I don't really know how much time I spent on the road in 2015. I decided to quit paying attention last year, but it probably came in a little shy of two months. That's not a whole lot by Road Warrior standards, but it was more than enough for my wife and kids. Vegas. New York. San Francisco. Miami. Berlin. Barcelona. Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Beijing. Chicago. New Orleans. A decent little jaunt, I'd say.
This year's looking to be a pretty busy one as well. So as we're headed off to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, let's take a quick peek inside my bag. It's not everything — cables and battery packs and SD cards are standard fare, right? — but it's the major features.
Here, now, is what you can find me carrying should you run into me in some sort of faraway land.
The bag: Peak Design Everyday Messenger
I joked before CES that you'd be able to easily spot the journalists by this bag. And at least for a number of us at Mobile Nations, that's proving to be correct. Looks like my comrades chose the wrong color, though — clearly brown is the only way to go. I've been using the Everyday Messenger since December, and I've not once regretted the switch. It's not the same sort of bottomless pit that my trusty Timbuk2 bag was. My own brand of organization tends to be dump a bunch of stuff in various pockets and sort it out later. (I do a lot by feel.) The Everyday Messenger has forced me to be a little more organized. It also doesn't carry quite as much stuff, which led me to pare things back a little bit. And that's fine. I usually overpack (OK, I still overpack), because better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it, right? But the herd has been culled a bit.
Standout features for me have been the strap — reversible, which is great since I prefer it on my left shoulder — and the front-flap clasp, which is crazy good. The top zippers also allow for very easy access. Things get a little tight with my 13-inch retina Macbook Pro and a camera tucked in there, but it works.
The laptop: 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro
It's been a while since I switched from a Macbook Air to the larger, thicker, heavier Retina MacBook Pro, and I have yet to regret that decision. More power, a much better display (I can't even look at an Air screen now), and the feeling that I'm not typing on a toy. I'm still plenty happy on OS X (until I'm not, anyway — bugs happen), though Windows 10 does tempt me. I've just been burned by too many crappy trackpads, though.
New for this year is the venerable Martini Guy sticker from Kingdom of Loathing.
The phones: Nexus 6P, and others
I don't really enjoy lugging around more than one phone at a time. That stopped being fun years ago. Overseas, though, it's still almost a necessity for bandwidth, if not battery life. But these four phones are coming for very specific reasons.
The Nexus 6P is my daily driver these days. So it's in. It's also top of the list for comparisons. Plus Project Fi is stupid-easy to use outside the U.S. — you just turn the phone on.
The Note 5 is coming despite Verizon's international plans being pretty horrid — it's just that Verizon quit SIM-locking its phones some time ago, so I can easily pop in a local SIM. (It still feels a little weird to be able to do that with Verizon phone, but it worked great in Berlin.) Also, the Note 5 needs comparing to the Galaxy S7, should the rumors pan out and we see it on Sunday.
And we know LG is bringing the LG G5 on Sunday. I've been reacquainting myself with G4 and V10 over the past few weeks, and for sure they need comparing to the new flagship. (I also like the hell out of the V10, even if the fingerprint scanner/power button mashup didn't quite work out.
The phones, by the way, have become my go-to for recording interviews. A little dangerous, perhaps, but companies like LG and Huawei have gotten really good at directional recording.
The tablet: Nexus 9
You expected a Pixel C? Not until it gets some sort of cover like the Nexus 9 has enjoyed from (nearly) the start. I really just bring a tablet for the long plane ride — games and movies are a must, especially if you've already had a few flights in the same month and are exhausting the airline's collection — and for reading for a few minutes as I pass out each night. But I tend to not actually lug it around in my bag from meeting to meeting, or on the show floor.
The camera: Olympus OM-D EM-5 II
Confession: I miss my Nikon D700. It's big. It's heavy. It feels like a tool for doing work. I love the way it sounds when that shutter fires off. But after last year's Mobile World Congress I decided — OK, my back decided — that it was just too much to carry. Plus it doesn't do video, and that meant I had to carry another camera. So it was time for a change. It was time for Micro Four Thirds.
I take pictures, but I wouldn't call myself a photographer. But I'm mostly enjoying the hell out of the EM-5 Mark II. It's so much smaller. It's so much lighter. It also shoots video. My chief complaint is that I'm just not as good with it yet as I was with the D700. That's on me, though. It's not quite as quick to flip through settings as the D700, but it's mostly close enough.
The biggest difference for me, though, is weight. I still carry a lot of stuff — but the camera doesn't take up nearly as high a percentage of the total mass anymore.
As for lenses: I've got a 17mm f/1.8 on most of the time. For the long-range liveblogs I'm bringing an admittedly ridiculous 75-300mm f/4.8 lens — that's the equivalent of 150-600mm. We'll see how it goes.
The headphones: Bose QC20
These things will change the way you fly. No more noise. No more cranking up the music just to hear it sound terrible fighting over the roar of the engines. The downsides are that they're not cheap (but worth every penny), and you've got to make sure they're charged (via microUSB, at least). I keep them in the included pouch when not in use, so they're not always the quickest thing to grab and slap in if I need to listen to something quickly. (For that I keep a relatively cheap pair on hand, from whatever phone I'm happening to use.)
But these probably are my favorite buy of the past couple years.
The mic: Samson Go Mic
I love this mic. It's small. It sound surprisingly good. It's does cardioid and omni, so it's great for voiceovers or roundtable podcasts while on the go. I've used it in the hallway of Google I/O. I've used it on the floor of CES. I've used it in countless hotel rooms and apartments from Germany to Spain to China and Korea.
And I'd kill to have it updated to USB-C, or at the very least micro-USB. Right now it's the one mini-USB device in my arsenal, and that means one extra cord for a single device.
The price also is ridiculous for something this useful: Only around $37.