Survival Gear for Battling 100,000 Nerds in a Desert

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Here comes CES and it's no cakewalk, let me tell you. It's more often like a slow-moving mosh pit than a electronics show, so the gear we carry can mean the difference between a smooth expo experience and utter failure.

To give you a better understanding of how I tackle CES—or any expo, really—I've emptied my bag to show you what I need to survive four days on the exhibition floor. If you frequent events like ComicCon, feel free to use this as a packing guide for your conference experience.

First off, redundancy is key. I want backup systems in place in case something fails. And something always fails. Or gets lost. Or breaks, leaving you unprepared.


1. Power Strip: Belkin 3-Outlet 918 Joule Mini - If I'm lucky, the press room has enough power strips for everyone. That's a big "if". Keeping my gear charged is imperative. The two USB ports on top keep my phones charged along with my laptop.

2. Main Phone: iPhone 4S - I add GroupMe, TextExpander, FTPtoGo, and other essential apps to the main home page. I also use a screen grab of my day's schedule as my Lock Screen so I can check it at a glance.

3. Red Pens: I use red felt tip pens to mark up any press releases I get. They write on anything and stand out when I'm rushing to the next meeting


4. Charger Case: Scosche switchBACK surge G4 - The iPhone won't make it through a day. Even if I turn off Bluetooth and dim the screen, I'll be lucky if it lasts until 5pm. A case that's also a charger is essential to keeping my phone powered until the after-parties start.

5. Secondary Phone: HTC Amaze - A backup phone is great. Plus, I can use it to tether if the dongle goes south. It too has GroupMe installed.


6. Eye Drops: Blink Tears - Visine is crap. If I was going to be smoking pot all day I'd use Visine. For actual dry eyes, I use Blink Tears.

7. Lip Balm: Carmex - I need moist lips. Las Vegas is a windy, dry, wasteland. And cracked lips suck.


8. Card Reader: Kingston 19-in-1 card reader - It accepts pretty much any drive smaller than a 3.5-inch floppy.

9. Various Thumb Drives: When you're sitting in a group writing and need to share a file without a network nearby, thumb drives become invaluable. Be sure to delete any files you have on them before you head out and be prepared to come home with fewer drives than you left with.


10. Audio Recorder/Video Camera: Zoom Q3HD - It's an incredible audio recording device that just happens to have an HD video camera. I can record just audio for interviews and, if I see something that should be captured on video, I'm ready to go.

11. Tiny Tripod: Joby GorillaPod - I can attach the Q3HD to it if I need to be in a video. It wraps around just about anything. Even my arm.


12. Headphones: iPhone Headphones - I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the universe that likes these earbuds. They fit perfectly and block out the din of the expo floor. These are needed to take calls and listen to product videos without constantly yelling, "What?"

13. My Bag: A MacAlly backpack - Unfortunately it's no longer offered on the MacAlly site. It has an internal pocket for my MacBook Air and plenty of space for all my random stuff. The main reason I like this bag is because it's slim, which lets me move more easily through the crowds than I could with some huge, bulky pack.


14. Computer: 13-inch i7 MacBook Air - It's light, powerful, and the battery lasts three times longer than my old MacBook Pro. A dead battery on the show floor makes for very unhappy editors, which makes for an unemployed Robbie.

15. Organization: Cocoon Grid-It - It's a flat board with a bunch of elastic bands on it. I'll put the Q3HD, GorillaPod, and even my eye drops in it. It keeps them organized and in reach, rather than jumbled at the bottom of my bag.


16. Storage: Seagate External HD - The MacBook Air's SSD is super fast but if I need to edit video or deal with a bunch of high resolution images, it just doesn't have the space. I can back up each day's work on the Seagate, keeping my SSD ready for tomorrow's files.

17. Cables: A small four-port USB hub and two each of the follow cables: miniUSB, microUSB, iPhone Cable. Also, a cable to tether my DSLR. I keep them all in a Ziploc bag for quick access and to keep them from getting tangled.


18. Medicine: Advil or store brand Ibuprofen. Good for headaches and sore muscles. And hangovers.

19. DSLR: Sony A700 (not pictured) - Frankly this could be any DSLR. As long as I can tether it to my MacBook Air, I'm good to go.


20. Foods: Power Bars and Sharkies (not pictured) - Sharkies are gummy energy snacks that I love. Power Bars because expo food is usually horrid.


21. Network: AT&T Dongle (not pictured) - Because being offline is not an option.

If you think I've missed something, give me a heads up in the comments.

Ideas from the comments:

22. Hand Sanitizer: I usually stay away from this stuff. But I'll be shaking so many hands at CES, I'm adding it to my kit.


23. Water: CamelBak - Okay, you guys convinced me. It's a good idea to bring my own bottle for maximum hydration. I usually just grab one at each vendor meeting. But it's better to be safe than dehydrated.