As a tech writer, I spend a lot of time critiquing products — primarily cameras, smartphones, laptops and cars — for not being fast, light or even pretty enough to recommend to others. But rarely do I end up living with most of these products, either — oftentimes, because they just don't make the cut. So, to help illustrate what a complete tech kit looks like, here's a description of my everyday carry lineup and the road-warrior go bag that lets me do my job, no matter where I am. I've done more than my fair share of nitpicking, evaluating and calling out deal-breaking flaws of others; now, I'm ready to be judged.
My Everyday Carry
1) Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
I've loved this phone ever since I got my hands on our review unit back in late March. So, as soon as I could, I bought one for myself. Even without this phone's superfast internals and gorgeous AMOLED screen, the S6 Edge has an X factor that I don't feel from many others, and at $915 for a 64GB model, it's not a purchase I made lightly. Despite living life case-free, after three months, my S6 Edge still looks brand-new, and the luscious glass front and back delight my hands and eyes every day. My only complaint is its just-average battery life, although that's remedied mostly by its support for wireless and quick charging.
2) Bellroy Hide & Seek Wallet
It took 10 years of searching, but this is the wallet I've always wanted. It's perfect. It's made of buy-it-for-life full-grain leather that looks better and better every day, has a hidden billfold for stashing emergency cash, and a lovely slim design that prevents me from having a monstrous 3-inch-thick Costanza wallet, all while keeping my back and butt pain free. Even though this doesn't fall under the tech umbrella, I can recommend this item with full confidence.
3) Omega Seamaster
Smartwatches might become mainstream one day, but that time has yet to come. The most useful thing they do is control your music, which is already incredibly simple. Instead, my Omega lasts years on a charge, looks stunning and reminds me of a time when I thought GoldenEye was the best movie ever made. This 15-year-old watch is the oldest thing I use on a regular basis, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
4) Field Notes
I have a bigger notebook in my bag, but on the off chance I can go to an event where I don't need a camera or the other gear stashed in my bag, it's nice to have a pocket-friendly place to jot down notes and figures. There's also a thousand clean and simple designs to choose from, and with a 50-page three-pack running less than $10, I don't feel bad about throwing one out when it's full and swapping in a new one.
5) 16GB Phillips Circle USB Drive
My keys are the piece of gear I struggle with most. They are lumpy and pointy, and also threaten to scratch all the precious paintjobs of the gadgets that dare to go in my pocket with them. The only redeeming component is the 16GB Philips Circle USB drive, which, despite taking numerous tumbles and spills without protection, hasn't destroyed any of my data. One of these days, I'll figure out a way to get rid of the dongles and membership tags and replace the whole setup with something like a KeySmart, but until then, I'll manage with this holdover of old-world tech.
6) Sony MDREX110AP Step-Up EX Series Earbuds
These earbuds were originally meant to be a temporary replacement for a pair of Shure earbuds I loved and destroyed, but they've held up brilliantly over the past year and deliver pretty good sound quality for less than $30. I like that they came with four sizes of replaceable silicone earbuds. I always have them with me, and I'm never bored even when stuck on the subway. At home, I have a pair of AKG-701 Studio headphones that I adore, but the open-back design lets in too much outside sound for use on the go.
7) Messograf Caliper Pen
Priced at $30, the Messograf Caliper is expensive for a pen. But like Alton Brown, I love multitaskers, and the Messograf's built-in calipers are more than worth it. More than once, I've caught gadget makers being a little generous with listed measurements on their devices, and this lets me check the majority of lengths and widths without adding extra weight or clutter.
8) Juul E-Cig
To my parents, if you're reading this, I never told you, and I'm sorry: I smoked cigarettes in college, and even though I quit cold turkey on graduation day and have been smoke-free ever since, I still get an occasional hankering for a drag. Pax, the makers of top-tier vaporizers, recently entered the e-cig game, and its new Juul might kill traditional cigarettes for good. I don't use it every day, but a quick puff is a nice way to relax after a long day, and since I’m vaping, not smoking, there's no awful lingering smell, stained teeth or day-after residue that feels like last week's laundry is stuck in my throat. And since each nicotine pod costs about $4 each and lasts as long as an entire traditional pack, it's way cheaper than the $15 average pack in NYC.
Note: Tom’s Guide, and its parent company, Purch, do not endorse the use of any nicotine products, including cigarettes or e-cigs.
9) Burt's Bees Grapefruit Lip Balm
It smells good, and no one likes chapped lips, especially when you might have to be on camera for something. 'Nuff said.
10) Booq Boa Nerve
This bag has gone with me everywhere, and after a year, aside from a few frayed edges, it's held up brilliantly. My previous bag from Timbuk2 had lovely padded sections for multiple camera lenses but was too bulky to carry every day, and had a padded cushion that wasn't very comfortable and refused to stay in place. But this one is almost perfect. It has a padded microfiber sleeve that can cradle all but the biggest gaming notebooks; tons of pockets for keeping pens, chargers and accessories safe and organized; and a strap that soothes my shoulder, even when it's loaded with more than 30 pounds of gear. There's even a discontinued "stealth" version on Amazon for prospective ninjas that's had the reflective trim removed for extra sneakiness.
11) Microsoft Surface 3
After I wrote a long review of the Surface 3, the device has become so integral to my mobile workflow that I had to have one for myself. In the office, we have Dell Latitude E6430u laptops with powerful Intel Core-i7 CPUs, but on the road, that 13-inch system feels bulky, and the processor is overkill for writing up stories and editing photos. The Surface 3's pen is great for taking handwritten notes, and at barely over 2 pounds with the Type Cover attached, it's half the weight of the Dell. Now, I'm waiting to see whatever the next Surface has in store (hopefully sometime this fall), and I've already got some funds earmarked for it if it meets my expectations.
12) Nikon D90
While it's hardly the newest kid on the block, my D90 has never let me down over the six years I've owned it. Even though its 12.3-MP photos are lower-res than ones from my GS6, with its superior lenses, it's still the camera I reach for when image quality counts. The problem is that the D90, along with the Canon 5D Mk II, was one of the first DSLRs with video. Nowadays, its 30-fps 1280 x 720 video just doesn't cut it. Lately, I've been looking at a Nikon D750 (to keep my collection of lenses going) or a Samsung NX1 (for its gorgeous 4K videos and blazing burst shooting), but either way, that's a lot of money to spend, and I'll probably end up deliberating until sometime in the fall.
Samsung 32GB microSD card with adapter(not pictured)
This goes in my camera, and with the adapter, it fits into both traditional SD card slots on my Dell in the office and the microSD card slot on the Surface 3. This means I don't have to spend time searching around for a USB card reader when I have to edit photos on the road. It may seem like a simple thing, but it's flexibility like this that helps me work faster and more efficiently.
13) Leatherman Skeletool CS
A lot of everyday-carry enthusiasts love to show off their knives and guns, but living in New York City, with its preponderance of security checks and metal detectors, I can't really carry either on a regular basis. However, I do make exceptions for this Leatherman, which I've used to repair computers and set up entire rooms of Ikea furniture. I just need to remember to stow it in my desk on days when I think it might be a problem.
14) RSEB 20,000-mAh Power Bank
I used to have a 13,000-mAh Anker 2nd Gen Astro E4, but ever since I lost it on a plane, I've been carrying around a nondescript battery pack from RSEB, which has been working out surprisingly well. It's pretty heavy, but its 20,000-mAh capacity is enough to completely recharge my 2,600-mAh GS6 nearly eight times over. At trade shows, with its two USB ports for charging, a battery-level LCD and even a flashlight, it's the heart of my device team, and goes to show that you can still find some gems among no-name brands.
15) Focus Digital Gray Cards
At demos and product announcements, we deal with all sorts of funky disco-inspired lighting setups that can make it hard to take a good photo. One of the ways I help combat this is with a cheap set of gray cards to help adjust white balance. They're small, light and easily worth the space, weight and cost needed to get a better picture.
16) Tiffen Lens Papers
Dust and oil are some other enemies of a crisp, sharp photo, so I always care a pack of these disposable lens tissues to make sure my equipment is on point. They're dirt cheap, and with the packs' paper envelope, I don't have to worry about sand or other detritus as I do with a traditional cleaning cloth, although I carry one of those as well. As a bonus, it also works great for smartphone displays and laptops, ensuring greasy fingerprints don't ruin the shot, either.
17) Moleskine Notebook
When I go to events and briefings — especially major ones like CES and GDC — vendors toss more notebooks my way than Tom Brady does in the playoffs, but most of them are cheap and not worth the weight in my bag. Moleskine and Castelli are the exceptions and are the only two notebooks I use. I recently filled up a Castelli Tucson notebook and am already lamenting its loss — even the Moleskine's sensuous faux-leather cover has a hard time matching it.
18) Ikea Hand Towel
In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," author Douglas Adams says a towel is the most useful thing any traveler could carry, and he's right. While it's not a beach-size monstrosity, my little black hand towel has saved me more times than I can count. It's protected my camera on rainy days, soaked-up sweat during heated excursions and flagged down colleagues when I'm lost in a sea of people at a convention.
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