David did a great post about his work environment a while back, and I was thinking of doing something similar. But it occurred to me that since we’re a mobile device blog, maybe I should do something about my mobile devices first and foremost.
So, I grabbed my gadget bag—the bag I pack with all the stuff I take with me everywhere, almost every time I leave the apartment—and opened it up, dumped everything out, and knolled it out as best I could. I did pitch a couple of bits of trash, and added in an item I sometimes carry but wasn’t in the bag at the moment, but apart from that, everything’s there.
And for a little extra credit, I decided to answer the age-old question “what has it got in its pocketses?” so I added those, too, and even the watch from my wrist. Now I’ll go through and explain what each one is, where you can get it, and why I carry it. This could take a while.
First and foremost, the gadget bag itself, which you see at the top of the photo. This isn’t just any bag—it’s a PowerBag messenger-bag-style laptop bag (though it works just as well for tablets, too). I take it with me pretty much everywhere, as I said, including strapping it to the cargo deck of my Juiced Rider ODK-II e-bike with a tie-down, or putting it on my shoulder if I’m riding my Trek. I bought it new from Woot in 2013 for $20 + $5 shipping, and haven’t regretted it. If you’re looking for something similar, you’d pay $90 to $100 for the current model on Amazon.
The nice thing about it is that it has a detachable 6,000 mAH battery nestled inside—which means my gadget bag is, in fact, both a gadget and a bag itself, There’s a special charging compartment on the front that has micro-USB, mini-USB, and an old-style iPhone connector, and there’s a USB socket on the inside for connecting custom charge cables like a Lightning or my Nook HD’s custom charger. There’s a power button and a charge meter below the charging compartment, which you can see at the bottom of the photo at right. I like to keep my Karma Go in the charging compartment, wired up to the micro-USB, to keep it topped off and running for as long as the bag’s battery lasts.
It’s quite capacious on the inside, with a tablet pocket where I keep my Nexus (and occasionally my Nook) and has a felt-lined laptop compartment on the other side which I generally don’t have that much use for (but it’s good for storing papers in when I have them, or the black leather portfolio I take on job interviews). There’s even a zipper around the circumference that will let the bag zip open to lie flat for scanning by the TSA, though I’ve never had cause to use that feature yet.
In the Bag
Top left are my 2013 Nexus 7 and my Nook HD. In the photo at the top you can see Lollipop on my Nook, but it seems to have blanked the screen by the time I took this photo. I usually just carry the Nexus, but I had the Nook HD in my bag at the moment as well since I just upgraded it to Lollipop, lost all my icon groups, and have been fiddling with it on and off to set it back up again for use ever since.
My Nexus 7 is in a Snugg tablet case; the Nook HD is in a very similar Moko case. Both cases flip open, and have a fitting on the back that you can slide the edge of the cover into to prop the tablet up in landscape view. Oddly enough, the Moko also has an elastic strap along the back right that you can fit the tablet cover into when you’re using the elastic hand strap on the inside of the front cover, while the Snugg has no strap so it just kind of flops. Go figure.
iKross FM Transmitter Car Mount
Next over is a relatively recent addition to my gadget bag, though I’ve had it for some time: an FM transmitter, charger, and handsfree call device for my smartphone by iKross. Until recently, I kept it on hand for times I rented a Zipcar or might otherwise find myself in a car. Now it lives in my gadget bag for the times I use a BlueIndy electric car. I don’t get much use out of the FM transmitter part—BlueIndy cars have a fairly obnoxious glitch in their radios at present where they make a loud ticking sound when they’re turned up very far—but it lets me charge the phone and use Waze GPS via the built-in speaker, and that’s all I really need.
Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
Next we have my trusty AmazonBasics Bluetooth keyboard for iPad, the Adore June fleece case for it, and my off-brand “TeckNet” Bluetooth mouse, the latest of several cheap Bluetooth mice I’ve carried. I use both the keyboard and the mouse with my Nexus 7 tablet. As I’ve mentioned before, the keyboard is an iPad rather than an Android edition because it has an Esc key, a handy thing for use with the SSH client and Linux box I connect to through it.
The little plastic thing on top of the keyboard is a tablet stand that came with the keyboard: you flip it open and set the tablet in the notches so the stand holds it up. I don’t get much use out of it, since both my tablets are in their own case stands, but I keep it in the bag anyway because you never know.
The two little wet-nap things to the right of the mouse are Zeiss pre-moistened lens-cleaning wipes that I snagged from the last place I worked and haven’t had cause to use yet. Though now that I have new glasses again…
Liger USB charger and Karma Go
I’ve written about both the Liger charger and my Karma Go elsewhere. I’ve even compiled a list of tips for getting the most out of your Karma Go, for that matter, and if you haven’t bought one yet, you can save $10 on the $150 device with my referral link. I usually keep the Karma Go in the charging compartment of my PowerBag.
Moving down a row, the silver rod to the right of the car mount is my Targus stylus, that I keep around in case I should need to use one. I think I grabbed it at the same OfficeMax liquidation sale where I got the Nexus 7.
It’s really not all that useful, as I prefer using either my finger or my Bluetooth mouse most times. However, I have occasionally used it when I encounter a shop that uses a Square credit card reader and that little flip-it-over mount where they tip the iPad over in your direction for you to sign with your finger. It does tend to amuse them when someone actually brings out a stylus to sign instead.
Emtec 8 GB “Click” USB stick
I got this USB drive and a whole bunch of others like it at that OfficeMax liquidation. This particular one has my TeleRead business card design I made on it, and every so often I take it down to FedEx Office to get a few dozen of them printed and cut for me. (More on that when I get to my business card holder in a few rows from now.) It’s also useful for downloading things onto to print elsewhere, or scanning documents directly onto from my brother’s sheet-feeding scanner/printer. Usual USB stick sorts of stuff.
Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 Bluetooth Earbuds
I got this set of earbuds at Fry’s some time back. They pricematched Amazon at $90 for me. I’ve enjoyed them ever since. (You can get a refurbished set for $45.) They have great sound quality, and include a microphone for making phone calls, too. You only get a few hours of continuous listening out of them, but the headphone case includes a rechargeable battery, so you can recharge the earbuds while they’re in your pocket.
I’ve had them long enough that I’ve had to replace the earbuds once and the charger case once, but I insist that, overall, they’re still the same set of earbuds I originally bought at Fry’s. Looks like I might have to replace the earbuds yet again soon, given how some of the wires are peeking out.
USB and Headphone Cables
These are all the USB cables I carry in the case at the moment. There’s another USB cable that I carry in my pocket with a small USB battery, but I’ll get to that later. The white cables that are wrapped around a plastic frame are Samsung micro USB charging cables for the Galaxy Tab (though of course they’ll work just fine for any micro USB device, and they were cheap). I ordered a couple of them from Amazon Prime Now to try the service out, threw them in my bag, and have only actually had occasion to open the one so far.
The two sets of cables directly below the white USB cables are earphone cables. The top one is a standard earphone splitter, for connecting two sets of headphones to a single 1/8” jack; the bottom one is an adapter for connecting a set of smartphone-compatible earphones that come with an in-line mic (and an extra section on the plug to accommodate it) to a laptop or other device that has separate jacks for both a microphone and earphone. They’re relics of the days I used to use a set of Skullcandy corded earphones with my smartphone, before I got the Plantronics. In fact, I’m not even sure what the smartphone headphone adapter is doing in my gadget bag at all, since it’s not compatible with anything I carry there! It really should go in my laptop bag instead.
USB Power Banks
Moving down to the next row, here are a pair of power banks I carry. On the left is an off-brand 12,000 mAH charger, which is nice for having an actual LCD display of power rather than just four LEDs. It even has a little flashlight built in, which is nice (if a bit awkward to hold). Also nice: it cost less than $13 on Amazon. On the right, the brushed metal one is a Lumsing 6,000 mAH model—another cheap off-brand that actually cost a little more than the one that’s twice as big. There’s another, smaller USB power bank below them, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
PowerBag AC Adapter
The black gizmo with the PowerBag logo on it is the AC adapter for the PowerBag internal battery. It has a flip-out power plug and a cord that wraps around the device itself and holds in place with a clip. It plugs into a socket on the end of the bag under a rubber flap, or can plug directly into the battery if you take it out of the bag. It has its own little velcro-closed pocket inside the bag, which is usually where I keep it.
Lytro Light Field Camera
Jumping a couple of items to the right of the PowerBag adapter, the grey and blue oblong with a lens on the front is a Lytro light field camera, which I got reconditioned from Woot for a little over $100. (Amazon has one for $90 right now.) I might do a full review of this for TeleRead sometime, or I might not since it’s a bit off-topic. The square below it is the lens cap, which uses a refrigerator-magnet-style backing to cling to the front of the camera.
A light field camera is basically a camera that gathers more than the usual amount of information about the light coming in, so that an application can be used afterward to change the depth of focus after the picture has already been taken. It’s an interesting toy to play with, though it’s most useful when you’re taking pictures of things that are really far apart—something really close to you in front of something really really far away. Otherwise, there’s just not a whole lot of depth of focus to fiddle with.
The application you use to tinker with the focus is not terribly user-friendly. I don’t usually keep it in my gadget bag, but will sometimes carry it if I think I might need it. The nice thing about it is that lens is absolutely huge, so it can be good for taking long-distance zoom shots.
Its Pocketses (and Its Wrist)
The rest of the items are things that either came from my pockets or my wrist. Starting again at the left, we have:
Card Case and Wallet
At the top of my pocket items is my “I [Mustache] You a Question” card case, which I use to hold all the membership and discount cards that don’t need to be taken out regularly. I can either open the case to present them for bar or QR code scanning, or (in the case of the BlueIndy card) simply hold the entire case against the reader. It works reasonably well, though occasionally the screw at the corner works itself loose and the whole thing comes apart in my pocket. I usually keep it in my right rear pocket.
I can’t seem to find where you can even buy these; I picked it up cheap at a flea market, if I remember right. Given that I’m fairly proud of my own mustache, it seemed to suit me. I only just started using it recently, after I realized that my membership cards were starting to take over my regular wallet.
And speaking of which, there’s my good ol’ Tommy Hilfiger wallet just below it. Google Wallet (or Android Pay, whatever they’re calling it these days) just isn’t quite there yet, after all. I don’t consider myself a fashion plate, but it seems to be reasonably well made and holds all my stuff, so I’ll use it until it falls apart and then get another one. This one stays in my left rear pocket.
Next up, we have my basic plain-vanilla Pebble e-ink smartwatch. Or semi-smart watch, anyway, given that it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of “modern” smartwatches. But it has a battery that lasts for days rather than hours, however, so on the whole, I think I’ll take mine over theirs.
It’s great for displaying notifications from my smartphone, sending a reply template to instant messages with a few quick taps of a button, displaying navigation instructions from Google Maps so I don’t always have to be pulling my phone out to check it…oh, yes, and telling the time, too. (You can also see it on my wrist in the above photo where I’m holding the PowerBag’s charging compartment open.) At $75 on Amazon, it’s also quite affordable.
This 3,000 mAH model is the other USB battery pack I carry (the “Baby Bear” to the “Papa Bear” and “Mama Bear” of the other two, if you will), but it usually stays in my right front pocket, with the USB cable plugged into it and my smartphone. The reason for this is, for whatever reason, it’s the only USB battery pack I have that will charge my smartphone anymore. The phone just won’t register a charge from any of the other battery packs, even on the 2.1 amp ports. So it’s the only thing that can eke out a little extra battery life for me when I have to be out and about for a long time. (Sometimes after I use it up, I’ll plug it into one of the other battery packs to recharge.)
So, yes, between this, the PowerBag, the two other USB power banks, and the Plantronics headphone case, this does mean I tote around five USB battery packs at any given time. What can I say, I like having all that power on hand.
A keyring with a LED-flashlight keyfob that I got from my property management firm when I moved into the new apartment last year (the property management firm’s logo has all but worn off, but then, the property management firm has changed its name, too, so they sort of cancel each other out), with keys to the building’s outer door, my apartment door, the padlock that goes with one of my bike cable locks, and the key to the other bike cable lock. Also, a library card key tag from the local public library—it seemed the only key tag important enough to clutter up my keyring with.
You’ll note I positioned the library card key tag so that it blocks off the actual keys, having learned well the lesson of the inadvertent TSA master key photo.
Gel Roller Pen
Behold, the “Pilot B2P – Bottle to Pen – Retractable Gel Roller Pens Made from Recycled Bottles”. It writes well, looks distinctive, helps save the planet, and can be had for less than a buck a pen. What’s not to like? Usually rides in my front left pocket with my keys and loose change, me being the southpaw that I am. Since I bought a box of a dozen of them, I keep another in my leather portfolio, and may throw some into the pen loops in my PowerBag too.
It can also be unscrewed and a replacement gel roller dropped in, but who can be bothered to buy and keep track of refills against your pen running out when the pens cost less than a buck each? I guess saving the planet only goes so far.
Republic Wireless Moto X Smartphone
Still rocking the Republic Wireless Moto X smartphone, yep. It’s getting a little long in the tooth, the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to, and it’s gotten persnickety about what it will charge from. I should probably get around to replacing it sooner or later, when I have money again. In the meanwhile, it’s still the best smartphone I’ve ever had, and my constant around-the-town companion. (Remember, if you should want to sign up for Republic pre-paid wireless, this referral link will save you $20 and earn me $20, so why not give it a shot?)
The uses I get out of this include playing Ingress, scanning prices with Amazon Flow (especially handy when I’m checking Amazon for a Fry’s pricematch), taking most of the photos I take anymore, instant messaging, email and browsing, reading my daily RSS feed with Press, navigating on my bike with Google Maps or in a BlueIndy car with Waze, and occasionally even getting phone calls.
The case it’s ensconced in is a silicone rubber sheath in a hard plastic kickstand shell that only costs four bucks but has kept my phone safe through countless drops and mishaps.
Business Card Case
Finally, to the right of the Lytro camera, a business card case I got from the Springfield Business Expo some time ago. It’s seen better days; it broke when I accidentally got the cards in it too wet to pull out, and is barely holding together. I should look for something similar to replace it, I guess. The cards in it are some cards I made myself using a free business card template; they have my name, phone, and social media information, as well as the TeleRead logo and URL, and my “Senior Writer” position. (Technically it should say “Editor” now, but it would cost too much to change it and I feel more like a “senior writer” anyway.) I keep it in my back right pocket along with the other card case.
The Gerber Compact Sport multi-tool that rides in its pouch on the belt at my left hip—I didn’t think of taking it out until I’d already shot the photos—and the GE A1255 12.2 megapixel point-and-shoot camera I took the photos with since my usual camera, the smartphone, had to be included in the photos.
And those are my gadgets. What do you think of them? Is there any favorite gizmo from your own gadget bag that I ought to have? Anything I do have that you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole? Let me know what you think! Meanwhile, it’s just about time for me to put everything back in, slap it on the back of my bike again, and go out for some dinner.