What’s In Our Gadget Bags: John Brownlee, Deputy Editor


The contents of all my bags, organized semi-neatly and labeled for your inspection.

We’re nosey as anyone here at Cult of Mac. We are also complete nerds, which means that we’re always peeking into people’s bags at conferences, or checking out what gear people use.

And we figured that you all might be just as bad, so we figured we’d rip open our man bags, handbags and purses and show you what’s inside, and why we carry what we do.

We’ll be doing this periodically from time to time. This week, we’ll be checking out what’s usually in the three (!) separate gadget bags of Cult of Mac Deputy Editor John Brownlee, and he’ll be filling us in on what everything is and why he carries it.

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My three trusty gadget bags: an Acme Made Clutch, a Penfield Trailwear and a leather satchel of unknown provenance.

I don’t have just one gadget bag, but three, and which one I take with me depends a lot on what I’m going to be doing when I step out the door. If I’m traveling light, I take my satchel; if I’m going to be writing, I take my Clutch; and if I’m going to be reporting, I take my Penfield bag.

Here’s what’s usually packed into each one if I leave the house with it in the morning. Please note that these aren’t all in numerical order, and if I’ve written about an item in a previous section, I have left out a description of it in following sections.

Traveling Light – Leather Satchel

1. Satchel — I couldn’t tell you who made this satchel, because there’s no tag on it, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and made of the supplest coffee leather. Not a bad deal for twenty euros. My girlfriend discovered it at a flea market when we were living in Germany, but when I realized it was almost perfectly iPad sized, she knew the game was up and it would become mine.

2. Sony’s XBA-3iP Earbuds — The satchel doesn’t really have any space for real headphones, which I prefer, so I generally keep a pair of earbuds stored in one of the pockets so I can listen to tunes.

3. A book – I don’t ever leave the house without a book of some sort, so I’m using this feature as an opportunity to show off some of our cooler and quirkier paperback covers.

4. 64GB Verizon iPad Wi-Fi + 4G – Don’t leave home without it. The only protection is the stock smart cover.

5. Incase Origami Workstation + Apple Bluetooth Keyboard – This one’s optional, since I don’t usually plan on doing writing when I take my satchel with me, but if I for some reason think I might do so, I’ll usually take this keyboard along as the best compromise between portability and typeability.

6. 32GB Verizon iPhone 4S – Again, a boon companion. I don’t use a case, but I have replaced my back with a Monolith teak replacement back, and protect the screen with a Spigen GLAS.t tempered glass screen protector.

7. Field Notes Memo Book – For quickly noting down ideas or things to look up, I favor Field Notes’ beautiful series of graph-lined memo books. They come in loads of colors, are beautifully designed, and have all sorts of interesting little facts and figures for reference on the insides and back of the cover. They’re also rugged and made with paper that feels great to write on.

Here’s what everything looks like when it’s put in the bag:

Doing Some Blogging

10. Acme Made Clutch – When I head out of the house fully intending on doing writing, I usually pack my Acme Clutch, which is a bigger bag than the satchel while still being quite minimal. In a previous review, I highly praised the Clutch, and I still stand by that review: this is the best laptop bag I’ve ever owned.

11. 11-Inch Late 2010 MacBook Air — I’ve gushed on about how much I love the MacBook Air. Suffice to say between it’s speediness, light weight, instant boot-times and great battery life, this is the best writing machine I have ever owned.

12. TwelveSouth’s Plugbug — The Plugbug is a diminutive power parasite that attaches to the top of a standard MacBook power brick and adds a 10W USB port for iPad charging to the mix. Since the MacBook Air’s USB ports can’t actually charge an iPad, the PlugBug saves me space in my bag from having to bring a USB charger.

8. Field Notes Steno Book – For longer notes, writing down questions, sketching out ideas, interviews, etc.

Here’s what everyone looks like in the Acme:


14. Trailwear Satchel Bag by Penfield — A Christmas gift from the inamorata, this heavyweight canvas “satchel” not only looks great but can hold an absolutely sick amount of stuff, while the shoulder strap is soft and wide enough to distribute the load and keep things comfortable. To put this bag into perspective, I could probably fit about twice as much stuff into it if I needed to, not least a bulky sweatshirt and a pair of running shoes.

15. Nikon D3100 DSLR — My “serious” camera, usually fit with a 1.8f 35mm lens.

16. LumoPro LP160 Quad-Sync Flash — As recommended by our own Charlie Sorrel, as well as the Strobist!

17. Backup Nikon Lens — What lens I take with me depends on what I’m doing, but usually, it’s a zoom of some kind.

18. Koss PortaPro KTC Headphones — Although usually I’m stuck with them in the interests of traveling light, I pretty much hate the way earbuds feel and sound, and if I have more space prefer to bring a set of Koss’ ultra-comfortable, great-sounding, resilient and timelessly designed PortaPro headphones. Check out my review here.

19. HyperJuice 100Wh External Battery — Sometimes at an event, you can’t get a power outlet if your life depended on it (and since you’ve got deadlines to meet and stories to file, it often does). HyperJuice’s external battery will charge my MacBook Air up to two or three times from 0 to 100% away from the outlet.

20. Cable And Dongle Case — I picked up this cute little Totoro pencil case in Chinatown at some point, and I use it for various cables I might need, like the Apple USB Ethernet cable, a micro- or mini-USB cable, the iPad Camera Connection Kit dongles, etc.

21. Boostcase Hybrid — When you’re covering something like CES, your iPhone is going to run out of juice at least a few times while you’re stuck on the showfloor. Battery cases are a lifesaver at these sorts of events, but they add a lot of bulk to your iPhone. For shows, I favor the Boostcase Hybrid, which allows you to attach the bulkier battery part of the case only when you need the charge. I reviewed it here, if you’re interested.

Here’s my Penfield bag, filled with everything shown in the above picture:

Everything Together

Here it is, again: all of my bags and accompanying gadgets in one image.

To reiterate, here’s what we’re looking at:

1) Leather satchel, 2) Sony XBA-3iP Earbuds, 3) Random book, 4) 64GB Verizon iPad Wi-Fi + 4G, 5) Incase Origami workstation + Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, 6) 32GB Verizon iPhone 4S, 7) Field Notes Memo Book, 8) Field Notes Steno Pad, 9) Skipped a number, sue me, 10) Acme Mad Clutch Bag, 11) 11-Inch MacBook Air, 12) PlugBug, 13) Unlucky, skipped it, 14) Trailwear Satchel Bag by Penfield, 15) Nikon D3100, 16) LumoPro LP160 Flash, 17) Nikon Lens, 18) Koss PortaPro KTC Headphones, 19) HyperJuice External Battery, 20) Cable Case containing assorted cables, 21) Boostcase Hybrid iPhone 4 Battery Case.

Finally, there are two things I carry everywhere, no matter which bag I pick. The first is that gorgeous yellow pocketknife you see labeled above as number 22. The other, number 23, is my wallet, the Bellroy Hide-And-Seek, which is the most beautiful, well-constructed wallet I’ve ever owned. It’s also super fun, absolutely filled with hidden folds and pockets. Both were gifts from my girlfriend inamorata, the supreme arbiter in my life of good taste. You should have seen the moist sack of my gadget bag before she entered the picture.

Got any questions about what’s in John’s bag? Want to share with us what’s in your gadget bag? Jump into the comments below!


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