We’ve learned a few tricks over the years to really get our tech pared down to the essentials. It’s true that we’re all a bunch of technologically savvy nerds, but we don’t have to break down and pack our entire command center of electronics for San Diego Comic Con.
Find out what we think attendees and small press (like ourselves) absolutely must-have in order to survive the convention’s long days – and well into the outside activities that take up most nights too.
Let’s be real, you weren’t ever going to forget your phone. It is the most important piece of tech that you’ll be carrying around with you at the convention, though it won’t always pick up the wifi and/or signal (mentally prepare yourself now). Used for pictures on the go, monitoring Twitter, and checking the schedule for the latest updates in the Comic Con app, make sure to keep your phone easily accessible because it will barely leave your hand. Which brings us to…
The only thing worse than not having wifi or service on your phone is your phone dying in the middle of your day or at an after hours party just when you find the VIPs. To combat that, we recommend that you pick up an external battery before the convention. We’ve been using Anker portable chargers for years and they’ve held up well enough that we recommend them to everyone.
There is also the FuelRod option, which people enjoy for the convention. For $20, you get a fully charged battery and adapters for your phone. You then have the option of keeping and recharging the FuelRod on your own or you can head to any kiosk station and swap your dead FuelRod for a fully charged one immediately at no cost.
Not to mention, small external batteries are becoming the hot new swag item for conventions. Last year, I was given a branded battery from one of the publishers promoting a book at SDCC. I’ve also seen them given away at NYCC and most recently BookCon, so let’s all hope this is a trend that lasts for a while. Keep your eyes peeled at SDCC and you might just pick up some extra juice when you least expect it.
Nintendo 3DS / Switch
We’ve long been encouraging people to bring their 3DS to conventions and San Diego Comic Con is no exception! Not only will you get plenty of variety in your Street Pass, but you’ll have something to do while waiting in line. And as a bonus, it’ll also keep you off your phone and keep it from running out of battery sooner!
However, with the introduction of the Nintendo Switch, we may have a new contender for the quintessential line buddy. Already we’ve vendors at PHXCC tabling and playing the Switch in their downtime, could SDCC be next? Plus, there is the ability to have multiplayer games going on the Switch and we’re almost guaranteed to see some Mario Kart tournaments in the Hall H line this year. Bring yours and be the first one to kick-off the all-night party!
You’ve got your phone charger, your 3DS charger, your camera charger, your laptop charger, your external battery adapter cord, and on and on and probably even more cords than that. Add your pile of cords to your roommates’ piles of cords and you’ve got the potential for a giant, tangled mess on your hands.
Pick up a cable organizer board with crisscrossing elastic to keep all of your cords organized and secure. I recommend the board because it’s relatively flat and can fit in your bag without taking up too much precious space and can still be carried around the con with all your essential cords easily accessible.
Powerstrip / USB Wall Charger
We’ve recommended a lot of electronics and will recommend even more on this list, make sure you can charge them all! There are notoriously few outlets in hotel rooms, be sure to pick up a powerstrip to ensure you have all the outlets you need and to make those hard-to-reach-behind-the-bed outlets a little bit more accessible. You know the ones we’re talking about.
Personally, I’ve gone from bringing a powerstrip to bringing a USB Wall Charger because most of my electronics can be charged by USB. I’ve gone back to my favored brand, Anker, with this 5 port USB charger, which is compact, easy to carry, and charges quicker than standard outlets. Neither option is incorrect, it’s a matter of how you charge your electronics and just how many things you need to charge nightly at SDCC.
Camera, SD Card (extra batteries)
While we’ve got a guide with some tips for using your cellphone for photography at conventions, there are times when that’s just not going to cut it. Panels come to mind for one – that zoom on your phone just doesn’t match what a camera can do – and cosplay groups are another instance when having a physical camera might be helpful.
Bringing a small, compact digital camera will be enough to fill in the gaps left by cellphone-only photography. More serious photographers, amateurs and otherwise, should definitely pack their DSLR camera to capture all of the amazing moments that make up San Diego Comic Con.
Small Press Specific
This section comes with the caveat that we’ve been doing press at conventions for years and we’ve found out what works for us through trial and error and upgrade!
For example, a camera with a large memory card is great for attendees without many more specifications, but as press you’ve got to make sure it’ll stay on for at least an hour (the usual length of roundtable interviews) without overheating and that your battery will last that long. For back-to-back roundtable interviews, make sure to pack extra batteries or have an easy way to charge your cameras!
We’re also less video heavy for one-on-one interviews, but I’ve seen a two-person team plug a microphone into an iPad and record video interviews for easy upload just like that. Microphones aren’t essential to us yet, as we transcribe most of our interviews, but there’s no denying that they help with sound quality. Hopefully this list gets you thinking about what’ll work best for you and any adjustments that need to be made for your outlet.
All that being said, let’s get into the good stuff of what you’ll need to pack to make your life just a little bit easier for those four insane days.
A tripod is essential for anyone planning to be in press roundtables. It’s going to put your camera right where it needs to be without getting in the way of anyone else’s recordings, keep your video stable (provided the talent doesn’t like to talk with their hands and jiggle the table too often), and you will look more professional without having to use notebooks, cups, or anything else to get the right angle for your shot.
We also recommend tabletop tripods over large, standing ones unless you have a camera person with you for ease of carrying and set-up. GorillaPods are popular and can be used in multiple ways outside of press roundtables, but can also be a bit pricey when it comes to picking out the right one. Personally, I picked up an UltraPod that has been serving me well for years.
I do a lot of one-on-one interviews at conventions, but I only just picked up an audio recorder last year and let me tell you: it is revolutionary. I’ve mastered the art of recorder in one hand and phone with questions in the other and it’s made things so much easier from where I started with everything done by phone.
The audio quality is better for posting (throw a mic on it for even better audio) or transcriptions and it leaves your phone free in case anyone interrupts with texts, alerts, or calls during recordings. Many people also opt to use audio recorders for showrunners and writers at press roundtables to conserve camera battery and there are times when video is not allowed. I picked up this refurbished audio recorder from Amazon and I have zero regrets.
For the first time, there was a press lounge last year at San Diego Comic Con. Beyond the food they provided (and which went nearly immediately), it was a place to sit down, write articles, and get breaking news out quickly. If you’re planning to do coverage of events the day-of or want to be the first to write about the Marvel panel in Hall H, bringing your laptop to the convention is essential. Make sure you pick the right convention bag to support your laptop and take advantage of their wifi in the press lounge.
For the same reason you’ll want your laptop, you may want to bring headphones with you in case you head to the press room or find a quiet spot to do some video editing. At conventions past, we’ve frequently edited and uploaded roundtable interviews to our Youtube page between press obligations. Honestly, any pair will do and can double as some quiet time during the con if you need it. We recommend earbuds just for space considerations.
There you have it, those are our essential tech recommendations for attendees and small press alike. While it seems like a lot, it packs down well (especially with a cord organizer!) and there is plenty of room in our bags to pick up swag as we walk the Exhibit Hall floor.
And don’t forget our most important tip of all: charge everything overnight so it’s ready to go in the morning for a full day of San Diego Comic Con activities!