You might ask, “Why should I care what someone carries in their bag?”
When you’re a digital nomad or a remote worker, the tools that you carry on your back are what you use every day. Anything else is wasted weight and space. Having worked remotely for years, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Your backpack is your best friend and you pare it down until it only has the essentials.
Matt is the founder and CEO of WordPress (plus a fascinating thinker and seemingly delightful human being). Not only does being CEO naturally have him travel for work, but WordPress is also a fully distributed company. This means he’s taking meetings on video calls and working from workspaces and cafes like any other digital nomad.
Because of the demand of his work, I find it fascinating to hear what tools he finds invaluable.
In a similar vein to my Apps I Use post, I think it can be interesting and useful to share what tools I use. So in response to his post, here are my favorite physical tools.
What's In My Bag 2019
Below is every item I carry in my bag every day. Alongside comments, the “X year” denotes how long I’ve been carrying it.
- Timbuk2 Alcatraz Backpack - Fantastic everyday commuter backpack. Great construction, laptop compartment, large and small pockets with pen holders and slips, not too small or too large, water-resistant fabric, breathable back padding, durable zippers, water bottle holder, and a strong handle for lifting. I have the old design but the newest version is available for purchase.
- 15” MacBook Pro Laptop (2018) - Touchbar and keyboard issues aside, this is a great machine. As much as I don't love the cost, macOS is still king for software development.
- H2GO 24oz Reusable Water Bottle - My Hydroflask used to be part of my everyday carry, but it was too heavy and couldn't fit in a backpack. This bottle slides easily into the side pocket of my Timbuk2 backpack.
- Rhodia Dotted Sheet Notebook 8.25 x 11.75 in - Notebook for note-taking, sketching designs/doodles, breaking down a hard problem, and describing code. Even with fantastic digital tools, sometimes drawing diagrams and wireframes in person can be the best way to communicate something. Dotted is the way to go. (4th year)
- iPhone 7 128GB in Maxboost 6S HyperPro Shock-Absorbing Case - An older, yet still fantastic phone with PopSocket. (3rd year)
- Slim Minimalist Wallet - I recently picked this up to replace my fat wallet, and I’ll never go back from the slim life. This particular product isn’t great though as I ripped through one of the cardholders in the first week. Will definitely replace in the future.
- Passport - Passport case purchased from a random vendor in Phuket, Thailand.
- Kindle Paperwhite 6" in Fintie SmartShell Case - I read a lot and the space reduced by books alone is worth it. The e-ink screen and backlight makes for a beautiful reading experience. (3rd year)
- Timbuk2 Fanny Pack with cords cut off - I'm don't personally love the look of this fanny pack, but I removed the straps and it's become my favorite cord bag. I use the small front compartment for small cords, and the main compartment for chargers and my Kindle. It doesn’t seem to available anymore but a similar, better-looking version is available for purchase.
- Native Union Smart Power Strip and USB Ports - This product is awesome. I picked it up used after reading Matt's blog post and it‘s perfect for working at cafes and surprisingly small and portable. No more fighting over the one outlet at cafes!
- Apple Airpods Pro Wireless Headphones - I use these religiously. Great battery life, fast charge, excellent for calls, podcasts, casual music listening, and tapping into flow state while working. The noise-canceling is astounding. I'd hate to ever go on public transportation without them now.
- Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbud Headphones RP-HJE120-K - Occasionally you need an analog pair of headphones and this pair has been reliable and cheap. The mic and bass function well enough to get me out of a pinch. To date, there's nearly 30k reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon. (6 years)
- Pentel GraphGear 1000 Mechanical Pencil 0.5 lead - A coworker recommended me this mechanical pencil and I love it. Before I bought this last year, I hadn’t used a pencil since high school. Since using it, I've found pencils make me a lot less anxious about mistakes when I’m note-taking or sketching designs. It also has a fantastic construction. My favorite part of the design is the retractable pencil point, which prevents the fragile bit from bending.
- Pilot G2 Pen - I’ve used these since high school, and they’ve always been solid. I don’t use pens often anymore after getting the Pentel GraphGear, but they’re useful when you need to sign documents.
- MacBook Pro USB-C Charger Apple - I adore the new Apple laptop chargers. The USB-C cord can disconnect from the brick so you can store each easily and reduce fraying cords. They are cheaper to replace too because you can buy the parts separately. (Plus I can also charge my Nintendo Switch with it.)
- Anker 5000mah Portable Charger - Great portable charger when you're really in a pinch. Comes absolutely clutch when traveling.
- Kingston Datatraveler 16GB USB Thumb drive (3rd year)
- Tile Pro - Location tracker that I stick on my keys and wallet so I can occasionally find my keys and wallet. I have mixed feelings about Tile. To use the product, you have to download an app and keep it running in the background for it to stay connected. The Tile Pro is a little more expensive but the internal battery can be cheaply replaced. I also have a subscription so I can track their history in case I lose either my keys or wallet while I'm out. (2nd year)
- 2 Syntech USB C to USB Adapter - These seem to be the only way to charge an iPhone with USB on the 2018 laptops. Every USB hub I've tried shows the warning "device is drawing too much energy" and refuses to charge.
- 2 Apple Lightning to USB Cables 1m (3rd year)
- Burt's Bees Mint Chapstick - The only chapstick that I've enjoyed using. It's cooling and doesn't make your feel lips waxy. (5th year)
- Warby Parker Baker Glasses
- Polarized Ray-Ban New Wayfarer Sunglasses (5th year)
And that’s a wrap! These are my everyday tools and they’ve brought me immeasurable value and joy. I hope it’s been helpful or interesting to hear about them for you.
What items do you find absolutely essential? What’s part of your every day carry? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!
Some links in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a tiny reward when you buy an item. There’s no cost for you, and it’s a win for me! However, these are legitimate tools I use daily and none were provided to me for free.