Tip of the Week: 6 Debate Bag Essentials

The tournament season is going to be here before you know it, so make sure your debate bag is stocked and prepared for whatever situation you might encounter. Here are six debate bag essentials.

1. Pocket Dictionary

Nothing’s worse than watching a round where debaters misinterpret a piece of evidence because they don’t know what a word means. You don’t know everything, and sometimes words are used in weird, archaic ways. Having a dictionary handy will give you certainty in those rare situations. When I was competing I used my dictionary mid-round at least once a year, and a couple of times it was significant to the outcome of the round.

2. Calculator

It’s an observable fact that no one can do simple math in the middle of a debate round. I’m willing to bet that the majority of hand-done calculations I’ve witnessed in a debate round have been completely wrong. There’s something about the time pressure combined with so many words that makes numbers turn into alien hieroglyphs. Just bring a calculator so you’re not saying millions when you should be saying billions. 

3. Pocket Constitution

Similarly, everyone forgets what the US Constitution actually says in the middle of a round. Particularly when we’re dealing with US government policy, knowing that a plan is constitutional can be important. You can get free pocket constitutions from the CATO institute if you don’t already have one.

4. Lots of Sticky Notes

There’s a good chance you’re already on board with sticky notes as a debate round boon. If not, give them a shot. I used two types: regular square notes for cross-x questions and tabs to mark evidence to read in my speech. I’ve seen other people who use them for practically everything. But you don’t want to ever run out, so get a lot and keep backups in your bag.

5. Backup Pen and Paper

Speaking of redundancy, you don’t ever want to be in a situation where you’ve run out of ink or parchment upon which that ink is to be spilled. Once you’ve found a good pen for flowing (I used to use the Uniball Vision Elite or Pilot G2), buy multiples and keep them in your bag. Pens are easy to lose, and sometimes they simply dry out. You should always have a spare flowpad to lend to a judge or fellow competitor.

6. Backup 1ACs

Sometimes your opponent forgets to give back the 1AC at the end of the round. I’ve seen people scrambling to hunt down their opponents from two rounds ago to try to get it back. Instead, just have plenty of copies so you don’t have to worry about it. Better to have too many than too few.

These are the essentials I could think of. Do you have other things you make sure to keep with you at tournaments? Let us know in the comments!

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