Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dragon*Con Survival Guide, 2011

These are the basics of making it through the con intact. For a more Dragon*Con-specific guide, see this Tumblr post from a seasoned veteran. Oh yeah, and there’s an app for that.

The con experience is a wonderful thing, full of grand adventure and glorious comraderie. However, like any adventure worth having, something somehow somewhere is going to go wrong at some point, and we stalwart explorers of geekdom must be prepared. To that end, the all-important Place to put your Shit should  be packed with carefully chosen supplies for every eventuality. Ultimately, your con survival kit should look an awful lot like your apocalypse survival kit. Don't make that face, you know you have one. For all intents and purposes, the convention floor is a wasteland, and you should prepare for your con weekend as you would a trek across the sands of Arakis.

 First Aid
Though it's highly unlikely that you'll get stabbed in the eye with a pencil, minor cuts, scrapes, and blisters are a real risk when you're tottering around in your costume, surrounded by thousands of people. There are paramedics and first aid stations scattered around, but it's a good idea to carry a few basic first aid supplies for quick fixes.

-Band-aids. Duh. Con-induced injury can come in many shapes and sizes, however, so bring a few different types with one or two of each.
-Cleansing wipes. Because sometimes things get gross.
-Hand sanitizer. See above.
-Antiseptic cream. For the especially nasty cuts.
-Nail clippers and small nail file. Partly for vanity, yes, but also to deal with broken or jagged nails, which hurt like all hell and can do some harm if not taken care of. Nail clippers are also useful for trimming stray bits of thread or opening tricky packages.
-Aspirin and/or Ibuprofen. You can get both of these in travel-size bottles or in individual packets. I'm prone to migraines, so I tend to carry knock-it-on-its-ass aspirin, anyway. If you have to choose one or the other, though, go for the Ibuprofen, as that will also help you with muscle pain.
-Tampons/panty liners. Seriously. You just never know.

Most pharmacy departments carry small, portable first aid kits, which I would definitely recommend picking up. The whole kit is a little overkill for con, though, so pick out the things you need and find a safe, secure place to keep it in your bag.

Food and Water
Any con survival guide worth reading will tell you to carry snacks and stay hydrated. Some small cons have  food suites, and it's worth paying a little extra overhead on your badge price for access to quick, easy food and water. At the big cons, though, you're out of luck. There are usually food and drink kiosks scattered around, but you don't want to learn the hard way what eating from a cart for three days will do to your wallet and your stomach. Here are a few suggestions for keeping yourself fed and watered.

-Bottle of water. I cannot stress enough how important this is. And, to all you soda drinkers out there, I have  some bad news: Your precious sugary beverages will not hydrate you. In fact, drinking lots of soda throughout the day is worse than drinking nothing at all. You'll also find yourself needing frequent trips to the bathroom, which cuts into your fun time and makes those long panels super uncomfortable. If you're driving, I reccommend picking up a BPA-free water bottle and filling it from water fountains throughout the weekend. If you're flying, pick up some bottled water at a convenience/grocery store and do the same.
-Trail mix, granola, or nuts. You want snacks that are tasty, filling, and easy to pack, and all of these fit the bill. Nuts have lots of protein, which will help keep you nourished and fill you up. If you're getting/making trail mix or granola, try something with dried or fresh fruit, since the sugar will give you an extra boost.
-Fresh fruit. A little more substantial than snack mixes, with a different set of vitamins, and generally easy to pack. If you want things that need to peeled, like oranges or bananas, you might want to do that in advance, just so you're not stuck holding the remains and looking for a trash can. If you've got juicy fruits, like peaches or pears, keep a napkin handy.
-Candy/cookies. Yes, we all need our processed sugar fix. Avoid things with wrappers, though, (see above) and go for candy pieces you can stick in a ziplock, like M&Ms, Skittles, etc. For cookies, stick a few in a ziplock rather than lug the whole package around.
-Sandwiches and such. If you're driving, go ahead and pack some sandwich fixings and utensils, or anything else to make a quick, portable meal. If you're flying, unfortunately, this isn't really an option.

These are mostly tips to keep yourself fed during the actual con events. For dinner, once all the hoopla has died down for the night, ask around for local restaurants, especially if you're in new city and your bank account can handle it. It's an adventure, remember. Try something new!

Sewing Supplies and Sundries
Like I said, something, at some point, is going to go wrong, and when it does, it's likely to be with your costume. Still, you don't want to be carrying your entire sewing kit around all weekend. You want to have a few small, essential tools on hand to deal with the inevitable rips, gaps, and general falling apart of things.

-Safety pins, the cosplayer's best friend.
-Thread to match your costume. You can use a bobbin spool or just wind a length of thread around a piece of cardboard. Either way, you want to carry some thread with you for quick fixes.
-A needle. Just the one. and you'll want to stick it through a piece of card stock or paper so you don't just have a sharp object floating around in your bag.
-Small scissors. You can find these in many travel-sized sewing kits, or you could just grab some kiddie scissors.
-Seam ripper. Because sometimes you need to get out of things in a hurry.
-Bobby pins. For hair emergencies, obviously, but they can be handy for securing wayward costume pieces, as well. Again, you may want to slide them onto some cardstock to avoid fishing around, and bring different sizes, if you have them.

Because you really just never know.

-Ink pen and sharpie. In case you run into that guy from that show and need something signed STAT.
-Business cards and/or small notebook. If you're doing it right, you'll meet tons of awesome people and hear lots of awesome things. You'll want to exchange information and take notes. The ink pen will also help with this.
-Comb/brush and compact mirror. For emergencies.
-Stain remover pen. These things are a life saver and can rescue your costume from food-smeared doom.
-Lighter. Okay, I'm a smoker, so I have, like, two or three on hand at all times, but lighters are good for a lot more than giving you cancer. You can use them it to seal the ends of frayed ribbon or string, sterilize a needle for pulling out splinters, or get a gummed pen working again. And, y'know, fire is cool.
-Camera. As much as it pains me to be leaving my lovely DSR at home, you don’t want to be lugging a giant camera around. Go for something small with lots of memory, decent megapixels, and a wrist strap.

This is what my basic survival kit looks like, and, remarkably, most of the items pictured fit neatly into that tiny zippered bag.

It's always a good idea to bring whatever other Just In Case items you might think of, but bring the things that, if you need them, you're going to REALLY need them. Extra pair of underwear for unforseen... circumstances? Definitely. Those super sexy boots that you might want if you decide to go out? Not so much.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember to share. If you're lucky enough to be going with a group and sticking together, consolidate your survival kits. Even if you're not with a group, if the person behind you in line has a sudden wardrobe malfunction, offer them a safety pin. If the person selling you comics gets a papercut from your purchase, give them a bandaid. If somebody's kid is crying because they're tired and hungry, don't grumble about annoying children, share your damn candy. This shit is cheap, y'all. There's no
reason to be stingy. As the wise man said: Don't be a dick.

You can follow the official Dragon*Con Twitter @daily_dragon and Facebook page for info and updates. For less informative but possibly more entertaining Twittering, follow me @joxwest, and, if you see Sabine or I, feel free to come up and tell us how great we look. Yes, I’m giving you permission to stalk us.

To the con, fellow cosplayers! It’s time for adventuring.


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