Picking the right convention bag can be hard.
In a lot of ways the bag you carry with you is something of a lifeline. It’s the place you’ll stash all your awesome swag. It’s where you’ll keep any snacks you bring with you. It’s where you’ll have all the other things you #CantConWithout.
Everyone has an opinion on what bags are best, but you’ll figure out your own personal preferences through trial and error.
I’m not here to necessarily give you any specific recommendations. I’m just here to get you thinking about just what kind of bag you want to carry around with you. This is an item you’ll be lugging around all-day, everyday so don’t just assume any old bag will do.
So here’s some things to keep in mind when picking your con bag.
Pick Something Comfortable
The number one most important thing you should consider when picking your con bag is how you’re going to feel at night after carrying it around all day. Depending on how far your hotel is from the convention center you might not get much of a break in between panels, walking the floor, and the tons of other activities. That bag will be resting on your shoulders and digging into your back for as many as twelve hours each day – or potentially even longer!
You want to bring a bag that you know will be comfortable. You don’t want something with uncomfortable straps. If you’re bringing a messenger bag, go with something with decent padding. If you’re going with a backpack, pick something with decent support. Try out new bags if you’re thinking about getting something new. Don’t just order a cute bag off Amazon and throw it in your carry-on.
Comfort is key. Trust me, you don’t want to be that person who has to miss out on anything because your shoulders are in too much pain after a day of con-going.
Pick Something Practical
Another thing to consider is just how practical is it to get the bag you want to use to San Diego? Not all of us live in California. A lot of us will be flying. Do you really want to have to wad up your super-wide Captain America shield backpack in order to kick it under the seat in front of you for your flight? If you’ll be traveling to SDCC you need something that can either a.) be counted as a carry-on or b.) easily fit into checked luggage (and if you don’t want to pay any checked luggage fees you’ll be bound by the former).
Also: do you really want to buy a bag solely for conventioneering? If you’ve already got a good backpack for some other purpose you might as well use that instead of going out and buying some fancy licensed bag.
And don’t think that you can’t use the bags SDCC hands out. They aren’t the most comfortable but they are convenient and you’ll hardly be the only person with one.
Let Your Nerd Flag Fly (But Safely)
If you’re smart and putting comfort and practicality first, you do run the risk of having a very boring backpack. I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to find a cool, nerdy backpack. If you’re going the messenger bag route then no worries. There are tons of awesome messenger bags among the officially licensed merchandise of any number of TV shows, anime series, and more.
With backpacks, though, you need to get more creative. You can add patches, keychains, or – if you’re super crafty – custom painted designs to your everyday, ordinary backpacks. You should have fun with it. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. Too many heavy keychains will weigh you down. They can also be a safety hazard for you or others. Therese has this a Loki helm keychain and she will be the first to tell you that you could probably kill a man with it (or at least seriously maim him).
So decorate to your heart’s content – just be careful with what you pick to adorn your bag.
Don’t Try to Carry Everything Around With You
Limit what you are carrying with you at the convention. You don’t need to bring everything you own to the convention center. Focus on the essentials. If you plan on buying stuff then also plan on finding a way to take it all back to your hotel before getting on with the rest of your day. I understand that you might not want to miss any more of your day than already have standing in line for whatever exclusive merchandise it was you had to buy but you’re not doing yourself – or anyone else – a favor by carrying it around.
Figure out what you absolutely have to have with you. Then find away to offload any extra weight you might pick up along the way.
Supplement with a Poster Tube
This recommendation is pretty self explanatory. If you want to pick up posters – a very common freebie at SDCC – you’ll want to get a poster tube. Don’t worry about bringing one to the convention with you if you don’t already have one. Blick usually has a booth where you can pick them up for pretty cheap. And they come in a variety of different colors!
But remember – a poster tube is another thing to carry around. If you get a smaller one it’ll be easier to consolidate it or strap it to the side of your backpack. But it might not fit all the posters you get. So keep that all in mind when considering the poster tubes.
Okay, so, now it’s time for me to get on my soap box for a moment. I am totally okay with people bringing backpacks and messenger bags and other bags into SDCC. Their bags aren’t really the most comfortable. I get that.
But I need you guys to all do me and everyone else around you a favor: be careful with your bags.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Do not carry a massive backpack that’s going to expand a foot or two behind you. (If you need one that expands get one that expands up behind your head.)
Do not run around with reckless abandon and a disregard for the safety of others.
You and your backpack have the potentially to really hurt someone. In your haste you could knock someone over or seriously injure them. Last year a fellow blogger wound up in the ER after someone at a bus stop fractured her wrist with their overladen backpack while rushing past.
If you’re going to bring a bag – especially a bigger one – just be careful. Watch out for the people around you. I know it’s not easy sometimes in big crowds but the exhibit hall floor and pretty much any other place inside or outside the convention center will be absolutely packed. You’re responsible for yourself and your items. So take care and watch out for your fellow con-goers
With these things in mind you are prepared to go out and pick the best con bag possible.
You might not get it right the first time around. Sometimes it takes trial and error. For you SDCC newbies out there, nothing beats experience. If you pick the wrong bag and find yourself in a fetal position lamenting your choices and your sore shoulders/backs/etc. you’ll just be all the wiser at your next convention.
After a couple years and a half dozen conventions, I have personally settled on a small daypack I also use for some hiking trips. But some people carry nothing more than a simple purse. Figure out what best suits your needs and remember: you’re one of literally tens of thousands. Be courteous and careful with your bags out there.