A backpack lover’s guide to doing comic conventions

After a few years of serious searching and a lot of trial and error, I can definitely say that the large expandable Knack Pack is the best bag I’ve used for traveling to AND exhibiting at a comic convention. Not to mention it’s a perfect solution for just about any trip, short or long.

Problem: Too Many Bags

I hate having to take 4 different bags when going to a convention. But I haven’t been able to find an expandable bag that can hold a TON when traveling from home to the hotel, be compact enough to get through enormous crowds at the show yet still big enough to hold oversized books and be attractive.

As a guest for this year’s Washington State Summer Con I was able to drive up to the show and not worry about cramming EVERYTHING into a couple of checked bags under 50 lbs each. But that doesn’t mean I wanted to load the truck up with a ton of stuff either, so most of my table merch went into a few bins, clothes went into a small carry on roller bag and all of my misc. personal and tech stuff (as well as a couple stacks of books) went into the Knack Pack.

Packing for Seattle

For the trip up to Seattle I was able to fit two stacks of hardcovers plus my cable / charger / square organizer in the large expandable compartment. My iPad slid easily into the padded side access laptop pocket in the back of the bag. Lots of miscellaneous items went into the top loading large compartment for organizing at the hotel for the show (more on that in a minute), and then glasses and keys went into the small top quick access compartment. The books made it heavy, but the strap padding made things as comfortable as possible.

After unloading the truck and setting up at the convention center, it was off to the hotel to unpack and reset the Knack Pack for use at the show. No need for the large compartment now, so that’s zipped up to make the bag nice and compact. My change pack (not everyone uses credit cards!) and cable organizer went into the large top loading area with plenty of room to spare for anything I’d pick up later. The rest of the contents can be broken down into general tips for what to bring, whether you’re exhibiting or walking around having fun:

What to Bring to a Con

-SNACKS! – Con food is expensive, so have some nuts, energy bars, fruit chips or general sweets to keep your energy up in between full meals. Don’t bother with the horrendous $14 cheeseburgers, go out after the show and enjoy a nice dinner instead. Knack Packs have a rather large zippered pocket at the bottom of the bag that can easily accommodate a few big zip locks full of goodies.

-WATER! – Better to go with water than any carbonated beverages. You never know how much your bag will get shaken up while making your way through the crowds. You’ll find a nice hidden drink holder accessible via zipper on the side of the bag. It’s big enough to hold pretty much any bottle, and I just love how you don’t have an unsightly stretchy pocket sitting there when not in use.

-BATTERY BACKUP (and charging cables)! – An absolute must for convention centers. Your phone may be working overtime to try and connect to cellular or wifi due to wonky coverage that changes from year to year and can go down with giant crowds. Don’t expect to find an empty power outlet to plug into, bring your own power! The small top zippered pocket on the front of the bag is perfect for quick access to a battery and cable, but if that’s packed with your sunglasses and keys then the front triangular panel is just as good, with plenty of room to spare.

-MULTIPLE COLORED SHARPIES & A NOTEBOOK! – You’ll kick yourself if you run into your favorite artist or celebrity and don’t have something for them to sketch in or sign with! The front panel has a ton of slots made specifically for pens and markers, and pockets that can hold pretty much any sized notebook.

-PLENTY OF EXTRA BAG SPACE! – You’ll end up buying too much stuff and smaller vendors rarely have bags. The expandable section is perfect to hold a bunch of books or action figures, freeing up your arms to look for more good stuff to buy. Even if you don’t pick up a lot, there’s plenty of space in the “regular” backpack area to hold your stuff.

See You in San Diego!

Keep an eye out for some photos from San Diego Comic-Con International at the end of July. I’ll be able to put the Knack Pack through its paces as a carry on as well as getting through some insane crowds!!

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