In the 1980s, tech travel accessories meant batteries for my Walkman as the Commodore 64 stayed at home, enter. Fast forward (or auto-reverse) decades later, travel with tech requires complex kit and items, and we can be unable to run our essential devices without certain cables, plugs, mounts, or thingies. Here are my must-have tech bag items and accessories.
Furthermore, as a YouTuber, my filming options each require their own attachments. (The specific set-ups for each of my filming set-ups will be covered in other articles.)
Firstly, some higher level elements:
1. Not about more gear, it’s better management of what you have.
It’s very easy to get caught up in buying more gear or being frustrated by never finding the gear you already own. Better organization of your gear will go a long way in helping you find what you already own, keep it handy, and hopefully loose less gear along the way.
2. Spare, spares, spares! And storing what you have.
In the field of emergency management, if equipment is critical to you, your business, or your government, it is recommended to have duplicates and redundancies, if that is feasible. When buying attachments and cables, buy an extra or two and store them where you can find them.
In my YouTube work, a malfunctioning camera or microphone could prevent me from carrying out the filming I had planned that day or on a particular trip to remote areas. For example, having 2-3 types of microphones gives me flexibility and redundancy in case one malfunctions or goes missing. Having spare batteries and battery banks can give me the power back-up to keep key gear operating.
While I like to film with my Canon DSLR (LINK), I can fully film with my Samsung smartphone (LINK) if I need to and I ensure that I have the full gear to be able to use either my DSLR or phone. I’ll put links here when I have produced my articles detailing my essentially DSRL and smartphone filming items.
When it comes to travelling or being on the road, I find it vital to be organized with what I need for all the tech with me and spares in case I loose some critical items or things break.
It can be very risky and cause stress to assume you can buy extras or replacements when you are travelling. What if the stores are closed when you need to buy those items, those items are out of stock or they are not widely available?
3. Label items, especially if you lend them out.
Tech gear and accessories costs money! If you have an item, it’s also likely that having it is important when you need it.
When our tech accessories kit bag has 10-30 items or we tend to be the saviour to others who didn’t have this or that item, we might find ourselves being the lending library of all kinds of accessory items. Consider labelling your items so that people can identify easily that it belongs to you or maybe that that item will get back to you if someone finds lying it on a table or plugged into a wall socket.
An easy solution to labelling your gear is to buy a label maker such as this one: https://amzn.to/2TRmnI2I’ve been using one for years and it’s pretty handy.
4. Padlock can help protect your kit items from theft.
Sticky fingers in any location could result in you loosing hundreds of dollars worth of cables, plugs, hard drives, and things. A little travel padlock ( https://amzn.to/2TS1k83 ) attached to the zipper(s) of your travel tech bag could help dissuade those airport, conference or hotel fingers.
Remember to protect your greater kit and not leave it lying around. People realise how value these kits are.
5. Remember air travel restrictions if your kit contains small scissors, a pocket knife, a multi-tool, tools, …
Given my decades of cycling, I’ve travelled for eons with a simple bicycle multi-tool and for years had no issues at airports. That changed two weeks ago when I only had a carry-on and the small bicycle multi-tool was confiscated. $25 down the drain. All my logical points led to nowhere and it got added to the piles of confiscated airport stuff. And most of us have had small first aid kit scissors or a small handy pocket knife taken away at the airports.
Sometimes it occurs because we simply forgot the item was in our tech kit or first aid kit. Take a piece of duct tape; write the first letter of the item such as “k” for knife, “s” for scissors, “m” for multi-tool, etc…; to help remind you that that kit contains confiscation-worthy items so you can remove it ahead of time or put it in your check-in luggage.
6. It’s about having what you need or might need: Make lists!
Make some lists so that you can double check to see if you have the selection of tech items that you like to have with you. Put some of those lists in your tech bag to help you pack any remaining items before a trip or other.
Experience can be a painful lesson in terms of causing stress and frustration that I only brought this or that cable but I actually needed this other one. Or perhaps you brought along this other less used camera and you didn’t have the correct batteries, memory cards, mounts, etc…
Having good lists can help you thin out your tech bag for a particular trip if you know with certainty that you do not require these bulkier or never used items.
7. Multi-head charging cables
If I had designed humanity’s technology, a standard cable head would have been adopted years ago for every piece of tech. But technology evolves and some patents are not shared, so we now have so many cable ends such as micro-USB, lightening, USB-C, etc… Remember the anxiety each time you search in your kit, backpack or purse for this or that cable to charge your phone, camera, or other device and you realise “Arg, I don’t have X cable and my device is dying!!!”
As a result, I’ve become a huge fan of these newer multi-head charging cables. A USB end will plug into the power source and then there can be 3-6 ends of various types. Chafon makes a bunch of those multi-head cables and I’ve bought about 6 of them to equip our travel tech kits, cars and home charging areas. There are about four cable ends in regular use in my household and it’s frustrating to need X cable end but it’s not there.
Take a piece of scrap paper and write down the frequently needed cable ends and then go onto Amazon and find a multi-head charging cable that has the ends and enough of the ends for your needs. It’s so simple to have a few of these cables and always be able to charge your devices! Remember redundancies, so buy a few extras to have on hand.
To each their preference but I have bought different types of multi-head charging cables and I now prefer to buy the ones that have at least a 3ft/1m long cable. I have a few of the really short multi-head cables and invariably I will need to have a USB extension cable with me to be able to use it. I now tend to buy the cable that already has that 3-6ft/1-2m cable to reach my power source.
8. Data cables make sure you label them
In the previous point, I made an effort to remind you that those particular ones are only charging cables and not usually capable of handling data such as downloading photos and video from your phone to your laptop. Make sure you know which of your cables can handle data and it’s a good idea to label your cables if they are data ones and if that’s something you need.
I highly recommend you read my article on Power Management of Phones and Devices to properly address the electrical issue: /easy-smartphone-battery-charging/
9. Cable sanity: Start buying and using cable ties and wraps, you are welcome!
Think of how professional someone looks when they pull out a cable that is neatly in a bundle as opposed to reaching into your kit bag and pulling out a rat’s nest of cables and spending 5-10mins untangling them for the cable you need.
I’m a huge, huge fan of these reusable Velcro cable ties https://amzn.to/2OKuSDB Buy the 50 pack, and buy a second pack, trust me. You will quickly realise they work wonders for all kinds of cables in your life, including electrical extension cords, head phones, … You can also tidy up the cable mess behind your TV or computer by tying up the excess cables.
10. Test a few models of tech accessory bags
Sometimes you need more gear, sometimes you need just a few items, perhaps you always need a ton of accessories. Find the tech accessory bags for your needs. Being a photographer and YouTuber means that I am frequently carrying a fair bit of gear, so my 2-section tech bag is suited to my needs. Someone only carrying some charging options might get away with a single section bag. See what your needs are. Ensure you have enough of each item that is important to you.
Also test the different types of pocks, straps and elastic offered to see what works best for you and your accessories.
I’d also suggest having different sizes of kit bags, having Ziplock-style baggies, and even compact drybags if you need to temporarily separate a few items or to know you have some protection against light rain.
11. PLUG ADAPTERS
There are a whole range of electrical plug adapters to suit your travel needs. Being Canadian, some of my kit requires plug Type A/B while much kit purchased elsewhere is Type C (much of Europe) or Type M (South Africa). While away from Canada, I always need plug adapters to use Type C and Type M. There are so many combinations of plug adapters depending on the source plug and the destination plug. https://amzn.to/2TY9MCY
When abroad, a big reminder to make sure your device’s voltage range is okay to use with the voltage that other country and any transit countries.
All right, here are some of the critical tech accessory items I always have with me:
TECH ACCESSORY BAGS
My go-to 2-section Electronics Accessories Organizer Bag – https://amzn.to/2Os2pSZ
My single section for pared down needs – https://amzn.to/2I8YV6V
Small drybag options – https://amzn.to/2HPI2yz
Ziplock Bags – https://amzn.to/2HRQwoX (I consider these relatively water resistant although always check for any rips or damage.)
CHARGING CABLES – for multi head cables find the combination that fits your needs. Buy extras.
Chafon 6 in 1 – https://amzn.to/2FNZoJU (Keep in mind you’ll probably want to have a USB extension cable)
IVVO 4 in 1 with extended cable – https://amzn.to/2HSclEW
Znines 3 in 1 with extended cable – https://amzn.to/2UfC80w
USB Extension Cable (2.5m/6ft) – https://amzn.to/2OK2EJ3 (very handy!)
USB Charging and Sync (data) cables – multi-pack with various lengths: Micro USB https://amzn.to/2UrnhPB ; USB-C https://amzn.to/2I9ijR9 . Apple Lightning https://amzn.to/2Ifh8iS Buy the correct type for your needs and buy the multi-packs and keep spares with you and at home.
USB 2.0 Multiport – https://amzn.to/2I8HYt3
Velcro Cable Ties (extras) – https://amzn.to/2OKuSDB (Buy at least one of the 50-pack)
FOLDING KEYBOARD FOR SMARTHPHONE – https://amzn.to/2TU8mZY (Handy for typing out ideas into my phone.)
ELECTICAL PLUG ADAPTERS – There are so many options https://amzn.to/2TY9MCY (Buy extras!)
30,000mAh Capacity Battery Pack with display – https://amzn.to/2YpyH5P
10,000mAh Capacity Battery Pack with display – https://amzn.to/2HFTqgB
HEADPHONES – There are so many options, styles and sizes. I keep two pairs with me – https://amzn.to/2HXDiXD
Permanent pen (I wrap mine with 1-2ft of duct tape so I have some if needed)
Pens and some paper for making notes
Sticky notes and labels
Packing lists and makes changes as you go.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
What’s in your tech bag? Any suggestions for other as to your must-have items? Please add it to the Comments section below.