Nerd-How: The Convention Survival Kit.

Many of us as nerds will be making a pilgrimage to a convention at some point this year. Here I have compiled a list of things you may want to consider when going to a con. It will hopefully serve you well on your journey, whether its your first or hundredth convention.


Here we go!


A Rucksack/Backpack:

Marvel RucksackThis thing is going to be your best friend and your worst enemy. It will hold all of your stuff, but its going to be heavy. You’re going to need a big bag and it will serve as the holder of all your nerdy goods. As well as the stuff I’m about to explain to you, you’re going to need essentials such as clothes,a toothbrush and deodorant. DO NOT take thirteen t-shirts and five sets of pants, you won’t be needing them! Only pack the stuff you need, you’re going to need the rest of the space for your gear.

If you live near to where the convention is taking place, I wouldn’t suggest taking spare clothes with you, you can get changed at home the next morning. If you forget to pack clothes you aren’t necessarily done for, you could at least get a clean t-shirt from a stand selling them at the con. It’s not advised however. So definitely remember to pack clothes. To lighten your load, dump all non-con related materials in your hotel room before you head out. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes too, you’re going to be walking a lot.


Dollars!Oh yes, you will need money. As much as you can get your nerdy little hands on for one very simple reason: No matter what you’re in to, there will be something there you will want to buy. You know what they sell at conventions? EVERYTHING. And you will want it, for sure. I’m not saying you should take out a loan to go to a convention, just save a little bit every month in the run up to the con. You will be rewarded once you get to the convention and have a lot of money floating around.


A Schedule/timetable:

timetable for Kapow!If a schedule or time-table is available on the convention’s website, print it off before you go, it will serve you well to do so. Many cons may have a programme with a time-table in it, but the singular page you printed off is lighter and easily accessible from your pocket on a regular basis. The advantage of getting your time-table earlier off the website is that you can plan ahead. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed as soon as you get in to the con, there’s so much going on and you’ll be excited as hell that you’re surrounded by thousands of other nerds all sharing the same interests.



Your Comics:

comic stackThere are so many people who will sign your comics at cons, so pack as many as you can hold. This is the way I did it at Kapow! Comic Con last year: I checked the guest list for the convention. Then I went through my boxes and pulled out any comic I had with a guest’s name on. Categorise your comics in to piles of what you ‘have to’ get signed and what you’re not too bothered about getting signed, make sure you keep each writer/artist’s books together and now we are on to the next piece of kit.


A folder/file for your comics:

folder for filingKeeping your comics in a file or folder serves two purposes: Keeping your comics together and making sure other pieces of your kit don’t damage them. If you can get a file that has plastic sleeves/separators in it, that would be the best kind to have. You can separate them by writer/artist’s books this way, so as to not have to rifle through your folder to find books you need signing.


A phone:

old school phoneYou will need this! Especially if you’re in a big group and need to split up for some reason. Always have your phone handy. Simple.





old school cameraIf your phone has a good camera on it, you’re covered for this. If not, you will need a camera. As soon as you turn up without a camera you will regret it, there are so many awesome things that happen during conventions, you’ll want to pack a camera.





Light Snacks:

junk food!There’s nothing worse than needing food when queuing for signings. You can combat this by packing light snacks like chocolate bars and crisps (potato chips). You will want to keep your energy up too, the days can really take a tole on you and you need to stay as focused as possible. So food is a must.





A Wingman:

Arnie in PredatorAha! Your secret weapon! Your wingman can pick up the slack of your convention mission, let me give you an example of this, say… someone you want a signature from is signing at the same time as another person you really want to get a signature from. You’re going to have to choose which signature you want more and have a mini breakdown, right? No! Enter “The Wingman!” Give your other book to your wingman to get signed, you go to the signing you originally intended to go to. My girlfriend and I utilised this technique a couple of times last year! If you have an awesome wingman such as I did, your wingman may even step up and initiate the “Double Win”. This move is rare but if you can get it to work, it’s genius. This is what happened with the Double win:

My girlfriend had gone to a signing whilst I waited for a signing, she also took another book I had, just incase she got out of that line and was able to get to the line for the third signing. Luckily, the signing she had gone to was right next to the line she had to be in for the third book signing. She began to chat with a young man who was queuing in the line she would have to join after she had got the first of the two books signed. She simply asked the guy politely if he could get the second book signed for her. He accepted and got it signed, she thanked him when she got out of the line, and walked away with both books signed. Double win.

I think the moral of that story is, don’t be afraid to ask a stranger to get something signed for you. Nerds are nice people. Remember that!

So… That’s the convention survival kit done. Remember these items when you go and you will have an advantage over others who haven’t put in as much preparation as you have. And feel free to comment below or tweet me @ChrisTresson if you feel there’s something I’ve missed! I know the guys will consider my tips when doing “A CONvoluted Story” or at least I’d hope so!


Stay Nerdy!



About Chris Tresson

Chris Tresson – Hailing from the North West of merry ol’ England, Chris likes to read comics and spends his spare time writing and drinking too much coffee… In spite of his outwardly frightening appearance Chris is a very nice guy. We refer to him as our brother across the pond.

7 comments on “Nerd-How: The Convention Survival Kit.

  1. Nateal Erickson says:

    I know you’re focusing a lot on the Comic Convention side of things, but for those of us going to non-comic conventions, there’s a couple other things I would suggest.

    The e-Reader. Be it a full on tablet or just your Nook, if you’re going to be doing any amount of tabletop gaming, having any vital books available to you on PDF makes space already at a premium in your backpack a little easier to manage. Not to mention an iPad is much lighter to lug around than five or six gaming books.

    As far as money is concerned, I’d suggest keeping your spending money in cash form. I don’t know about other people, but I find it a lot easier to swipe my card and lose track of the vast amount of coin I’m burning through than if I have the physical money in my hand. When you run out of cash, you run out of spending money. Simple as that.

    Try to pack healthy snacks when you can. Chocolate bars may be delicious, but almonds or granola may be a bit better for you in a long day of geeking it up.

    The last thing I’d suggest is your portable gaming device! Sometimes you get in line and you’re not next to someone friendly or willing to chat with you. In that case, it’s nice to have some Pokemon in your pocket. ;)

    Great article, though, Chris! Was a truly enjoyable read!

    • Chris Tresson says:

      Hang on a second… There are non-comic related conventions??

      I’m just kidding, but as I try to focus on the comic side of things, I should have put *comic* in the title of this piece. But I’ll try to address your suggestions anyway.

      OK, the e-reader thing. I know these things are so much simpler to get around with you, but in my personal opinion, you can’t beat a physical copy of any type of printed media. Be that one of your game books, a novel or a comic book. Digital will forever be worthless in my eyes. Call me old fashioned, I just like the feel of a book in my hands, digital comics and books don’t excite me in the slightest. So an e-reader is more convenient, yes, but you will get people like me (at any convention) with the same opinion.

      The cost of these readers is also a factor, we can’t all afford one, and the die hard lovers of physical copies will outright refuse to change!

      Your point about money, I agree with paper over plastic every time.

      as for healthy snacks, it’s up to you to decide what you are going to eat. For me, I’d prefer to eat purely junk food and not really put too much thought into that side of things. The con weekend is a chance for people to let their hair down and have fun. Eating healthily would be my last concern. Plus junk food is readily available, if I wanted almonds or granola, I’d have to go out of my way to find them. Junk food is everywhere! But as I said, it’s totally up to the person.

      And finally, the portable gaming devices. I have to disagree with you here. No matter how tedious queuing up is at conventions, I didn’t once think, “Man, I wish I had my Game Boy!” I find it hard to believe there are unfriendly nerds out there, socially inept nerds may be, but not unfriendly! All you have to do is make an effort with others and they should warm up to you, I’ll leave you with an example of this…

      When I in line to enter the first day of Kapow! Comic Con, I’d talked to the two guys behind me but the guy in front of me was staying silent. It was a big queue, and I spotted a guy dressed as the flash, right at the back of the line. I tapped the guy in front of me on his shoulder, pointed to the flash and stated,

      “If he was really The Flash, He would have been here a lot sooner and probably in the convention already…”

      Instant conversation starter. Don’t let your shyness stop you!

      And thank you for the feedback Nateal, good to see people commenting!

  2. The Nerd says:

    Good suggestions no matter what type of convention you attend. Carrying cash is also preferable because a lot of the vendors don’t take credit or debit cards and there is nothing more frustrating that having to find an ATM at one of these crowded events.

    • Chris Tresson says:

      I agree cash is better than card, and sometimes it’s not necessarily the having to find a cash machine, it’s the time wasted queuing to use it, getting your money out before you enter is definitely the best idea…

      Thanks for commenting Bryan!

  3. Nicole Rivera says:

    Chris, awesome piece! You have me getting all excited for NYCC already and it’s still more than half a year away!! I have one more non-negotiable item, though, that ABSOLUTELY must be with me: my SKETCHBOOK! I actually do this instead of carrying my comics, so the trade off in weight is worth it. Not all artists will do sketches for free, but you would be surprised how many do. Also, others are worth the investment. My little book is turning into quite a collector’s piece I have sketches from Jeff Smith, Frank Cho, Michael Avon Oeming, Chrias Giarusso, Tom Raney, Peter Laird, Josh Middleton and a bunch more (I have just under 30 sketches since I started collecting them in ’02)! It’s really a fun collection to have and even the artists like flipping through it to see who’s been there. Of course, if you’re not careful, this (like so many things at the wonderful world of the con…) can quickly suck up your spending money.

  4. Chris Tresson says:

    Yes! That should have been on the list! I think I left it off because I don’t actually own one! This is the best suggestion I’ve had so far!

    Thanks for commenting Nicole!

  5. [...] Now that you know everything you need to in order to get all of your Aspen Comics gear, it’s time to get packing for the con! If you don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend fellow Nerd, Chris Tresson’s Nerd How: The Convention Survival Kit. [...]

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