We're knee deep in event season once again, here's what I'll be dragging to Germany for IFA 2014
Continuing on from Alex and Andrew's insights into what's in their respective gear bags right now, the baton now passes to me. On September 2 i'll be packing up my things and heading off on the annual trip to IFA 2014, the biggest tech show on the planet outside of CES.
Not everything in my gear bag is of an Android/Google persuasion and with good reason – or so I feel, at least. So, here's what i'll be packing.
Bag: Wenger rucksack (not a clue on which one!)
I've been using the same gear bag for about 18 months now. I don't know its name but it's made by Wenger and it's a rucksack rather than a messenger bag. There are a few things that did, and still do attract me to it over anything else i've seen.
Firstly, it's a rucksack. I have a creaky old back and creaky old shoulders and I find messenger bags leave me with too many aches in both at the end of a long day pounding the show floors. Beyond this it has plenty of pockets to keep all my assorted gadgetry in, with three main compartments, a dedicated tablet pocket and a dedicated laptop pocket.
There's so much room inside that unfortunately I usually go a little crazy and pack too much. It's stood me well in the time i've owned it and there isn't a single part of it that's been damaged or overly worn. So i'll probably keep using it until something breaks.
While I'm not sure you can buy this same bag anymore, there are plenty of newer alternatives from Wenger.
Buy: Wenger Backpack by SwissGear on Amazon ($42.99)
Phones and tablet: LG G3, iPhone 5s and iPad mini with Retina Display
I already feel the flames headed my way. Truth is, I do carry an iPhone and I do use an iPad. But we'll come to those after talking some Android, first. The LG G3 has been my daily driver since it first landed in my hot little hands. Having been a huge fan of the G2 I could have predicted this all along, but it's a fantastic phone to take trekking round the trade shows.
We've talked a lot about the G3 in recent weeks, but what's particularly good about taking it to events is the removable battery and the microSD card slot. Events are battery hungry, as is travel in general. Roaming never produces the best battery life out of a device and events are even worse. In these situations being able to swap out a battery is extremely handy.
Then there's the iPhone. Since i've been known to write a post or two for iMore in my time, I always have an iPhone to hand. But more importantly – especially when I travel – my wife uses an iPhone, so I never leave the country without mine. My domestic carrier does a great deal on data roaming so with my iPhone 5s I can iMessage and FaceTime – audio and video – her back home and spend a lot less than if I were doing the same using regular calls and texts. And no, getting her onto something like Google Hangouts isn't going to happen, either, before anyone asks!
I also tend to use the iPhone as my go to music player since I rely a lot heavier on whatever Android phone I'm also carrying to get me through the working day. There's also a hidden extra feature I use it for that I'll get to in a later section.
You've also no doubts noticed I carry an iPad mini and not a Nexus 7 or other Android tablet. I just like it better, that's all there is to it. I like the size and I like the 4:3 screen ratio over 16:9 at this size. Android tablets in portrait mode feel too tall for me, and too wide in landscape. I've also been known to use it for some light offline work from time-to-time, and as a Mac user there are some apps I use daily that are great on both devices and iCloud sync keeps me going whichever I pick up.
Buy: LG G3 on Amazon (Various prices/contracts)
Buy: iPhone 5s from Apple (From $199 on contract, $649 without)
Buy: Retina iPad mini from Apple (From $399)
Smartwatch - Pebble
I've been rocking the Pebble since late 2013 and even with the recent emergence of the first Android Wear smartwatches I haven't yet been tempted away. The Pebble still does pretty much everything I want in a smartwatch with two added bonuses over Android Wear. First, I can use it with my iPhone if need be – and yes, that remains important to me – and secondly is that battery life – yes, I realize that for the purposes of the pictures in this post, it is actually dead. With IFA coming up I'll need to charge the Pebble maybe once during my time in Berlin. Away from the trade shows the battery regularly sees out the working week, and that's important to me.
When you spend as much time charging devices as we do, something that doesn't need plugging in every night is a delight.
Buy: Pebble on Amazon ($149.99)
Cameras and equipment - Canon EOS 600D and Panasonic HC-V720
I'll start with the video camera, which is actually the same model that Andrew featured last week. It's a reasonably new addition to my kit and the first time I've really carried a dedicated video camera. Previously I'd used a micro 4/3 camera to do everything, but the V720 has already made significant improvements to both the quality of footage and to the workflow in getting it edited quickly.
The hybrid OIS is a particular favorite. It really does take out almost all of the shakes you're going to encounter shooting handheld video. It's also great at autofocus tracking, fantastically comfortable to hold and even has pretty solid audio recording. It'll do a decent enough job at suppressing background noise, so much so that if I really need to shoot a quick video the sound won't be horrible.
Usually though when I'm shooting video that won't be voiced over during editing I use a lav mic. Remember the secret extra reason I take an iPhone with me? I have a Rode Smartlav microphone that hooks up to the headphone jack on my iPhone and records audio. I've thought about using a mic that connects to the camera but for the price of this one and the quality of the recordings, I'm more than happy to stick with it. It also means if I need to get really clever or need to fix something I've got a separate audio recording that I can tweak and fettle accordingly.
For still images I've gone back to using a DSLR and opted for the Canon EOS 600D. It came at a good price, isn't too complicated – though I still only use about 15% of its potential at most – and takes very good quality images without the need to get too deep in manual settings. I pair it with the standard kit lens which is good enough for about 85% of all event work and a Tamron 85-300mm lens. This isn't the best quality lens in the world but I picked it up at a great price and it serves well enough for its only real purpose; live blogs. To get good pictures at a press conference you need to be able to zoom right in, so that's why I got this lens.
I also tend to pack a Manfrotto monopod with me, too. Main reason being it's a travel sized monopod so it fits inside my gear bag. My tripod doesn't, so it usually stays at home. Most of the time I only need a monopod for live blogs anyway, so it more than serves the purpose.
Buy: Canon EOS 600D on Amazon ($549.00)
Buy: Panasonic HC-V720M on Amazon ($564.00)
Laptop: 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
This laptop has been my main machine now for almost 18-months and I use it for all my main Mobile Nations work. It's the 2012 model with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD drive. It's powerful enough to handle just about all on-the-road related tasks and is still plenty quick enough at crunching photos and videos and exporting them for use.
It's also incredibly compact considering, and of course the display is just stunning to look at. Editing photos on it is a really good experience. I'd like an extra USB port in all honesty, but otherwise it's still a great machine.
I protect it inside my gear bag in a pretty generic felt sleeve. It's soft inside, well priced and just helps keep other things in my bag from causing harm to its metal body.
Buy: MacBook Pro with Retina Display on Amazon (From $1234.99)
Headphones - Motorheadphones Bomber and Monster N-Tune earbuds
Why two sets of headphones? Easy. The Motorheadphones are my main pair at the moment in part due to being "loud as s*%t," partly because they're extremely comfortable and partly because they offer a great quality sound at an affordable price. This particular pair doesn't require manually adjusting to fit your head, it has a special arrangement with those rubber 'arms' to help do it for you. I still don't really understand, but it works. I love these things.
But I use those when travelling mainly when I'm on the plane. They're comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. I carry a pair of earbuds in my bag for two main reasons. Firstly, when I'm editing video I have to plug in when dealing with the sound. Secondly, they're much more portable than the Motorheadphones, so they free up more space in my bag for the days I'm out on the show floor.
The Monster N-Tune buds despite having a pretty bad name are actually really good quality. I like the sound that they produce and I particularly like that they're magnetized so I can just hook them together round my neck when not in my ears and not have to worry about losing them or tangling them up in anything.
Buy: Motorheadphones Bomber on Amazon ($39.99)
Buy: Monster Ntune earbuds on Amazon ($59.99)
Cables, batteries and accessories
I do try to organize how I carry my cables, but it usually only lasts until after travelling. I bought this Cocoon from the Apple Store to help me out. It's essentially a board with bungee cords on of differing sizes that you tuck your cables and assorted other accessories under to keep organized and take up less space in your bag.
On the whole, it works. I usually carry as few cables as possible, packing a couple of microUSBs, a Lightning cable and a miniUSB cable for pulling videos directly from my video camera.
Other assorted essentials include a USB Ethernet adapter – for those rare occasions press events have Ethernet – a selection of SD cards, a good old fashioned pen and notebook – because you never know – UK/Euro wall adapters and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Going to a trade show without hand sanitizer is an instant ticket to post-show plague.
Even though the G3 has a replaceable battery, I never go on the road without a battery pack. My current favorite is a slim Huawei one that I acquired in a press pack from one of their events. It's a 4400mAh battery which is ample for a day away from an outlet. I sometimes pack a Mophie Powerstation Duo, too, but mine is a little old and beat up now so it's pretty much been replaced.
I also take my trusty Samson GoMic on the road to big events, just the same as other members of the AC team. While at home podcasting and voice over duties are performed by a Rode Podcaster microphone, it's too impractical to take on the road. The Samson GoMic is an excellent alternative that takes up almost no space in my gear bag. You never know at an event when an impromptu podcast might break out, or when you need to do some voice over work on a video away from the busy show floor or press room. You get great quality recordings from the GoMic and the fold out 'stand' also doubles up as a clip to attach it to your laptop lid.
When you lay it all out like this – and on my coffee table to take a picture – it sounds like a lot, maybe too much. But when leaving the country for a big event I'd always rather be too prepared, take too much, than leave something behind. The main thing is that everything comfortably fits into my actual bag comfortably, so I can afford to pack a little extra. It's super fun putting it through airport security at London Heathrow, mind. More than a few occasions I've had to empty it all out for inspection.
The AC on the road series will continue and if you missed them the first time round be sure to check out what Alex and Andrew are carrying around, or jump back to what we were using last year to see how things have changed.