Simplify Too

A look inside my nomadic office

In light of the popularity last year’s Simplify received (a brief article on reducing the clutter from our pockets), it’s only fair to follow up with how the same mindset applies to my nomadic office. Here’s a look at what doesn’t fill my bag.

The Gear

Computing: ASUS X202E (modified)

Computing: ASUS X202E (modified)

The heart and brains of my mobile office. For nearly two years I ran my mobile operations from an iPad 2 with a wireless keyboard, and more than half the articles written in that time were typed and edited on it. With trips growing longer, and photos larger, it takes a full-blown notebook to handle my field storage needs. The X202E is about the same size and weight as an iPad with keyboard, and Windows 8 is truly the best of both worlds (I can see why die-hard XP Pro fanboys hate it). As a bonus, all the little do-dads I carried to make the iPad work (like a card reader) are built-in. Details »

Note: I think of the ASUS X202E as a 95% complete ultrabook “kit” and only recommend this model for folks comfortable performing a couple DIY hardware upgrades and clean installing Windows. If that’s stepping too far out of your comfort zone, ASUS and HP both make excellent “complete” ultrabooks (which also include appropriately higher price tags).

Writing: Leather-wrapped Moleskine + Lamy Safari

Writing: Leather-wrapped Moleskine + Lamy Safari

I often type gear reviews or technical articles straight into the computer, but for anything else there is just too much of a disconnect from the creative side of the mind. I eventually settled on the ubiquitous Moleskine as the refillable paper for my leather-wrapped journal, and the elegant-yet-durable Lamy Safari fountain pen. The materials themselves are purely personal in preference, the important part is physically putting pen to paper. Details: Leather Journal, Moleskine, and Lamy Safari.

Notepad: Field Notes

Notepad: Field Notes

Perfect for jotting quick notes down, or substituting for the larger journal on hikes or climbs. The Expedition Edition is waterproof and smooth, without that gritty feeling Rite-in-the-Rain paper suffers, and works well with the pocket carried Fisher Space Pen. Details »

Sound: Earbombz EB Pro

Sound: Earbombz EB Pro

The ASUS X202E is gifted with the same headset combo-jack found on most smartphones, which carries both stereo sound and microphone signals over a single plug. I’ve been through a dozen earbuds and still haven’t found the perfect set. In the mean time, Earbombz EB Pro have a solid cable, sturdy jack, decent noise-canceling microphone, and most importantly—good sound reproduction. Details »

Reading & Reference: Amazon Kindle

Reading & Reference: Amazon Kindle

I’ve avoided the Kindle for years, but after recently checking out the base model I feel like a fool for ignoring it. I’ve since loaded one up with reference materials, travel journals, and other books to help pass the downtime. Details: Kindle and WaterField Suede Jacket

Thumb Drive: Corsair Survivor

Thumb Drive: Corsair Survivor

Subtle, ruggedized, and big enough for temporary backups or moving big files from computer to computer without the aid of a network. The latest version of the Survivor features the speed of USB 3.0, ample storage space, and is available in matte black. Details »

Route Logging: Qstarz Travel Recorder XT

Route Logging: Qstarz Travel Recorder XT

This little unit is the most reasonable “non-blingy” logger I could find at the time, and has proven to be 100% reliable and surprisingly durable (reviewed here). While geotagging capabilities are built into many modern cameras, it’s done at the expense of battery life and/or physical size and still doesn’t provide you with a GPX track of your travels. The Qstarz unit runs for a week on a full battery, and charges quickly from any USB port. Details »

Light & Tools: Surefire LX2, Leatherman Charge TTi + Bit Kit

Light & Tools: Surefire LX2, Leatherman Charge TTi + Bit Kit

The tiny Nano LED light I carry in my pocket works perfect for the vast majority of daily needs, but sometimes the situation calls for more. The LX2 (reviewed here) features best in class durability, brightness, throw, and runtime. As with flashlights, sometimes you just need more. More than a mere knife, the Charge TTi adds a versatile toolbox for performing all sorts of tasks in the field, while adding only 8.2 ounces (232g) to the bag. Details: Surefire LX2 and Charge TTi

Emergency Kit: First-Aid + Survival

Emergencies: First-Aid + Survival

The line of work I’m in often has me hopping into vehicles bound for remote locations, with no foreknowledge of their reliability or on-board supplies. Instead of forgetting to grab a basic emergency kit, I simply keep my daily office bag ready to go. AMK’s Pocket Medic is waterproof, about the size of a small wallet, and has a little extra room for personal additions. The Survival Resources NPSK is about the same size as the Pocket Medic, waterproof, and covers all the survival basics. Details: First-aid and Survival.

Photography: Lumix GX1

Panasonic Lumix GX1

The camera that won me away from (prosumer) Canon and the Editor’s Choice winner in Overland Journal’s Travel Camera Comparison, the Panasonic Lumix GX1 sits at the center of my field photography kit. Supporting it are an array of lenses, filters, and other compact accessories; all of which fit neatly into a briefcase-sized Pelican case for vehicle travel, or a soft shoulder-slung bag when setting off on foot. Camera kit details will be published in a future article. GX1 Details »

The Bags

While my nomadic office is as minimalistic as is functionally possible for my needs, that’s still too much gear to carry around in-hand. A combination of the following bags and boxes keeps everything conveniently mobile, well organized, and protected on the road. The end result fits comfortably behind the driver’s seat, and can be quickly slung over-shoulder to head out on foot.

The Nomadic Office

WaterField Cargo

Though a size small, the Cargo (reviewed here) provides cavernous pockets inside and out for storing everything I need to carry, and then some. The bag is very sturdy, and comfortable on the shoulder for hours at a time. Details »

WaterField Ultimate SleeveCase

The Ultimate SleeveCase is slim enough to tuck into the Cargo while still providing ample protection for a notebook. It also ties in with the elegantly utilitarian look of the rest of the WaterField line and is a convenient way to carry just-the-notebook into a ‘net cafe when it’s time to post updates. Details »

WaterField Cableguy

Some WaterField fans use their Cableguy to organize cables; I use mine as an ultra-convenient way to put my bag into “airplane” mode. My first-aid kit, emergency kit, and tools all tuck neatly away into the Cableguy, which is slipped out and left at home (or shipped ahead) when it’s time to fly. Details »

Spec-Ops THE Checkbook Wallet

I have no particular love for this overgrown checkbook, but it was sitting in my junk drawer when I assembled this kit and I’ve yet to find something better. This organizer holds all the cards that I need but don’t use often, and naturally… my checks.

Pelican 1450

Pelican cases are waterproof, dustproof, crushproof, lockable, and provide ample protection against impact and vibration to my camera and lenses. When the situation calls for a hike the camera is carried in my day pack, or more often, by hand. Details »

Packed Weights

Creative essentials (computer, camera, journal, pen): 5 lbs 15.2 oz; 2.67 kg
The “office,” packed in a WaterField Cargo: 11 lbs 10.2 oz; 5.28 kg
The photography kit, packed in a Pelican 1450: 11 lbs 12 oz; 5.33 kg
Total in-vehicle nomadic office weight: 23 lbs 6.2 oz; 10.6 kg

Nomadic Office + Photo Kit