What’s in my backpack

I often manage to get a smile (ranging from surprised to knowing) from people when I open my backpack to fetch a cable adapter, so I figured I’d write a short post about what I carry with me every day.

As I was writing this, I saw that Brent Ozar just wrote a similar post.

My work-life balance

Most workdays, I’ll be anywhere from a few hours to a full day at a client’s office. Depending on the industry and the size of the company (and their IT department), I sometimes use my own equipment, and sometimes I get a loaner that they install and maintain. Typically, though, I bring my computer along either way – that way, I won’t have to read my e-mail or browse my Dropbox on a client machine (which could incidentally come with a few security implications as well).

The absolute majority of my work is in the same city where I live. Occasionally, I will travel a single day, and on a few occasions I stay for one or two nights, including when I travel to a conference.

My kit

The red thing is a Cocoon Grid-it. About the size of a normal iPad, it functions as a mesh of grippy rubber bands on a stiff board and you can pretty much fix anything to it. I’ve had it for two years now, and it goes in my backback or cabin bag no matter where I go for work.

Because it doesn’t fold or close, you need to be just a little careful when you pull it out of the bag so it doesn’t tangle or rip things out.

Adapters, adapters, adapters

To be sure that I can connect to any projector that life throws at me, I carry adapters for DVI and VGA (my computer has a built-in HDMI port). I also have an adapter for wired networks, for locations where I cannot connect to a wireless network, or where I need more throughput. A short network cable can occasionally come in handy, like in a hotel room or a speaking venue.

Also, somebody figured that 3.5mm headphone jacks are a thing of the past, so there’s an adapter for that as well. Don’t get me started. No, seriously.

At some point, I bought a Lightning-to-VGA plug for my phone, but in truth, I haven’t really used that one yet. In theory, I could RDP from my phone or iPad to an Azure VM, and put the screen on a VGA projector. You know, if all else fails.

Bare-minimum giveaways

I always bring a few stickers (they’re like prison tattoos for IT people) and business cards (not that my swedish clients really collect them, but they’re nevertheless kind of nice to hand over the first time you meet).

Recharging

I have one computer charger for my home office and one for the backpack. The one I carry around has a taped-on business card, in case I misplace it, or it gets “borrowed”.

A regular USB-to-Lightning cable allows me to leave my phone charger at home – I just charge my phone from my computer.

On a personal level, I don’t leave home without headache pills. You may only need them once or twice a year, but you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be just before your 4 p.m. speaker slot at a SQL Saturday.

For whenever I leave Europe, I have a set of interchangeable power plugs for my charger, so I don’t need to buy or carry awkward converter plugs.

Travel hack

Get a toothbrush that comes with a small plastic cap. A used, wet toothbrush dries perfectly if you rub it thoroughly with a clean towel. That way, it won’t ruin printouts or clothes when you pack it.

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