What’s in My Bag? John Edgar Park

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Curious to know what’s in my daily work/travel bag? Please, have a look (click the images for an even closer look). I carry this bag and gear for my daily work routine, as well as when I take trips. Note: I do carry some worrisome, pointy things that I place in checked baggage or leave behind when flying. More on that below.

For context, I work in CG animation at DisneyToon Studios, am a maker of robot-y, Arduino-ish things, and write about it for Make: magazine, BoingBoing and other places in print and online. I travel between locations in Los Angeles and overseas for work, so my bag is a bit of a mobile office. (Thanks for the suggestion, Justin.)

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The bag: I carry a Filson bag, made in Seattle, WA ($335, Filson 72 Hour Briefcase). I’ve taken many other bags all over the world — from Papua New Guinea to Belarus, Pakistan to Singapore, Poughkeepsie to Mumbai — this one has quickly become my favorite. Just the right carry-on size with proper, minimal organizational features for my needs. It’s rugged, weather resistant, and made of waxed cotton, bridle leather, and heritage awesomeness. Plus, it makes me feel more outdoorsy than I currently am, so that’s a psychological bonus.

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Let’s have a look in the left outer pocket.

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Sunglasses, writing, fixing, lighting:  I have somehow managed to not yet lose these lovely polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses. I carry a Sharpie marker, a wonderful little $4 technician’s screwdriver (see my review), a solid pen that takes Fisher Space Pen refills ($55 and up), a small AAA flashlight, and a Wörther mechanical pencil ($35 from Hand-Eye Supply).

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Snacks and meds: I stash snacks and pill capsules in this old army ammo pouch from my dad. He gave it to me when I was a kid to play soldier. (You’ll have to get one at a surplus store, because my dad is fresh out.) I usually have one or two snack bars and some nuts or granola in there. Also, lip balm  and instant coffee packs. Lastly, I use these great little waterproof Delrin pill capsules ($6 and up depending on size) to carry antacid, Tylenol, Advil, pseudoephedrine, industrial strength Immodium (helpful for travel to places with unsafe water), and Tic-Tacs. Because I love them. (Also: fresh breath.)

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Sharp things: This is the grouping I put in my checked luggage (alongside my double-edged safety razor) when flying is involved. At the top, the best groomsman gift I’ve ever gotten, the Leatherman Micra multitool ($25, or free if you are in the right wedding party). Next, my beloved Victorinox Swiss Army knife, which I’ve carried into the woods, the city, and around the world on adventures since my parents gave it to me for my fourteenth birthday. Note: sometimes I swap out the knife for my full sized Leatherman SuperTool or Leatherman Juice CS4 so I’ve got good pliers on hand. Connected to my knife is a seriously effective pair of government issue tweezers ($7). At the bottom, is an innocuous-looking capsule.

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Grappling hook: Not so innocuous now, are we? The micro grappling hook ($27 from Maratac). This item is absurd. I really shouldn’t carry it. But I must, due to a pact I made with my teenaged self to always be super freaking awesome as an adult. I have used it legitimately three times – in all cases to retrieve things from rooftops and trees. (It is not intended to support the swinging bodyweight of the foolish/optimistic.) The three spikes are stored inside the capsule and then thread into place when needed. As seen below, I also carry a long length of paracord to be deployed with my ridiculous grappling hook.

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On to the right outer pocket.

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Tunes, tape, adapters, photos, cards: I’ve got photos of my kids, a business card case I made from scrap leather, a zipped ripstop nylon bag full of electronics adapters, an earbud wrap in the shape of an owl I made on the laser cutter, standard Apple earbuds, plus an iPod Nano with some workout tunes on it (nifty that it’ll function as a radio during the post-apocalypse rebuilding of Earth, unlike my iPhone), and a long strip of folded over duct tape (Gorilla brand, $6 a roll) for emergency repairs or live-action body-part censorship.

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The adaptors: Within this ripstop nylon bag I stash a standard VGA adapter for my MacBook (helps when hooking up to strange projectors), MacBook ethernet adapter (not pictured), a Lighting-to-USB cable and wall wart for my iPhone and iPad (please note the Rainbow Loom wrap my daughter made for holding the coiled wire), a USB thumb drive with presentations and documents (useful when I need to give a talk without hooking up my laptop), and a rechargeable Li-Po battery pack for my iPhone and iPad (or any USB powered device).

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Shall we have a look in the main compartment?

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Laptop, notebooks, art: I’ve got my laptop and power adapter, the latest bit of artwork my daughter gives me before a long trip, a small Moleskine pocket journal ($8 for three), and a square-ruled Maker’s Notebook (~$20) for project notes and sketches.

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My laptop is a 13” MacBook Pro Retina (starts at $1300), which I find to be a snappy computer with a great-looking screen and relatively small size and low weight. The sleeve I sewed from an old pants leg and some felt.

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Toiletries, sleep mask, water bottle: I keep all my grooming supplies in this little canvas dopp bag ($60 from Archival Clothing). Thankfully, I sleep pretty well on long flights, particularly with the aid of a good sleep mask. My favorite is this pair of Eye Shades with earplug pocket ($20 from Bucky). I like to have a refillable, insulated water bottle on hand to slake my thirst, this one is $35 from S’well.

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Staying so fresh and so clean: After a long flight, I like to freshen up before landing, so I carry all of this stuff on board. I basically take a standing bath in that tiny little lavatory, hence the need for the excellent MSR PackTowel medium personal towel with which to dry myself, $13 from REI. The rest is standard stuff – deodorant, hair cream, eye drops (important on airplanes), a solitary band-aid, Q-tips, cough drops, ear plugs (how’d I end up with three?), a tiny vial of North Atlantic from CB I Hate Perfume so that I can smell beguiling, and hand lotion. Plus, a small bottle of aromatic bitters for soothing the stomach and crafting in-flight toddies from hot water, honey, lemon, whiskey and bitters.

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iPad and travel documents: I carry an iPad mini ($269) for reading books, watching movies, and playing games on flights, as well as for ready access to documents at work. I built this little adjustable stand from an old webcam monitor mount, some lead sinkers (to give it weight), and some Sugru for grip. The document case is a repurposed car sun visor organizer.

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Papers please: In order to make travel, particularly international travel, as simple as possible, I keep everything for passage, customs, boarding, and the like in one place. In the document case I carry my passport, tickets, itinerary, immunization records, airline and hotel membership cards, spare arrival card forms, and any local currency I’ve accumulated or exchanged. Plus, an extra pen.

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Strap, rope, keys: Tucked in the rear patch pocket is the bag’s shoulder strap (when not in use), a length of 550 parachute cord, and my keys, which I attach to the bag’s key clip/lanyard so I can find them when I return home. The paracord ($7 for 100’)  is good to have in many of situations, but mostly because without it, my sweet grappling hook is of greatly reduced utility.

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That’s pretty much my whole kit + kaboodle. Not pictured here: for longer trips I tear off and pack a few pages of the NYT Crossword Puzzle page-a-day calendar (~$10 for 365 puzzles), a pack of Sugru for repairs, as well as a good, dense magazine, such as Monocle. Hope you enjoyed peering inside. What would you offload or swap out? Please add your comments and suggestions below.

[OK, now it's your turn. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. -- Mark Frauenfelder]