I have been a mobile worker for many years, and my gear has evolved over time to fit the way I work. I can divide my work routine into three different scenarios (on the road, day trips, and “work sessions of opportunity”), and I have a unique tool kit for each one. My gear changes frequently due to my work on jkOnTheRun, so this snapshot is certainly not static by any means. One thing common to all of my kits is that I like to be be as light and mobile as possible.
On the Road
The first mobile scenario I prepare for is my traveling kit. I don’t travel as much as I did in years past, but I do make several trips each year and must prepare for durations that range from a couple of days through a week or more. My “long distance” tool kit is good enough that the duration of my trip doesn’t change it much.
I like the Booq Boa XS backpack because it is as thin and light as can be, yet will easily carry everything I need. It’s with me for years and has logged thousands of miles. It’s small enough that once I reach my destination it can become my knocking around bag, too. Unfortunately, Booq no longer sells this bag, but their product line is worth a look.
My main workhorse is the aluminum 13-inch MacBook. It’s thin and light enough to easily carry it everywhere, yet it’s a powerful laptop for getting my work done. A second battery goes in the bag as I don’t carry a power adapter when I’m out for day trips, and the two batteries easily get me around 10 hours of work, which is plenty.
For longer trips, I have a cable stash pouch, which is where the MacBook adapter lives. This pouch also has an Ethernet cable, in case I need one at a hotel, and the indispensable Monster Outlets To Go. This gadget provides four power outlets that are surge-protected, so I never have to worry about outlets at any hotel. The Monster has saved my bacon on many occasions.
I now carry the Kodak Zi6 pocket camera on most trips as I never know when I want to shoot some HD video clips of gadgets for my work. The Zi6 is as small as can be but shoots very high-quality video. The battery charger and a USB multi-card reader go in the cable stash, and the Kodak goes in my backpack.
The only other gear that goes in my travel bag is connectivity-related, as I simply must have good Internet connectivity everywhere I go. Currently, I am using the Verizon USB727 modem for high-speed connectivity, which is usually so good I don’t worry if the hotel has Wi-Fi or not. Verizon has good coverage in all the big cities in the U.S. I frequent, and it’s usually all I need to get online.
I have my iPhone 3G in my pocket at all times for phone calls and for quick email work. This is not restricted to this scenario; I carry it all the time.
I work from my home but frequently head out into the world for work sessions to stop myself from getting isolated. These day trips can last anywhere from two to five hours, so I don’t need to take much with me. I throw the Macbook and the second battery into the Booq bag, and off I go without a worry. Of course, the Verizon USB727 modem goes with me, too, just in case I don’t find Wi-Fi around. This little kit is all I need to work, no matter where I end up.
Work Sessions of Opportunity
Over the years, I have discovered that I often find myself with “work sessions of opportunity.” I have a special selection of kits for those times. What are these opportune work sessions? Let’s say I am out running errands and find myself with half an hour of unexpected free time on my hands. I have realized that using these times when they crop up can let me get a lot of work done if I am properly prepared. That’s where my special tool kit comes into play.
Most people aren’t able to capture these opportunities when they crop up because they don’t have the proper gear with them. That’s understandable, because the last thing any of us want to do is carry our laptops with us all the time. I get around that with the Viliv S5 Ultra-mobile PC (UMPC). It’s slightly bigger than a PDA yet is a full PC. It fits in my pants pocket, but since my work involves writing I often need a good keyboard.
I use a portable Bluetooth keyboard, the Stowaway Sierra (unfortunately no longer available) and a Bluetooth travel mouse, also by Stowaway. These two gadgets go along with the UMPC into a man purse that I carry with me for non-work local trips. When free time crops up, I can pull these little devices out of the bag and take full advantage of it. The ability to do this means I’m able to knock off work earlier on many days than I could if I didn’t have this stuff with me. That makes it worth the embarrassment of carrying the man purse around.
Use Your Head
I find it beneficial to have the different tool kits to fit the particular work sessions because my mantra is to keep things as light and simple as possible. My gear lets me get the most out of anything that I am confronted with during my day, yet I don’t carry anything nonessential. Most folks tend to carry too much gear with them “just in case,” but for me, it’s not worth it.
What’s in your bag?