some great experiences and some not-so-great experiences. Much of those were because we either had the right stuff, or didn’t.
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Here is your comic convention checklist
Cosplay is better when you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes.
Yes, those heels are cute. Do you know what isn’t cute? Blisters and walking barefoot. Eww, David! No, seriously. If you are going to be walking the con floor in cosplay, you need to think about your shoe choices. Five hours on a hard, concrete floor is brutal on your joints. (Cosplays for photography? Totally different story. You ROCK those six-inch platform stilettos!) If you insist on wearing uncomfortable shoes, be sure to bring a backup pair you can slip on when you’ve hit the pain wall. Or, at the very least, use INSERTS!
Sweating in your cosplay is icky. Incorporate a portable neck fan into your costume.
It is amazing what a bit of cool air on your face can do when you’re in a heavy cosplay, or in a hot climate. This one is our personal favorite. It has three speeds and is rechargeable via USB cord. We painted, embellished, and incorporated them into our Navigator and Inquisitor armor cosplays and they probably saved our lives on a few occasions. When they aren’t in use on a cosplay, we have been known to bring them, embellished with skulls and Warhammer Imperial symbols, to Disney!
Portable battery packs aren’t just for phones. Power up your cosplay LEDs and smoke machines, too.
Not only are these great for charging your cell phone and mobile devices when you are on the con floor, they are also great for powering LED lights and other electrical cosplay components in your costumes. We use this one to power the lights, smoke effects, and speaker in the Inquisitor’s power armor, and it worked like a charm. When it’s not working hard in a cosplay, it is powering our phones for the many photo ops at the con.
Rummaging for your con badge is a pain. Bring a lanyard.
Yes, many cons give you a lanyard with your badge. Yes, almost all cons sell lanyards. But, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes you don’t want to buy one. So, we always tuck away two in our bag as a just-in-case measure. They do not take up much room and when they are needed, we are always happy we remembered. If you don’t already have a favorite, pick up a basic one and embellish it with your favorite fandom symbolism!
Losing your con badge is a nightmare. Zip tie it to your lanyard. (And then zip-tie everything else!)
Speaking of things we’ve never been upset we brought, but have been devastated when we haven’t. Zip ties. When sometimes goes wrong on a cosplay, you can almost always rely on a zip tie to come to the rescue. (They do the heavy lifting when super glue can’t.) BUT, there is another critical role for the hearty zip tie. They keep your badge from detaching from your lanyard. This one time, at Dragoncon, my badge got caught on something and came off my lanyard. I lost half a day and a $50 replacement fee. NEVER again. As soon as we get our badges, we zip tie them to our lanyards and never lost one again. Zip ties, man. Get them.
Keep your money for the con vendor hall close and secure with a neck wallet.
If you’ve ever been pick-pocketed at a con (or any place), you know it’s a horrifying experience. Having your credit cards, cash, and ID around your neck greatly reduces the likelihood you’ll be the victim of crime. Or, if you’re like me and simply LOSE stuff, a neck wallet makes it far less likely. Since it’s, like, right there. Around your neck. Another bit of advice: only carry what you need and keep a spare credit card elsewhere. If you DO lose one, you’ll have a backup.
A roll-up reusable water bottle is a cosplayer’s best friend at a comic con.
YOU. MUST. STAY. HYDRATED. (And no, booze is not hydration.) If you don’t want to carry around a big, bulky water bottle. try this flexible one with a carabiner on it. You can fill it up at water fountains, attach it to a belt loop, and fold it up when you’re done. We’ve yet to attend a con that will not permit you to bring in a water source but that’s subject to change because of *motions at everything*, so be sure to bring a water source with you. Same with snacks. Always bring one healthy, one sweet, and one salty.
Cosplay is a sweaty business. Carry a microfiber towel with you at all times on the con floor.
Douglas Adams knew what he was talking about when he said you should always have a towel with you. This is doubly true at conventions. Whether you are sweating in a cosplay, or sweating in Florida, a towel is going to be there for you. This is the real real right here. If you’re cosplay-sweating, a flimsy tissue ain’t gonna do the trick. That thing is going to dissolve under the pressure and stick to your face. You need microfiber, baby. We love this one that comes with its own carrying bag and carabiner.
Protect your sensitive skin from chafing while you’re walking around in your cosplays.
Anti-chafe balm. The rub. It’s real. IYKYK. Also good for shoes causing blisters. Basically good for any body part that is uncomfortably rubbing against another body part. For real. You need this in your con kit.
When you need comic con first aid, have everything you need to take care of yourself with this mini first aid kit.
Despite all your best efforts, you have a blister. You’re wandering the con floor desperate for a bandage. You find nothing. The First Aid station is on the other side of the convention center. Thousands of painful steps between you and comfort. You sink to your knees and beg for help. “Please sir…. do you have a Band-aid? M’lady? Can you spare a bandage for an injured con-goer?” You are blinded by the pain and sink into a ball on the brutal concrete floor. You cannot go on. You are done. OR, you can pack a mini first aid kit and it will be all right. Just sayin’.
And don’t forget these important comic con necessities:
Prescription medications if you take them. It is not always easy to get refills when you’re out of town or on the weekend. And you do not want to risk your health. Ever.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine and painkillers. This is especially important if you’re wearing a cosplay, or if you’re not accustomed to being on your feet and walking for hours on end. Keep in mind that convention floors are HARD. Walking on the con floor all day is tough on your joints!
Cash for tips. You’ll need cash for tips at your hotel, including bellhops, housekeeping, and valets. And YES, you need to tip. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to travel.
Cash for vendors. When you pay vendors in cash you are putting 3-5% back into their pockets that would otherwise go toward credit card processing fees. Their margins are already tight. Paying in cash helps your favorite artisans be more successful.
Calling cards. We’re makin’ friends here! Pick up a supply of cards with your name, email, socials, and a photo so you can swap with the amazing people you will inevitably meet. This is especially important for creators seeking to make business connections. Part of the post-con fun is going through your stash of cards and connecting with the people you’ve met.
Going to a big convention? Staying for a while? Bring these items to make your comic con even better.
A kettle. We bring one with us to DragonCon and use it to make tea, instant coffee, Cup-o-Noodles, and ramen. (One time, we brought a microwave! We called in advance to confirm our room had one. It did not. We brought a dorm-sized one with us and ate like college-aged kings for the week!)
An iron. Hotel irons SUUUUUUUUCK. They spit. They’re dirty. Their temperatures are inconsistent. Someone has probably attempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich on one, despite the fact that they are NEVER cleaned. If you plan to iron your beautiful cosplays, you might want to bring your own. Fun fact: if the hotel ironing board is gross or does not have enough padding, use a towel.
A sewing machine (or big tool). Now, we are philosophically AGAINST con-crunching, so the idea of bringing your tools to the con does not sit well for us. BUT, you might love the idea of escaping to your room and working on your project. If that’s your jam, you DO that jam, man. Regardless, DO remember to bring your emergency sewing/repair kit. We call ours the “Oh $h!T Kit”.
What have we forgotten? Leave your suggestions in the comments. Happy conning!