What's in My Bag

What’s in my bag? — Rob Walker

What's in my bag? issue #46

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Rob Walker is a senior writer and columnist for Marker, a new business publication from Medium. A longtime contributor to The New York Times and many other publications, he is the author most recently of The Art of Noticing, 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration and Discover Joy in the Everyday. He’s on the faculty of the Products of Design graduate program at the School of Visual Arts . You can find him on Twitter and Medium at @notrobwalker. Sign up for his Art of Noticing newsletter where he shares news, tips and inspiration for building your attention muscles.


About the bag
I bought this bag online at least 10 or 12 years ago. It was exactly what I’d been seeking in a casual shoulder bag – light and slim. I work at home (in New Orleans now, in Savannah when I bought the bag) and I rarely have any need to haul around a laptop or other heavier gear as I did in earlier years when I lived in New York (and carried a bigger bag). This one neatly accommodate an iPad with keyboard add-on, which is my preferred tech parameter when traveling. I think it cost me maybe $60 at the time, and I remember it was described as being Czech military surplus – deadstock, I assume. Somehow the identical bag is still available to this day. The Czech military must have been really optimistic when setting the production run! Anyway, to my considerable surprise, this bag has sparked more compliments and comments than any other object I have ever owned in my life. But that’s not why I like it. I still use it because it has lived up to my functional wishes, and has proven quite sturdy. I’d be lost without it!

What’s inside the bag
Bienfang NoteSketch Book ($6-$10)
This has been my preferred notebook brand since college. I’m not a serious journal/notebook person, but I do really like to have somewhere to write things down with a pen – whether it’s a stray observation or a grocery list. I like that these notebooks have pages that are half-ruled, and half-blank. I often add stickers, or tape in security badges, to give them a vaguely diaristic feel. There are no real rules to my notebook, it’s a mix of the important, the frivolous, the ephemeral. Anyway I never take a trip without my current notebook.

Samsung Level Noise-Canceling Earbuds ($18)
Mostly I carry this bag when I’m traveling, and one of my top priorities when I’m on a plane is having the option to block out the sounds of other travelers as much as possible. For a long time I carried Bose headphones, but they just took up too much space. So I decided to try earbuds. I did a bunch of research, and to be honest Level was not the top choice – it was the “affordable alternative,” and at the time I just didn’t feel like splurging. But I’ve been happy with these. In my experience, even terrific over-ear headphones (like Bose’s) won’t save you from a screaming infant. But these work well enough to take the edge off distracting chatter. I only use them on airplanes, but leave them in my bag all the time, just so I’m sure I won’t forget to pack them.

Foldable toothbrush ($5)
I’m paranoid about having some remnant of lunch stuck in my teeth all afternoon. I bought several of these cheap-o foldable toothbrushes at some point, and always have one in my bag. Even so, I know I sometimes forget to use it, and probably do end up with some remnant of lunch stuck in my teeth all afternoon.

Bump USB Charger
Like everybody else I’m constantly worried about this or that device running out of power. This particular charger came across my radar when I was reporting a story, it was designed by Karim Rashid, and one of the attractions was that it’s rounded rather than sharp-edged like most chargers. So it’s kind of friendlier. That sounds absurd, but I actually like it! It plugs directly into an electrical socket for re-charging, but holds its charge for a pretty long time. So apart from being kind of a fun design, it’s served me very well. However, it appears that it was not successful? I have no idea if you can buy one any more. I still like mine!

-- Rob Walker 04/22/20

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