Thoughts from the road: Tiny mobile kit works well on business trip

Before heading out on a recent business trip I shared the mobile gear I was taking and why. Now that the trip is behind me, it's time to report on how well the gear performed.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

I recently took a five-day business trip to San Francisco. Before heading out on the trip, I detailed the mobile gear I was taking and why. Now that the trip is behind me I am getting asked how well the gadgetry performed and for thoughts about how it went. 

JK Mobile Gear
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Those who missed the earlier article may want to give it a read to see what I took and why. Go ahead, I'll wait here for you. Now that you're back, keep reading for my thoughts from the road about my mobile kit. It just might contain useful information you can use on your own business trips in the future. It might also be pertinent for corporate types in deciding what gear might be good to deploy in the workplace.

See related: Hitting the road with the traveling gear bagTraveling with mobile gear: Tips from a veteran

The bags

The Staad backpack was a great traveling companion on flight days. It has a very thin profile which made it easier squeezing in tight places in the airport and especially on the full planes.

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It handled everything I needed to carry with me, the mobile gear in particular, and kept everything within convenient reach. It got a lot of compliments for its good looks both going and coming home.

Once in the hotel the Staad backpack went into the closet and the Built bag went on duty. It's the perfect city bag given its light weight and thin profile. The MacBook Air went into the main pocket, as I didn't want to leave it in the hotel. The iPad Air and ZAGGkeys Cover went into the back pocket.

I was pleased with the utility both of these bags provided on the trip. I never felt bogged down with either gear or the bags, a very good thing. 

Note that Built, maker of my city bag, has been acquired by another firm and no longer makes tech bags. Just kitchen, baby, and wine bags, of all things.

The main work system

The iPad Air worked wonderfully for everything I needed. I attended a two-day working conference so the iPad was on all day and I didn't need to bring the charger to the workroom. It stayed in the room and only came out at night. Both days of the conference I still had over 70 percent charge left in the afternoon.

I ended up taking the ZAGGkeys Cover keyboard and left the Folio at home. The iPad Air with the Cover is as thin as a work system can be and I'm glad I chose to bring the combo. While this system may not handle everything some users might need, it was more than adequate for my use.

Before the trip I mentioned I would carry the MacBook Air, for redundancy as much as anything. I ended up using it just once for a work task I hadn't planned but that cropped up at the last minute. Since I was going to be working late into the night to get it done I used the MacBook so I wouldn't have any unforeseen issues given the tight schedule. I don't think I would have had problems with the iPad Air but didn't want to take the chance.

While the Apple gear performed as expected, I must sadly report that the Galaxy Note 2 did not. Rather, it was the Sprint network that failed miserably, much as it did on the business trip I took before this one.

Primarily, it was a matter of poor network coverage in the areas in San Fracisco where I spent all of my time. The best I got anywhere was low signal 3G, there was not 4G available the entire trip. This left me unable to reliably do anything with data, especially email. I ended up pulling the iPad Air out of the bag for any chores involving data.

The iPad Air with integrated LTE worked wonderfully the entire week. Outside of the conference area I found public wi-fi to be a mixed bag so I turned it off and just used LTE everywhere I went. My iPad is on the Verizon network and I found strong signal everywhere I went in San Francisco, just as I do in Houston.

The backup system

As already mentioned, the MacBook Air was only needed once and performed as expected. I'm glad I brought it given the special project I used it for, but I do believe that I could have left it at home and just brought the iPad Air and keyboard.


PlugBug from Twelve South
Image: Twelve South

The mobile kit is smaller than ever before, and I didn't need much extraneous gear in the bag. The primary charger I brought served me well and I highly recommend it. The PlugBug from Twelve South worked great and charged both the MacBook Air and iPad Air. I only needed the iPad lightning cable in addition to the PlugBug.

I also carried the tiny Samsung adapter and cable to keep the Note 2 charged. I could have gone without this adapter and plugged the phone into the laptop to charge, but as small as it is I didn't mind carrying it.

Smallest mobile kit yet

The small size of the total kit is a testament to how far mobile gear has come in a short time. Having a full laptop and a tablet that fills in for a laptop in such a little gear bag is simply wonderful for traveling. 

All of the gear I took for a five-day business trip weighs less than five pounds and, as noted, I could probably have left the laptop at home. The entire kit would have weighed three pounds in that event. That's amazing for a full working system for a business trip of nearly a week.

The iPad Air may not serve as a working system for some, but the release of Office for iPad narrows the gap for many. Adding the keyboard to the iPad may serve well for many businesses, while some will find the tablet alone to be adequate. This lowers the expense to deploy iPads in the workplace compared to most laptops.

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