What’s in My Bag, 2016 edition

Many people have been requesting an update to my what’s in my bag post from last year. Almost every single item in the bag has changed, this year has had particularly high turnover. We’re still in a weird teenage period of USB-C adoption, and I hope by next year to have many fewer non-USB-C or Lightning cables. Things with a asterisk * are the same from last year. Without further ado:

  1. This is my favorite item of the new year, a Lululemon Cruiser backpack that has a million pockets both inside and outside, and allows me to carry more stuff, more comfortably, and access it faster. Lululemon updates their products and designs every few months, but if you ever spot something like this online or in the store check it out. Hat tip on this one to Rose.
  2. A short Lightning + micro USB cable, which is great for pairing with a battery pack. I sometimes carry a few of these around and give them away all the time, as “do you have a light?” has evolved to “do you have a charge?” in the new millenium.
  3. Short regular USB to USB-C cable.
  4. Belkin Retractable Ethernet. *
  5. Anker USB-C to USB-C cable. Make sure to read the reviews when you buy these to get the ones that do the proper voltage. I can charge a Macbook with this, and the new Nexus 5x, directly from the battery pack or the #43 wall charger.
  6. Mini-USB cable, which I use for the odd older device (like a Nikon camera) that still does mini-USB (that older big one). Would love to get rid of this one.
  7. A charge cable for #45, the Fitbit Charge HR. You can buy these cheap on Amazon, and if you lose it you’re out of luck, so I usually keep a few at home and one in my bag.
  8. This is my goldilocks regular lightning cable, not too long and not too short, 0.5m.
  9. A retractable micro-USB.
  10. Apple Magic Mouse 2, the new one that charges via Lightning, natch.
  11. Way over to the right, a small Muji notebook.
  12. This is a weird but cool cable, basically bridges USB to Norelco shavers. I use a Norelco beard trimmer and for some reason all of these companies think we want to carry around proprietary chargers, this is a slightly unwieldy cable but better than carrying around the big Norelco power brick.
  13. Lockpick set. *
  14. Lavender mint organic lip balm from Honest Co, which I think I got for free somewhere.
  15. Aesop rosehip seed lip cream, which I bought mostly for the smell, when it’s done I’ll probably switch to their lip balm. (I should do a cosmetics version of this for my dopp kit, it’s had lots of trial and error as well.) I love Aesop, especially their Resurrection line.
  16. Aveda Blue Oil that I find relaxing. *
  17. Short thunderbolt to thunderbolt cable, which is great for transferring between computers. *
  18. Muji international power adapter, much simpler, lighter, and cooler than what I used before.
  19. Way on the top right, this is probably the least-travel-friendly thing I travel with, but the utility is so great I put up with it. It’s the Sennheiser Culture Series Wideband Headset, which I use for podcasts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangout calls with external folks and teams inside of Automattic. Light, comfortable, great sound quality, and great at blocking out background noise so you don’t annoy other people on the call. Worth the hassle.
  20. A customized Macbook Pro 15″, in space grey, with the WordPress logo that shines through.
  21. Belkin car mount, which is great for rentals. *
  22. A USB 3.0 SD / CompactFlash / etc reader.
  23. microSD to SD adapter, with a 64gb micro SD in it. Good for cameras, phones, and occasionally transferring files. Can be paired with the card reader if the computer has a USB port but not a SD reader. When you get a microSD card it usually comes with this.
  24. One of my new favorite things: DxO One camera. It’s a SLR-quality camera that plugs in directly to the lightning port on your iPhone, and can store the photos directly on your phone. Photo quality is surprisingly good, the only problem I’ve had with it is the lightning port pop-up will no longer close. The other similar device I tried but wasn’t as good was the Olympus Air A01, so I just carry around the DxO now.
  25. TP-LINK TL-WR702N Wireless N150 Travel Router, which works so-so. Not sure why I still carry this, haven’t used it in a while. *
  26. Aukey car 49.5W 3-port USB adapter, which has two high-powered USB ports and a Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C port.
  27. My favorite external battery right now, the RAVPower 20100mAh Portable Charger, also with Quick Charge 3.0 and a USB-C port. This thing is a beast, can charge a USB-C Macbook too.
  28. Kindle Voyage with the brown leather cover. *
  29. Macbook power adapter.
  30. Very cool Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones in ivory,customized with the WordPress logo. I’m testing this out as a possible gift for Automatticians when they reach a certain number of years at the company. For a fuller review, see this post.
  31. Cotopaxi water bottle that I got for free at the Summit at Sea conference. The backpack has a handy area to carry a water bottle, and I’ve become a guy who refills water bottles at the airport instead of always buying disposable ones.
  32. Special cord for the #30 Momentum headphones.
  33. Retractable 1/8th inch audio cable. *
  34. Powerbeats 2 Wireless headphones that I use for running, working out, or just going around the city.
  35. Belkin headphone splitter, for sharing audio when watching a movie on a plane. *
  36. Chromecast audio, which I’ve never used but it’s so small and light I carry it around just in case.
  37. Chromecast TV, which I’ve also never used but also small and light and I’m sure it’ll come in handy one of these days.
  38. Verizon iPhone 6s+, which is normal, but the new thing here is I’ve stopped carrying a wallet, and a separate phone case, and now carry this big ‘ol Sena Heritage Wallet Book. At first I felt utterly ridiculous doing this as it feels GINORMOUS at first, but after it wore in a little bit, and I got used to it, it’s so freeing to only have one thing to keep track of, and it’s also forced me to carry a lot less than I used to in my wallet.
  39. Maison Bonnet sunglasses. Hat tip to Tony.
  40. Stickers! Wapuu and Slack.
  41. Bucky eye shades, like an eye mask but has a curve so it doesn’t touch your eyes. I don’t use this often but when I do it’s a life-saver. *
  42. My favorite USB wall plug, after trying dozens, is this Aukey 30W / 6A travel wall charger. I love the foldable plug, and it’s really fast.
  43. I generally only have one wall charger, but temporarily carrying around this Tronsmart 33W USB-C + USB charger with Quick Charge 3.0, which can very quickly charge the battery or the Nexus, and a Macbook in a pinch. Hopefully will combine this and #42 sometime this year. One thing I really dislike about this item is the bright light on it, which I need to cover with tape.
  44. The only pill / vitamin / anything I take every day: Elysium Health Basis. I’m not an expert or a doctor, but read up on them and the research around it, pretty interesting stuff.
  45. Fitbit Charge HR. I gave up on my Apple Watch. I’ll probably try the Fitbit watch when it comes out. My favorite feature is the sleep tracking. Least favorite is the retro screen, and that it doesn’t always show the time.
  46. Double-sided sharpie (thick and thin point) and a Muji pen.
  47. Westone ES49 custom earplugs, for if I go to concerts or anyplace overly loud. *
  48. Some index cards, good for brainstorming.
  49. Passport. * As Mia Farrow said about Frank Sinatra, “I learned to bring my passport to dinner.”
  50. Jetpack notebook, I like to have a paper notebook to take notes, especially in group or product meetings, because there isn’t the distraction of a screen.
  51. Nexus 5x, which is definitely one of the better Android devices I’ve had, paired with Google Project Fi phone / data service, which has saved me thousands of dollars with its $10/gb overseas data pricing. Since my iPhone is so huge, I tried to go for a smaller Android device. I always travel with both in case something happens to one phone, for network diversity, and as I said this has better international data pricing than Verizon.
  52. Business card holder. *
  53. Post-it notes.

All in all 13 items stayed the same, the other 40 are new to this edition.

That’s a wrap, folks! If you have any questions or suggestions please drop them in the comments. Once my no-buying-things moratorium for Lent is over I can start trying new things out again.

Update 2016-03-26: A few people have asked how much the bag weighs with all of this stuff in it. I didn’t weigh it at the time of the photo, but at the airport the other day I put it on the luggage scale and it came in at 16 pounds, which is probably close enough. The pockets on the Lululemon backpack distribute the “stuff” pretty well and it doesn’t feel heavy at all, and doesn’t stick out too far on my back.

67 thoughts on “What’s in My Bag, 2016 edition

  1. Nice! I’ve been waiting for this year’s update. Love the backpack.
    Why don’t you carry the 13″ Macbook pro, it’s more travel friendly and and is almost as powerful as the 15″.

    1. I used the 13″ for part of the year, but found myself going back to the 15″. Sometimes the laptop might be my primary computer for 4-6 weeks at a time if I’m on the road, and the extra screen space, battery, and performance feels worth it.

      1. That makes sense. I just realized that you are running an entire company while traveling the world and all the tools you need to do it fit in a backpack!

    1. I like it, and think it’s beautiful hardware. I didn’t love having to carry and charge something additional, which required its own special cable, and needed to be charged every single day. The fitness stuff wasn’t compelling, and of course since it has to charge over night I couldn’t get any sleep data from it. I found notifications on my wrist to be distracting when my phone (in the pocket or on the table) was already buzzing.

      1. Cool. Those are the main reasons I’m not too excited about any smart watches.

        I returned my FitbitCharge HR because it wasn’t smart enough. It thought I was exercising when in a rocking chair. I’ve heard the Apple Watch is smart enough to correlate the HR data and know you’re not actually exercising, but then there’s all the downsides you mentioned.

      2. Hehe. I have kids. But maybe I’ll reach out to support and give it a 2nd chance if it sounds improved. Really liked a lot about it.

  2. Wow, I thought that for traveling you will use the Macbook 12, and not the 15″ beast 😉
    Are you using the Macbook anymore? Or after comparing the power with 15″ it’s hard to use it for you?
    I thought initially that the 12″ is fast enough for most of my daily work, but using sometimes even the MBPr 13″ – I felt the slight difference in reaction in favor for the later.

    I’m curious about your opinion.

    One more thing – do you carry all the things (specially cables) all the time in backpack with you? Or is the “most loaded” version? 😉

    1. I carry all of this all the time, this is the base. Sometimes a bit more depending on where I’m going. I agree that I love the 12″ but it wasn’t quite there for when I was on the road for a while.

      1. Thanks for the answer.
        And what about #19 and #30 – why don’t you use the Momentum for the Skype/Zoom etc video call? Are they not good enough for such things? I’m asking because I’m looking for only one headphones that I can use both for high quality music and Zoom calls.

      2. The Momentum totally could be used, but it is a little clunky to take out the extra cable, unwrap it, and plug it in two places. What’s amazing about the USB headset is it’s just one cable, when you plug it in everything just works, and the sound cancelling is really good — you sound like a NPR broadcaster.

  3. I have been using fi since it came out. Love the service and it has saved me lots since I mainly use wifi.

  4. Thanks again for taking the time to share this.

    After reading the article I think you are carrying too many cable. But I guess it became like this from your experience. I started using new Apple Charging Cover, at first it sure do feel little bulky, like your Wallet Cover, but with time it seems normal. And after I started using that with my iPhone 6, I almost never need to charge in day time. If I put both on charge in night, and start a day or travel with both 100%(iPhone manage this portion very intelligently), I am ok for the whole day, that almost change the way I think about Smartphone. It might help you get rid of few cable maybe.

    Nexus 5X seems like a good idea. I am rely on T-Mobile Wifi-Calling which works great anywhere if you have Wifi. So My idea is to use Nexus 5P with Project Fi, and hotspot that to iPhone to keep T-Mobile running as well. As you will have internet in hotels almost anywhere you travel so just call should not be costly via Fi data charge.

    Did you ever shared how you customized your MacBook Pro? How about sharing that so we all could have a shiny WordPress logo on Mac?

    1. It’s a perk of working at Automattic, people can get a customized one (in any color they like) after they’ve worked at Automattic for 4 years.

  5. So three surprising absences. Why not the long power cord for your MacBook charger? I find having the long cord makes plugging in my laptop in cafes, airports or even offices vastly easier than plugging in the brick directly. And related I’ve been considering getting a small power strip to carry with me – great at conferences or crowded cafes/coworking spaces where power outlets may be at a premium. And do you play audio from your phones while running etc? I still carry a small iPod Nano for my podcast listening while outside or driving.

    1. Good questions! I sometimes travel with the long power cord in my carry-on suitcase, but it’s too big and I don’t use it enough when on the go for my backpack. I’ll love the day when everything is USB-C and I can just carry around a monster 12ft cable for it.

      I run with my phone, just holding it. I take it out of the wallet case and just switch hands every ten minutes. I haven’t tried a ton of the running cases or holsters though.

    1. No but I do grab one sometimes, or I might stick a Soylent in the bag if I know I’m going to be on the go a lot in a day.

    1. Thanks for the tip! Since I never need the old iPod dock anymore I find the cables that are Micro USB with a lightning attachment (like the ones above) to be more reliable and smaller.

  6. I bought a bag with a similar design so that I could have many pockets for different items.
    I then changed to a bag with only a few pockets and internal compartments for my laptop and books.
    The issue I found with having a bag with many pockets is that when traveling through security at airports, they tended to ask me to open all pockets so that they could check them all.

  7. Hello Matt,
    Are you able to get by without a bottle opener? It amazes me how often people are not able to supply one when it is most needed.
    I assume that because you include a water bottle not all of these items would be in your pack that you take on-board an airplane in the cabin. That being the case are you able to do without a pen-knife, even if it would be only to be able to peel an orange, an apple or whatever?

    1. The water bottle I just empty out before I get to the airport, they’re fine with you having an empty one. (I’ve forgotten once or twice.) No knives for me.

  8. Those wordpress stickers are more than cool. The thing I liked the most is that DxO One camera. Thanks for sharing cool. Stuff.

  9. I also have the TP-LINK TL-WR702N Wireless N150 Travel Router, but it is annoying to setup, if you are in a new hotel, as you can only either setup wifi or connect through ethernet. Which does not work out for me.

    So i did research and found the TP-LINK TL-WR710N, which has 2 ethernet ports and a built-in Power Adapter. On my next trip, i will definitly try it out. Still lying around here.

    But the best thing, this one should have support for DD-WRT. Even so I still have to try that.

  10. I think you’ll love this, Matt:

    It’s the day after election day in Chicago. There were lots of hotly-contested races and WordPress is right in the middle of everything. Just a couple of examples– http://chicago.suntimes.com/ and http://wgntv.com/. Love the overlay with election results in the Chicago Sun-Times!

    Your backpack must be buzzin’, jumpin’ or on fire right now… WP-4-Life!

  11. Are you happy with the DxO? Read a lot of trash about it, like it’s freezing all the time and that the app is junk. Your experience, do you use it a lot? Thanks.

    1. Yes I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not as good as a standalone camera, but being fully integrated with the phone makes it worth it for me.

  12. First thoughts. I would add some spice:
    – rosemary (whenever you are invited to a BBQ)
    raw cacoa nips (again for health reasons)
    – cinnamon chewing gum -> read all of that up at this book

    Second thought. Because you don’t carry an umbrella.
    – a plastic bag or
    – a little bag as the one from 18, Muji’s IPA, but made of an DuPunt Tyvek envelope
    Just for protection reasons for some of your goods or the whole backpack; if you might ever get caught in the rain.

    Third thought.
    I don’t understand why you have 12 in your hand luggage. Isn’t it useless without your beard trimmer? I would place it where the trimmer is, though i fully agree with you about the madness of proprietary chargers.

    Fourth thought. Because I like to cluster things.
    – maybe a Moleskine Style (Soft Cover!) Notebook with Expandable Inner-Pocket
    You could put 11, 48, 49, 50 and 53 in that Pocket.

    Fifth thought.
    I like the Mia Farrow quote at 49!
    And as it’s a lot about #MiaSanMia since yesterday, in some part of the world …
    It’s just perfect! 🙂

  13. Agreed, proprietary chargers and also arbitrary battery sizes (for digital cameras especially) are on the wrong side of history.

    1. That’s usually covered by the SD card and reader, but I did used to carry around a little USB-C plus regular spinny USB disk.


      But I gave it to someone and haven’t replaced it. I don’t generally need more space than that because the laptop has 1TB internally.

  14. This is a lot of tech, I am wondering how much time of the day you spend charging everything? What keeps me from getting into wireless stuff is that I already don’t like to charge what wireless devices I have. Beats me how you do that. Could def. learn something there.

  15. I purchased #19 since I receive am in “meetings” and calls for most of the week and have been trying out a few items that will work well. At my work desk, I use a wireless one that is connected to my desk phone, which has excellent sound, but on days that I work from home, I do need a better a fairly decent alternative.

  16. Thanks for sharing all this. Not sure if you have external storage needs, but I recently grabbed a Samsung T1 500gig USB 3.0 SSD drive for mobile content creation purposes and it is killer fast and very small.

  17. I love EDC posts. I’m a bit of a packrat myself.

    1. I love the Lululemon bag. I’m surprised to not have seen it on my last US trip a few weeks ago despite going to three stores. 🙁

    2. I noticed you carry quite a number of Muji stuff. I also have the small notebook and their micro fountain pen. The minimalism is what I like about them. Went crazy buying in Japan a few months ago. What do you like about Muji?

    3. Have you tried the Bellroy wallets? That’s how I ended up combining an iPhone 6+ case and wallet together. I had the same sentiments as you: awkward at first but over time, more freedom and wallet essentialism wins out.

    4. Lock picks?

    5. Best case use for the Chromecast stuff?

    1. Haven’t tried Bellroy but I’ll write it down to check out. I love Muji and Uniqlo, mostly because they work well, are simple, and unbranded. I don’t know why but in my 30s I’ve definitely come to appreciate that something unbranded is an incredible luxury. I just have the Chromecasts in one of the internal pockets of the Lululemon backpack.

  18. Lots of great stuff – thanks for sharing! I have a similar bag in terms of general contents, although fewer cables. One thing for travelers that I cannot wait to add to my bag is the BEST looking airplane pillow – this should be perfect for red eyes and international flights where you need to sleep, and if you’re tall like me, leaning back just doesn’t work so this “lean forward” pillow looks great and collapses to about the size of a kindle. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1053204230/woollip-travel-pillow-smart-pillow-for-smart-trave?ref=thanks_tweet

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