What’s In My Laptop Backpack? Here’s the Hardware I Use...and Why.
I work while traveling the world. This tech makes it possible.
Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliate links below.
I enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle, so I often work on the road. I write code, do consulting, create presentations, and author courses. Here are the tools I bring along for the ride.
MacBook Pro 15
I preferred the old 2015 keyboard and don’t use the TouchBar. So why’d I buy this?
- The SSD is faster than the 2015.
- It’s thinner and lighter than the 2015.
- The screen is notably brighter, so I can easily work outside. (Apple’s anti-glare screen tech is much better than today’s mirror-like touchscreen displays)
- TouchID is handy.
- USB-C makes it easy to dock. I use Apple’s HDMI with USB and power dongle when traveling. I put a few cheap USB-C to USB-A adapters on existing USB-A peripherals.
Verizon 7730L Mifi — I’ve tethered to my phone for years, but it always annoyed me. Poor signal, slow speeds, quick battery drain, and it tied up my phone so I couldn’t do calls while online. This is so fast it feels almost like I’m home, the battery lasts 24 hours, and its been consistently fast and reliable everywhere I’ve used it.
The Roost Stand
The Roost laptop stand — I absolutely love this thing. No more looking down at a screen. This avoids neck pain by placing the screen at eye level. It improves my mood too (looking down is a mental downer too).
I use this on planes so I can read without being cramped. It fits nicely on a tray table. And since it places the machine above the tray table, it leaves room on the tray table for the separate trackpad and a drink.
AirPods. These sound fantastic and are so comfortable I forget they’re in my ears. I like how they pause when I remove one, and a double tap on the side switches to the next track. I bought silicon covers for biking but found they’re not necessary — I’ve never had one fall out.
Bose QC35 Noise Cancelling Headphones — I mostly use these on planes and in loud environments. They do an excellent job at cutting noise on flights, noisy airports, and team rooms.
Apple Magic Trackpad 2
Magic Trackpad 2 — I was surprised to fall in love with this. Using a built in trackpad on a laptop can lead to hand cramps, but that’s just because of the awkward wrist angle they tend to create when a laptop is on your lap. Since this is placed in a normal mouse location, I find it very comfortable. I like being able to use the same gestures as on my MacBook’s trackpad. So my workflow doesn’t change when I dock. And since I can place my hands however I like, I find it very comfortable. Also, since I travel a lot, being able to just sit this on any surface is a win — unlike a mouse which can be picky about surfaces. It’s flat and light, so it fits easily in my bag.
Apple Magic Keyboard 2
Magic Keyboard 2 — The worst thing about the new MacBook Pros is the keyboard. The Magic Keyboard 2 has the same key feel as the old MacBook laptops. 👍 And since I like to use my machine on the Roost stand, I need an external keyboard. This is flat, light, wireless, and durable, so it’s perfect for travel.
Logitech R800 Wireless Presenter — I like this because it has a countdown timer, long battery life, and excellent range. Pro tip: Here’s how I avoid forgetting to start the countdown timer: I start the countdown timer before the talk begins. I just set the timer to the length of the talk plus the number of minutes until the talk begins. (so if it’s an hour long talk and I’m starting the timer 15 minutes before the talk, then I set the timer to an hour and 15 minutes and press start).
Anker Powercore 10000 USB Battery — This 10,000 mah battery has enough juice to charge my phone, headphones, and Verizon Mifi multiple times so I don’t worry about running out of juice. And it’s about the size as a deck of cards!
Apple iPhone 7
I’ve had Android for years but recently switched because iPhones benchmark significantly faster. Performance is the most important feature to me, and so far this has been quite snappy. I also like iPhone’s integration with Mac. It’s handy getting text messages and calls forwarded to my Mac so I can leave my phone plugged in outside my office which aids focus.
Other items in my backpack:
- Outdoor coding kit: Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
- Airport/coffee shop kit: Plugin adapters (useful so I can share an outlet with others), an extension chord (again, useful when I can’t get close enough to an outlet)
- Sleeping kit: Mask and earplugs for sleeping on airplanes
- International travel: Not pictured, but I bring a couple of these universal AC power plug adapter when traveling internationally.
- USB to lightning cable — For charging phone, AirPods, Trackpad, keyboard. The benefit of using all Apple is I can use the same cable to charge all 4 of these wireless peripherals.
- Second monitor in a pinch: I carry a 6' HDMI cable. Handy when a conference is lacking one. I also use it to attach my machine to the hotel TV so I can enjoy a second monitor on the road. I typically prefer a single monitor, but this is useful when video conferencing so I can put the video call on one screen and work on the other. Sometimes I put concerts on the 2nd screen so I don’t feel so alone in hotels. :)
Here I’m using the hotel TV as a 2nd monitor via HDMI:
Hardware I use at Home
Here’s the equipment I use at home.
Dell 27" 4K Monitor
Dell P2718Q 27" 4K Monitor — I love this display. Perfect size, beautiful IPS panel, and attractive small bezel design.
Monoprice USB-C Adapter
Monoprice USB-C to 3x USB-A 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet & USB-C Adapter — When I get home, I dock my Mac with this. The only other cable I plug in is the USB-C cable running out of my 4K monitor. I have Google Fiber, so it’s great plugging this thing in and enjoying gigabit speeds! 🏎
Veridesk Pro Adjustable Stand Up Desk Converter — I placed this on top of a traditional desk so I can stand when desired.
Lifespan Treadmill Desk
Lifespan TR1200 DT Treadmill — I enjoy walking while working. Studies show walking while reading improves focus memory retention. I find it also keeps me alert. I alternate between walking, standing, and sitting depending on my mood. When I want to sit, I wheel this back, put my chair in front of the desk, and collapse the Veridesk to sitting mode by pulling two levers to lower it.
Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard — I love this keyboard. Best keyboard action I’ve found, and the ergonomic design is quite comfortable. I’ve used it when traveling too but switched to a Magic Keyboard 2 because the Sculpt isn’t flat which bloats my backpack, and it’s small F-keys tend to get jammed down when it’s stuffed in a backpack (the sole downside I’ve found). I like that this keyboard comes with a separate number pad. This way the reach from the keyboard to the mouse is shorter. 👍
Apple Magic Trackpad 2
Magic Trackpad 2 — Yes, I like this so much that I have a second for home.
Ergotron Monitor Arms
Ergotron Dual Monitor Arms — I put my Dell 27" on one, and my Mac on the other using the Ergotron laptop tray which attaches to the monitor arm. I typically only open my Mac for video conferencing since I prefer a single monitor setup. I run them side-by-side, but these arms support stacking too. I bought the stacking style since it gives you more vertical height adjustment for side-by-side arrangements.
Rode Podcaster Mic
One More Odditity
My wife makes fun of this, but I occasionally work from the car too. So I use a steering wheel desk from eBay. This is handy when I’m waiting for the kids while they’re at practice and events. I drop them off and wait there instead of driving back and forth. So this saves time and money. On nice days, it’s also enjoyable to drive somewhere inspiring and quiet so I can work from there for awhile. This works better than you might think. I find I can type just fine, and the screen is at eye level.
Know of other good hardware I should consider? Please post a comment!