Academic/Geek Gear: a list of mobile essentials

In response to a friend’s request for suggestions regarding what to buy with startup money associated with a new academic job, I came up with the following list, which I present for your consideration. Let’s assume you’ve already worked out your desktop computer, your laptop computer, and your printer/scanner.

Feedback or additional suggestions are welcome!

First, the mobile stuff. This set of tools will serve you well if you teach in different classrooms throughout the day, if you regularly shuttle your stuff between home and work, and if you head off to a conference from time to time. Everyone’s needs are different, or course, so you might not need or want everything listed below, but I’ve tried to think as broadly as possible:

  • You can’t go wrong with a well-designed backback with plenty of subsections designed to hold laptop, books, cables, keys, pens, water bottle, coffee thermos, and whatever else you might want to put in it. I used to prefer something like a messenger bag, but I’ve come to believe that this is much better for my back and for my organizing needs.
  • Inside your bag, keep all your stuff straight with “multi-purpose, clip-on, zippered bags” for storing cables, pens, highlighters, whiteboard markers, or whatever else you might need.
  • A decent-sized external hard drive (and case) is useful not only for backing up essential data but also for teaching, assuming your classrooms are outfitted with a computer and projector. Throw all your movies, slide shows, images, and other teaching files onto the hard drive, plug it into the classroom computer and you’re good to go.
  • An 8-gigabyte flash drive shaped like a key and designed to be put on your key ring is a great tool: as long as you have your keys with you you’ll have this drive, and you are (hopefully) less likely to forget to pull this out of the computer if it’s attached to your keys.
  • This travel-sized multi-outlet surge protector and usb charger is perfect for using in the classroom or in conference hotels.
  • I hate a smudgy computer screen, so I pack a little screen cleaning kit.
  • An academic geek should not want for wired connectivity options, such as some combination of the following: a miniature 4-port USB hub, retractable cables (USB 2.0 cable, Firewire 6-pin, Firewire 4-pin), some Flip video USB cables, and an ethernet cable.
  • An organizer with multi-color, dry-erase markers and an eraser.
  • Because the backpack linked above has 2 pouches (one on either side) for bottles, you can pack both a stainless-steel water bottle and a coffee thermos or travel mug.
  • It’s always a good idea to have a flashlight handy.
  • A Leatherman multitool. (What the heck. Just don’t try to take it on a plane with you!)
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9 thoughts on “Academic/Geek Gear: a list of mobile essentials

  1. Pingback: Stuffing Your (Work)Bag

  2. Nope, it’s just a bag. Still plenty of room for a couple of books and a notebook or two.

    Although now that I think about it, I am pretty well equipped for a zombie apocalypse…

  3. I love my Swissgear Pegasus notebook backpack, which I got at Office Max, and see is on sale for much less than I paid for it elsewhere. Having the right backpack has made a huge difference for my back problems.
    I carry my Mac notebook, powersource, little dongle to connect to the computer podium in the classroom which is not Mac friendly but does have ethernet cable built in, water or coffee bottles if I remember to get it together. I leave the backup drive in the office, and don’t usually need any other kind of connectivity gear, but I am going to go out and get a flashdrive for my keychain because it’s starting to become evident that it will be useful. I still carry a paper planner (little Moleskine) because it’s easiest for jotting down student appointments, but I enter all my appointments into my online calender which is set to send me email remeinders the day before via my Blackberry. It works because I’ve made it a habit to sit down and go over my schedule first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
    I also carry nuts for those blood sugar low moments.

  4. Pingback: How to keep track of all those keys -

  5. As someone who spent almost 20 years in the Pacific Northwest: if you live in or visit rainy climates, go to or and get a rain cover for your backpack. If you carry mobile devices, a small dry bag (for canoeing or kayaking) is also a great investment. $20-30 to save thousands!

  6. Pingback: Preparing to Teach: Road Warrior Edition - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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