Day trips: What's in my gear bag (2012 edition)

Day trips: What's in my gear bag (2012 edition)

Summary: The end of the year is nigh and that means it is time to share what I carry with me on my frequent day trips. This year has seen a complete change over the gear I used last year.

JK Kit 1

As one who works at home I make it a priority to frequently get out of the home office and out in the real world. It keeps me from being too isolated, a common problem for those who work at home.

Making day trips productive means carrying the right mix of gear in the bag. I have to be able to get everything done no matter what may arise, and without compromise. I also insist that my gear last all day away from a power outlet as I hate to weigh the bag down with chargers. Since I often head out in the morning and don't get back home until late in the day I need to trust my gadgets to last.

Before I get into describing the gear, it's worth taking a look at my gear bag from a year ago. It gives an indication of how the mobile space as evolved as my current mobile kit has completely changed from last year. Even the bag has changed to fit the new gear.


1. The bag I use on day trips is the Indy Bag (reviewed here) from SFBags. Everything fits in this little bag with no extra space at all, which I like. I want my total kit to be as small as possible while having everything conveniently at hand, and the Indy Bag does that perfectly.


2. My mobile work system is the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook (reviewed here). I spend all of my time in the Chrome browser and this Chromebook is perfect. It gets phenomenal battery life, offers great performance, and allows me to do everything I need. There is a newer Samsung Chromebook (reviewed here) which would also work well but I own the 550 so that's what I use every day.

iPad mni

3. I often work in places that don't have a comfortable place to use a laptop, so a tablet makes more sense for doing online research and similar tasks. The iPad mini (reviewed here) goes in the gear bag due to its small size and integrated 4G LTE on the Verizon network. It fits in a pocket on the Indy Bag and adds little bulk to the daily kit. I can use it anywhere due to the 4G, and just as importantly I use it as a mobile hotspot for the Chromebook if Wi-Fi is not available. The battery life of the iPad mini is outstanding and I can leave it in the bag and easily get over 15 hours of LTE hotspot usage. It serves double duty well: tablet for online research and hotspot for all the other gear when required.

That's the total kit I use on a daily basis. It's small and light yet powerful enough to do everything all day. Of course I carry one smartphone or another with me, either the iPhone 4S or the Nexus S 4G Android phone. I don't use the phone for work stuff, since getting the iPad mini I pretty much just use the smartphone for phone calls and occassional email.

It's worth noting that while this is my daily mobile gear it's also what I take on short business trips. In years past I used different gear on day trips than I took on extended trips. I wanted to keep the day bag as light as possible so I used devices that weren't powerful enough to serve on trips. That made it necessary to have other gadgets that served for business trips.

My current kit serves all of my needs in town and on longer trips, a sign of how much better mobile devices are getting each year.

As is always the case with mobile technology, this kit is not for everyone. It works well for me but each individual must find the best gear to do what needs to be done on a daily basis.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone, iPad, Laptops

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  • Thanks James, here is my kit

    1. Surface RT

    " I often work in places that don't have a comfortable place to use a laptop, so a tablet makes more sense for doing online research and similar tasks. "

    This is where the Surface RT is truly fantastic. Instead of having to put the laptop in the bag, pull out the iPad, and do a mental shift to a COMPLETELY different UI (how confusing, how frustrating) here is the process for the Surface RT:
    1. Flip keyboard to back

    That's it.

    A lot of fuss has been made about how the Surface RT isn't an iPad or a laptop. Without realizing it, these people get it. It ISN'T a tablet OR a laptop. It replaces both. And while those carrying both a laptop and a tablet spend frustrating amounts of time switching between the two (pulling one out of the bag, putting the other in the bag) I've already made the flip and have continued working. That I don't have to accustom myself to a completely different UI every time is just wonderful, delicious icing on the cake.

    Surface RT: Saving you from having to lug around multiple bulky, heavy, frustrating to use devices.

    PS "each individual must find the best gear to do what needs to be done on a daily basis"
    Yes, and please take my post as such. I find that your gear does not work well for me, being far too frustrating and bulky. This is simply what works best for me. Thanks.
    • Good for you

      Glad you found your mobile nirvana as have I. I do need the hotspot capability often, so the iPad mini comes in really handy for that. Don't like to use my phone for that as I need it free for calls and hotspot usage kills the battery too fast.
    • Dongle

      Just add a dongle (so your Lumia 920 doesn't get tied-up) and that should do it.
      • Use the iPad mini

        I use the iPad mini frequently so it's the best choice for me. No dongles required.
  • Got a chrome book too

    I have a chrome book too, it was for us to test at work, but sadly our cloud does not allow for printing in a way that is easy with the chromebook so now it is a tablet replacement for when I am just in the house and dont need anything large to look at.

    My gear bag consists of an HP Probook 6550b running Windows 8 Pro. It is a heavier machine but I need to be able to do my help desk duties while at any location in the world. For times I don't have WIFI or wired networking around, I have a new HTC DNA on Verizon that will serve as my 4G Hotspot if the need arises.

    The bag is nothing great. It is a bookbag style bag that has lots of room to fit all my gear!

    I want a Surface and will get one soon but we are going to test the Pro version when it is released and I hope that will be my replacement for doing all my duties.
    • Cloud Printing

      Printing with the Chromebook is easy. Just get a Google Cloud Print compatible printer, and you can print on that, or you can create a Google account called "printer1", install a Linux or Windows machine and install Chrome browser on that and keep a session running under "printer1" to allow cloud printing from your local legacy printers. Alternatively you can use HP ePrint.

      Similarly scanning is easy - just get a scanner which does scan to email and scan to USB dongle.

      These newfangled printer and scanner technologies are so much more convenient than the old fashioned driver based systems, which are now obsolete as a result. Hence try to avoid the obsolete old style driver based printer systems and USB/parallel/serial port printers for new printers, and go instead for Cloud Print, Ethernet/WiFi printers and multi-function printers instead which can do standalone copying, scanning, scan to email as well.
  • What I've used on my last three extended away trips from home.

    My Apple iPhone 5 and my Apple iPad 3. The iPhone allows me to leave the DSLR and/or HD camcorder home while my iPad handles everything else. Both are LTE enabled devices (iPhone is on the Verizon network while the iPad uses AT&T's network. I have found Verizon's network to be superior in my experience.)

    Unless I purchase a Chromebook, or an lightweight laptop in the future, I don't foresee the need to bring my trusty laptop along with me again on trips. Pity - it really is a great laptop.
    • Nice, but...

      That's nice, but what the Chromebook/Chrome Browser does is allow all your data and apps to go with you anywhere and be accessed on any device. Heck you don't even need a device - just go to a netcafe, log in and your data and apps are all there - that's the new hyper portability of the future.
  • One "Kit" doesn't fit me

    Unfortunately for me, a single road kit won't work. Where I'm going and what I'm doing varies too much. I'm stuck with 3 ranked in escalating demands.

    1. Basic Bag - Small zippered Targus with a front flap to hold me reading glasses, Shure earphones and a couple of Power Bars. My iPad 2 with a smart cover goes in the zippered compartment. No chargers, cables or other support peripherals This is what I grab maybe 45% of the time. It works for both the wandering I have to do around our office campus and much of my offsite work.

    2. Mobile Office Bag - This is a Targus CityGear case. A bit more robust. I move the iPad, glasses and earphones to it when I'll be away from my desk and need to be more "desktop grade" productive. In addition to the iPad, this case has a Targus Bluetooth keyboard, charger/cable/USB extension for additional power, VGA and/or HDMI adapter cable(s) for external monitors or projectors. The case has enough room that I can carry any additional office goodies I may need. I use the Targus keyboard because it has a full-sized typing layout, is extremely light and has a sliding power switch. This is the kit I take when I need an effective mobile office as I can do about 90% of what I do with my Win7 laptop and the whole kit weighs less than the laptop alone.

    If I have an external monitor available, I patch that in and use the iPad essentially as a giant touchpad. I get plenty of double-takes and "how'd you do that" the first time people see an iPad display on a 19" monitor and me typing away full speed in a word processor. :-) This is the kit that goes with me probably 50%

    3. Well, the 3rd day kit isn't really outstanding... it's my laptop back and laptop. But maybe 5% of the time I do need it on the day trips. It gets a mention here I do stick the iPad and an USB cable in the case. And perhaps I should mention that said laptop is a HP 2740p Tablet PC convertible. So even with my full system, I'm still on tablet. I only need this rig about 5% of the time.

    In any of these scenarios, I will also add that I've got a Wacom Bamboo stylus in my pocket. This is by *far* the best stylus available for the iPad. Not nearly as good as a Pen-abled stylus on a Tablet PC, but it's the only iPad stylus that makes iPad inking adequate.

    This is setup is one of the reasons I'm very anxious about the Surface Pro. If battery, price and performance are done right, it has the potential of replacing all three mobile configurations.
    • Cloud

      That's what the Cloud is good for and why it is going to be so pervasive. We all have multiple devices, and we can't carry all of them around all the time. The Cloud allows data to be acced from multiple devices.

      This is what makes the Microsoft approach of do-everything-in-one-device as typified by the Windows 8 devices a stillborn dinosaur.