Day trips: The constantly changing kit in the gear bag

Day trips: The constantly changing kit in the gear bag

Summary: I head out to work in remote locations almost every day, and the gear that goes with me changes all the time. Here's what is currently likely to come with me on day trips.


I freely admit that I am a mobile tech addict and am so fortunate I've been able to parlay that passion into a career. I am constantly buying gear that many tell me I don't need. While that is true the fact is I write about the gadgets I use so the purchases are not without merit. It also helps me in my mobile lifestyle that my wallet is always as light as can be due to all the gadget buys.

Chromebook Pixel; MacBook Pro
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

My mobile gear is constantly in flux and the question I am asked on a continual basis is what I am using daily. The answer is it depends on what day you're talking about as my gear bag is like a revolving door. While I carry different loadouts regularly, here's the gear that is most likely coming with me on day trips. Of course, next week it may be totally different.

Gear bags

My fetish for gear bags is well documented. I am constantly on the lookout for the thinnest and smallest bags that will fit me gear. I am currently switching between two bags depending on what gear I want to take with me when I head out for the day.

(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The Indy Bag by SFBags is as small as a day bag can be and yet still carry a decent payload. It is stylish and functional, and can carry a laptop/tablet up to 10 inches. If my work system for the day fits in the Indy Bag, it is my first choice.

If my work system is bigger than 10 inches, the recently acquired Flight Jacket is the bag of choice. It has a profile as thin as the Indy Bag and handles laptops up to 13 inches. The accessory pouch is just the right size for small items I wish to carry with me. This bag generates a lot of comments due to its beautiful leather and good workmanship.

Main computers

I have long been using tablets like the iPad for day trips and while I still do so, there are days when I want a no compromise computer with me. I currently have a choice of three, with a fourth on the way.

I recently bought a MacBook Pro with Retina display to use as my main desktop computer and it is small enough (13 inches) to come along on day trips, too. It can run for 7 hours on a single charge so it can go all day if my outings aren't too long.

I have been testing the Chromebook Pixel thanks to Google, and many days it comes along on day trips. The hardware is good and fast, the display is drop-dead gorgeous, and Chrome OS works perfectly for me. The 5-hour battery life is always a concern, and if I think my outing will be longer than that one of the other computers goes in the bag.

Some days I want a "real" computer but still want the smallest kit I can carry, and on those days the ThinkPad Tablet 2 with its keyboard goes in the bag. It runs full Windows 8 and is a great tablet when that makes more sense for what I am doing. This system will be going back to Lenovo soon, so this won't be coming with me much longer.

Flight Jacket by MacCase
(Image: MacCase)

I just bought an HP Envy x2 Windows 8 tablet/laptop and once it arrives later this week it will surely be coming with me a lot. It is a complete Windows 8 laptop when used with the included laptop dock, yet also a thin and light tablet when detached. This was an impulse buy due to a special promotion.


(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Many days a tablet with a keyboard is good enough so the laptops above get left behind. The fourth-generation iPad goes in the bag for these trips, along with one of several keyboard/cases I own. All of the keyboards I use are quite good and using the iPad with any of them is a good experience. The 10- to 12-hour battery life of the iPad along with the integrated 4G long-term evolution (LTE) make this a fabulous kit for the road.

Most days, I slide the iPad mini into a pocket on the gear bag in addition to one of the systems above. It weighs almost nothing and adds little bulk to the bag, so while not necessary, it adds no penalty to bring it. It has integrated 4G LTE so it often serves as a mobile hotspot for the laptops if needed. It's great for downtime when I am not actively working, too.


Like most folks these days, the thought of heading out for the day without a smartphone in the pocket is scary. Currently, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is the phone that I carry. It has knocked the iPhone 4S to the curb, or at least to the dock. For leisure trips, I often leave the bag at home and just carry the Note 2 in my pocket. It is so useful it's enough for such trips and I don't miss the other gear.

This is just me

This is the gear I am currently using and as always, I am not recommending it to others or suggesting you look into using it. It is simply the gear that is working well for me and I use it without issues. I am fortunate that my work allows me to get my hands on such a diverse collection of mobile gear. The gear has evolved nicely over the past few years and everyone should be able to find just the right kit for the gear bag as I have.

Of course, given my nature, this gear will surely change soon and I'll share the changes when they occur.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, iPad

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  • My choice is really easy

    1 bag, 1 device: Surface RT.

    Sorry that your life is so much more complicated. If only you'd purchased better gear.
    • I agree.

      If you're carrying more than one device or constantly switching between devices then there's a problem.
    • I dont understand why Surface RT

      ThinkPad Tablet 2 > Surface RT, Reasons: x86, battery life, and Active Stylus

      *Ref to If you are looking at 64gb storages*

      Unless you are trying to his the 599 price point, which the lenovo is 80-100 off (64gb versions), I dont see a reason to pick the compelling reason to pick Surface RT.

      32gb storage then it becomes more valid. All this said my wife and I both have Surface Pros 128gb and love them. Active Stylus + One Note is amazing.
      • I agree with you

        I didn't mean to imply that the Surface RT is the best solution, it is what I happen to have so it is what I wrote about.

        Had I to do it again, I would have given a closer look at some of the excellent Windows 8 tablets that have come out, for all the reasons you've mentioned. That ThinkPad Tablet 2 looks amazing.
      • I can tell you what I WOULDN'T get

        macbook air or Pixel. Neither of those devices make any sense for anyone. Expensive and far inferior to everything else that is out there. Also have to laugh at anyone silly enough to get a macbook pro as a desktop replacement. What a waste.
        • Guilty on the Macbook Pro

          For my work, I use a Macbook Pro as a desktop replacement/laptop. Using VMWare Fusion I boot into Windows 8. The reason for the Macbook Pro is for development purposes. If you want/need to make an iPad/iPhone Application you have to have compile/deploy using a Apple product. In related note xamarin's formerly monoTouch and Mono for Android products are awesome for quick dev work.

          Speaking directly to the hardware aspects of the Macbook Pro, build quality I can't complain. It is very solid, and checks all the right boxes(I've got the 17"). Price wise well lets just not even go there.
        • If I needed to use OS X or Linux on a ultra high res screen

          I'd use them. Though of course you'd have to install full blown Linux on the Pixel yourself, but it's not like most Linux users don't do that anyway.

          But the only reason I'd buy at that price is if there was an absolute need for a screen with that high of a resolution. And I just don't have one.
          Michael Kelly
  • A tiny laptop and...

    My little laptop case is just big enough to hold my 11.6" Acer sub-notebook, a couple of pens and writing pads, and a .22 pistol with a spare magazine. Plus I carry an Adenoid Smarty-pants phone in my pants pocket.
  • Thank you James

    For giving us a view into your current kit.
    I think most of the folks commenting here miss a principal point: you love technology for it own sake. You enjoy trying different technology and seeing how it impacts your mobile tech needs.
    As a long time reader of yours (before GigaOM) I've always enjoyed your sharing different use cases, new technologies and how you carry them.
    I also enjoy different tech and have and use a number of different platforms all the time. Fortunately I can afford to experiment.
    I'd like to hear more about what makes you decide on W8, OSX or ChromeOS on any given day. It's clear that you carry an iOS device most days