GearBlast EU represents the highest tier of gear-intensive events in Europe, and has developed into a professionally run, fun-packed weekend. An extensive schedule of events, an impeccable venue, and a large group of dedicated volunteers provide an environment for a shared, inclusive gear community experience that is unlike any other event in Europe. Getting a ticket is challenging, but worth it.
(This is an independent review that reflects my personal opinions as a regular attendee of GBEU. I am not affiliated with the staff in any way.)
- When and where: Karlsruhe, Germany; 26-28 October 2023
- Pricing: 155 EUR (whole weekend package including 3 nights of events, non-alcoholic drinks + wine + beer), 2-day pass 120 EUR, single day pass 60 EUR
- Accommodation: self-organized
- Entrance policy: Mixed full gear, gender-inclusive
- Website: https://eu.gearblast.com/
The Central European edition of the GearBlast franchise, which also includes the UK and US versions, took place in Karlsruhe 26-28 October 2023. Approximately 300 gearheads assembled in Port of Senses, an expansive BDSM club in the outskirts of the city for 3 nights of partying and gear fun. Having done the Zurich incarnation of the event 10 years ago, it was time to see how the event has developed.
Tickets and Accommodation
Ticket sales for the event started in August with two rounds: first one for returning visitors, second one for everyone. As I had the benefit of technically being a returning visitor, I secured a ticket in the first round. However, the popularity of the event took many by surprise, and both rounds saw all initial tickets taken in a few seconds, leaving many surprised and some upset. A waitlist was used to replace cancellations with waiting people, but some were still left without a ticket.
The ticket sale process, verification and payment stages were handled extremely fast (in a matter of few hours), so once you actually got a ticket, there wasn’t anything to stress about. All GearBlast editions are known for their professional style communication, with regular newsletters and updates, reducing the stress level of attending a weekend of this nature.
All guests need to arrange their own accommodation. While Karlsruhe has plenty of hotel capacity, there aren’t feasible accommodation options within walking distance of the venue (with the exception of one hotel used by the staff), but most gearheads end up staying in the few closest ones, allowing for plenty of carpooling options.
GearBlast EU is held at Port of Senses, an expansive BDSM studio with plenty of options for play and socializing. Located in the harbor area of Karlsruhe, the industrial backdrop and plenty of parking space provide a good compromise between location and privacy. BDSM furniture and dark nooks and corners provided many possibilities for advanced play or just a quick cuddle.
Besides the large play areas, Port of Senses also includes a large dance floor area, a bar and an outdoors heated patio, allowing for plenty of space to cool down (or heat up). The staff had even set up a self-service photo booth, allowing you to take as many selfies as you wanted with your gearhead friends.
Food and Beverage
All tickets include unlimited soft drinks, coffee and wine and beer. Premium alcohol was available for additional cost. For those attending on Thursday, a complimentary barbeque was offered, and a light midnight snack was offered daily for everyone. This makes the event quite affordable, since you have no need to spend money, or even have any, in the actual event space.
All days included specially scheduled events, and there wasn’t a shortage of things to do and experience. A group picture was taken daily. On Saturday, a Gearwalk through central Karlsruhe was organized. During the evening events, there were speeches, quizzes, competitions, and even a Segufix demonstration. GearImages had brought their studio on-site and had a professional photo shoot with the participants. A line-up of gearhead DJs kept the dance floor active into the late hours of the night.
Audience and Community
All GearBlast editions are specifically aimed for gearheads, with a focus on full body coverage. Other than that, there aren’t many rules: the diversity of gear seen over the weekend was vast, spanning from popular MX/motorcycle gear and rubber/leather blends to furry outfits, cosplay, and superhero themes. Play areas had a requirement of face coverage, but having your face visible in the social areas was perfectly fine.
GearBlast EU is size-limited to about 300 people, and while this has implications for ticket sales, there is a hard to define niche quality that makes an event like this much more enjoyable than an event of larger nature. While it is unrealistic to get to know every attendee during a single weekend, you still feel a belonging to a community that shares a passion and supports each other. You can get help with sharing accommodation or transport, or find a missing piece of gear much more easily than in a bigger event.
Gearblast EU goes much further than any other event in making sure everyone feels welcome. Not only do all its editions embrace a public Diversity/Equality/Inclusion ethos, ensuring all attendees, irrespective of their personal attributes (including gender identity) feel valued, but GBEU also introduces “Gearscouts” – dedicated attendees entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring every participant feels welcomed, while also offering support and guidance as needed. Just as one example, when entering the venue, the Gearscouts had formed a welcoming group, cheering you and every gearhead personally when you got in.
Is GearBlast EU for You?
While people have a wide array of tastes when it comes to events, being social, and playing in public, my usual recommendation to kinky people is that they should, at least once, try both an event of massive scale (e.g. Folsom Europe or Darklands) and an event of intimate, niche nature (such as GBEU) to see if either suits their tastes.
For a gearhead, Gearblast EU is guaranteed to be a unique experience. I do not say this lightly: many events succeed in filling up a room with music and people, but fail to build any sense of community or shared experience over the superficial party. Naturally, any event is only as good an experience as you personally make it, but GBEU goes to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure a memorable weekend for every single participant.
So, if you are a gearhead, the answer is most likely yes. But please don’t do it in 2024, because I definitely want to get a ticket for myself 😉