Unlike my college buddy who was endearingly nicknamed “Pack Mule” back in second year, I hate carrying around a bunch of stuff all the time. Once I have the basics covered (wallet, keys, phone, Leatherman) I always attempt to keep any additional stuff with me to a minimum. Here’s what I typically haul around with me on a daily basis to and from work:
Swiss Gear Messenger Bag
I bought this bag years ago when I was just a junior in high school for around $20 at a big box store and somewhat surprisingly it held up all through college with only minimal wear. The bag’s got all sorts of pockets and pouches inside, which I love, so I can perfectly organize whatever I’m carrying on a given day. You will never catch me with a single compartment catch all bag, I’m a stickler for a well organized setup. After I throw in all my usual gear in the morning there’s enough room left over for my lunch and a book or two without the bag becoming too bulky. I’d like to replace it with some fancy high end bag one day but I just can’t seem to pull the trigger on actually replacing it yet.
Part of my morning ritual as I get dressed each day is to slide one of these two tools into the fifth pocket of my jeans. The smaller Squirt model has been with me since high school and I got the larger Juice for Christmas during my second year in college. I don’t think a day goes by without me having to pull one of these guys out at least a half dozen times. Since you’re reading an engineering related blog for fun, it’s probably safe to assume I don’t have to go off on the virtues of carrying a Leatherman with you at all times. Suffice it to say, they’re both worth their weight in gold and I can use and abuse them daily without worrying about whether or not they will break. Even with a full toolbox on my bench I still reach for these guys constantly. Their only weakness is recessed screws because the drivers are so stubby…
These tools ride in a few of the various pockets of my messenger bag. While I may not use them daily, they don’t take up much space and have proven their worth enough times for me to justify carrying them. I put together this kit when I was working on my thesis and had to run between various labs all over campus. These days, I break it out when I’m faced with a simple task and don’t want to venture off to find a full tool box be it at home or in my office. Combined with my Leatherman it makes for a pretty decent minimalist electronics kit. From left to right: a Maglite Solitaire, cheapo 4-in-1 technician’s screwdriver from Lowes, toothbrush holder, X-acto knfe, Pot Trimmer, Radio Shack pick/spudger from my first soldering kit, dental pick, fine point tweezers. The toothbrush holder keeps everything but the flashlight and screwdriver together to minimize noise/mess when I’m carrying my bag around.
Nothing terribly exciting in this section, just a handful of writing utensils; a pocket sized Moleskine for jotting down notes, lists, and thoughts; and disposable screen wipes. The wipes are great for cleaning off grimy screens and glasses. 400 of them will run you a whole $6 at BJ’s. I’m not a huge pen fanatic, anything better than a cheap Bic will do it for me but I’ve found myself consistently using Sharpie and Zebra branded stuff for a while now. I will however, sing the praises of my mechanical pencil, the Pentel Twist Erase III. It’s an all around joy to use, has the most comfortable grip ever, holds a ridiculous amount of lead, and actually has a huge eraser, not just a tiny nub that breaks off the first time you have to erase a whole sheet of engineering paper because you set up your node equations wrong. If you can be a fanboy about office supplies I suppose you can call me a Twist Erase Fanboy.
At any given time there sits a collection of IEEE Papers and App Notes inside of my bag. I get around to reading some of them eventually, usually when I’m stuck on a runway, but a lot of them are relocated into the “Someday” pile I keep in my office. I should probably avoid printing them so often but once I actually get around to reading one I prefer to mark it up with notes instead messing around trying to annotate a PDF.
I also cart around my iPad to and from work everyday and it’s actually replaced my laptop (ThinkPad T400) as my main computing device whenever I travel these days. I’m a firm believer of leaving work at work so I never find myself needing a lot of computing horsepower when I’m out and about. It’s stuffed with ebooks, TV shows, a handful of video podcasts, and a small selection of games. Thanks to Dropbox I can access my carefully curated collection of engineering references at anytime which is nice at work when I have to brush up on my controls knowledge while keeping 6 different windows up on my main computer.
- TI-89: As much as I love Wolfram Alpha nothing beats having an actual calculator on hand in my opinion; the solve function alone makes this worth the investment. There’d be a picture of it here but I left it on my desk when I left for the weekend. Whenever this one finally dies I’m definitely going to pick up another.
- iPhone 4s: Loaded with music and a crazy number of podcasts to keep me entertained on my commute and in the lab. Wi-fi and cell reception is spotty at work so streaming isn’t an option unfortunately. It also serves as my primary camera as well.
What indispensable things do you carry with you daily?