My travelling tech bag
I have a small bag I carry whenever I’m travelling and taking my laptop or phone with me. It includes all the adapters and power cables I usually expect to need. The idea is that I could pick it up at any time, and have it be ready to go. I don’t have to faff around finding parts if I’m in a hurry.
I got a few questions about this at PyCon last week, so I thought I’d make a quick list of what it currently contains. Not everybody needs everything in this bag, but it’s worth thinking about how much (or little!) you could carry and always have what you need.
This is what my bag looks like, straight after PyCon:
What cables and adapters you need depends in part on what equipment you’re carrying, and what you expect to do with it. My personal laptop is a 2016 MacBook (with the one USB-C port) and my phone is an iPhone. Sometimes I take my Kindle as well, but it’s very rare that I need to plug that into anything else.
So, what’s in the bag?
When I’m travelling for longer than the battery life of my devices will last, I need a way to charge on the go. This is what I carry for charging:
Two 10W Apple USB power adapters (£19.91).
A bit bulky, but they’re fairly light and can fully charge my devices if left overnight in a hotel room. I carry a pair so that I can charge my phone and my laptop at the same time. I didn’t actually buy these; they’ve come in the box with other devices I purchased.
An Anker Astro E5 16000mAh portable battery (£27.99).
I’ve always had good experiences with Anker equipment, and this is no exception. This allows me to charge when I don’t have a wall socket to hand. It can charge my phone from full to empty multiple times, or a charge-and-a-half of my laptop. A little slow to charge itself, but otherwise very good, and it’s always very heavily discounted on Amazon.
A newer version (£45.99) is available, with more capacity and charging over USB-C rather than micro-USB, but it’s a bit more expensive. If I was buying new today, I’d probably get that instead, but it’s not worth it to me to upgrade.
This requires a bit of maintenance: if I haven’t used it, I get it out about once a month to recharge. It takes hours to get a decent charge, so don’t leave this to the last minute.
A 1ft Anker USB to micro-USB cable (£5.21). For charging the battery pack, and as a fairly common cable for non-Apple phones/devices.
A 3ft Anker USB to Lightning cable (£5.99). For charging my iPhone.
A 3ft Anker USB to USB-C cable (£5.99). For charging my laptop.
Some AA and AAA batteries. A near-universal standard, it’s just useful to have a couple of these easily to hand. I don’t buy a particular brand or make. About every six months, I replace them; I’ve had a few bad experiences with batteries dying while in storage.
I don’t carry a foreign power adapter. Although I own one, the majority of my travel is within the UK, and they tend to be quite bulky. If I’m travelling overseas, I have enough advance warning that I can grab it – and even if I don’t, I can get by with the Anker battery for several days.
I’m often presenting and/or going to places where somebody else is presenting. Most projectors only have HDMI or VGA inputs, whereas my laptop only has USB-C out, so I always carry my own adapters. (Even if the venue tells me they have adapters, I take mine anyway. Venue adapters have a bad habit of wandering off.)
For my current laptop, I carry two adapters:
These adapters fan out to provide a video port, a regular USB port, and another USB-C port so I can charge while displaying video. Most of the time, I just use the video port.
Apple sells their own versions of these adapters, but for more than three times the price. These cables have a five-star Amazon rating, and have worked flawlessly so far.
My previous laptop was a MacBook Air, which had Mini DisplayPort for video out (not Thunderbolt; it was too old for that). Although I no longer have a direct use for them, MiniDP is common enough that I still carry the adapters, ready to lend out if necessary.
Again, buying generic adapters is about five times cheaper than buying from Apple, and these cables have never given me any problems.
I to have a MiniDP-to-DVI adapter, but I so rarely see DVI on projectors that I stopped carrying it.
Conference/hotel Wi-Fi is often flakey or non-existent, so I like to be able to use wired Internet as a backup. Just two cables for this one:
A USB to Ethernet adapter (£27.80). I happen to have the Apple-branded adapter in this case, but I bet you could get a generic one that’s just as good.
A 1ft generic Ethernet cable.
A few other items that don’t fit into the other categories:
The bag itself is a Teckone Universal Travel Organizer (£11.99).
This was a birthday present this year; before that, I was using a plain ziploc bag. I have the medium size, and it’s a good fit for what I carry. Seems fairly well made, but I haven’t had it long enough to comment on how well it holds up, long-term.
A Kensington wireless remote (£22.71).
Not strictly necessary, but I like having this when I’m doing presentations. Untethers me from my laptop, and gives me just a bit more flexibility to move around. I have the four-button version without a laser pointer – in my experience, laser pointers never look good, and it frees up a button to do something else.
This takes three AAA batteries, which is one of the reasons I carry spares (see above).
A USB memory stick. Just a generic, off-brand memory stick, occasionally useful if I need to transfer a large file and the local network is terrible.
A pack of paracetamol.
Not itself technology, but I often get headaches at conferences, and having some painkillers around is super handy.
Those “I Code Like a Girl” badges.
From the Django Girls workshop at PyCon UK. They serve no purpose except to make the bag look cool. As far as I know, only available from the workshops, but there was a lot of interest at PyCon, so they might be coming to the Django Girls Store.
And not in the bag itself, but I have several Sharpies (both black and metallic) for labelling all my equipment when I buy it. This has a dramatic effect on the return rate of cables when I’m lending them out. Naming items is definitely worth doing.
The contents of the travel bag haven’t changed much in the last few years. When I bought my new laptop, I added the USB-C video adapters and swapped out a MagSafe adapter for a USB-C cable (much lighter, yay), but that’s about it. Not too cheap, but this collection of cables covers all the bases. I can’t remember the last time I was out-and-about, and found myself desperately needing a cable it didn’t contain.