Tempest’s Con Survival Guide – Food to Pack

Posted on Mar 18 2012

10 years of anime con-going experience has taught me a lot: how to survive on little sleep with noisy roommates, how to get from one panel on the bottom floor to the next on the fourth floor in under a minute, how important packing your own food is, etc.

This first guide will teach newbie and veteran con-goers how to pinch a few pennies and manage a balanced diet during a weekend of pure adrenaline.

First, be prepared for any situation.

Assume you will not have most basic necessities. Though many hotels provide modern conveniences in the rooms, you may wind up in the crappy hotel half a mile from the con center that barely has running water and electricity.

Assume your hotel does not have the following:
• A refrigerator
• A microwave
• A coffee machine

That means everything you bring to eat must be non-perishable, without requiring heat. That means no ramen, unless you know for a fact that the hotel room at least has a coffee maker.

But as you walk through the aisles of the grocery store, you’ll be amazed at everything that requires either boiling water or a microwave to make. What’s left to consume?

Snacks, my friend. Healthy snacks.

The best mindset to have is that you will be eating lots of little snacks throughout the day to keep your energy up. Don’t imagine sitting down to a nice big meal – you’re at a con. You can eat fancy when you’re at home.

The basics to have in your lunchbox:
 o Beef/turkey jerky (one to two packages)
 o Or dried edamame (one package should last more than the weekend)
Fresh fruit (something durable – not bananas)
 o Apples (typically 2)
 o Oranges (typically 2)
Breakfast bars
 o Nutrigrain bars or their healthier counterparts (one box)
 o Trail mix bars, if you don’t have a nut allergy (one box)
Something heartier
 o V8 cans, reduced sodium (3 small cans)
 o Whole grain crackers or pretzels or cracker crisps (one box)
Fun things
o Pocky, Ramune soda, mochi – whatever strikes your fancy at a con.

What the hell is edamame?

Edamame the Japanese word for “soybean.” It’s tofu in its natural form and a vegetarian source of all 10 essential amino acids. Unlike tofu, it has a taste that is really lovely. When dried, it has a consistency like really pleasant peanuts and a taste a bit like popcorn meets peas. It’s bizarre, but a salty, wonderful and healthy snack to have on you.

You can find dried edamame in most grocery stores. I’ve found it in unusual places like TJ Maxx.

Remember nut allergies.

This is VERY IMPORTANT: make sure no one in your hotel room has a strong nut allergy. If someone does, buy foods that don’t contain nuts or else avoid consuming anything with nuts in it while in the room.

But I don’t like V-8!

Oh god, stop complaining. Trust me – when you’ve eaten your sixth breakfast bar, you will be starving for something that ISN’T sweet. And as far as I’ve seen, V-8 is the only condensed vegetable-like-thing that doesn’t require microwaving or boiling.

Eat crackers with it when you’re starving for real food and it will suddenly become the nectar of the gods.

Food meets travel.

Now the amount of food I mentioned above would be killer to drag around on you at a con. I tend to stick two breakfast bars and a bag of edamame into my con bag as I work through the day. I take short breaks two or three times a day to run to my hotel room and replenish my supplies.

Make friends.

Also, it’s always a good idea to bring extra food. Here’s the scenario: you’re a smart, wonderful, prepared person who thought ahead and brought food. Surrounding you are like-minded individuals who did not consider food ahead of time, who are starving for something other than a doughnut. You give them food and they look at you in awe. Insta-friends.

This is also a good thing to keep in mind in case someone has a food-related condition: low blood pressure, low blood sugar or anemia. If a stranger or a friend should collapse, which happens far too often in the rush of cons, you have your own food-based medical kit on hand to help. And then you’re a hero, like Kamina!

Got any questions or concerns? A pat on the back for me? Also, should I include pictures next time? Comment below.

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  • Kibs March 18, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Hellno, I’m not sharing my food with creepy Otaku. Also I’m fairly certain Kana and I have very different con habits. V8? Gag me with a spoon, I’ll take water, thank you.

  • Kanashimi March 18, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    Yeah, I can’t eat 80% of the things listed without throwing up or getting sick. Pretzels and beef jerky being the exception, however they’re both very dry foods that I don’t consider sweet. Beef jerky is also something that can take awhile to eat and can be messy if it breaks apart or if you can’t break it apart because it’s too tough. I suppose different strokes for different folks.

    I’m not against bringing snacks much like you would in a school lunch, but most important is water. Maybe it’s living in the desert for so long, but water is generally what keeps me together. If you don’t have enough in your system you’re going down either way.

    While convention food can be overpriced a lot of conventions still offer fruit. AM2, Consumer Electronic Show, Anime Vegas, etc. In contrast they also offer candy bars, too. So it’s up to the attendee to pick what their body would do better with.

    We’ve seen people at conventions pass out, usually due to a mixture of eating ONLY pocky and lack of sleep (whether due to partying or sleeping in the hallways). I think the most successful convention you can have is one planned. You get up at 7 AM, get there at 8:30 AM, and leave at least by six or seven. Remaining at a convention until two in the morning to do everything and then doing it again for another day seems far more damaging to your psyche and everything else versus eating bad snacks (granted, they’re not aiding the situation either).

    In addition to that, some people who spend these insane hours at conventions do so in costumes that haven’t been aired out, they haven’t taken a bath to rest their muscles (or clear their sinuses as the case may be), are forcing their feet in high heels all three days without any extra measures to relieve them, wearing excessive make-up when their not used to it (can lead to dried out skin), not wearing sun screen if they’re out and about for photoshoots, and so on.

    Really, people just need to be smarter about what they do at a convention. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re in pain, go to first aid. If you’re feeling faint, sit down with a friend to monitor you or alert security.

    tl;dr – Though I think for someone extremely healthy your list of snacks would work for them, it should be adjusted for those who can’t eat those foods. I also think con-goers should consider other aspects to ensure they’re in good shape for a convention since you can technically still eat junk food and take good care of your body in other ways.

    • Kayarath March 19, 2012 at 12:11 AM

      Eating only pocky at a con is ridiculous and dumb! What about the mochi?

      • Tempest Wind March 19, 2012 at 6:54 PM

        Mochi is technically red beans and sugar with a doughy, rice-based substance wrapped around it. Though that technically constitutes a generic food-source for most of us, it has too much sugar in it to be really anything substantial. I can’t imagine anyone living off the stuff for three days — it takes me days to get through a package and after I’ve eaten two mochi, I don’t want to see another one for days.

    • Tempest Wind March 19, 2012 at 6:52 PM

      I’m sorry, Kana, but I don’t understand what you mean by “leave” the convention. One does not simply walk out of Mordor– a convention. One is at a convention and remains. =) That’s what hotels are for — the party doesn’t ever stop.

      Also, coming from a performing family, one must make sacrifices for the sake of cosplay. I try to wear comfortable clothes, but I understand people who wear heels until their feet become mostly blisters and I also understand slathering onesself in makeup.

      You bring up an excellent point about water though. That’s why they have so many water coolers EVERYWHERE at cons. I always make sure to have a big jug of water with me at all times too.

      I had no idea beef jerky was that expensive! XD That’s what I get for being vegetarian and trying to offer equal-opportunity advice. I’m afraid that I don’t know many alternatives for people who have a limited food range. I just understand nutrition and the need to have food on hand that doesn’t require preparation. Any other suggestions are appreciated!

      • Kanashimi March 20, 2012 at 3:44 AM

        lmao, most of the time we go to conventions we leave to get a decent meal (and generally we will still have a hotel).

        Though water coolers aren’t really a viable option for every convention either. A lot of bigger conventions won’t offer these because the price is so insane, the same goes for smaller conventions that won’t think about it since they are so small, etc.

        I understand wearing something that might be uncomfortable for a convention, but I do think some people just take it to extremes that might hurt their body, not taking a bath in-between to relax themselves, or even having a cool down day where they wear normal clothing. I used to cosplay a lot my first five or six years of conventions, but considering the press side of things it’s become too much of a hassle (and I still need to wear tight fitting clothes, dresses, heels, and make-up to look professional). However before a big convention I’ll wear high heels around the house to get my feet back into the feel of it, I’ll prepare band-aides just in case, etc.

  • christmas4477 March 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    As much as I love beef jerky, it’s too expensive to be practical in large amounts. Crackers are good, but bags of various cereals you have lying around could be just as handy to munch on while you’re sitting at a panel. If you’re going to grab food anywhere near a convention, aside from planning around panels, try to go when it’s not actually mealtime so you avoid crowds. Don’t try to go to the local Chinese/Japanese place that happens to be right next door or in a nearby mall. You won’t be leaving anytime soon.

  • nerdwerld March 19, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    One time at a con far away I survived on nothing but, Pocky.However funny story aside, I typically pack nuts (peanuts, because they are quick protein), nutritional bars (mostly granola bars with chocolate chips), pretzels (got to have my fix), and assorted snack such as Doritos (usually to share with friends, since I’m the one buying the grub). Although Beef jerky itself is expensive, Slim Jim’s or off brand fake-jerky is fine, especially the stuff with cheese. They aren’t that expensive typically, and give you that extra boost.
    For drinks I typically do water over anything, but if I want to diversity there is always cool-aid packets, lemonade, and juice (funny story is typically is brought with me.

  • MidnightDevont March 20, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    I follow a very main events based schedule at most cons. This also means a lot of line waiting, something I ALWAYS carry with me is at least one or two apples at a time in a plastic baggie hidden away in whatever purse/backpack I’m carrying with me. I almost passed out last AB but i stopped, sat down, ate my apple and I was fine for the next few hours until i could slip away and hit up a restaurant.
    What i find is important is always to listen to your body at a con. Also bring other tiny things to snack on, Beef Jerky, Nuts, Cheese it’s, anything you can toss into a small baggie and go. If you don’t like this, stop by a food court nearby the con and take your food to the event with you, I’ve spent more then a few masquerades powering down a Sandwich picked up on the fly or some Asain noodles.

  • Siege March 20, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    I guess I’m lucky, having only gone to conventions with easy-access fast food 😛

  • […] on that won’t slow you down or get your off of your busy convention schedule. Drink water and munch on snacks that are easy to carry around and will give you a […]

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