Cache and carry: Why you need a go bag

January 7, 2013

Go Bag Logo

You’re supposed to have one when you’re awaiting your orders. When you’re having a baby. When you think you might need to outrun a zombie herd. Full of essentials, and a few goodies, a Go Bag is what you grab when you need to get gone, fast. The thing is, natural disasters and life-changing events aside, most of us already carry go bags, without calling them such, just to do our daily jobs and live our lives.

Whether we choose a sleek shoulder bag or bulky backpack, we stock our go bags with the technology tools (and yes, toys) to get our jobs done, stay online, and maybe watch a movie or listen to a book on the commute home. We make sure they have the right apps downloaded and enough juice to last the day. The right devices can handle our business in any environment, and in all the spaces in between them, whether it be the Metro North, the Subway, a passenger seat on I-95, or the JFK-SFO direct.

Properly stocked, a good go bag can help us realize our wireless dreams — letting us work, play and travel from nearly anywhere in the world, making us feel just a little bit in the future. But a bad, poorly thought out, or, heavens, slapdash go bag is less mobile office than modern-day albatross. What should be in a good go bag? That’s the question this new column was born to tackle.

I wrote this using the tools already in my Go Bag.  The first draft was written with an iPhone 4S and Google Drive. I made later edits while walking to the office, using Siri to take dictation. A few days later, I added some final touches using a tethered Nexus 7. My last draft is being done on a MacBook Air. Who needs an office anymore? All you need is what you can carry.

“Go Bag” will highlight, review and debunk the items you need to have at the ready. It will discern what’s essential and what’s superfluous, see through flashy hype, and notice the overlooked stalwarts.

John Abell's go bag

The contents of John Abell’s go bag.

The Trekker’s Trinity

Mobile tech has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years, but we are still bound by the holy trinity: laptop, tablet, smartphone. I’m all for traveling light but I can’t — yet — bring myself to part with any one of three devices for any length of time.

The good news is that laptops, smartphones and tablet overlap as well as complement each other — you can e-mail, surf, write, listen to music, stream video, etc. on all three. This level of redundancy makes it possible to get things done even when you can’t sit at a proper keyboard.

The next great consolidation may come in the form of a laptop/tablet, a phone with a larger screen, or maybe just better peripheral hardware keyboards for tablets. But for now, three it is.

In the course of reviewing things I fully expect the contents of my go bag to change. But for now, cards on the table: Here’s what I pack:

Apple MacBook Air. I’ve owned one (may it rest in peace) but my current possession is a company issue 13-inch model,  from mid-2011. It gets good battery life and a 250 GB flash drive is more than adequate, but it is an expensive choice I’m not entirely sure is necessary.

Google/Asus Nexus 7. I wanted to downsize from a full-sized tablet when the iPad Mini was still in the rumor stage. I am sure there are increasingly fewer reasons anymore to own a 10″ model. Screen resolution is one, a bigger screen for video is another. The other big decision in a tablet is whether to pay extra  for a model with a data plan (if available). I’m still in the WiFi-only camp.

iPhone 4S. I couldn’t find a reason to upgrade when the iPhone 5 came out.

External power
New Trent IMP120D. It doesn’t weigh much (283 grams), provides hours of juice from two USB ports, and holds a charge for a very long time. It was invaluable to me during Superstorm Sandy and has saved me more than once after a long day of phone usage.

Sima STP-100C: I splurged on the battery backup because cheap battery packs don’t last long or hold a much of charge in idle. But you don’t need to spend $100 for a DC inverter. This model has one plug — all you need since you can power up other things from your laptop. It’s small and light (227 grams).

AT&T’s personal hotspot plan. It isn’t 4G LTE, but it works in a pinch and lets me get by a WiFi-only tablet.

Clear 4G/3G dongle.

Innergie Magic Cable Trio, and a separate iPhone cable. A few 3″ Gear Tie‘s

A USB stick; Square dongle; a flashlight (Ian Sinclair EON); Paper notepad and reliable pens (I’m a little obsessive, so I carry four: A Recife Crystal fountain pen with companion Déposé rollerball and two Smith & Wesson tactical ballpoints); Ear buds with a mic (DigitalSilence DS101A); Small mesh bag for small items.

For Want of a Nail …” items

There are a handful of non-electronic items which are good to have at the ready so that you can work without interruption. My essentials:

  • Foldable reading glasses
  • MSR Packtowl (for sopping up spills on or near your electronics)
  • Platypus collapsible water bottle (when empty, TSA legal so you can fill it with at a fountain once in the secure area instead of overpaying for bottled water)
  • Protein bars
  • Some kind of utility tool with at least a knife and a bottle opener. Other tools are superfluous because almost nothing is user-serviceable anymore

I break my own rules here and there: I seldom carry laptop power — I keep AC adapters at home and work — and also mostly leave home the DC inverter that would give me unlimited airplane power (assuming I was lucky enough to score a seat with a power jack). Both are just extra baggage most of the time.

Give or take, these are the items that allow me to work (or play) whenever and wherever I want. What am I missing?

One comment

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Add a .45 and you’re almost ready for a minor government dysfunction…

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