Living on the Road

What’s in My Bag? Steve Hoefer

A daily carry bag



(Click on images to embiggen) I work pretty much anywhere I can find a table, but I hate lugging a big heavy bag around. On a good day I’ll walk a few miles with it on my shoulder so I want something light and slim that makes the best use of space.

The bag:whats_in_my_bag-the_bagVictorinox Wainwright 15 Slim Laptop Brief: $168. It’s well made, slim, and has the right number and size of pockets. The back pocket can zip open at the bottom to slide over upright luggage handles.

But it isn’t quite perfect, so I made a few modifications:

  • Replaced the shoulder strap with the one from my previous favorite bag. The natural fiber is a bit more comfortable than the original nylon webbing, and it has swivels on each end so it never gets twisted.
  • It’s not a padded bag, which keeps the size and weight down, but I’ve knocked the corners off a few laptops when the bag hits the ground harder than intended. So I cut a double-thick strip of Neoprene to pad the inside bottom of the bag.
  • The zippers for the main compartment go all the way to the bottom. I found out that it can accidentally unzip completely, dumping my laptop on the ground. To prevent that I sewed a few loops of thread through the zipper halfway down the sides to limit its travel.



Kindle: $69 It’s the plain Kindle e-reader. It’s had a hard life but still works well. I do the majority of my reading on it. I keep it in the back slip pocket so I can pull it out whenever I want to fill unexpected downtime in a relaxing way.

Macbook Air 13″: $1140 It’s starting to show its age, but it still does everything I need, and the screen is the smallest that can handle tasks like video and image editing.

Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX: $47. I like the trackpad on my Mac but there are some things that are much faster with a mouse. This one is small but fits well in my hand. Rarely needs batteries and I can leave the Bluetooth off on my laptop, conserving its battery too.

Electronics support:


Assorted removable memory. I lose memory cards and thumb drives like nothing else, so I keep an assortment of cheap ones that won’t make me cringe when I lose them. Whatever I find on clearance or collect as swag.

Headphones. They work as a headset for my phone but 99% of the time I use them to block out shared workspace distractions, like that person at the next table talking loudly about their colonoscopy.

Tiny USB to iPhone adapter. In case my phone runs low of power. I bought this one in something of an emergency from an airport vending machine a few years ago. I don’t love it, it picks up dirt like crazy. But it works, so I haven’t replaced it.

Duckbill plug adapter. Most laptop power supplies come with a short cord with an 8-ball connector on one end and a wall plug on the other. This takes the place of that, so I can plug my power adapter right into the wall. I only use it when traveling so it stays in my bag.

Large microfiber cloth. Almost as useful as Douglas Adam’s towel. Good for keeping laptops, tablets, phones, glasses, and other things clean but comes in handy in many other situations too.



My favorite, affordable writing utensils are the Pilot G-2 0.5mm black pen ($13/doz.), the Industrial Fine Point Sharpie ($7/doz.), and the Paper Mate Clearpoint 0.5mm pencil ($34/doz.). They all work well and are cheap enough to buy by the dozen. The best feature of the pencil is the huge extendable eraser. I also cary replacement 3B pencil lead to make nice dark lines.

I also carry a small spiral notebook with perforated pages for writing down things I want to give to someone else. But for most of my writing and sketching I use Muji B5 30 page notebook ($25/5-pack). It also works as an emergency mousepad when my mouse has problems with my work surface.

Personal care:


Rohto Hydra eye drops ($34/2-pack). I have allergies and I live in the desert, so I use these quite a bit. I like Rohto drops because they work well, take up very little room in my bag, and the little dispenser is a joy to use.

Wet wipe ($28/gross). I don’t need it often, but when I do I’m glad to have it. It takes up almost no space so there’s no reason not to carry one.

Tissues. Mostly for unexpected allergies, but generally useful for all kinds of things.

Listerine Breath Strips ($16/doz.). Unlike most mints, breath strips don’t rattle in the bag.

Assorted Bandages. Something else I rarely need, but takes up so little space I might as well carry a few.

Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm ($3). It works well and doesn’t smell like much of anything. And it works as emergency mustache wax.

Travel size broad spectrum sunscreen. With the highest SPF number I can find.



Passport. I got used to carrying it everywhere when living overseas, and it’s occasionally useful to have an extra form of ID. Also another thing I lose if I don’t keep it in my bag.

Tiny box of robots. A dental floss case turned to miniature robot garage. It contains a trio of tiny vibrobots I built. Because one should always have fun traveling companions.

Stamps. Rarely used, but glad to have them when I need them.

-- Steve Hoefer 06/5/14

(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 -- Mark Frauenfelder — editors)

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