When it's time to hit the road and cover events for the best Android site in the world, Andrew takes quite a bit of gear with him
It's been a good bit of time since we ran a "gear bag" series to show everyone what kind of gadgets and gear we carry around. And with a couple of events — IFA and CTIA, at minimum — lined up in the next couple of months, we figured now was as good a time as any to revive this series. While not everything here is Android, nor is it brand new and flashy, we think it's always fun to show everything we're using to keep this awesome site running every day.
Read along past the break to find out what's in my gear bag in August 2014.
Bag: Timbuk 2 Messenger and Snoop Camera Insert
After a couple years of using a basic canvas messenger bag, I decided to plop down a little money on a good all-around bag that would also serve me well when I'm traveling for work. I decided on a Timbuk2 Classic Messenger (the new model for 2014) for numerous reasons, not the least of which being the lifetime warranty and the fact that I already have Timbuk2 Copilot luggage and love it.
The bag has several great features, including an adjust-on-the-fly shoulder strap, dozens of pockets and pouches, adjustable tie-down straps and a great-looking exterior. I particularly like the small "stash pocket" that's accessible with a zipper even while the bag is velcroed and clipped closed, as well as the ability for it to drastically change size depending on what you need to haul around.
It's been an incredibly durable and reliable bag for me, and I'd recommend anyone get one. They come in sizes from XS to XL (I have a large), depending on what you need — and you can even customize the colors and layout completely if you want.
- More: Buy the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger 2014 on Amazon ($59.25 - $164.32)
Part of the reason for choosing a Timbuk2 messenger was the ability to pick up a Snoop Camera Insert that's made to work with the bag. I went and got a "medium" insert (smaller than my "large" bag) to give extra room for other things, and it's been a fantastic decision. The self-contained bag holds my camera, video camera, two extra lenses, battery chargers and cables, all with a little bit of room to spare. The dividers inside are velcro and customizable, and the entire inside is an extremely soft cotton material to keep everything safe. It zips shut and is completely contained, meaning I can easily choose to make my messenger a camera bag in an instant.
- More: Buy the Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Insert on Amazon ($37.49 - $59.00)
Phones and tablet: Nexus 5, HTC One M8 and Nexus 7
There's a good chance at any given time that I'm carrying two phones with me, but when I travel for events it's an absolute no-brainer. My two go-to devices at this point are the Nexus 5 and HTC One M8 — though the Nexus 5 is currently incapacitated running the Android L Developer Preview. I like most everything about the M8, and am currently carrying it as my primary device, though the camera has me wishing for more. I also can't stand how loud it is when it vibrates, so I often have it stuck on silent mode — but those two issues aren't enough to have me carrying something else. I'm using the Incipio NGP Impact Resistant Case with my M8 because it's simple and durable.
As for service for these devices I have two lines, one with T-Mobile (prepaid $30 plan) and another with AT&T (GoPhone $60 plan), which gives me network diversity when traveling. If one's not working, I swap to the other. Luckily with the Nexus 5 and M8 I can easily use either carrier, giving me ultimate flexibility.
For triple data redundancy, I still carry a Karma Wifi Hotspot that I got in for review back earlier this year. It runs off the Sprint WiMax network (I know, hilarious right?), but that's precisely why I like it, actually. The speeds aren't great (10mbps down / 1mbps up), but they've been amazingly consistent in any major city I've been in because nobody is really using WiMax anymore. Best of all it's pay-as-you-go data, and you get free data for letting other people use it, so it's something I can keep around and not worry about paying a monthly fee for.
On the tablet side, I still have my trusty Nexus 7 in a stylish DODOcase Durables Sleeve. I don't usually carry it with me when I travel unless I'm otherwise traveling lightly and don't mind the extra bulk of a tablet. When I do bring it, it's great to have on flights when I don't need to get work done on the laptop. I have a 32GB Wifi model, and I think if I were to go with an LTE model I could actually have it replace that second phone I often carry around. Something to think about.
- More: Buy a Nexus 5 16GB from Google Play ($349)
- More: Buy a Nexus 7 32GB from Google Play ($269)
- More: Buy an HTC One M8 from Amazon ($655)
- More: Buy the Incipio Impact Resistant Case for HTC One M8 ($18.95)
Cameras and equipment: Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic HC-V720
I started getting into photography with an Olympus E-PL1, so having never learned with a "proper" DSLR and viewfinder, when it was time for a new camera I decided to stick with a mirrorless system with the E-PL5. This is a fantastic little camera, and produces amazing pictures considering its size, weight and price tag. It has fast focus, great burst shooting and is compatible with a whole range of inexpensive and diverse lenses. I've yet to find anything that I need to do that the E-PL5 can't accomplish.
As for lenses, I primarily have an Olympus 25mm f/1.8 on the camera, as it's a fantastic all-around lens with extremely crisp image quality (being a prime lens certainly helps) and fast focusing. I specifically got the 25mm as it's a perfect zoom level for hands-on photos. I also carry an Olympus 40-150mm zoom, which is great for press conferences and liveblogs. My only regret with this lens is not getting the more expensive 14-150mm lens, as it requires me to carry my 14-42mm kit zoom lens to fill the gap — but hey, it's about one-third the price of the 14-150mm.
For several months now I've been carrying a dedicated video camera, the Panasonic HC-V720, for events, and it's made a world of difference when it comes to consistently getting good video that can be processed and edited quickly. While the video capabilities of my E-PL5 are high (and it has a higher ceiling of what's capable), nothing quite beats a dedicated video camera that has smooth zooming, great autofocus tracking and is easy to handle when you're out shooting video of devices on your own. I really don't want to go back to shooting quick event videos with my micro four-thirds camera.
You'll also notice that small red plastic thing in the picture — that's a Striker Simple Sucker, an $8 little doodad that sticks to phones and props them up for pictures on tables. It's a small thing, but it's almost as good as an extra set of hands sometimes when you're trying to take good pictures in troublesome lighting conditions.
- More: Buy Olympus E-PL5 on Amazon ($599)
- More: Buy Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens ($399)
- More: Buy Olympus 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lens ($149)
- More: Buy Panasonic HC-V750K on Amazon ($598)
Laptop: MacBook Air (13-inch)
Just like the rest of the Android Central (and most of Mobile Nations) staff, I work on a MacBook Air. This is a 2012 model 13-inch Air with a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM, and it still serves me well for everything but heavy video editing (of which I do very little). It's durable, light and extremely reliable for me, and I've yet to have any serious problem with it in either hardware or software. I figure I can go about another year with this machine until I upgrade to a new one when they're refreshed in 2015 — at that point I just hope Apple's stepped up to a higher screen resolution on the Air line.
I protect my MacBook with a Targus neoprene laptop sleeve, which primarily just sits in my messenger bag. It's sturdy, protects the laptop well and while it's lost a bit of that "new" look in the last six years (yes, six years) I've had it, it's still working great.
- More: Buy the MacBook Air (13-inch) on Amazon ($989+)
Headphones: Samsung Level In earbuds
I picked up the Samsung Level In headphones a couple months ago, and have reviewed them since. At $149 they're incredibly expensive considering that they're only marginally better than earbuds that are one-third the price, but since I have them I continue to use them on a daily basis. They're solid, sound great and are the go-to pair I carry around.
- More: Buy Samsung Level In headphones ($149.99)
Cables, batteries and accessories
I try to keep my set of cables, chargers and accessories to a minimum when I know I have to carry everything I bring, but of course there are some necessities. I have mesh zipper bags that hold all of my assorted cables and accessories, along with USB cables, chargers, an external battery and a hotspot in my bag at pretty much all times.
Vaultz Mesh Storage Bags
I ran across these randomly on Amazon when I was looking for a travel storage solution, and they've turned out to be fantastic. You can get a four-pack on Amazon for under $12, and they include four different color-coded sizes for all of your organizational needs. They have a single zipper that goes diagonally across them to give you complete access to anything you put in there (perfect for random cables), and have a clip on one end so you can secure them inside of luggage.
I use the smallest (yellow) one for my camera bag to hold all of my camera-related odds and ends, the larger (orange) one in my messenger to hold cables, chargers and an external battery, and the two largest ones (red and black) to hold the big things like extra bundles of cables, big external battery chargers and less-used items.
If you want to be organized and never have to worry about losing small items when you travel, pick up a set of these bags.
- More: Buy Vaultz Mesh Storage Bags ($11.61)
Wall charger, USB cables, ethernet adapter, TYLT battery
I find it important to have a set of gear that stays in my bag at all times that is completely separate from what I use daily at home and at my desk. I have a mesh bag — that stays in my messenger bag 100 percent of the time — that has two USB cables (I particularly like these Ventev flat ones), a single wall charger (a small Samsung one), a Thunderbolt ethernet adapter, a flash drive and a TYLT Energi 5K external battery. The full list of what's in my messenger at all times:
- Two USB cables
- USB wall charger
- 4GB flash drive
- External battery pack
- Old-fashioned pen and pencil
- Water bottle
I'm considering swapping to a USB wall charger with 2 ports on it, but I love having a tiny wall charger and never find myself having to rapidly charge two devices at once while traveling — and considering I can just plug into my laptop it never seems to be a problem. When I need it I get a power bump off of my TYLT battery, which at 5000mAh strikes a good balance between size and functionality — and it can charge two devices at once (including tablets) if necessary.
- More: Buy TYLT Energi 5K battery pack ($69.99)
Extra camera gear
Along with the basic two cameras and three lenses, I also pack along a mesh bag full of other camera goodies. I may or may not have every single thing here on me depending on the size of the event, but in most cases any time I have my cameras, I have this stuff, too.
- An extra lens cap
- An extra camera body cap
- Proprietary camera USB cable
- Proprietary video camera USB cable
- Camera flash
- Two extra camera batteries
- Three SD cards
- Wired lavalier mic
- Wireless lavalier mic system
- Both camera chargers
Samson Go Mic
When we're traveling for events, we often need a mic for on-site podcasts, VOIP calls and (most importantly) video voiceovers, and the Samson GoMic has been the go-to travel mic for folks here at AC. It's a compact USB mic that has an integrated swiveling stand that's great for on-site video voiceovers and podcasts. The quality beats any built-in unit you can get on a computer, and it's drastically more practical than packing a full-sized podcast mic.
- More: Buy the Samson Go Mic on Amazon ($38.65)
Is that too much to carry?
When I break it all down and spread things out, it feels like there's a lot there to keep inventory of and lug around. But really, there's very little there that isn't a necessary part of making travel as productive and easy as possible. In situations where I'm not carrying camera gear around my bag gets drastically lighter, but even with the full imaging setup in my bag, it's plenty comfortable to carry around on a flight and to my destination for live event coverage.
Over the next month or so the other AC editors will be showing off the tech they use every day and on the road, so keep watching in the weeks ahead. For a trip down memory lane, you might also want to check out last year's "AC on the road" features to see what we were using twelve months ago.