This is an update to my planning guide as we get closer to Hacker Summer Camp. (We’re down to about 3 weeks now!)
Planning Your Time
Schedules and details for events have begun to be released. For example, we have:
- BSides Las Vegas Schedule
- DEF CON 26 Speaker List (No schedule yet!)
- DEF CON 26 Villages
- DEF CON 26 Demo Labs
It’s time to take a look at the lists of events and times and start making your “must do” list. Resist the temptation to try to plan every minute – first, you won’t be able to stick to it, and secondly, you’ll feel like it doesn’t leave you time for spur of the moment events. There will be conversations you want to have, people you want to meet, or unscheduled activities you want to check out.
For your evening plans, there’s no better source than the DEFCON Parties Calendar. Make sure you hydrate (and maybe take a shower) before you head out for the evening. Some of my favorites from years past include:
Dining & Restaurants
There’s a number of cheap eats in Las Vegas. I covered some of the cheapest in my first post, but I wanted to add a few more notes. I’ll focus on the ones in relatively close proximity to the DEF CON hotels (Flamingo and Caesars) as well as BSidesLV. I’ll also include things whose portion size/quality make up for the (slight) cost.
Quick bites (fast food):
- Earl of Sandwich
- Shake Shack
- Caesar’s Food Court
Fast casual dining (sit down):
Buffets on the strip are not cheap, despite what you might have heard. They also can have long lines at dinner time, so don’t expect it to be quick in and out.
Caesar’s Palace is home to the Bacchanal Buffet, which has incredibly high quality options (and is one of the top-rated buffets in Vegas), but is a pretty expensive meal. The lines are likely to be very bad during DEF CON, so I suggest going to another hotel if you’re absolutely looking for a buffet.
Flamingo’s Paradise Garden Buffet is a middle-of-the-road buffet, with decent, but not outstanding food. It is dramatically cheaper than at Caesar’s, so might be a good option for all-you-can-eat at a lower price.
Next door to Caesar’s is the Mirage, which hosts a buffet named Cravings. Unlike many Vegas buffets, beverages here are self-service,so you’ll never be wanting for a drink refill, but also don’t expect many servers around. I haven’t been here myself, but the menus generally look unimpressive.
Though not particularly close by, the Wicked Spoon is one of the best regarded buffets in Las Vegas, with gourmet dishes made from the best ingredients. They also offer brunch 7 days a week, which appeals to some.
The Buffet at the Wynn (literally, it’s named “The Buffet”) has one of the best dessert/pastry selections along with great entrees and sides. It’s also not cheap, but will not suffer from the peak rush at Caesars.
These are the kind of restaurants where you’ll want more than a t-shirt and jeans (and almost certainly no shorts)! Reservations are recommended. Vegas is full of these restaurants, but a few of my favorites include:
Okay, to be honest, I don’t really do the top shelf restaurants myself. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might want to check out the usual guides (Michelin, etc.)
A few I’m familiar with:
- Mon Ami Gabi
- Restaurant Guy Savoy
Handling the Weather
It’s going to be hot, so be prepared. I strongly encourage bringing a reusable water bottle like the aluminum bottle I’ll be sporting, or a Nalgene bottle. Some will even go with a bladder-style backpack. I’ll also bring along a cooling towel, which work surprisingly well! (They use evaporation to cool you down.)
Hacking All the Things
Maybe you’re into hacking and would like to give it a shot while at DEF CON. There’s a bunch of different options here. If you want to bring a laptop with maximum security, I can’t encourage bringing a Chromebook enough. At the budget end of the spectrum, I really like the Acer Chromebook 11. For a mid-range Chromebook, I like the C302CA. At the top end, there’s nothing quite like the Pixelbook, which is currently 25% off.
While you can get lots of tech in the vendor area, you might want to consider bringing a C232HM universal cable, or at least a UART Cable. This will at least get you basic capabilties to play around with any electronic badges you might come across.
If you’re into other specific activities (SDR, etc.), you’ll want to bring the appropriate gear.
It’s time to start making your day-to-day plans. Many have suggested leaving lots of room for flexibility and just going with the flow, which is not a bad idea at all. Have fun!