Now that we’ve had a few in-person conferences again, I figured I’d put out an updated “what’s in the travel kit?” type of post. I’ll limit it to key equipment, as you don’t want to know how many “USB-C to something” cables I have floating around…

Computers

I typically travel with two laptops. Most of the time, I use my Framework Laptop as the primary laptop and a Surface Pro as my backup. The downside is that these two have different video inputs: the Surface Pro uses Mini DisplayPort and the Framework USB-C.

Traveling with two laptops has been a habit for quite some time, as I’ve had laptops fail me on a couple of occasions, typically because my primary laptop simply wouldn’t work with a given projector. Generally, I keep all of the code and demos for upcoming presentations ready to go on both laptops, just in case. That’s because I’ve been blindsided in the past and delivered less-than-stellar presentations when I failed to have my backup laptop set up.

Presentation Helpers

Of course, simply having a laptop isn’t enough for success. You need cables. Lots of cables.

I travel with a Grid-It I bought a while back. It fits perfectly into one of the backpack pockets and holds the most important cables I have. These include:

  • One USB-C to DVI/VGA/HDMI adapter.
  • One USB-C to VGA adapter.
  • One USB-C to HDMI adapter.
  • Two HDMI to VGA adapters.
  • One USB-C to HDMI Framework expansion card.
  • Two Mini DisplayPort to DVI/VGA/HDMI adapters.

Why so many dupes? Two reasons. First, sometimes a projector just doesn’t like a given adapter for whatever reason. That adapter may have worked on the last projector and it may work fine on the next projector, but it just doesn’t work on this one. For that reason, I want to have at least two options regardless of the laptop I’m using and projector I’m facing. Second, at a conference, there’s often one speaker who has this problem or forgot to pack the right adapter. I’ve probably lent out adapters 20 or 30 times, saving speakers’ bacon in the process.

In addition, I have various cables: USB-micro chargers, USB-C chargers, that kind of thing. I also tend to keep a couple HDMI cables around—more than once, I’ve needed to use my own HDMI cable because of an issue at the conference.

Finally, I also carry along an AAXA Technologies LED Pico Pocket Projector. I’ve only used it a couple of times, once in a speaker room to play some game and another time as a demonstration. It’s not bright at all and would definitely be a terrible option, but I’ve had projector bulbs explode in rooms before, and told myself that I’d never be in a place where I absolutely could not present. I readily grant that this is dumb, but there you have it.

Avoiding Noises or People

  • Sony WH1000XM2 headphones. I bought these refurbished a couple years back because of all of the flying I used to do. They’re a couple generations old now, but they work really well at filtering out jet engine noises while allowing me to hear what people say. And if I want to fix the latter problem, turn on a little music, even at a low volume, and the outside world doesn’t exist anymore.
  • Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds. I use these most often when mowing the lawn or doing outdoor work, as I don’t want my over-the-ear headphones to get all sweaty. They aren’t as good at filtering out noises, but they do a good job. I just don’t like wearing earbuds for very long.
  • reMarkable 2 tablet. This is a really nice e-ink tablet with an excellent note-taking interface. It also does a pretty good job with PDF and ePUB formats, making it my primary reader nowadays. The big knock is that with the new cloud pricing model, it’s not an instant recommendation. Fortunately, as an early buyer into the product, I’m grandfathered in and won’t have to pay for cloud services, but for anybody slightly price-conscious, I’d want the price of the tablet itself to drop another $100-150 if it’s going to cost me $5-8 a month to use important features on the tablet.

Miscellany

A few more things which have made their way into my bag.

  • Jabra USB speaker. I picked up one of these on sale a couple years back and carry it around whenever I need to attend meetings or handle online sessions while traveling. I can’t bring a real set of audio equipment with me, but the Jabra does a good enough job, especially when “conference call audio quality” is sufficient. I’d never record a for-pay video with one, but a podcast episode or client meeting? Absolutely.
  • A flashlight. Maybe two flashlights. One nice thing about going to conferences is that if you attend enough of them, you’ll get some useful swag. I have a few small flashlights from various events over the years. They aren’t going to blind you from a quarter mile away (those flashlights I keep at home), but if you need something quick to open your car door or find a small item that fell on the hotel room carpet, they’re quite useful.
  • At least one battery pack. Again, like the flashlight, this is usually from some conference or another. It’s nice to have a little bit of charge on the go. I do have a couple of beefy battery packs, one of which I pack in my luggage in the event that I need to recharge my laptop and have no way of doing so. The problem is that it’s about 3 pounds, which is a lot of weight and bulk for a “once in five years” type of scenario.
  • The Mogics Power Donut. This was a speaker gift from a SQL Saturday DC event and it’s been a mainstay of my backpack ever since. You get several adapter slots and the plug is small enough that it’ll sneak in on a nearly-full power strip.
  • Instant stain remover. Look, you never know when you get the blood of your enemy barbecue sauce on your shirt and need to present shortly afterwards.

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