What's in My Bag

What’s in My Bag? – Pat Ripton

I’m a US Army officer, where I work for the Army Engineers. My current position demands I err on the ...

I’m a US Army officer, where I work for the Army Engineers. My current position demands I err on the side of being over-prepared. I enjoy curating my pool of functional possessions and have always enjoyed the What’s In My Bag posts as a source of new things and ways to carry them.


I’m not sure if there is anything too exciting in my bag, but damned if I don’t feel proud at the little kit I’ve put together. I use it both locally and on the road, but this is more of the traveling configuration.

The bag itself is the Killspencer Special Ops, which I like because it is unique but subdued and most of all because I can wear it in uniform. There are some issues with the strap adjustment and some fraying down at the bottom where they meet the bag, but overall I’m very happy with the waxed-cotton look, how slim it is, and the compartments. The only way I’ve modded the bag is to attach the Camera Capture Clip, which has been a good way of getting around proscriptions against wearing a camera in uniform.

Like a lot of other posters, I am rocking multiple operating systems. My work computer is a husky HP. In the past I have paired it with MacBook Air, but I’ve found the iPad Air to be a richer traveling partner. I use it for books, newspapers, and comics (mostly on airplanes) and link it up to small Lepow speaker for hotel room parties (Netflix). My work laptop’s touchpad is useless (though I prefer them on Macs) so I always travel with a wireless mouse. I consider it a bit of a guilty luxury because of its size.

I always travel with the folding CAC Smart Card reader, which I’m surprised I don’t see more people using. It’s the little white T-shaped device in the southwest of the picture. It folds down to be smaller than a thumbdrive and has helped me get access when my computer isn’t available. Blank DVDs are always on hand because of prohibition on thumb-drives on most government systems.

I severely enjoy the Grid-it storage system (above the card reader). A lot of the smaller stuff I have goes in the pockets. I use it for all of the cords, stationary stuff, and a lot of the grooming items (breath-spray, tissues, spare razor, comb, eye mask). I have a first aid kit just in case and for work. Wet Ones are a necessity. I’ve gone through a few packages since I started carrying them.

My International driver’s license sleeve also houses my passport. The business card holder has cheeky Engrish. I picked it up at a 100-yen store last time I was in Japan.

The decision to carry so much uniform stuff is all based on experience. I carry extra patches and an extra hat (can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten one) that I can lend out if need be, which has happened too. The buttons go to my favorite travel pants, Triple Aught Design’s Covert RS Pants. They aren’t pictured, but they are as big a part of my travel package as anything here. There’s lots of pockets for an extra phone, challenge coins, and printed tickets.

Also not pictured is the Aduro U-GRIP PLUS Universal Dashboard Windshield Car Mount, a small, cheap, reliable sticky-suction cup phone mount I use in conjunction with the car charger (pictured) for all driving (I do a lot of it). It’s got two pieces that come apart easily and help it pack down small. I’ve found my iPhone 6 running Waze works better than any of the GPS systems that a lot of my coworkers still use.

My Swiss Tech Utili-Key is always with me and always gets used. I also carry the Benchmade knife, which handles bigger jobs. It’s not, overall, as useful as a larger multi-tool, but I never find their use is worth the carry weight.

Probably the neatest thing I carry is the wallet, which I just received as a gift. The maker is Machine Era Co., and it’s a single piece of aluminum with a band, cupped to hold six credit cards.

-- Pat Ripton 03/13/15

(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 to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. -- Mark Frauenfelder — editors)

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