Hitting the road with the traveling gear bag

I'll soon be taking a business trip to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. It won't be long before I start getting asked what mobile gear I'll be taking, so here's the scoop.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

When a business trip to San Francisco comes along I get excited, as it is one of my favorite places to visit. That's where I'll be heading soon for a five-day trip, and I'm planning on keeping my gear bag as light as possible.

The bags

Traveling with mobile gear starts with the bag, and I will be using two this time. I will use a backpack for the flights, and in addition to the gear I'm bringing I'll need a little room for incidentals. The Staad backpack will handle that just fine. It easily fits everything I need to keep close to me while remaining low profile on those narrow aisles on the plane.

Total kit
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Once I'm on the streets of San Francisco I want to have the smallest bag possible, so I will use the Built bag just as I do at home. Since it's so thin and light I'll pack it in my carry-on luggage for the flights and pull it out in the hotel.

The main work system

The primary work system I'm taking is the iPad Air in the ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard case. This duo is much smaller than any laptop, yet can do everything I'm likely to need to do. I will pop the iPad out of the case when I need just the tablet. The battery will easily last all day so I can leave the power adapter back at the hotel. There is no system this small as full-featured as the iPad Air. The integrated 4G LTE will ensure I can work no matter where I go in the city.

Update: Further reflection on which iPad keyboard to carry has me considering bringing the ZAGGkeys Cover keyboard instead of the Folio. This is primarily to keep the iPad Air and keyboard as thin as possible in the gear bag. Both the Cover and the Folio have the same good keyboard so it's simply a matter of keeping the bag as thin as possible.

See related: Traveling with mobile gear: Tips from a veteran

The Galaxy Note 2 phone will be with me all the time. These days I only use it for phone calls and text messaging as the tablet handles all other communication functions. In the unlikely event I have trouble getting a data signal for the iPad, the Note 2 will serve as a backup connection since it is on a different network.

Twelve South PlugBug
Image: Twelve South

As I have on many trips in the past, the Etymotic earphones will be in the bag. They will serve triple duty: phone headset, audio headphones, and Skype headset. They fit in the little Built bag and are invaluable to me on trips. I use them on the Note 2 for calls, and on the iPad Air for all other functions. The iPad Air and Etymotics make for a great Skype video call system, something I do quite a lot.

The backup system

While the iPad Air will handle everything I will need to do on the trip, I am also bringing the 11-inch MacBook Air. I don't anticipate needing it but I want to be covered no matter what happens. It's for redundancy as much as anything.


Since I'm carrying so little equipment this trip, I only have to bring three power adapters. That's pretty good but any time I can lighten the load, I do. That's why I bought a Twelve South PlugBug. It works with the MacBook power adapter to form a dual adapter to also charge the iPad Air using one power plug. It can be used alone to charge the iPad without charging the MacBook Air.

As I do on all trips, the Monster portable power strip will be in the cable stash. It provides four outlets in a small package which is more than enough.

Slim yet powerful

Gear bag loaded (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

As you can see in the photo to the right, my gear bag is small and thin, yet packs a MacBook Air, iPad Air with keyboard, and the Note 2 smartphone inside. The Etymotics earbuds round out the mobile office. This kit is powerful, and everything inside the bag lasts all day away from a power outlet.

In addition to handling everything that might come up, this collection gives me redundancy in all the key areas. While I should have wi-fi for connectivity most of the time, the LTE in the iPad Air allows me to get online when wi-fi is not an option. It can also serve as a mobile hotspot for the MacBook. If there is no wi-fi and for some reason the Verizon LTE network is down, Sprint LTE can step in with the Note 2 as a hotspot.

I take my responsibilities seriously so the redundancy is important. I have the MacBook Air should the iPad have a problem, and connectivity everywhere. All in a bag that weighs just a few pounds.

Reviews of gear covered:

iPad Air: Best tablet ever made

New MacBook Air: Haswell ups the game (review)

Galaxy Note 2: Changing the way I use mobile tech

Staad slim Backpack (hands on): Taking the gear bag to a whole new level

ZAGGkeys Folio: Perfect keyboard companion for the iPad Air (hands on)

MacBook Air: Still the best laptop in its class

New MacBook Air vs. iPad Air: Closer than you think

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