If you're even remotely concerned with the tech world, you're probably going to CES 2019. And that means you're packing your stuff right about... now.
Attending the biggest tech show of the year is stressful enough without having to worry about whether you brought enough pants or chargers. So relax and take some tips from us. We've been there before.
You're going to hear a lot of people saying CES is a drain. It's the biggest tech show of the year, with 200,000 people jostling across 2.7 million square feet of show floor: Pack responsibly, my mother would say.
But I'm going to tell you the opposite. This is Vegas baby, and if you're flying 13+ hours to get there from Australia, like me, you'd better believe this is your chance to be extravagant!
Think leopard print! Think sequins! Think gold accents, big glasses and corporate country-western! If you're a reporter running one of CNET's highly coveted show floor tours, it'll help people find you. And if you're hustling to cover a showstopping gadget or get the front row at Samsung's press conference, people will definitely make way for someone dressed like Grandma Yetta from The Nanny.
Here's the Claire Reilly Guide to Packing for the World's Biggest Tech Show. Because you can't spell success without CES!
Leopard print is a neutral. Oprah was right: leopard print matches everything. This year I'll be packing a leopard cardi, leopard dress and leopard coat. Go on, be a little bit extra.
Gold is a neutral, glitter is a neutral, pizza is a neutral. Gold pants? They'll match anything. Glitter boots? Ditto. A handbag shaped like a slice of pizza? Where else will you put those notes on that top-secret folding robot phone you saw today?
Comfortable shoes can still be sassy. You can run the length of the Las Vegas Convention Center in style. My silver glitter shoes from Aussie designers Rollie are lighter than a pair of flip flops and ultra comfy, but still with that Vegas sparkle. I even took them to the Australian desert because I am, at heart, an impractical idiot.
Get you a bag that can do both. At any tech show, a good backpack is a must and compartments are your friend. Look for tech-friendly features like a padded section for your laptop, a hole to pull your headphones through and a quick-access pocket for Emergency Jerky.
Charge, charge, charge. While I no longer spend the whole day before I fly madly writing lists, I do spend that time prepping my devices. Download some Netflix shows to watch offline and charge your spare battery packs, your laptop and iPad. And don't forget to charge your noise-cancelling headphones -- Newton's Fifth Law dictates the crying baby will always be on your flight.
As someone who's been going to CES as a journalist -- taking meetings, being on camera, trying not to embarrass myself -- for the last century in dog years, I've honed my wardrobe to a point so fine it hurts. Past mistakes include too casual, too formal, too warm, not warm enough, too many socks and too few shoes.
Here's my must-haves, all of which fit into one overhead-compatible suitcase. If I need to check a bag, I know I'm doing it wrong.
Long-sleeved button-down shirt for every day, plus one. I go to CES early and leave late -- this year I'll be there for five working days. That means six decent shirts (the extra for evenings/Just In Case), the kind that can stand alone with slacks or nice jeans and don't require an undershirt. I like wrinkle-free shirts with patterns that don't destroy cameras (no close stripes).
Two pair of nice dark jeans, two slacks. I wear a pair of jeans on the plane, so the second goes in my bag. Slacks take up less room and look nicer, so they're my go-to on days with meetings and lots of video of.
Two sport jackets. One each for the plane and the bag. In a pinch you can get away with just one, but I like to have a second to prevent being too repetitive. Many days I skip the jacket entirely, especially if the weather's nice, but they're great for going out or if you feel the need to look nicer. Actual suit? Never needed one.
Two pairs of shoes and a pair of slippers (for the hotel room). The bulkiest pair of shoes for the plane, the second (nicer) pair for the bag. Also, pajama pants for the hotel room because that's how I roll.
That's it for the clothes. No outer jacket, screw windbreakers, and sweaters and sweatshirts are a waste of space IMO. This is Vegas, and winter is likely kind.
It's also the friggin' desert, which is why I, like fellow CNET vet Kent German, always pack a portable humidifier.
I bring a laptop, mouse + pad, Nintendo Switch, Kindle reader, two phones (my personal Note 8 and a company-issued iPhone 8 on two different networks), two headphones (both standard and Apple-issued Lightning, so I can actually record using that iPhone), backup battery, and all the requisite chargers and dongles. There's always a temptation to augment with a tablet or nice camera, but for me they're not necessary.
Finally, CES is the one place in the universe where business cards are actually still useful for me.
This is my... how many CESes has this been? Thirteen? Fourteen? They're drops in a bucket. Leaves at the bottom of a giant pile of fallen foliage. I've laser-focused my journey into a routine burned into the core of my brain.
OK, fine, I still panic. Six nights in Vegas is technically three more than any human should spend in the neon desert. It's a marathon. And the key is comfort. I'm a middle-aged dad who needs to be on stage a bit and do videos where I look OK. Otherwise I'd wear t-shirts and light jackets all week.
But CES also has a few complications: It's bone-cold at night, a desert winter dropping into the 30s at times. Layers are essential. Or, do as you will.
Some things I do every year:
Batteries. Chargers. Survival is staying battery-powered. Rely on no one else. I bring a big 15,000-mAh battery and spare cables to keep myself powered whenever I can, so that my nights out will have a fully charged phone. I'm charge-paranoid.
Underwear and socks beyond your perceived need. I'll just plow through them, change out at the hotel, when I can get back to the hotel. Extras can pad bags and, anyway, I take too many socks and underwear.
A nice shirt each day. Again, if I wasn't on camera, I'd just wear a short-sleeve comfortable thing and bring a jacket. But I know I'll never get back to my hotel each day, because the car trips take forever. I wear what I'm prepared to wear for the whole day, and make sure it looks passable.
Sport jacket, the universal everything. I'll throw it on over a t-shirt, wear it on stage, and it's a layer at night when it gets cold. I bring two just in case. They look nice at the blackjack table. They're forgiving to shirts that don't fit well.
Skechers and Vans. My go-to comfy shoes are fine at night, fine during the day, I can walk in them for 10 miles, and I don't care if anyone stares at my feet.
Toss a light sweater in the bag. It gets cold. It always looks fine at night. I usually never wear it.
Vegas has stores. You can buy stuff there. Don't worry. There's always time for a trip to the mall.
My stuff. iPhone, iPad stuffed with movies, work laptop and lots of headphones: 3.5mm ones, Lightning ones, AirPods. Whatever smartwatch I'm wearing at the moment. A massive battery. Extra charge cables. My CPAP. I debate bringing a Switch, and sometimes I do. Spare business cards.
CES 2019: See all of CNET's coverage of the year's biggest tech show.
: It's six days of jam-packed events. Here's what to expect.