It's time to see what's in Derek's bag when there's a show to cover
So, I'm heading over to Germany for IFA next week with Alex and Richard, while Phil and Andrew are going to Vegas the following week for CTIA. It's going to be a busy show with a lot to cover, so I'll be bringing a lot of the gear to make sure we can cover everything as best as we can. It's a pretty full load-out, but I like to be prepared for whatever might happen.
So what's in Derek's bag? It's time to find out.
Phones: HTC One M8 and iPhone 5S
As Managing Editor across all of Mobile Nations, I find myself switching back and forth between phones on a nearly weekly basis. The iPhone 5s is a constant (it is the single most popular smartphone out there, I should be familiar with it) and my other line swaps between several devices. Presently, and likely for the duration of IFA, it will be the HTC One M8 (the Android version, not the new Windows Phone One).
As an American hitting Europe, my connectivity is little more complicated than for my UK-based comrades. I'll be paying out the nose for a Verizon international data plan on the iPhone, while I'll be putting a prepaid Blau SIM into the HTC One M8 upon touchdown in Berlin. I haven't yet packed my bag, so there's a possibility other phones could find their way into my bag with these two.
- Read More: iPhone 5s review, HTC One M8 review
- Buy the Apple iPhone 5s: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon | Unlocked in the UK
- But the HTC One M8: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon | Unlocked in the UK
Tablet: iPad Mini with Retina Display
I'm not certain how much use this will actually see, to be honest. I intend on sleeping for the flight from Cincinnati to Paris, and probably the flight from Paris to Cincinnati. Sleep is very important to me. Since I've sent my Nexus 7 (2013) off to another member of Team Mobile Nations and I don't have any other modern tablet, the iPad Mini with Retina Display it is. It serves my needs.
- Read More: iPad Mini with Retina Display review
- Buy the iPad Mini with Retina Display: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Smartwatches: Pebble Steel and Samsung Gear Live
Yep, two smartwatches. But you won't ever see me wearing both at the same time. I'll have both the Pebble Steel and the Android Wear-powered Samsung Gear Live with me. I'm not certain which one will get the most wear, but it'll probably come down to whether it's the iPhone or the HTC One M8 that gets better signal (the Pebble being hooked up to the iPhone and the Gear Live obviously the M8).
- Read More: Pebble Steel review, Samsung Gear Live review
- Buy the Pebble Steel: Amazon US | Amazon UK
- Buy the Samsung Gear Live: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Laptop: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (15-inch, mid-2012)
This puppy's my workhorse. My MacBook Pro might be two years old at this point and soon to be outclassed by next-generation hardware, but it's still my precious. Loaded up with a 2.6Ghz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a blistering fast 512GB SSD, this svelte 15-incher is still a beast of a computer. And, oh, that display.
Sure, it's not the latest and greatest, but it does the job. That said, I'm seriously considering going smaller for my next computer, depending on what Apple does with the next generation of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Either way, it's light enough and portable enough to do everything I need.
Camera: Olympus PEN E-P5
Like Alex and Andrew, I'm a fan of the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless interchangeable lens system cameras. I've been using one model or another of the Olympus PEN line for several years now, currently the relatively-compact but still powerful E-P5. It's an utterly fantastic camera, with a crisp and large 16-megapixel sensor, buckets of manual controls, a sharp touchscreen, and it just looks sick.
I have a bunch of lenses for this camera, but I'll only be bringing a few with me to Berlin. The 17mm and 45mm f/1.8 Olympus primes are a must — they take gorgeous photos, and I'm a sucker for primes. But I'll also be bringing the beastly 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Panasonic zoom (that's to the crop factor of Micro Four Thirds it's practically a 600mm DSLR equivalent). I might also throw in the Olympus 60mm macro, though that might be getting to too much.
- Buy the Olympus PEN E-P5: Amazon US | Amazon UK
- Buy the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens: Amazon US | Amazon UK
- Buy the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens: Amazon US | Amazon UK
- Buy the Olympus 60mm macro lens: Amazon US | Amazon UK
- Buy the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens: Amazon US | Amazon UK
The E-P5 is also my mobile video rig. That requires a but of hackery to make it all easily portable. It's all centered around a carbon fiber Manfrotto monopod. Obviously the camera's mounted on top of that, with an Olympus SEMA-1 microphone adapter in the hot shoe (that there's not a built-in line-in is the one part of the PEN series that just kills me). For the microphone itself I carry three options: a shotgun mic for picking up whatever's around, a wireless lapel mic, or a wireless handheld mic. I like options.
Either way, thanks to the microphone adapter taking over the hotshoe on the camera, I had to find someplace else to do things like mount the shotgun or the wireless mic receiver. I used to have a bracket that put the camera to one side and the mic to the other, but that was just unwieldy. Now I use a small clamp that's mounted to the monopod, with a cold shoe mounted on that. It keeps things nice and compact.
Headphones: Bang & Olufsen H6
These are the best headphones I've ever put on my head, possibly the best thing period I've ever put on my head. When it comes to the quality of things, I go one of two routes: I'll pay crap prices for something I know is crap and accept it for what it is (e.g. Taco Bell), or I'll pay premium prices for the perfect thing. The Bang & Olufsen H6 headphones are the perfect thing, at least to my ears. The sound is supremely crisp and balanced, they're very light and incredibly comfortable, and like my aforementioned camera, the just look sick.
Are there headphones that sound better? Sure. Are there headphones that are more comfortable? Perhaps. Are there headphones that look better? Well, that's subjective, but that's a bet I'd take. It's headphones like these that make me hate how the word "value" has been co-opted to be synonymous with "cheap". Compared to equally-priced Beats headphones that are uglier, stiffer, and suffer from overwhelming and muddy bass, the Bang & Olufsen H6 headphones are a much better value. Value is bang for your buck, and you definitely get bang for every buck spent here.
Power: Batteries, cables, and whatnot
Samsonite Converter/Adapter Kit and some generic USB charger
I've got this left over from a trip to Spain and Portugal a few years back. Being that I come from the United States and all of my gadgets have the US-style Type A or Type B plugs, an adapter/converter is pretty much a necessity if I'm going to be hauling all of the above gear to Europe. It works.
As my Mac has a dual-voltage power brick with its own adapter tips, this plug will be primarily occupied by a generic "Digipower" 4-port USB charger. It doesn't provide the most juice ever, but it will do the job in keeping things topped up.
To get everything plugged in, though, I'm a huge fan of retractable cables. They might not be as long or as durable as their manually-coiled cousins, but the convenience factor is simply too high for me to ignore. I'll have two each for microUSB and Lightning.
- Buy a retractable microUSB cable: Shop Android | Amazon UK
- Buy a retractable Lightning cable: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Gorilla Gadgets Uhuru 16,800mAh dual-USB battery
That's all good for when I'm back at home base, but what about when we're out and about? I'll have the juice with me in the form of this monster dual-USB Gorilla Gadgets battery. It packs 16,800mAh, which is good for recharging the HTC One M8 and iPhone 5s four times over… at the same time. It's pretty hefty, yes, but it packs a punch. Heck, it has more battery than my MacBook (which, frustratingly, can't take a charge off USB, so that's just a fun fact more than anything).
I'll also have as a spare (not carrying with me, but back at the room just in case) a 10,000mAh Satechi dual-USB battery. It's smaller, lighter, and still packs a wallop.
- Buy the Gorilla Gadgets Uhuru 16,800mAh dual-USB battery: Amazon US
- Buy the Satechi 10,000mAh dual-USB battery: Amazon US
I've gone through several bags over the past few years, but this one has been the one for the past year. It's proven durable and flexible, and it fits a surprising amount of gear. I prefer the messenger-style bags to a traditional backpack, and Timbuk2 makes some of the best around, but yet keeps them relatively affordable.
What I love about the Command is many-fold. The TSA-Friendly feature is the best I've seen done — the laptop compartment is hinged at the top instead of the bottom, so you can just unzip the compartment, lay it on the TSA scanner belt, and then grab the handle and walk away when it comes through the other end. The strap is comfortable and easily adjusted, the main compartment isn't cluttered with a dozen meaningless pockets, and there's a dedicated laptop charger pocket underneath that's easy-to-access and big enough to fit even the largest.
Like Andrew, I threw a Snoop Camera insert a size smaller than my bag inside so I could easily haul my camera gear, and yet have some extra room inside.
The only thing that frustrates me about this bag is the mostly pointless pockets on the front (they're so slim I can fit a phone in one and then the rest are rendered useless) and that it's not available through Timbuk2's custom program. I'd gladly pay extra to get this same bag (though I might go a size smaller now that I know just how much you can fit in these bags), but with a waxed canvas exterior and bright orange interior liner. Maybe someday, but for now, this is the bag for me.
- Buy the Timbuk2 Command TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Timbuk2
- Buy the Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Insert Amazon US | Timbuk2
That's a lot
Yep. Covering a show right takes a lot of gear. What I take with me varies depending on the show and is constantly being reevaluated, swapped out, upgraded, streamlined, and tossed out to start all over. This is what I'm using in the here and now, and what will be going with me to IFA.
Is this the very best equipment out there? Nope. But it all suits my and Mobile Nation's needs, and compliments what my comrades are bringing to the shows. I like versatility and being prepared, and all this gear helps be do just that. I just hope I don't break my back in the process.