One Highly-Evolved Day Bag

I asked Charles Platt, former editor of Cool Tools, what he is packing these days and he replied with this list. It’s not your usual selection:

I like to be fully prepared when traveling, but I hate excess weight. This has led to a computer bag containing not just a computer but as many small items as possible, packaged in such a way that they don’t fall to the bottom in an undifferentiated mess.

The key to the packaging is to use a modular system based on Darice Mini Storage Boxes (available with or without compartments–I prefer those without). These parts boxes measure about 3.5″ x 5.7″ x 1.2″. They have durable metal hinges and can be stacked edge-to-edge. My computer bag holds five of them in its main compartment. Amazon sells an assortment, or you can buy individual styles from CraftAmerica.

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Inside the storage boxes I keep:

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* Retractable Rosewill ethernet connector, about 1.5″ x 3″.

* Mini-USB to full-USB wire adapter, 6″, for uploads from camera to laptop.

* Mini-mouse. I don’t like trackpads.

* Spare laptop battery.

* Medications. To save space, I transfer pills into little 3″ x 4″ zip-lock plastic bags. I peel the prescription labels from pill bottles and stick them to the bags. (but cheaper from eBay).

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* One 50mm diameter concave mirror, so that I can examine my own eye if I get a foreign object in it and there’s no one else to assist. The concavity allows very close-up focusing.

* Cell phone charger.

* Camera battery charger.

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* Earbuds and wire-mounted microphone with USB plug, for Skype calls via laptop. Especially useful when traveling internationally.

* Miniature 3-foot measuring tape in 1″ x 1.5″ enclosure.

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* Plastic lightweight miniature camera tripod, folds to 1.5″ x 6″ x 0.6″, so that I can take time exposures almost anywhere.

* SD data card reader with USB connector. Just in case image transfer from camera to computer fails.

* Miniature LED flashlight.

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* Aegis Padlock 500GB external USB drive, with 256-bit hardware encryption. The nice thing about this drive is that you enter your password on a numeric keypad built into the drive. Thus, no software drivers are necessary, and you can plug it into any computer. And if you leave it behind in a motel room, your data are secure (supposedly there is no backdoor to bypass the encryption). Can you plead the 5th Amendment if an inquisitive US immigration agent wants to see what’s saved on it? The last I heard, that issue is being litigated in a couple of test cases.

All these items fit inside the five storage boxes. In addition of course the bag has its own set of storage pockets containing pens, blank sheets of paper, two pairs of eyeglasses, paper printout of all addresses and phone numbers, business cards, passport, a printout of all online passwords using a simple cipher that I can decode in my head, and a pocket digital camera, currently a Canon S100. And, of course, there’s a computer (Sharp MP30, no longer made unfortunately).

The bag itself is quite small: 12″ x 14″ x 5″. Even when it’s fully loaded, I find the weight tolerable.

– Charles Platt