I had every intention of writing this before Dragon*Con, since all five of you who read this blog regularly go to Dragon*Con and probably could have used it. But alas, school.
But convention season isn’t over (is it really ever over?), and even though I’m also a little late for those of you going to Anime Weekend Atlanta, I introduce to you: the con box. This handy little invention is not mine; I first came across it on ConSluts, which has a wonderful entry about them. I’m probably going to repeat some of the information in that article, but I’ve got a few additions and remarks of my own. Essentially, a con box contains everything you need to make your convention experience an enjoyable one. As with the other parts in this series, I’m writing this from the point of view of someone staying at a hotel during a convention, but this advice can be adjusted for those living out of their car. Also, many of the elements of a con box are equally wonderful for vacationers. I took mine with me when I stayed in a condo at the beach this summer, and it was positively indispensable.
The first thing you need to make a con box is, well, a box. Specifically, a durable box with a handle. I use a 10-gallon storage container (that you can see in the picture), but you may want to use something bigger, as a 10-gallon container is not actually that big. I just happen to be exceptionally good at packing things. I hum the Tetris theme while I do it. Anyway…I digress.
The next thing you need to make a con box is a first aid kit. This should be the first thing you put in your con box and the one thing you should never go to con without. To put it simply, shit happens. The American Red Cross and Ready.gov have some pretty good guides on what should go in your first aid kit. You can also purchase pre-packaged basic first aid kits in most pharmacies. That’s what I have in my con box, and I supplement it with things like allergy medications, decongestants and antacids.
After you have your first aid kit squared away, you want to focus on the tools you use regularly but never seem to have on hand when you’re at a convention: things like scissors, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a can opener…the list can continue depending on your needs. I also recommend keeping a multi-tool such as a Leatherman in your con box. This allows you to have (at a minimum) screwdrivers, a small knife and pliers on hand in a very small space. Some more expensive ones also have bottle openers, can openers and corkscrews on them, so you might even be able to hit all of your tools at once. Always bring dedicated scissors, though. Just trust me on this.
The third category of items that you should have in your con box are sewing and clothing care items. At a minimum, keep a small sewing kit (with a couple of needles, a couple of generic spare buttons, small amounts of thread in several colors and some safety pins), a stain-removal pen and some Febreeze in your con box. If you have any costumes that you plan on wearing, you might want to include additional thread that matches it, in case you need to do any repairs. The stain-removal pen and the Febreeze should be self-evident. Conventions can be messy, smelly places.
If you plan on bringing any food, like I suggested in Part 2, you will also want to include things like plates, cups and utensils (disposable or reusable–no glass). My plates and utensils are inexpensive, reusable plasticware from Target ($1 each for a set of 4 plates and a set of 4 knives, spoons and forks). If you go the reusable route, you may also want to bring a small bottle of dish soap or some disposable dishwashing cloths. Continuing on the kitchen and clean-up train of thought, you should also pack 3 or 4 garbage bags, some plastic zipper bags (both sandwich and gallon-sized), some wet wipes and a cocktail shaker (it’s useful for more than just cocktails).
The article at ConSluts also recommends including an umbrella, CDs burned with music and a large insulated cup with a lid. Of these, the umbrella is the only thing I keep in my con box. I never have time to listen to music while I’m at a convention, nor do I have cause to provide any. The cup with a lid is something that, if you pay attention, you will see many people carrying around many of the larger “geek” conventions. Let’s just say that they’re not intended to contain water or coffee, so you can make that call on your own. I do drink at conventions, but I prefer not to spend the entire show in a stupor. Sleep deprivation does that well enough on its own.