I may come back to edit this post every now and then, so if you find it helpful, you should probably bookmark it and check back before each convention. In addition, feel free to post anything that you bring to a convention that I have not listed. If I find it useful enough, I may add it to the list!
I bought two new mini bags to put in my convention backpack to organize it more and make things easier to find. Other than that, I didn't do anything cosplay-related, so here's today's topic: Packing a Convention Bag.
First, let's start with bags. Some people can fit everything into a small purse, others, like myself, need a backpack. It really depends on exactly how prepared you want to be and how much you can carry around all day. Most items that I carry are small and could probably fit into a small bag, however, I often pack for more than one person, and I like to be extremely prepared. So, I have a regular school backpack with three pockets, a mesh front pocket (which is nearly useless), and a mesh side pocket, supposedly for a water bottle. I also have two miniature bags that help me sort my items, each has two pockets, but one is about twice the size of the other. These can be substituted with plastic boxes for extra protection of fragile items, if you don't mind the extra weight and bulkiness.
Now for a break down of what's in each pocket, starting with the biggest pocket, and moving forward to the smallest pocket and then the outside. Wherever possible, I'll provide links to places that you can buy certain things. Remember, this is just what I bring and where I put it. How you organize it is totally up to you, this is just what works for me.
► Lanyards & Badge Covers - I keep these safety-pinned to the top of the side of the main pocket so that they're easily accessible. I hate when conventions only provide a clip or safety pin to hold your badge on. It ruins my cosplay, and it's hard to hide them for pictures.
- I use the old badge covers and one lanyard from previous conventions, and I bought my extra lanyard really cheap from a place called Daiso Japan. You can also find lanyards, for a price, at Spencers and Hot Topic.
• Small Bag with two pockets which includes:
(main / larger pocket)
► Deodorant - I have a travel-sized, store-brand stick deodorant (as opposed to gel). I prefer my regular-sized, brand-name one that I use on a daily basis, but there have been way too many times that I've forgotten to pack it, so I finally broke down and bought a travel-sized one.
- They're harder to come by than I thought they'd be, but I found mine at Walgreens®. You can also probably find them seasonally (during the summer) at Target or Walmart.
► Hand Lotion & Chapstick - This is just because I have dry hands and lips, but you never know.
- Chapstick can be found pretty much anywhere, and I think I got the hand lotions (mini bottles) as promotional giveaways, handouts at the doctor's office, or at Walgreens®. You can also probably find them at Target or Walmart.
► Miniature Hairbrush - Whether it be for wigs or your real hair, it's probably a good idea to bring one. Clean it out after every convention that you use it at, though, just to be safe. I suggest a cheap one, since you'll only be using it a few times a year, and a small brush will be lighter and take up far less space, just be sure it's still functional, not like a Barbie brush (although those are handy for brushing out wig bangs).
- I honestly have no idea where I bought my miniature brush, I think it came with a kid's hair styling set, but I would check Walgreens®, Walmart, Target, Ulta, or any place that regularly sells cosmetics and hair products. Remember to check kids' sections too, sometimes stores hide the tiny, cheap stuff there.
► Cheap Nail File - Just one nail file that will help you get through the convention. It doesn't have to be metal or especially well-made, just something to file off hangnails so that they don't snag and rip your nail off, or worse, destroy your costume.
- I bought twenty nail files for one dollar at Walgreens®, but I assume you can also find cheap ones at Walmart, Target, Ulta, or any place that regularly sells cosmetics.
(side / smaller pocket)
► Miniature First-Aid Kit - Mine includes bandages of various sizes, disinfecting wipes, and pain-killers / fever reducers. I suggest a small handful (five to ten) regular sized bandages, three to five small bandages, and one or two large bandages. In my opinion, the disinfecting wipes are the most important. However, I'm a germaphobe at conventions. Disinfecting wipes (not to be confused with wet-naps) can be misplaced with a cream or spray, such as Neosporin®, but I would stay away from hydrogen peroxide, mainly because it can spill and requires either cotton balls or a sink for proper application. The pain-killers / fever reducers, (also known as Tylenol® or Motrin®) is purely optional, unless you suffer from serious ailments such as migraines, arthritis, or scoliosis. I am not entirely sure on the legality of bringing this to a convention either, as it is a drug. If possible, check the convention rules for this. If it is not specified, it's probably okay to bring. Please note that this does not have to be a full-sized first-aid kit, and I don't recommend that it be. My interpretation of it is that it just needs to be enough to take care of small cuts and scrapes and prevent infection for long enough to reach a first-aid station or get real medical attention.
- I got my first-aid kit from my mom, who I think stole it from a hotel room forever ago, so you may have to build your own. I would start at Walgreens®, of course, they have a large selection of first-aid products and are well-organized. However, you will probably be able to find any of these things at Walmart, Target,or any other place that sells first-aid.
► Emergency Sewing Kit - My ESK includes two needles and black, white, tan, pink, red, and gray thread. You may choose to pack threads that match the color of your costume, but I personally would not pack a whole bobbin of thread. Get a small piece of cardboard (no larger than a 3X5 index card), and cut slits into the sides directly across from each-other. You may wish to widen the slits to more than just one cut to prevent it from cutting your string. Then take about one yard (three feet)* of thread and wrap it around the cardboard piece, tucking it into the slits you made on the sides. This will keep your thread separate and free from tangling, as well as making it far less bulky than a bobbin. You can store as many different colors on the cardboard as the amount of rows of slits you can cut, and you can also poke your needles into it in a way that they lay flat, saving space, and won't get lost. If you're really ambitious and organized, you can make one cardboard holder filled with string and two needles for each one of your cosplays. Then all you have to do is swap them out based on what you're wearing that day.
* Note: When measuring the thread, what I do is hold the end of the thread in my right hand and the bobbin in my left hand. I then pull the bobbin to around my neck or left shoulder. For me, this is a little less than three feet, and more than enough to stitch something up, even if I double the thread (tying both ends together after threading to make the thread thicker / stronger).
- I took my emergency sewing kit out of my mom's (formerly my grandma's) sewing cabinet, so you'd probably be better off making your own. I'd recommend Joann's or any other fabric store for thread and needles. Some craft stores, such as Micheal's also carry a few sewing materials, but not often. Walmart also has a small selection of thread and needles.
► Manicure Set - My manicure set is actually a part of my emergency sewing kit, which is very convenient, but, again, I don't know where to buy one of these. This is just a simple manicure kit, tweezers, nail file, and things to clean under your nails with (I don't know what the technical term is for those). Yes, I know I mentioned to bring a cheap nail file, I'd actually suggest one of those over the metal ones that come with most manicure kits, because the one sold in kits are usually metal, and could potentially cause problems with convention security if for any reason you happen to get your bag searched. Tweezers are handy for if you get splinters or a loose string that's too short to cut and too long to ignore. Cleaning under your nails is just polite, and sometimes I know I get stuff stuck under there that really bothers me, and there's no room for any unnecessary discomfort when cosplaying.
- As mentioned before, I don't know where this was purchased, but hese items can probably be found at Walgreens®, Walmart, Target, Ulta, or any place that regularly sells cosmetics.
► Miniature Roll of Scotch Tape - You never know when you'll need tape, and miniature things are always easier to carry.
- I believe I bought mine at Target during their annual back-to-school sale, but I'm sure they can be found other places, such as Walgreens® or Walmart, during their annual sales.
► Medications That You'll Need During the Day - If these are prescription, I would highly recommend taking a copy of your written prescription, not the original. I don't like to take the original of anything not easily replaced at conventions, except my ID, which stays on my body at all times. These meds will vary from person to person, of course. For example, I am lactose intolerant, yet I still eat and drink dairy products. Most of the time, I'm actually okay, but sometimes I get massive stomach cramps, so I have packed my Lactaid® pills, which allow me to eat dairy with no consequence. Anything like that, which is taken on a case-by-case basis, I pack two doses of. I would try to avoid bringing liquid medications as much as possible, and check convention rules to be sure they are allowed.
- Obviously, where you get your medications varies, but Lactaid® pills are sold at any drugstore, including Walgreens® and Walmart, just in case you were wondering.
► Pens, Pencils, & Other Writing Utensils - I have three pens - blue, pink, & purple -, a red pencil, and a silver Sharpie®. What you brig is up to you, but I suggest at least a blue or black pen, because they are easiest to read. I bring more than one pencil because I've ended up loaning them out to people at conventions before (they've always been returned :D ). The Sharpie® is in case I want somebody's autograph on something dark and they for some strange reason don't have one. The pencil is red because that's what I just threw in there. I'd personally rather have a regular-colored mechanical pencil and extra lead. the red pencil is mechanical, and i suggest mechanical so that you don't have to worry about carrying a pencil sharpener as well.
- Pens, pencils, and Sharpies® can be found pretty much everywhere, please don't make me list all of the places...
► Tide to Go Pen - Brand is unimportant, but Tide to Go is the easiest to find, other than store brands. This is obviously for any accidental spills on your clothes.
- I bought my Tide to Go pen at Walmart, because that was literally the only place that I could find it. Although, I suspect Target of hiding them from me.
► Hand Sanitizer - This may just be my inner germaphobe again, but there's nothing worse than touching something gross and feeling like miles away from the nearest sink. I have a Walgreens®-brand, spray-on hand sanitizer, but anything works in this case. Most people rely on Purell® I happen to like the spray one because it's easy to store with my pens and pencils, and it sprays the almost exact amount you need every time so you don't waste anything.
- These are found tons of places, especially in the winter and whenever there's a new flu (which feels like just about all the time in the US).
► Mints - For the love of Pocky, please bring mints! I beg of you! I have what are basically a cheap knock-off of Altoids as well as Listerine Strips®. Don't rely on gum because chewing it causes you to produce more saliva, which makes your breath worse.
- These can be bought a multitude of places, in fact, I bought my Altoid knock-offs at a convention! So please don't make me list places.
► Something to Write On - I carry a Death Note with me, but it's actually quite heavy for it's size and makes up over half of the current weight of my convention backpack, so I'm hoping to get something smaller and lighter.
- I bought my Death Note at Sanrio, yes, I know, hard to believe, but notebooks can be found anywhere.
► Random Rave Stuff - Glowsticks, light-up things, etc. I have Finger Laser Lights, which I have yet to use, and I keep them in ring boxes (the kind you get when you buy a ring or necklace).
- I bought my Finger Laser Lights at Hot Topic. Glow sticks and light-up things are sold at conventions, but they're pricey, so watch out.
Third (smallest) Pocket:
• Small Bag with one and a half pockets (one pocket is literally just for tissue), which includes:
(small / tissue pocket)
► Tissues - Just a small pack of pocket tissues. These go in the small pocket in the mini bag because the one I have is specifically for tissues.
(main / larger pocket)
(If you're a guy, you can skip this part)
► Feminine Care Items - I carry two full-sized pads, two panty liners (thin pads), two tampons, two feminine wet wipes, and two to three doses of Midol. Much like the first-aid kit, these should only be enough to get you secure enough to acquire more serious protection. If not for yourself, then for other girls who have forgotten such things. Even if you think you're cycle's not supposed to start or you're not on it, bring them. The one time you forget them, you will need them. I even have the bag for them on a chain attached to an easy-to-find place in the pocket so that all you have to do is un-clip the chain and you can take the bag into the bathroom. The bag that I have is shaped like a miniature purse, so you can also hang it on the back of the stall and don't have to hold onto it while taking care of business.
- The mini bag, I bought at Daiso Japan, feminine care items are most commonly found at Walgreens® and other drug stores, but you can also find them at Walmart and Target. The chain came with a purse, but I do not remember where I bought it, so you can buy chains at Hot Topic, or you can make one yourself by using an old necklace, a key ring, and a convention badge clip. You're smart, you can figure out how to do that.
On the Outside:
► Water Bottle - My backpack has a special pocket for a water bottle, so I use that for one and put any other in the main pocket. I'd actually like to get a reusable water bottle, but I haven't gotten the chance to yet.
- Find water bottles, including reusable ones, at any grocery store, though I'd hope you already have some in your house.
► Safety Pins - I pin them on the outside so that they're easy to find. Plus, they kind look cool. They've already saved one of my costumes, so now I refuse to go to a convention without them.
- I honestly don't know where my mass amount of safety pins came from, but I'd guess you could buy them at Joann's, a craft store, such as Micheal's, or Walmart.
I know it seems like a long list, but it's mostly small items. I can't say exactly how much I've spent on my convention backpack, as it is items I've accumulated over the years, but I'd guess that if you're nearing $50 for everything, you're spending way too much.
Also don't forget money, an emergency credit card (even if it's just a pre-paid one from Walmart), and some form of Identification. Also anything costume-specific, extra ACE Bandage Clips are a must-have for female crossplayers.
If you're staying the night in a nearby hotel, I'd suggest bringing a larger bag to leave in the hotel room that includes a complete feminine care bag, sewing kit, and first-aid kit.