Phil's gear bag

Welcome to the Labor Day holiday! It's the unofficial end of summer (which, really, for where I am in Florida doesn't come until some time in October) — and for us the official start of the fall silly season. 

I'm headed off to Berlin, Germany, today for the IFA conference — sort of the CES of Europe. It's my first time at IFA and my first time in Berlin, so this should be fun. (And looking at our schedule, it's also going to be the usual ridiculous amount of work.) If you've yet to do so, swing by Alex's IFA 2013 preview for a look at what we're expecting.

And now, following in the footsteps of Alex, Jerry and Andrew, a look at what I'm lugging over there with me:

The bags

Gear bags

Never mind the tech. (OK, we'll mind the tech in a minute.) The bags themselves may be the most important part of this whole endeavor. Like many others of us in this biz, I'm a huge proponent of Timbuk2. The San Francisco-based company has bags that are durable as anything out there and have a capacity that continues to surprise me. And should something go wrong, Timbuk2 has a warranty that can't be beat.

I'm currently using the 2011 Command Laptop Messenger Bag for nearly every event. I don't bother with any of the "TSA-friendly" stuff — it's quicker and easier to just pull out the laptop than have to worry about haggling over whether I have to take it out of a "TSA-friendly" bag. (Find other Timbuk2 messenger bags here.)

For clothes and stuff, I use the Timbuk2 Copilot Luggage Roller, which I picked up earlier this summer. That kick-ass warranty I mentioned? Well, the handle (quite literally) flew off my three-year-old Checkpoint Travel Roller while in San Francisco for Google I/O. So I swung over to the store, and they swapped it out for this newer model. It took longer to cab it the couple miles to the store than it did to swap out the bag.

That's why I keep coming back. Timbuk2's not cheap, but then again it's not cheap. And you can't beat the service.

The gear​

OK, on to the fun stuff.

The laptop

MacBook Air

I'm now using a 2013 13-inch Macbook Air after upgrading from the 2011 model. The battery life has been a game-changer for me — and I'm not even running OS 10.9 Mavericks yet. And you just can't beat the size and portability. But seriously, Apple. Bring back the 90-degree MagSafe 2 connector. I also keep a MagSafe>MagSafe 2 adapter in my bag, just in case.

The phones


The phones I take on trips vary, depending on where I'm going and what I'm doing. Quick trip to New York? Just one or two. If I'm going overseas and know I can easily get a local SIM card, I'll make sure I have something unlocked on me, and that usually means Nexus, which I also like having around for Photosphere purposes. 

This trip, though, I'm rolling with the Moto X. I just love the size of the thing. It'll be interesting to see how the battery holds up when roaming. I've got the HTC One (AT&T) for backup, and because I'll have roaming data anyway. I've also got the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, but I don't plan on using it for anything more than comparison pictures with the expected announcement of the Note 3.

And I'm bringing the LG G2 as my unlocked Euro device should I find a German SIM. Plus, it does Photospheres. (LG calls them "VR Panoramas.")

The tablet

Nexus 7 2103

Is there any other choice? The 2013 Nexus 7, with the ASUS Premium Cover, which I only use when traveling.

The cameras


A little more than a year ago I foolishly upgraded to the Nikon D700. (I found a good deal on a used one on Ebay.) It's way more camera than I need, and my first time out of the gate with it was disastrous. (And halfway around the world in South Korea, no less.) A year later, and I'm more comfortable with it. 

I usually shoot with a 50mm macro lens at home, but I'm going with my 50mm prime lens for the floor work, and my trusty 28-300mm lens for event work.

I use a CowboyStudio hand strap along with a Black Rapid RS-7 strap. One more must-have is a Lens Pen for keeping things clean.

For video, I'm using the Panasonic HCV700M. It's small, it's light, it's got 16GB of internal storage and can use an SD card as well, plus a hot shoe for when I want to get fancy. It's simple enough to use, and the OIS is a nice addition.

As a backup — and for when I don't want to lug around the big stuff — I've got a Sony RX100, on Alex's recommendation. It's a 20-megapixel point-and-shoot with an f/1.8 lens. It's ridiculously awesome, and I really should use it more. (And it charges via micro USB, which is great.)

Other odds and ends

Spare batteries and cables are a given, right? You can never have too many. And I always travel with a length of CAT5 as well. You just never know when you'll need it.

Here are a few other random things taking up space in my bag:

  • External battery charger: I'm currently running around with the Samsung 9,000 mAh battery, but you'll also find me with my trusty Anker Astro 2 8,400 mAh battery. It's got a built-in LED flashlight (and is way cheaper). 
  • Cleaning cloth: Wanna be the most popular person at the demo area? Have a cleaning cloth for getting fingerprints off a screen. I just toss one in with other orders from time to time.
  • Microphone: Lugging around a traditional recording mic will get you some funny looks from security, not to mention taking up precious space and adding weight. When I'm on the road, I always have the Samson Go Mic. It's USB-powered tiny — and sounds surprisingly good. We use it for podcasts as well as overdubbing. 
  • Headphones: I haven't quite figured out why I carry around two pairs of headphones, but I do. For my normal, everyday listening, I use the Bose MIE2i. For long hauls, I bring the Shure 425s for noise-blocking. They're not as comfortable, but they block out engine noise nicely.
  • XCom Global Mifi: You can never have too much data when you're overseas, and U.S. roaming plans can get expensive. I did go with AT&T's 300MB of data for $60, though. And to supplement that, XCom Global hooked us up with some of its new ZTE Mifis to test out.
  • Pebble smart watch: Mainly I'm using this as a Trusted Bluetooth device as an extra layer of security with the Moto X.

And that's it, more or less. The bags are packed, passport in hand. It's time to go to work. See y'all from Germany.


Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: What's in my Berlin gear bag


I dare you to set that bag down, turn your back, and recite, say, the Pledge of Allegiance...You can keep the watch and Macbook though :)

No doubt, I'm drooling over those cameras. That would be tempting for the most morale person to see all that stuff sitting there.

Gotta love Timbuk2, Currently I own a small and large Classic messenger, A kindle fire sleev, showdown backpack and a bunch of smaller accesories from them. Love all of them. Very reliable. I have also been looking into those travel bags like the Copilot especially since I work in the aviation field.

ha, I think that's the first time I've seen the Moto X next to a HTC One. I've always thought those speakers added too much bulk, not to mention the capacitive keys, the One is a monster next the the X with the same sized screen. Who needs the speakers when you carry 2 pairs of headphones around?

I need those speakers when I don't have headphones(which is quite often) therefore I need to be able to listen to notifications. My God speak for yourself man.

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I hate wearing headphones and earbuds never stay in my ears, I've tried most of them, and I'm not going to buy $200 custom fit ones on the chance they'll stay in. I prefer a loud speaker so I can move freely also without having a cord. I'd buy a jawbone bluetooth speaker if I could justify the price

I hate wearing headphones and earbuds never stay in my ears, I've tried most of them, and I'm not going to buy $200 custom fit ones on the chance they'll stay in. I prefer a loud speaker so I can move freely also without having a cord. I'd buy a jawbone bluetooth speaker if I could justify the price

How's the Air for video editing and PS? I mainly use LR with minor PS work and minor video editing. I just bought the non-retina 15 inch so I can load in two hard drives (one ssd) instead of that optical drive, but damn, the $2K price tag. Can the Air really handle all that?

I would really like to know when I can bring just ONE device to do the job of DSLR, laptop, phone, tablet....

There is some kind of quality control issues with those Asus "premium" covers since so many people re finding they do not fit. Read the Amazon reviews.

Awe shucks, Phil. You forgot one very important accessory: ME! I would've been very useful. Guess you'll have to make due without me.

Hello Phil! Welcome to Germany. It's actually very easy to get a SIM card working in Germany. They sell them at most gas stations which should be easily located. Most of them should have some english manual - or bring a german friend! You can also go to discounter supermarkets like "Aldi", "Lidl" or "Edeka" (and many more, they offer their own thing). Or just look for a "Vodafone", "O2", "e-plus" or T-mobile" store, they should be able to help you, too.

Have a safe trip.

All those cameras, have you done any photography classes or are you self taught? Is it easy to learn how to use them?

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I have a Nikon DSLR as well. Learning the basics isn't too hard but actually being able to use the techniques successfully when you go out and take pictures in all the different situations and environments takes a lot of practice.

Main thing is to never get discouraged, even professionals take bad pictures sometimes. (You Just don't ever see them. ;))

Yeah they caught my eye to. Tech is tech but a good bag can be hard to come by

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Phil, do the inline mic/remote controls on the the Bose ear buds work with the HTC One? I'm looking for a pair of decent in ear buds, these seem to fit the bill but also have that dreaded made for iPhone sticker.

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Check out the Klipsch S4A's. They're like $70 I think, made for Android, and the sound quality is comparable to the Bose Phil mentioned above (and some people even find them to be better).

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Nifty idea about the cleaning cloth.

How do you manage juggling three phones though?

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I have a Timbuk2 custom messenger bag...definitely something I can't live without daily. I keep my work MacBook Pro, and sometimes also carry my Chromebook along. Thanks for sharing what's in your bag, Phil!

Just bought the anker astro battery for $35 on amazon. Hope it's good.

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Phil, I would definitely bring more then one Euro addapter, and one of those multiple outlets with some usb inputs.

How is the combination of a MacBook and a whole set of Android devices? Are there some issues or problems you went into with android and the Apple OS?
I am looking for a Windows alternative to a MacBook.. Someone has an idea?

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Nils, I am able to access my Android devices with my MacBook Pro by using either the AirDroid app, or using the Android File Transfer software (attaching the micro USB-USB cord to the Mac). Also, if you use Google Play Music, you can use the Music Manager software for Mac OS.

Also, you'd be surprised to find out that Google features such as Drive, Docs, Keep, Gmail. Google+ and such all work just fine, maybe even better on a MacBook than a comparable Windows laptop. You can also install Microsoft Office suite for Mac OS if that's your flavor. :-)

Edit: I've been a longtime Windows user on desktops and laptops, but after using a MacBook for work and play, it has grown on me.

Thanks! I Guss i will try out taking a MacBook for studying.
But i am sure i will not give up my love to Android devices.

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Thanks! I Guss i will try out taking a MacBook for studying.
But i am sure i will not give up my love to Android devices.

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Believe me, just because I went to the darkside by having a MacBook, doesn't mean I'm going full-on iOS/Mac OS. Most of my devices are Android (and Chrome...I have an Acer Chromebook too), and the software I use for home and work are mostly Google so my allegiance still sits with Google. :-)

Timbuk2 bags last forever.

Still use my medium classic messenger as my only carry-on luggage on short trips (less than a week). Added some "custom" 1.5" velcro strips to keep it quiet, though can now buy silencer strips from Timbuk2 directly for $3 or $6 depending on how many you need.

Thanks for the tip! I was wondering if there were "quieter" velcro strips, so I'll check the Timbuk2 site then and swap them out of my messenger bag. :-)