Packing a Conference Bag & Recommended Reading

Or, Packing a Carry On, 2016 Edition

I have a conference coming up next week, so I’m putting together my things, as one does. In prepping for the trip, I figured I’d do another What’s In My Bag post, since things have changed some since January of 2015!

Check it out:

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The last conference I attended was the first-ever SupConf (number two is coming up!) and it illustrated for me the allure and the failure (for me) of one-bag travel. I love the idea – go where you’re headed, have one bag and only one bag. The simplicity! The ease!

On the recommendation of my dear friend Clicky Steve, I went with the Osprey Porter 46 – it’s a great bag! I could backpack using it through all sorts of terrain and terroir for as long as I’d like and it would never let me down. It’s a great recommendation and it will be coming with me on this trip as well – but not as a solo bag.

The problem, for me, is that I don’t want to bring all of my luggage with me from the hotel room to a conference floor. Carrying a 46 liter backpack through a professional setting – it’s not a good look. At SupConf I settled on a reusable grocery bag to shuttle my laptop and conference materials from the AirBNB to the conference – and then promptly stashed it away from sight. I have some impostor syndrome around looking professional, I guess!

OK, so the Osprey Porter 46 will be acting as my clothes-and-sundries bag. Not a problem. That means that this faux-leather Timbuk2 will be doing double duty as my carry-on and my day-carry conference bag.

While it’s true that Automattic provides all of its employees a WordPress branded Timbuk2, and I absolutely adore mine, the lack of an exterior water bottle holder has come to be a consistent irritation on longer days – this bag, which I’ve had since my days as a community organizer for the City of Binghamton, has water bottle holders on both sides.

That means I can have a travel mug of coffee on one side, and a reusable water bottle on the other. What more could I need?

Here’s what’s going in my carry-on and daily-carry conference bag, for a 3-night conference trip with air travel:

1.) This is the bag itself. A quick look at the Timbuk2 website doesn’t look like they’re actively producing them anymore – it has the TSA compliant laptop compartment and notably fewer pockets and zip-ups than my WordPress bag. This will be its first big trip. This is your chance to shine, little buddy.

2.) A little notebook! It’s unlined, a sort of oversized Field Notes notebook. I’m 90% sure my colleague Timmy gave me this for doing QA testing on our new Editor. This is for various travel notes, potential blog posts, sketches, doodles, talk notes, etc. Your classic catch-all.

3.) It’s a Kindle! I left my last one on an airplane. This one, also, is secondhand. It’s full of books! Sort of! I’ll have to find my Kindle light before I leave, it’s not pictured but I would like to bring it – airplane overhead lights are too diffuse, and I always worry I’m keeping my seatmates awake with it on. A nice focused book light is key for late night and early morning flights.

4.) Fitbit Blaze! I did not think I was going to like this as much as I do – the latest update especially has added a few new front-facing templates. Being able to have the screen stay off until I’ve turned my wrist always gives me a sense of “Oh yeah we’re living in the future.” Plus, quantifying my heartrate, etc, is really interesting to see over time. This is the only small device I’m bringing that doesn’t charge using a micro USB charger.

5.) Stickerbombed Anker Powercore battery pack – this thing is seriously a lifesaver, especially in unfamiliar towns where I’m using GPS, wireless data, and other power-sucking functions. I can charge my Galaxy S4 up to six times with this beast!

6.) Karma Go Wifi Hotspot – Certified 100x better than airport wifi. Plus, it creates a wireless network that anyone around you can use, and when they do, you get some additional free data. Being friendly to strangers and getting free data is a nice combination!

7.) Dopp kit! This has toiletries, mints, an eyeglass repair kit, all that sort of stuff. Super handy to have on layovers! Once I get to the hotel this will stay in the hotel bathroom. I could do a whole post on the contents of this bag alone – it’s changed over time and is, I think, a pretty ideal balance of the necessary and the nice to have.

8.) 13″ Macbook Pro. Not pictured: the charger for this.

9.) Another notebook! This one is a slimmer Moleskine, specifically a Bullet Journal! The Doc has been following the format for about a month, and has been raving about it, so I’ve started giving it a try. I’m still undecided!

10.) I AM CRAZY ABOUT THIS THING! It’s a leather travel wallet made by a local company called Samwell Leather – I met them at a craft fair and they were the coolest folks. I’ve been complaining that I needed something like this for travel every time I came home from a trip – it holds a little notebook (how many notebooks do I need?), plus has space for your boarding documents and a pen. I am also the kind of maniac who likes to have hardcopy boarding documents, even with a massive smartphone battery pack.

(I’m skipping the pencils, pens, crayons and pencil sharpener – y’all know what those are, right?)

11.) Backup headphones! These are the in-ear headphones that came with my phone. They work, they fit fine, and they don’t need a battery to operate. They take up nearly no space, so I tuck them into a bag pocket and forget about them until I need them.

12.) These are the same on-ear wireless bluetooth headphones from Outdoor Pursuits that caused such conversation in the last Post! I still like them a lot for travel (since they fold up and don’t have a cord) and they’re holding up to lots of being thrown into and yanked out of bags, which is a good sign!

In addition to getting my bags ready, I’ve been doing a literature review of blog posts and other articles on maximizing my conference experience – I tweeted my way through them, but here are those links if you missed them in the information dump truck that is Twitter:

2 thoughts on “Packing a Conference Bag & Recommended Reading

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