I’ve had a few requests to do a video that goes through the gear I pack in my bag, so here it is!
As an independent author, speaker, and video producer, the gear in my bag represents the work that I regularly do. My backpack accompanies me most often to coffee shops or to Gravitate, an awesome co-working spot in Des Moines.
I also take it with me when I travel to conferences and speaking engagements, as well as the odd shooting location when I want to include some cool b-roll in a video (my recent video on test-taking is a good example).
Those of you with keen eyes will notice that the word “class” is not among those locations. While I do still take classes on Coursera and do plenty of self-directed learning, it’s true that I’m no longer carting textbooks to classrooms on a campus anymore.
For that reason, I’ve also included an extra section to this video that covers things I used to pack in my bag, back when I was a student at Iowa State.
I’ve also included a list of the gear below, with links so you can check out anything that interests you. Some of them are referral links, which means I’ll get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use them to buy something.
If you’d like to find other gear, apps, books, and tools I recommend for college, the Resources page is where you’ll want to head.
If you’re unable to see the video above, you can view it on YouTube.
Full Backpack Gear List
- Minaal Carry-On backpack – a bag I backed on Kickstarter a couple years ago. While it’s amazing for longer-term travel, it’s probably overkill for daily campus use. I’ve actually backed an upcoming messenger bag on Kickstarter, which I’ll be switching to for daily use once it comes in – and as I mention in the video, I used to use Swiss Gear’s Synergy backpack, which worked perfectly for college and only costs $70.
- Macbook Air 13″ (student discount link) – after switching to a Macbook Pro from a Gateway gaming laptop back in 2010, I became a fan of OS X when it comes to portable computing. If you’re looking for a comparable Windows option, though, the Dell XPS 13 is getting amazing reviews. For other options, here’s Laptop Magazine’s list of the best laptops.
- iPad Mini – first generation, because I really just use this as a replacement for my Kindle. I used to do a lot of drawing a note-taking on it as well, but I’ve largely switched to paper these days.
- Paperback book – I’ve almost always got one of the physical books I’m reading in my bag. The book in the video is Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance. If you’re looking for more book recommendations, check out my Essential Reads for Students list.
- Notebook – my catch-all note-taking device. I create my weekly task plans here, write out lists of b-roll for videos, take notes on books and course content, flesh out business ideas, and more.
- Sketchbook – non-lined paper for illustrations, such as the ones for Planning Mode vs. Robot Mode and the Student Budgeting Guide.
- Folder – I use this to organize any random papers I get. Really comes in handy for organizing receipts on business trips before I get a chance to scan them into Evernote. As a student, you’ll probably need something more; I always used an accordion binder in college and loved it.
- Logitech Presenter R800 – a presentation remote I use for speaking engagements. Connects to my laptop and lets me control presentations, and also comes with a laser pointer.
- Mac adapters – I have a Thunderbolt-to-VGA for presentations, and a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet for when a place doesn’t have wi-fi.
- Business cards – always have a few on-hand in case you meet someone at an event and want to make a good impression. I use Moo to print mine; they make really high-quality cards. You can check out my business card design tutorial if you’re interested in making your own.
- Pens and pencils – I always carry two pens, just in case someone I meet needs one. It’s another way of making new friends.
- Umbrella – trust me on this; always have one in your bag. The Minaal also comes with a waterproof covering hidden in a secret pocket, so I never fear the rain when I’m out with all my gear.
- Hoodie – for coffee shops with crazy air conditioning.
- Mac and iPhone charger – for obvious reasons.
- USB cables – I keep a MiniUSB and a MicroUSB in the bag mainly so others who end up needing them will be happy, but also for charging the next item on the list.
- Portable USB charger – I picked this up in Japan, and it was a life-saver. Running Google Maps all day to get around Tokyo can really sap my phone’s battery.
- Earbuds – I love Apple’s earbuds, because I can make phone calls with them. Apparently you can get them on Amazon for 2/3rds the original price.
- Tea thermos – because putting a mug in my backpack would spell disaster.
- Plug strip – I always bring one of these along with a 2-prong to 3-prong converter when I travel, as outlets can be a highly contested resource in airports and hostels.
- Skate tool – skateboarding was my favorite way of getting around campus.
- Book flags – useful for marking terms and passages in books you don’t want to highlight.
- Clicker – because some of my classes required it. (Not linking to anything because you should check your class requirements to make sure you get the right one)
- Pick Four notebook – an awesome goal-tracking tool. Note: These must be out-of-print now, as they’re super expensive. Linking just so you can bookmark them, in case they ever come back. I definitely don’t recommend spending $90, as you could easily write goal progress in a regular notebook.
- TI-83+ graphing calculator – required when I had math classes.
- Textbooks – I guess I forgot to mention this in the video, but my bag often had a textbook or two in it, unfortunately.
What gear do you keep in your bag?
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