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Automattic Life

What’s in my bag? 2020 edition

Back in 2017, I revealed, after just a few months working and travelling for Automattic, what I carried with me in my backpack. 4 years on, and many more trips, and that content has changed.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us have done much travelling lately and that may not change for some time. But rather than not post it this year, I thought it was just as important to do so – if nothing else, we all have time to plan and tweak for when we can meet and travel once more.

But, to make things a little different, I’m deep-diving a little more than I usually do, with more detail on the non-technology items lurking in my backpack.

Every year’s change tends to have a theme and this time it’s been a case of re-thinking, moving and pairing down (even if it doesn’t seem like it). The weight of my backpack was hurting so I’ve reduced what’s actually in there, by moving some to my luggage – as a result, I’ll cover off those items that have been shifted into my luggage. There’s more health items too, although some of that is a result of me mentioning non-tech items for once.

As usual, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

  1. An eBags packing cube (WordPress branded) containing a deodorant, toothbrush, underwear and t-shirt. I have this in my backpack’s shoe compartment in case my main luggage ever gets delayed/lost. So far, I’ve not had to use it.
  2. Ray-Ban Glasses. If the eye mist isn’t enough and I need to ditch the contact lenses, I always carry my glasses with me. These Ray-Ban branded glasses in matt black are rather smart.
  3. Bagsmart extra large cable organizer. See the list below for what I pack into this.
  4. Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, 2018 model. This is my Automattic-provided laptop and I genuinely love it. When travelling, I also use a Kensington privacy screen with it.
  5. The Aer Fit Pack 2 backpack. This is the latest backpack provided by Automattic to its employees. It has a very large front section and a useful shoe holder at the bottom.
  6. This rather splendid red packet contains two data-blockers from PortaPow – female USB-A to male USB-C and female USB-A to male USB-A. Use this for charging equipment when you don’t trust the source – the blockers ensure that only power is supplied and no data connection can be made. Essential for airports and hotels!
  7. Flare ISOLATE Earplugs. Not designed for sleeping in but when you need to shut out the sound around you in normal life. As I suffer from sensory overload, this can be particularly useful in noisy environments.
  8. Boots Dry Eyes Eye Mist. Contact lens friendly and able to spray on even closed eyes, this is great for the inevitable dry eyes that you get when flying.
  9. Collar and Cuffs London umbrella. Because I’m still English 😉 A windproof, auto pop-up brolly for when I get caught by the inevitable rain.
  10. Sweeteners. I hate coffee and tea unsweetened and I’ve weened myself off sugar. With this in hand I can enjoy a beverage even if these aren’t already supplied!
  11. Mints. For fresh, minty breath!
  12. My passport in a fetching leather WordPress cover!
  13. A small Rollbahn notebook with a Muji hexagonal wooden pencil – I keep these in the small compartment on the front of my backpack for easy access.
  14. Silver embedded plasters. Because I’m a klutz.
  15. A Stay Sixty water bottle. With a twist sip-spout and an easy to carry rubber collar, this is a great way to stay hydrated when travelling.
  16. For long flights I find the Trtl neck pillow a God-send. I have it clipped to the outside of my backpack for easy transport.
  17. Hoxton travel pass holder. As my wallet but a rather splendid travel pass holder – whether for plane, train or bus tickets this keeps everything organised.
  18. Painkillers and indigestion tablets. Rarely needed but useful when they are!
  19. And the same goes for tissues!
  20. A Qlipter – a rather neat carabiner that you can twist and configure in all sorts of ways. Handy for hanging bags off of.
  21. Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones. Very comfortable and with a great sound, where these really shine are with their noise suppression, so are very useful on planes and trains. Also in the case is a lighting to headphone jack cable, for when on flights I can’t use Bluetooth and need to connect it to my iPhone (yea, I forgot it last time so couldn’t use them) as well as a set of EarPods (just in case).
  22. Hoxton slim leather card holder. I rarely carry cash these days, so this slimline card holder is ideal. There’s room for receipts and notes as well but I also pack a Tile Slim, which makes it harder to lose!
  23. Manta Sleep Mask. Soft, comfortable and highly adjustable – I love these for long flights.
  24. Nintendo Switch. When travelling long distances or staying away for a while, I’ll pack my Switch. Here is it in a rather nice case that I got from Germany, which also has storage for a number of games too – it’s not the slimmest of cases but is really robust.

Not shown here is my Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet, complete with a magnetic cover. I only take this on long flights or when away for some time and I use it purely for entertainment – I’ve put in a large capacity SD card and will download movies and TV shows before travelling. I chose this particular tablet a few years back for its expandability, full HD screen and value for money.

What’s in my cable bag?

  1. Half metre USB-A to lightning cable
  2. Short (10cm) USB-A to lightning cable and short (15cm) USB-A to micro-USB cable.
  3. Half metre UGREEN USB-A to micro-USB cable.
  4. Short (30cm) USB-C to USB-C cable.
  5. Half metre USB-C to USB-C cable.
  6. Half metre USB-A to USB-C cable.
  7. A 1 metre Anker USB-C to lightning cable. This is certified and full speed so, when paired with my MacBook power adapter, or similar, will charge my iPhone rapidly.
  8. As 7.
  9. USB OTG cable (female USB-A to micro-USB) and an HDMI extender – useful if you can’t get a Chromecast or similar to plug directly into the original port.
  10. Apple USB 3 to USB C converter.
  11. Universal charging cable. 6 different connecters makes this great for slipping in your pocket for whatever you may want to charge.
  12. As 11.
  13. In the zipped off section are the following…
    1. Cable Matters USB C Multiport Adapter. This is useful for presentations, as it provides numerous display options.
    2. Card reader. I have no idea where I got this from now but in the side are slots of SD and Micro CD card. At one end is a USB-C connector. On the other is a combined micro-USB and full-size USB 3 connector. All of this is wrapped up in a metal shell.
    3. Assorted USB converters. The converters are Victsing USB 3 and micro USB to USB-C.
    4. A Sandisk USB-C memory stick (32GB)
    5. A Kingston dual USB-C and USB-A memory stick (32GB). This is my stick of choice for backing up my speaker presentations – that way, whichever device I need to restore from in an emergency, this should connect.
    6. A cleaning cloth.
    7. SIM card converter kit. A neat collection of SIM adapters, an ejector pin and even a sanding card for getting your SIM to the right size.
    8. A Three sim card (and adapters), which includes a rolling small but free data plan.
    9. A micro SD to SD adapter.
  14. A half metre audio cable.
  15. A Roku Express. I’ve recently switched to Roku, when travelling, instead of FireTV.
  16. Apple Watch charger – this is the one that comes with the watch itself.
  17. ReTrak extending ethernet cable. For those moments when the hotel ethernet is far superior to the WiFi!
  18. USB re-chargeable LED torch. A decent torch is essential and this is great – LED powered, it’s extremely bright. It has different lighting options and, when you take the end-cap off, it has a male USB connector for quick charging.
  19. Apple AirPods. For the money, these are excellent quality. I keep mine in an Incase case.

As the bottom section is just a jumble of items, it’s not something I can easily number individual, so here is a list based on which part they’re in…

  1. In the middle compartment is my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (3rd Generation) – my reading method of choice when travelling. I take advantage of services such as BookBub to get books at sale prices, so I’ve always got a large library available at any time.
  2. An assortment of cables are in this section…
    1. ReTrak extending HDMI cable, complete with mini-HDMI adapter on one end.
    2. Apple 2 metre USB-C charging cable.
    3. 1.5 metre USB-C male to female cable.
  3. Various plugs and adapters are in the middle section…
    1. Apple 61W USB‑C Power Adapter.
    2. OneAdaptr TWIST+ World Charging Station. This twists (hence the name), causing the mains pins to alter configuration, basically allowing you to modify it to plug into various electrical sockets around the world. On one side is a connector for your MacBook adapter (and it works on the old and new adapters too) and then there are 4 USB ports too. With everything, bar my MacBook charger, only requiring USB then this is the only travel adapter I need to take.
    3. Fast USB-C and USB-3 wall charger. Combined with a certified USB-C to lightning cable, this can be used to fast charge my iPhone with needing to use the MacBook power adapter.
  4. Finally, everything else…
    1. Jetpack power bank. Made by Jackery this is a 6000mAh power bank with a built-in torch. Nicely portable and convenient.
    2. Roku Express remote control.
    3. Third generation Chromecast.
    4. GP Charge Anyway. This is a combined power bank and battery charger, which make it incredibly handy. All of the remote controls, etc, that I carry have their batteries removed for lightness and then I use them from here, when required.
    5. Logitech R500 Presenter. Great for presentations or, at team meetups, where we’re doing group calls, this is a laser pointer and remote presenter. Unlike cheaper alternatives, this allows you to re-program the buttons (so I use it, for example, to toggle the mute in Zoom for those groups chats I mentioned). To protect it, it’s stored in a hard case.
    6. Assorted Apple Watch straps.
    7. TP-Link travel router. This is new to my bag and is a great solution when travelling. The router will operate in different ways but I use it simply to connect to the hotel/AirBnB WiFi and then all my devices connect to the router – this saved you having, each time you travel, having to set WiFi up on all your various devices.

I would also like to mention that various cables in the bag are held together with some rather cool leather cable straps. These are made from waste off-cuts so, if leather isn’t an issue for you, they’re great solutions with a more positive environmental impact.

What’s in my luggage?

Simply for reasons of weight, I now carry a lot more in my luggage and then transfer to my backpack when I arrive at my destination (then reversing this before returning home). Equally, I do the opposite – large, bulk items that are mainly for during the journey get placed in my luggage (Bose headphones, Nintendo Switch, etc) until I leave again.

  1. A bag within a bag! For when I’m at my destination, I don’t always want to carry around a bulky backpack, so I’ll often pack a really nice leather shoulder bag.
  2. Rechargeable Desk fan. This is rather handy, USB powered fan that I might take with me if I’m not staying in a hotel (so, an Airbnb, for example) and are going somewhere quite hot. I don’t sleep well if I’m hot so having this on me at night is a great compromise.
  3. The definitive sewing kit! Because, miles from home, if something is going to tear, you can guarantee it will happen!
  4. WatchPod. This is a really neat solution to transporting watches – I’m usually wearing my Apple Watch, but I will sometimes use this to take my smart Casio dress-watch with me.
  5. Business card holder. I’ve been looking for a smart, well made business card holder for a while. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty available but they can be pricey – this ticks all the boxes and is good value too.
  6. Blister plasters. Because of those inevitable long tours on foot that occur when travelling.
  7. Luggage scale. When travelling, I’m paranoid about going over my weight allowances, so I always carry this compact, digital luggage scale.
  8. A Clairefontaine pencil case. The contents of this, I recently wrote about.
  9. My current notebook of choice – a lined, A5 Kokuyo soft-ring. I like a ringed notebook as they lay flat but they will often be uncomfortable as your hand or arm sits over the rings – the Kokuyo uses a soft ring that flattens when pressure is put on it.
  10. Phone holder. Attached to a WordPress lanyard, I can stick my phone in this, put it around my neck and not have to worry about it, say, falling off the side of a boat when I lean over the side.
  11. Portable Humidifier. Hotels can be pretty stuffy and dry. This rather great gadget, dropped into a glass of water will help to humidify the room.
  12. In the pull-string bag provided for the above humidifier, I also have a hygrometer, so I can measure the moisture level of any hotel room.
  13. Ray-Ban Justin sunglasses. With a matt-black finish, I really like these.

There are a few items not shown here…

  • My house key with Tile Pro – as well as making my house key more findable at any time of the year, slinging this in my luggage when travelling then gives me reassurance of my where it is! I buy the Pro for its extra volume and extended findability!
  • Philips Sonicare DiamondClean. This is my everyday toothbrush but also comes with a carry case for when travelling. So far, so normal. Except this has a USB port in the bottom of the case, allowing you to charge up the brush from within the case.
  • Braun alarm clock. When staying in hotels, I often find they no longer provide any form of bedside clock – I find using a phone for checking the time in the night to be too disruptive. You can’t beat this clock, which has a white-on-black display. I keep this in my toiletries bag.

Finally, there’s a couple of extra items that I take for team meetups, to make team calls easier, when we’re remote (this is part of a team “kit” that I’m the guardian of)…

What’s about my person?

Not everything is in a bag.

  • iPhone 11 Pro. I’m on the Apple upgrade programme so get a new phone each year, so this is always the latest version.
  • Apple Watch Series 4. Yearly revisions to the Apple Watch are usually pretty minor so I was happy to skip the Series 5. However, when this year’s new version is available, I’ll be jumping to that.

Not ‘tech’ at all, but I also want to make mention of the silicon and plastic belt that I now use when flying, which doesn’t need taking off when going through airport security. It’s not particularly pretty, and I generally take a smarter belt with me for wearing at my destination, but this is a great idea for travelling.

Talk to me!

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