Jacob Kaplan-Moss

My travel kit

I wrote this post in 2009, more than 14 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

I travel quite a bit. This means I’ve often experienced a particularly geeky form of pain: the frustration of missing that one cable or power adaptor I really need.

This has happened to me enough times that over the years I’ve grown into something of tech readiness geek. My travel kit now has all sorts of adaptors and cables; I thought it’d be amusing to dump out my travel bag and actually enumerate all this crap.


Some links go to Amazon and have my affiliate doodad attached. This means I get a few bucks if you buy any of that stuff. I promise to use any money I make this way for good. Or beer. Probably beer.


First, the toys themselves:

  • My MacBook Pro. Mine’s an older model, the last one made before the new “unibody” line started shipping. I love the crap out of it and will probably keep it as long as possible.
  • My first generation iPhone. This’ll probably be replaced with a 3GS soon, or perhaps a Droid.
  • An Android Dev Phone, aka G1. This is my international phone: it’s unlocked, so I can throw just about any pay-as-you-go SIM at it. I can’t say I’d recommend buying one, though; I got mine for free and wouldn’t have spent the money otherwise.
  • A first generation Kindle. Can you tell I’m an early adaptor? I don’t like it enough to want to upgrade, but maybe the Nook will overcome it’s horrific name and be awesome.
  • My Nikon D40, kit lens, and 55-200. Also known as “the cheapest Nikon DSLR kit under the sun,” but it’s perfect for a camera noob like me. This doesn’t come with if I’m really trying to travel light, but it’s not a lot so usually does.
  • My new Keyspan presentation remote. This is brand new to me and I’ve not yet given it a try in a real talk, but so far it seems like a huge improvement over Apple’s little remote.


Dead gadgets make up a large subset of the geek’s travel frustrations. Thus, I travel with a bunch of toys to keep those sweet sweet electrons flowing:

  • A MacBook Pro power adaptor, of course. I bought an extra so that I can have one at my desk and one in my bag. These days many gadgets can charge over USB, so as long as my computer has power things most of my other gadgets will do fine.

  • Apple’s airline power adaptor. There really aren’t that many planes with power ports, but they’re a bit more common on international flights, which is exactly where you want one of these. A bit on the expensive side, yeah, but it’s nice to have.

  • Belkin’s cute 3-port mini power strip. At conferences, I consider it bad etiquette to monopolize a shared resource like a power port. Carrying around an adaptor means I increase this shared resource, which always makes friends.

    There’s a lot of these little portable power strips floating around. I like Belkin’s for the rotating plug (so that it’ll fit in any orientation) and the two USB ports for the aforementioned USB-chargeable parts.

  • A car-power-to-USB adaptor.

  • Two universal plug adaptors. I only had one but then I forgot it when I went to Prague and picked up a second there. The one I linked to is better.

  • The battery charger for my Nikon, and an extra battery.

I don’t yet have anything that does voltage conversion. So far that’s not been a problem: most of the power adaptors I have are multi-mode. But I’d like to have an adaptor that does do voltage conversion – any suggestions?


For something supposedly “universal”, there’s really quite a few different types of USB cables out there. In my bag right now is:

  • Two iPod USB adaptors. I have no idea why there’s two in here…
  • One full-sized USB peripheral cable and one mini.
  • The proprietary USB adaptor for my Android G1.
  • The proprietary USB adaptor for my Kindle.
  • A flash memory reader (not that one exactly, but something close).
  • About a dozen assorted flash drives. All freebies from various giveaways over the years. Wait, here’s another cache of ’em; it’s more like 15.

Presentation kit

I generally give presentations when I travel. I’m often paid to do so, so I try to make sure I can connect my laptop to any crazy A/V system my hosts might be able to think up. This means I cary a bunch of adaptors and cables:

  • A couple of DVI to VGA adaptors for my laptop. I have Apple’s because it came with my computer, and also a generic one I picked up at MicroCenter for a couple of bucks.

    I’ve found that Apple’s connectors crap out randomly. The nice folks at Apple’s retail stores tend to replace ’em for free, but I have a backup just in case.

  • A DVI to HDMI adaptor – fancy new Web 2.0 startups like big HDTVs instead of projectors, it seems.

  • VGA cable, male/male, six feet.

  • DVI cable, six feet.

  • HDMI cable, by mistake I got a 12 foot one; six would be better.

Buying video cables from Amazon is usually a ripoff; I suggest Monoprice.


  • A couple Ethernet cables, one about 3 feet and the other 20. I make my own, so they kinda suck and break now and again.
  • Sennheiser’s MM50 iPhone earbuds.
  • A male-to-male stereo miniplug. Most rental cars today have line-in; being able to listen to my own music is nice.

The Bag

I cram all this stuff into my awesome Timbuk2 bag. I’ve got an older version of the bag that became the Timbuk2 Commute, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.