Walkstool Comfort

In my work travels, I sometimes find myself in a roomful of equipment – and no furniture. Since using a laptop figures into most of my work, standing usually isn’t an option, and sitting on the floor is okay for a while. Jumping up and down or sitting cross-legged too long comes only when I have no other choices.

So I added a Walkstool Comfort to my kit. It’s a high-quality, collapsible, telescopic-legged camp-style stool built in Sweden. The 45cm/18″ model is low enough to create an ideal lap-based laptop perch. It packs up surprisingly small, and is built for heavy first-worlders – mine’s rated for 200kg.

Sizes range from 45cm/200kg up to 75cm/250kg. The rubber feet are large enough to limit their sinking into turf/sand.

Anyone who attends events where seating may be unavailable, or whose health limits where they go, or whose work is non-Aeron based should consider getting one of these.

At first glance, these things aren’t cheap, but when you use them they’re priceless.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Walkstool Comfort
$78 – $140

Available from Amazon



 

What’s in My Bag? – John Baichtal

John Baichtal writes and edits books for MAKE, No Starch Press, and Que Publishing. His most recent books include Robot Builder, a book of basic robot-building techniques, and Maker Pro, a book of essays about making a living by making. John’s secret project for the past few years has been his first novel, The Locksmith’s Apprentice available on Amazon.

I do a lot of writing involving the stuff of workshops: tools, parts, materials. Consequently I use a lot of tools in my work. I’ve divided my gear into three categories—what I carry all of the time, my writing stuff, and my tool stuff.

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All the Time
This is what you’ll find in my pockets pretty much anytime I’m out of the house.

SOG Tools Model 61 Multitool ($57). This thing has everything I need for most day-to-day uses. It really is a case where I find myself needing it nearly every time I forget it at home.

My ring includes 8 GB Metal Key USB 2.0 Flash Drive ($7). I also have the RFID fob for my hackerspace, the Hack Factory.

Wallet: Kids gave it to me for Father’s Day one year.

Phone: iPhone 5s. I do lots of stuff on the phone including conducting interviews, taking pictures, and returning emails.

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Writing Stuff

MacBook Pro, way too old. I photoshopped the Voltron skin myself. When I’m in the coffee shop I get a large contingent of the under-five set who come up to talk about it.

Idea journal: Just a composition notebook. It takes me about 6-9 months to work through each one. Basically, I try to record every idea I come up with, with the date at the top, a topic, and a line separating it from the next topic.

The Nerdpack: A Magic the Gathering knapsack with Adafruit Patches, MAKE buttons, a solar phone charger, a mini tape measure, as well as a SparkFun LilyTwinkle sewn into the nylon with conductive thread.

Pelican ProGear Vault iPad Mini Case ($75): This absurdly armored case feels strong enough to deflect the charge of a rhino. The case’s bezel screws down over the tablet, making it impossible to fall out, and the screen cover can be removed if you don’t need it.

Anker Astro Portable Phone Charger ($46) 12,800 mAh, using standard USB everything. Its curving sides are completely featureless except for a cool LED ring that displays its current charge.

Lip balm. I’m not brand-loyal; Chap-Aid is just fine.

Index cards: I use these to organize my day. I jot down everything I’m supposed to get done. It often works.

Hitcase Phone Camera Mount ($15) is the kind of smartphone mount that you put on your ATV to record yourself driving through raging mountain streams. It consists of a very robust protective case, which locks into a variety of bases including a bike mount, a rollbar rig, a chest harness, and more. One base has an adhesive star at the bottom, which I applied to a MDF gear I lasered out at the space. In other words, it’s a really small tripod that I can put on a shelf, on top of piles of books, and so on.

My trusty Iomega eGo BlackBelt Portable External Hard Drive ($230 for 1.5 TB model) has saved my skin more than once. I plug it in and my laptop automatically backs up to it.

Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone ($270): Sometimes you gotta put on your ‘phones to get anything done.

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Tools

Pelican 1460 Toolbox ($240): This sucker weighs 13 pounds empty, but it’s indestructible and huge enough to carry everything I need.

Extech 470 Multimeter ($116): A very handy and full-featured meter, the Extech 470 has all the usual features plus also packs an infrared thermometer. Also pictured is a K-type thermocouple, a temperature sensor that plugs into the meter. My favorite multimeter leads are banana-to-alligator, which is also one of the funniest adjectives I’ve ever heard.

Tape measure: I use mine all the time.

Nerdy safety goggles: I like these because they fit over my regular glasses and remind me of being a nerdy kid with a chemistry set.

USB cable: A nice short one like this one on Adafruit ($3). So much handier than those 4’ monstrosities I see draped across folks’ Arduinos.

BlackFire Flashlight ($20): This LED flashlight has a clever base that clamps onto poles and shelf-edges, but also can be stood up like a little tripod. I use this guy for normal flashlight purposes but also to illuminate close-up videos I’m shooting in low light.

Wall Wart ($12): Switchable from 5-12v and it comes with an octopus of different barrel diameters.

I designed and laser-cut my own proto board. It consists of an Arduino (or clone, in the photo) with a half-sized solderless breadboard stuck on the board next to it. I also included a bunch of mounting holes to add breakout boards to your circuit. The holes are Lego Technic-compatible so you can prototype your next Bricktronics project right on the robot. The killer feature is the large hole in one corner that lets you hang the board on a wall hook so your circuit won’t get messed up. When sitting down, rubber feet keep your board from scratching up the dining room table.

Soldering iron ($22) : Adafruit’s recommended pen-style iron.

Workforce Stubby: This no-name (OK, it’s “Workforce”) ratcheting screwdriver was bought at the Home Depot for $4 several years ago. It holds six bits in the handle and ratchets as nice as you could ask for. I’ve used several ratcheting screwdrivers, including some expensive gear, but this one is the best of all of them. [Here's one by Stanley for $4.]

Pelican 1920 Flashlight ($25): This flashlight’s barrel is machined out of anodized aluminum but might very well have been pounded out of meteoric iron by Odin himself for all the beatings this thing can take.

Vise-Grip Wire Strippers ($16): I must admit to being disappointed with several Vise-Grip products recently. However, these strippers are great. They’re fairly typical in their configuration, but they just work.

No-Name Heavy Clippers: Don’t be fooled by the faux-Hakko color scheme… these guys are totally generic. That said, they’re good for hacking through wires too thick for my multitool or diagonal clippers.

Solder Sucker: If you solder without one of these, it is you who are the sucker. Or at least get some desoldering braid.

Hakko 2002 Pliers ($11) and CHP-170 Diagonal Cutters ($4): I love these clever Finnish ‘tronics tools.

Digital Caliper: You can get calipers dirt cheap these days.

-- John Baichtal  

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. 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. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



Flip-Pac Camper Shell

I’ve had my Flip-Pac six or eight years. The pictures on their web site will pretty much show you what it is and how it works. It is very convenient, extremely comfortable, sets up and folds downs quickly and easily.

It allows us to quickly and easily camp out anywhere we can find a reasonably level spot to park our 4WD truck. We sleep off the ground on a comfortable built-in mattress (about Queen size) with plenty of screened windows for ventilation and stargazing if the weather is nice, and – with the rain fly – absolutely dry under the wettest conditions. A couple small interior lights run off the truck battery.

When we are not camping: we still have full use of the carrying capacity of the truck bed same as we would if we had a conventional camper shell. The mattress and tent live under a headliner and take up only about six inches of space under the roof of the shell.

Compared to other pop-up campers: it is light weight (less than 300lbs, important if you have a small truck), cheaper, sturdy enough to carry stuff on the roof [I had a friend make racks for kayaks and boating gear]. I can use all the camping equipment I already had – stove, coolers, folding chairs and table. etc – without the cost or inconvenience of built-ins, which would compromise the usefulness of the truck for hauling stuff around. In pleasant weather we’d sit, cook, and eat outside; in foul weather, this can be done inside, but in a small truck bed it’s not what one would call “roomy.”

It’s very hard to find these used, people who have them will find another truck they can be used on when the first truck wears out.

Possible negatives: they are made to order in Riverside, Ca. (only). When I got mine – years ago – I had to put 50% down, wait maybe a month and a half, then arrange a date when I showed up at the shop where they make them and had mine installed. Back then, they installed one in the morning and another in the afternoon: so they are a small shop and not a big assembly-line operation. I’m sure today the price is higher and the wait longer…

I could have had it delivered to a dealer in Phoenix, who would have installed it, but then I would have had to pay AZ sales tax; I elected to drive to Riverside instead, about the same cost – and no sales tax!

While this has never been a problem for me… some people complain (on the Internet) that it is inconvenient (or impossible) to put up the rainfly without folding up the Flip-Pac; in other words, you need to install the rain fly when you first set it up, you can’t easily change your mind in the middle of the night. Where we camp – the desert SouthWest – this is no problem; but it seems that in the Pacific NorthWest it is.

The tent is made of a vinyl type fabric that resists a light rain or sprinkle well, but for a real rain you want the rain fly [an option available at additional cost.] But with the rainfly installed, there is no way you can get wet or have any water get inside, it is very well designed and functions perfectly – although it eliminates the views out the windows. In the morning after a downpour, you and all your gear are dry – even if the truck is in the middle of a large puddle.

For cold weather camping, we use a small “Mr. Heater” propane heater to keep it warm inside before we crawl in bed, or when we get up in the morning. It sleeps two adults comfortably on the bed [over the cab and hood of the truck] and can also sleep a small adult [or child] on a shelf over the truck bed. Or the shelf can be used to store gear…or folded out of the way altogether. When the Flip-Pac is erected, there is plenty of room for a tall person to stand up in the truck bed.

 

-- Drifter Smith  

[People love their Flip-Pacs. Check out this forum with plenty of photos.]

Flip-Pac
$6,000 and up

Manufactured by Flip-Pac



Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

This bag has been my indefatigable mobile office for the past 2 years. I am a train commuter navigating from Boston’s suburbs into Kendall Square (MIT), Cambridge five days a week. Productivity is important to me during my commuting time and the bag offers outstanding organization and comfort to allow me to work anywhere.

This bag is loaded with organizational features, durably crafted and stylistically elegant (and customizable!). Few bags excel in all three of those critical elements. I use the large size, and while it can be roomy for lighter daily travel, having the extra space accommodates the occasional overnight trip or the large object that I need to tote into my work-space.

-- Nathan Chesley  

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag 2014
Large: $109

Available from Amazon



What’s in My Bag – Stephanie Moore

I work part-time at the local community college tutoring math and science. I have also been known to suit-up and play paintball (usually the lone female and oldest player on the field), so my bag contains a rather odd variety of things.

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I recently had to upgrade from my dearly loved Maxpedition FR-1 pouch simply because it lacked the storage space I needed. After months of research and debating with myself, about a month ago I purchased a Duluth Trading Company Firehose & Leather Field Bag ($90).

Looking at it from the outside, the bag has 3 large zippered compartments and the 2 outer sides have a smaller flat zippered compartment and one that is open with a loop of leather and snap to keep it semi-closed.

So what do I carry?

The open outer compartment carries my iPhone 4s and sometimes a USB to iPhone cable so I can recharge off a computer or in the car.

kleenexThe zippered outer compartment carries my wallet and a small pack of Kleenex because in my family there is a Kleenex box or two in every room!

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The full-size zip compartment next to the open outer compartment is gusseted – an extremely nice feature that allows both easy access and cramming a lot of things in! The inside of this compartment has 2 graduated open storage slots, a flat zippered storage slot, and a pen/pencil etc holder on one side and the other side has a large open storage area. Counting the main storage area, that makes 6 places to divide up things! I recently discovered a way to “fix” the divider being too flexible. I simply put in a small notepad (like a 6×9 Moleskine, only a cheap version) and voila! I have writing paper *and* a stiffer divider!

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In the pen/pencil area I carry a 6-inch yellow see-through ruler marked in both centimeters and inches (yellow because it makes print easier to read for students with nystagmus, and marking the line being read helps students with dyslexia and/or ADHD), 2 different colors each of highlighters, Sharpie markers and ballpoint pens and 2 or more Papermate clearpoint elite mechanical pencils ($10 for 2) (the “elite” part nets you the metal clip which you can hang on a spiral notebook without having it break mid-term). These particular pencils have been my favorite for years now because the side-advance means you don’t advance the lead every time you erase and because the erasers are so long they last forever even when you make a lot of mistakes. Although they are sold in solid colors, my son took the pencils apart and mixed the barrel colors for me so my students (many of whom use the same pencils due to my influence) never inadvertently leave with *my* pencils.

tape

In one open slot I carry a roll of tape (useful for sticking reminder notes in places without marker boards), a small metal tape measure (extremely useful when out shopping for furnishings), and a small note pad.

tins

In one of the larger open slots I carry 3 Altoids tins in green, red and teal. The teal one is empty while I am figuring out what might need to go in it, but the other day I was shopping and had to take some medicine so I used the clean empty tin as an emergency drinking cup. I believe it will stay empty now!

redtin

The red tin is my “first aid/survival” tin. It contains my Leatherman Squirt PS4 ($28) (with pliers/wire cutters, essential for emergency string changes on my electric bass), 2 bandaids, a couple rubber bands and paper clips (unbent paperclips can be very handy for unlocking doors), Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers ($7), a nail clipper and file and a lighter (I don’t smoke, but it’s been great for lighting candles, sealing the ends of cut paracord etc), two small screen cleaning cloths and a couple of foreign coins I found while geo-caching.

greentin

The green tin is more school stuff, various page marking sticky papers, extra pencil leads and a couple of large erasers.

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knife-2

Attached to the zipper of this compartment is a little clip to which I attach my Tool Logic SLP2 knife ($30). This knife is relatively lightweight, sharp, and has a magnesium fire starter, an LED flashlight and a piercing emergency whistle built into it. Love my knife! Attaching it this way allows me to find it without digging thru the depths of my bag and to unclip it easily. The short length of orange cord remains on the knife allowing me to easily find it without getting in the way of using it.

toiletry

The large center zippered pocket is the only large pocket without gussets, but it is the widest one. I use this as my toiletry kit. Like the previous pocket, it has interior organizational pockets (Three of them, all open and all on one side). Here I keep an inhaler, nasal spray, a divided box of various meds, hand lotion, a brush and comb, lip balm, disposable toothpicks, a metal tooth cleaner, and, since I made myself extremely nauseous taking two prescription tablets that looked like ibuprofen from my divided pill container, a small Altoids tin dedicated to ibuprofen tablets. If needed, I also carry a prescription bottle of short-term medicine I may be taking.

dice-1

dice-2

The final zippered compartment is gusseted and is one large area. Here I keep a smaller (yellow) zippered bag that holds my pStyle female urination device ($12) (for dirty restrooms and paintball fields), another pack of Kleenex, a zip pouch of polyhedral dice (just because I like math and they are pretty), a snap-close pouch of earbuds with all the various sizes of foamy parts that go on them and some ear plugs to retain my sensitive hearing and avoid migraines in loud places.

strap

Lastly, there is the bag’s padded shoulder strap. More than one person has commented it looks like a, well, a not-very-comfortable shoulder strap. I am quick to assure them, that however it looks and whatever it is made of, it is hands-down the most comfortable shoulder strap I’ve ever worn (and I have lots of experience with bad ones from 40+ years of guitar and bass straps holding up instruments that weigh between 5 and 20 lbs).

case

Clipped onto the shoulder strap is a glasses case for my sunglasses (which I wear year-round because my eyes are light sensitive).

That about covers it and the bag isn’t even all the way filled up! I’ve shown it to some female friends (outdoorsy biology instructors and an ER nurse) and without my junk in it, the bag is quite capable of carrying a Kindle or smaller iPad plus a 6×9” size book plus a 6×9” notebook or journal with room for other things.

-- Stephanie Moore  

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. 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. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



 

What’s in my bag? – Eric McClellan

Eric McClellan spends his days working with talented people creating advertising for Ford as Executive Creative Director of Content and Brand Entertainment at Team Detroit. In his spare time he’s obsessively doodling in pursuit of the perfect Superman symbol, making to­do lists, and communicating with his 14 year old via Instagram and Snapchat. His blog, “Rough Ratio”, chronicling his life with his daughter and dog can be found at ericmcclellan.tumblr.com

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If you’re like me – and as a New Century Techno-­Narcissist like the rest of you, I’m assuming you are – the shoulder bag is more than a personal carry­on item – it’s a multi­functional makeshift pillow-­slash-­storage device and, at times, slash-­battering ram. My current bag of choice is a black canvas Jack Spade Messenger. I don’t particularly love it a lot but it was a thoughtful gift and has become a constant companion in my travels (Now that I think about it a lot of the things I carry around are some form of thoughtful gift and for that I am grateful). The thing I do like about this bag is that I can seemingly keep stuffing it’s 11 x 18 x 6 inches full of all the stuff I want to lug around (or at least all the stuff I want to arrange neatly and photograph for this post ; ) As you can see I travel around with a garden variety grid of laptops, chewing gum, notecards, notebooks, printed pages, pixeled screens, tools, eyewear, ID, and assorted health & beauty products. I like to think it’s the individual selections of the items that make it interesting and by “it” I mean “me” but that’s just the Techno­-Narcissist talking.

Disclaimer: Despite 20+ years as a professional art director, having access to state­-of-the-­art automated cameras (thx LV), and the constant critique of my image-­fluent kid I remain an ungifted amateur photographer. But I do arrange things neatly.

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Big(Ish) Computing
In the dark times before TSA Pre I slogged through life with a 17-inch MacBook Pro. I have since opted for the 64GB 11-inch MacBook Air. Its light weight and super thin profile more than make up for the small screen size and relatively scanty memory. I use it mostly for stuff that requires typing on a larger-than-thumbsize keyboard — work email, messages, Tweeting, Googling, a little bit of ‘shooping and shopping, updating my blog, etc, and it sits smartly atop my sturdy worktable (a mass-produced dining room table from CB2 which they claim to be made of wood recycled from The Darjeeling Limited. I have my doubts about its provenance although the same table is in Cam and Mitchell’s home in Modern Family). The Air is also perfectly sized and weighted for the wobbly, under-engineered trays found on most commercial jets. When not in use, I keep it snugged up inside an InCase 11-inch Neoprene Pro Sleeve. Also, I use the MagSafe charger WITH the AC extension cord as I find the AC adapter itself never stays plugged into the outlet. Never. In any outlet.

Disclaimer Two: In addition to being an amateur photographer I am also an amateur brand taxonomist so I might get lost in the bliss of naming things. Please bear with me (If there are any others out there similarly afflicted find me on Twitter @mctweet).

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Smaller Computing
It almost seems crazy to carry both an 11-inch MacBook Air AND a 128 GB iPad Mini in the same bag but they are different and distinct platforms that I use for different and distinct platform-critical things. Plus my golden Nike Free Powerlines look sick nasty as a lock screen image on the Retina display. One would think my 64GB iPhone 5s would be extraneous in the extreme but, to tell a family secret, I use it more than the Mini and Air combined. That’s where I keep my jams, y’all. Sharp-eyed fashionistas (is that still a thing?) will spot my kid’s Birkenstock Mocha Birkenbuck Arizona Sandals. Who knew? AND she wears them with socks! After my cool friends at Vice News made fun of me as I unspooled skeins of white cable in a meeting, I immediately acquired a Mophie Juice Pack Plus. P.S. They were right to laugh at me. The Anker Astro 6000mAh External Battery was another thoughtful gift. It effortlessly powers the Mini (btw another thoughtful gift) when I burn though its battery while over-admiring my collection of photos of my collection of sneakers.

Disclaimer Three: I have no idea what “Powerlines” means any more than I know what “6000mAh” means.

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The Reddy Kilowatt Collection
In addition to the flock of free-range charging outlet adapters (which apparently migrate regularly to my kid’s laundry hamper) I also carry a snarl of USB-to-USB and Lightning-to-USB cables for things such as the 500GB Seagate Backup Slim. This isn’t just an external backup for me – it’s an external hardrive for my Air, running iTunes and iPhoto and their ever-expanding libraries (I know, I know… Spotify). The Kingston DataTraveler 16GB USB Flash Drive makes the cut for it’s superminimalist approach to life alone. It’s close to being my favorite all-time great looking thing although nothing will dethrone my matched set of vintage Panasonic PanaPoint Electric Pencil Sharpeners (not for travel use). The small Tumi bag was also a gift from Delta I received in exchange for full fare first class ticket. Although it originally contained a sleep mask and footies I now use it for all the EMF-emitting things you see displayed here.

Disclaimer Four: The Anker Astro shows up again because I needed something that color, shape, and size for an optimal composition. Plus I do really like it.

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Eyewear And Earware
I hate my Apple In-Ear Headphones. Not only did I have to Google a how-to video just to rewind them into the triangular case but I can’t keep them in my f#¢king ears. Actually the video was kinda cool but the phones themselves? Ugh. No matter which size tip I use unless I sit completely still they tumble out of my ear. I realize they’re out-of-date and I could get a new pair but I’ve spent so much on earbuds over the years that frankly I’d rather complain. Speaking of polygons, check out that sleek Lindberg eyeglass case that protects my sleek Lindberg sunglasses. It’s unique right-triangle design has stood up to being sat on, stood upon, and crushed. It has the scars to prove it. Normally I’m an aviator type guy but the Electric Knoxville XL Polarized Sunglasses were an impulse purchase made under the influence of UVB rays. At first I felt like I just walked out of a 3-D movie in 1996 but now I like them. And then there are the Beats By Dr. Dre´ Studio Headphones. Unh. I was a Bose Quiet Comfort loyalist but this thoughtful gift dropped the bass in a way the elegant Bose just never could. Plus the built-in mic brings the noize.

Disclaimer Five: I’ve since changed from Lindberg to Mykita eyeglasses but kept the case. It’s just that good.

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Analog Things Mostly Made From From Logs
My very first job was at a stop sign factory. I got it because I could sorta draw (you’d be surprised how much drawing was required back then). Now I can write, too, so I’m really into paper and pencil, and, to a milder extent, pen and ink. My go-to pencil is the wood and graphite Palomino Blackwing 602. It lays down a sensuous, authoritative line that is easily modulated with just the slightest change in pressure (“Half the pressure, twice the speed” as it says on the barrel). The Palomino KUM Automatic Brake Long Point Two Step Pencil Sharpener sounds complicated but it’s not; it’s just two holes. The first hole is used to sharpen the wood, and the second is used to sharpen the lead. Plus it’s orange plastic. The red Sharpie Fine Point Marker is for marking done things off to-do lists with satisfying finality while the black Pentel RSVP Ballpoint Stick Pens are fine for doing crossword puzzles (#humblebrag). The Whitelines Wire Slim Squared Notebook isn’t just a great spiral-bound notebook, it’s a philosophical manifesto – namely that dark lines on paper distract. The perforated 6-inch x 11.625-inch sheets are light grey superimposed with a grid of white lines creating a clean, open space on which to scribble obsessive to-do lists and scrawl Superman symbols. The little East of India Office Clips are from Crate & Barrel (and, yes, another gift – my friends know me so well). The 3.75-inch x 5.5-inch Rhodia notebook contains all my passwords and appropriately sports Boing Boing’s always hard-working Jackhammer Jill. I also carry thank you cards because I find I have so much for which to be thankful. Currently, I love the Kinaloon “thx.” cards I got at Nora Modern in Detroit.

Disclaimer Six: I prefer the fat inky line of most Uniball pens but they don’t seem to be able to withstand pressurized cabins without leaking. Get on it Uniball.

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The Other “R”
I travel a lot. And despite all the gear I use to wrangle electricity sometimes I find my devices fully discharged or that I just need to Dis. Con. Nect. I hoard New York Times Crossword Puzzles and paperbacks for just those times. I try to limit the my crossword selection to Friday through Sunday editions with Saturday being the hardest while Sunday’s is just the longest. I have a theory that not only do the puzzles get progressively more difficult during the week but also more difficult throughout the year. Unfortunately I can’t test that hypothesis now that I do them out of order. I also believe that the more people who correctly complete any given puzzle make it easier for subsequent puzzlers to complete it so it all balances out. The book I’m reading now is Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler which guides the reader through David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technolgy and the hoaxes and head fakes that gave birth to both science and art. The canson paper feather bookmark is a hand painted watercolor from one of the coolest musicians I know. Plus she’s my pen pal. I know what you’re thinking, “A pen pal in 2014? Shut up.”

Disclaimer Seven: To people who claim they can’t do crosswords, I say this: all puzzles want to be solved. The crossword puzzle makes this particularly apparent by printing helpful clues in English. A really difficult crossword would be a grid of white squares with no clues! Plus after you do the NYT puzzles for a while you realize the same answers show up again and again. ELON College? Really, Will Shortz?

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Gettin’ My Drink On
Maybe the single-most jaw slackening bit of technology I carry is the reusable and foldable VAPUR Element 1L Water Bottle. Emptied it’s just a flexible swatch of BPA-free plastic that clips to my bag. But fill it up with water and it’s a squeezable flask that stands stalwartly on its own bottom. Its deceptively simple form conceals a lot of future state plastics design and manufacturing. And I must admit it’s yet another gift that, like all the best gifts, just keeps on giving. The two little boxes of Revolution Golden Chamomile Tea is caffiene — free but not a particular recommendation — it’s just what they were serving at the last hotel I stayed in so I grabbed a couple. I’ prefer green tea myself although I do like PG Tips builders tea.

Disclaimer Eight: While tea is easy to travel with I’m really a coffee guy and have my eye on the travel-friendly, Cory Doctrow-recommended Aerobie Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

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Spoiler Alert: TMI
These last few items are, to me, essential for the traveler who gives more than a passing care to personal grooming. Let’s start with the biggie: Preparation H Totables Wipes. I spend a lot of time on the road headed towards strange locations and not all of them come equipped with toilet paper (have you ever been to the San Bernardino Airport?). As an Eagle Scout I’m trained to be prepared for this because hygiene. A mini squeeze bottle of a hand sanitizer and a travel pack of Kleenex tissues (no aloe, no lotion, thank you) help deflect and denature the sneezes, spills, squirts and eruptions one encounters in the great wet world. I indulge another mild obsession by cleaning and caring for the sneakers I travel with with Jason Markk Quick Wipes. This shoeshine-in-a-pouch keeps my kicks clean whenever I’m away from home base. Each wipe is suffused with what I believe to be a magical potion – one side is pebbled to gently scrub while the other is smooth enough to wipe away the filth. The 24-count bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol contains a few Tylenol along with some pharmaceutical grade zinc capsules which I believe boost my auto-immune system. The tub of Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 is, in my experience, the most effective lip moisturizer and protector in the world. Orbitz Wintermint Chewing Gum is always a welcome breath-freshener after hours of recycled and pressurized shared air. I like the Bubblemint flavor, too. The Hy-Ko Cable Lock Key Ring is something I discovered after losing my ex’s pricey gold keyring and while it does as good a job as expensive imitations it’s here primarily because the orange tab on the key for my Kensington Microsaver Twin Notebook Lock accurately quoted the the color and shape of orange field behind the Kleenex logo. What can I say? I’m an art director who had some time on his hands to arrange things neatly.

Disclaimer Nine: While I was getting the exact name of the Kiehl’s lip balm I discovered it contains pertrolatum AKA petroleum jelly, an ingredient which I had previously convinced myself it didn’t contain. I’m now in the market for a new (and verifiably petroleum-free) lip balm. Thank Glob for obsessive brand taxonomy.

 

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. 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. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



Booq Boa Shift Backpack

The booq Boa Shift backpack adds a little bit of luxury to the daily task of carrying your stuff around. The cool modern exterior has a look that’s far elevated from your schoolyard backpack, but the style is equality matched in functionality. On the outside the bag features waterproof nylon (thunderstorm tested, it works remarkably well!) as well as vented material on the underside that keeps your back from getting too hot. Inside it has soft creamy fabric that’s ideal for protecting delicate items; it has a laptop sleeve that fits any Mac and most PC laptops under 15-inches. There are a variety of smaller pockets as well. The actual cargo area holds a good amount, while remaining lightweight thanks to the material and cut of the bag.

-- Arden Baichtal  

Booq Boa Shift Backpack for 15-Inch Laptop
$150

Available from Amazon



What’s in my bag? – Dean Putney

Dean Putney is a software developer, photographer and Internet superhero. He recently published a book of his great-grandfather’s photos from World War I

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I recently completed an extensive search for a new bag. The goals were to provide space for my work items (laptop, etc), easy access to camera equipment with a quick shoulder sling, and a compact design for riding my motorcycle.

The solution was the Chrome Niko Pack. This bag has two spaces: one at the top for my work items and laptop, and one at the bottom with a side zipper for camera equipment. The velcro straps on the back make a great spot to attach a tripod.

Here’s what’s in my bag on a regular basis:

Bottom half:

Strapped on the outside:

In the top compartment:

 

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. 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. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



What’s in My Bag? – Ryan Holiday

I travel a lot. For work mostly. But I love it because I get a lot of work done on the road. Whether it’s reading books, or writing or catching up on email, I tend to have bursts of productivity while I am traveling and then I get to enjoy myself on the trip. This is the bag I take as my under-the-seat carry on (never check bags! It’s a rookie mistake). It has everything I need to stay busy no matter how long the flight (most recently the 20 hours back from Sydney to Austin).

Most recently I was on the road for my third book, The Obstacle Is The Way, which came out with Penguin in May. I also run my marketing company, Brass Check, and am the Director of Marketing at American Apparel. As if I wasn’t busy enough I’m also an editor at large at the New York Observer/Betabeat.com and I write for my own site and Thought Catalog.

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everything

Writing Materials: To research for my books, I always bring 4×6 ruled index cards with me wherever I go. It’s where I jot down notes or sayings that I might want to use down the line. I also carry this Sony digital voice recorder ($55) for interviews.

passport

Travel Documents: For international travel, the right documents matter. I have my passport and of course, my Global Entry card (which is worth every penny). It lets me skip lines with pre-check domestically and breeze through customs when I’m entering the country. Customs in other countries are usually no sweat, but anyone entering the US through JFK knows how long the line can be. This is where Global Entry saves a lot of time. I also carry business cards for my gig at the New York Observer and my marketing company Brass Check.

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Books: Only physical books for me. On this trip, I read Emerson’s Representative Men, The Gods of Olympus (which my UK publisher gave me in London the week before) and I just got an early copy of Zack Greenberg’s bio of Michael Jackson’s music empire. I always try to keep a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (this copy is 8 years old and filled with notes). I also have a copy of my new book, The Obstacle Is The Way, in case I need to give one to someone. I usually keep a few other books in my suitcase as well. In the middle is my Moleskine in case I need to take notes in a meeting.

 

computer

Electronics: I carry a MacBook Air ($950) with a black plastic case. My phone is an iPhone 5 with a Mophie battery case ($80). With my phone, I use the Phillips Sweat-proof headphones ($20) with a mic and with my iPod Shuffle ($69) I use the same headphone sans mic. This way I can go for a run with either. The respective chargers for all the devices are in the bag as well.

glasses

Eyewear: Some polarized Ray Ban glasses ($106) (which I found randomly a few months back believe it or not). And Speedo goggles ($16). I try to swim in every place I go. The rock pools in Australia are maybe the coolest pools in the world…though Barton Springs near my house in Austin is amazing too.

health

Medicine: If you travel a lot, especially for speaking, you get sick. I carry Dayquil, Pepto pills, Advil, and Emergen-C. I also carry Zzzquil in case I have trouble sleeping. 5 Hour Energy is my caffeine substitute (I don’t do coffee or soda anymore). Who doesn’t love dessert gum? It takes like ice cream! Also Arm & Hammer deodorant — has fewer chemicals than most but actually works unlike Toms.

dog

Dog: I wish I could bring the dachshund, Ms. Hanno. Unfortunately most places I cannot. But I wish. She’s good in the backpack though.

-- Ryan Holiday  

[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. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



What’s in my bag? – Laura Welcher

By training, I’m a linguist. I’m fascinated by systems, especially complex yet economical ones — like human language — that elegantly solve problems. To feed my inner geek, I look for tricky aspects of daily life that can be improved by the development of such systems, and then put the system together with just what is needed to make it all work just right. And then let it run, with minimal input, like clockwork.

Several years ago I was faced with such an problem by the introduction an extremely annoying 3-hour-a-day commute. Liking my job a lot, but hating being sedentary and stuck in traffic for hours at a time, I decided to ditch the car and become a bike commuter.

However, my particular commute (in the San Francisco Bay Area) presents several challenges. Part of my ride involves either riding BART or taking a bus across the Bay Bridge. This means quickly donning and doffing a bike bag in order to be able to carry the bike up and down BART stairs, through fare gates, being able to maneuver on trains without rolling over packages, paws, or feet, and being able to load the bike on and off the rack on the outside front of the Transbay Bus. Fellow public transit takers are not appreciative of cyclists who are slow or clumsy at doing any of this.

After trying out many commuter bags, some too big and some too small, I think I have found one that is just right. The Ballard Market Pannier ($80) by Detours converts in a flash from a pannier to a backpack, so that you can quickly secure it on your back and carry your bike. It also converts to a long-handled tote bag so you can travel as an incognito bike commuter as needed. The pack is rugged, the base is waterproof, there are internal straps and clips to secure a laptop and keys, and there is a cover you can whip out in wet weather to keep everything inside clean and dry. It fits on both my standard hybrid commute bike, as well as my folding Dahon Vitesse bike ($530-$750) shown here.

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And now for what is inside. One basic challenge that most bike commuters have is the need to be able to transition from casual bike commuter wear (which San Francisco workplaces are generally tolerant of), to “event-wear” for special activities or meetings at work, where one attempts to banish the sweat and bike helmet-hair for a look that is a bit more polished and put-together. I am no exception to this.

Besides carrying a change of clothing, my secret weapon is this small mesh bag with all of the essential elements to produce the transformation. They allow it to be accomplished anywhere from a seat in the back of the bus, to a work desktop, to the least equipped of public bathrooms. Also stashed in this bag are a variety of necessities including basic tools, toiletries, and first aid to handle most minor commute and workday emergencies.

This bag also includes a small Altoids tin that neatly packs in the smallest (and somewhat sensitive) health and beauty items. I keep it closed with a hair elastic.

Another challenge that I have to deal with is the need to take a shot. I’m supposed to take it every day, ideally at the same time each day. The only time I can manage to be consistent about it is around 10 am, so I usually carry the shot bag with me. Afterwards the shot site can hurt like heck so it is really better to do after the bike ride when it can be iced for a bit. I wanted to show this picture because I figure a lot of people have to deal with something like it, and to show that it can be dealt with. (My shot is for M.S. but it is more common challenge for diabetics.) Not fun and not fair, but having to take a shot doesn’t need to keep you off your bike if that’s what you want to do. And, managing it well within my larger bike commute system adds a touch of elegance to my solution, imho.

  • BD Safe-Clip ($3) needle-nipper. A fantastic and inexpensive device — it safely removes and stores hundreds of needles as biohazard waste; the rest of the syringe materials can go into regular recycling. Disposing of used syringes was a huge pain until I figured this out.
  • Copaxone — a treatment for M.S. and quite possibly the reason I can still bike (and work and walk and run) today. I usually keep several syringes in the bag so I don’t have to restock every day.
  • Autoject ($34) — mechanical injection tool that hides the needle (a big help for the needle-phobic) and for those hard-to-reach injection sites.
  • Prescription and doctor contact info, 1-800 number for advice.
  • Individual alcohol prep pads ($5/200) — turns out these are also incredibly useful for cleaning all kinds of things, but especially grungy mobile phones and computer keyboards.

The next system of gear I carry in my bag is part fun, part communications experiment (nerdy linguist fun), and part civic service in a location where a major earthquake could happen at any moment. This set of stuff is my portable amateur radio gear. Using this radio, I can talk point-to-point with other radio users, hop on one of the several local volunteer-maintained repeaters, and in an emergency (when cell networks often go down), join or run an alternate communications network and pass emergency messages using established and well-known protocols. I often practice on Tuesdays with a radio net that convenes on a local repeater after the San Francisco emergency sirens are tested.

  • Yaesu VX-8DR HT Radio ($492)
  • AC charger, earphone mic, charged extra LI-ON battery. Another good practice is to carry an alkaline battery case and spare batteries and / or a cigarette lighter plug ($28). These aren’t in my current kit but probably should be, because they extend use of the radio in an emergency. Without recharging, I can currently get about 8 continuous hours of use in receive mode, but considerably less if I need to a lot of transmitting.
  • Nifty Mini-Manual — laminated quick guide to the VX-8DR for reading on the BART / bus or looking up a function (this particular radio has lots of functions, and many involve multiple key-push combinations).
  • Diamond SRH519 ($23) flexible antenna which so far has held up to a lot of abuse in my bag and allows the radio to be comfortably carried, either clipped on the bag or on the belt / waistline. I’ve also used the Diamond SRHF40 flexible antenna with good results.

A more recent gear / bag challenge I had involved maintaining a training schedule this past spring to complete my first marathon. On an event day at work, this could mean biking to work in the morning, working a regular day, heading out from work to complete a 5 – 8 mile run, returning to work to get ready for an event (and cleaning up sans shower), working the event, getting back into commute gear, and then biking home. Now that the marathon is done, I want to keep up my endurance and training level to run more of them. So, the stuff I carry with me needs to support days like this.

The workday essentials (ok, I admit the wallet and key ring need a bit of editing)…

And last, but not least — the gear to support the commute itself. I keep the SF Bike map because of its paper charm, also because I like to look at it while riding BART or the bus (such a pretty system!). It folds down to wallet size. I show the various cards here (some are normally in my wallet) because they demonstrate whole other systems of infrastructure that operate in the background to efficiently maintain my ability to bike commute — Clipper Card to quickly pay transit fares, Commuter Check card to quickly restock the Clipper Card with pre-tax dollars, BikeLink card to lock my bike in safe locker storage at most transit stations, and a ZipCar membership to rent a ride share during the workday if need be (for example, to pick someone up or haul stuff). And of course, my card to show I’m a proud member of the San Francisco Bike Coalition!

Btw, this is my summer bike kit; the winter kit is much more involved because of the rain gear. I consider one of the greatest and most delightful challenges to my system to be the ability to maintain comfort, safety and visibility as well as dryness for self and gear during a San Francisco downpour!