Friday, June 6, 2014

Con Bags with Rob Donoghue and Monica Speca

I don't normally do multiple posts in a day, but I am so hyped about Origins next week that I couldn't wait to post this interview with Rob Donoghue and Monica Speca about their favorite con bags and accessories!


Tell me about your favorite bags. What do you like about them?
I travel with a Samsonite Tectonic Large Laptop backpack. It is the best damn thing I have ever purchased for travel. The bag is big enough for up to 4 days' worth of clothes, (maybe even more if you're good at packing efficiently) has well-cushioned pockets for your laptop and tablet, and a number of sizable pockets good for stashing all your stuff. It fits nicely into overhead compartments, so is good for a carry-on, but is also small enough that you can cram it under the seat in front of you. When I get to the con, the backpack then doubles as a vehicle for, say, gaming supplies, or carrying a spare pair of shoes along if I'm in costume.
When I cosplay, the backpack is usually for my street clothes, my computer, entertainment for the plane (if I'm flying) and anything I don't need to check.

What about bag accessories - water bottles, detachable pockets, organizers?
I don't use many of these, but maybe I should! Usually I carry any personal effects (wallet, keys, phone) on my person in my pockets as much as possible.

When I cosplay, it's not uncommon for me to carry a small purse or to bring along the aforementioned backpack... and foist it off on a friend of mine who isn't in costume. This is often the Significant Other's job. I also keep all my makeup in a little bag that goes in my checked suitcase if I'm flying. There's nothing particularly special about it. It has a zipper and enough space for me to cram all the cosmetics I'll need for the weekend in there. Note to self, though: look into getting a water bottle - staying hydrated is incredibly important when cosplaying.

Any must-have con tools of the trade?
For a gaming or general con-going, I highly recommend a solid backpack (you don't say!) or a messenger bag - depending on what you find most comfortable. I have a bad habit of losing purses or wallets, but I've never left something like a backpack or messenger bag behind.

For a cosplaying, I must say that the most valuable thing you can bring with you is a buddy! It's a good idea to have a partner around to help carry your stuff, touch up your wig and makeup and make sure that nobody walks off with your personal belongings while you're posing for pictures - especially if your costume is popular. Having a friend along can also help you to feel safer and more relaxed in really crowded spaces.


Tell me about your favorite bags. What do you like about them?

I currently have two favorites. For a sling bag, I love my Redoxx Gator. It's blocky and smallish, but it holds a ton with a lot of protection. It's designed to carry a very flexible kit, including a big camera, which makes it very versatile. My backpack of choice is the Timbuk2 Q-Laptop bag. In addition to one of the best laptop sleeve designs I've ever seen, it's the perfect balance between storage capacity and staying slim. Honorable mention goes to the Timbuk2 Slate backpack, which is amazing, but it can actually hold too much stuff, which is a problem.

The biggest danger you'll run into with a con bag is that you *will* fill it to capacity, and if that capacity is huge, then you will *kill* yourself walking around. So whatever bag you like, try to go as small as you think you can manage.

(And if you're uncertain, get a backpack. Your back will thank you. There are a million great brands these days, but don't buy based on reputation or what works for other peoples. A good backpack is like a pair of shoes - you need to try it on and choose for comfort. Bring your kit to a sporting goods store and load up whatever bag you're looking at, load it up, and walk around. The folks at the store will understand what you're doing, and you'll find something that actually suits you.)

What about bag accessories - water bottles, detachable pockets, organizers?

I have a few bags that use the MOLLE system of tactical loops, but I mostly just use them to hold pens. I know some people swear by them, but I am very nervous about having things clipped on the outside of my bag in any crowded venue. There is simply too much jostling and bumping for me to feel comfortable.

Instead, I am a huge proponent of using smaller bags and containers *inside* my bag. Exactly what kind doesn't matter - get what you like and what you can afford, and the distribution depends on your needs but, for example, I have in my bag:

* A very durable pencil box with all my writing utensils
* A zipper pouch with all my cables
* A dice bag
* A zipper pouch for index cards and tokens

This means that it's easy for me to change bags if I need to, and also makes it easy to find things, since the only things knocking around loose in my bag are books, notebooks and other easily grabbable things.

If you have a water bottle pocket in your bag, then use it, but do so carefully. Make sure that the size of the bottle matches the size of the pocket well enough that it won't EVER fall out, even if upside down. If it's not that snug, then don't carry it full - just use it to drink from when you find a water source. Similarly, use something that can take abuse. A leak is a real problem at a con.

Any must-have con tools of the trade?

* At a big convention, check the convention swag and see if they're selling branded badge holders. if so, take a good look. Sometimes they're cheap and decorative, and you can ignore those, but sometimes they've got enough storage to serve as extra pockets. If you can find one of those, BUY IT. You can often run an entire con out of one of those things.

* Bring a travel power strip. Your hotel room is not going to have enough outlets for all the nerd to charge all their toys, to plan for this.

* Poo-Pourri works. I will not delve into the details of this, but if you are sharing a room, your roommates will thank you.

* Bring quarters. A lot of randomly useful things, like lockers and carts and vending machines can be real lifesavers, but only if you have quarters to use them

* Inexpensive business cards are trivial to make these days, so feel free to bring some, but if you do, think about how you want to use them. There is a difference between "Find out more about me and my brand!" and "You are awesome, we should be friends". That doesn't necessarily mean you need 2 cards, but it does mean you need to think about how you USE your cards.

* Bring handi-wipes. If you don't need them, great. But if you do, then you will *NEED* them. Little pump bottle of hand sanitzer is less dramatic, but equally useful

* If you pack anything liquid (like hand sanitizer) put it in a ziploc. As noted above: Leaking is for the birds.

Thanks to both Rob and Monica for their answers and info! Super cool!

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