Lifestyles of the Mobile Road Warrior - the Ultimate Gear Bag

Despite what many mobile workers would believe, achieving maximum productivity doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing  maximum mobility, or vice-versa for that matter. I admit it's taken a while for me to get this article together, but I think I can comfortably come forward with what I consider is the best mobile productivity solution yet. Working as a mobile road warrior, and given the extensive time I've spent with the gear you will see me show here, I have managed to put together an undeniably potent gadget arsenal that is as small and light as can be.

Indeed, it's quite possible to maximize your work capability away from the office, without lugging around a 20lb roller case, skimping on functionality or running out of battery power. The gear bag you are about to see here demonstrates a no-compromise approach to getting virtually any kind of PC task done, anywhere you happen to be, without impacting your mobility whatsoever.


In my last two Lifestyles of the Mobile Road Warrior articles, I mentioned how you could easily obtain all-day power and ensure no-compromise connectivity. The same well-thought-out choices apply to creating your ultimate gear bag. And it goes beyond merely making sure you have the right stuff in that bag, but selecting a bag that is both gadget and mobile friendly.

Some experts would go so far as to swear by carrying multiples of one item, yet a good gear bag will contain items that COMPLEMENT each other, rather than overlap in functionality. Carrying two slates won't make you any more efficient, and carrying half a dozen items will do nothing but unnecessarily bog you down. When the emphasis is mobility, you actually want to carry LESS devices, not more!

Of course, much comes down to what it is you need to do while mobile, so I won't knock the above guy for using what he does, although his choices in my opinion aren't the smartest. Using the right tool for the task is fundamental - no need to carry around a 17" notebook for blogging and checking email. On the other hand, I find it amusing to see coffee shop squatters stand in line while juggling a separate keyboard and slate, when a small netbook is so much more elegant. The first step, therefore, is to evaluate what you need to do and pick mobile gear that excels at that.

In my case, that means providing a productivity environment with full-PC capabilities, a fast/usable mobile broadband connection, and enough unplugged battery time to take me through a grueling 15-hour day. My requirements have to make this solution as small and light as possible, while at the same time provide maximum value for money.

These five key factors form the basis of why I have what I have in my gear bag, and have been fundamental in determining my choices. For the uninitiated, it is far from impossible today to assemble such a compact and potent setup. In fact, for the last year or so, I have been lucky enough to be enjoying the benefits of exactly such a solution. But enough lip service - it's time for me to empty out the contents of my gear bag for all to see!


Maximum mobility meets productivity
HP's 210 Mini is one of, if not THE, best 10" netbook to ever hit the market. Why choose a netbook over a slate+keyboard? For starters, I have a full copy of Windows 7 Professional, Office 2010 Professional and a choice of browsers. I can install full versions of x86 software as opposed to functionally watered-down apps on slates, swap in a 2nd battery to get all-day performance, and connect to hundreds of USB peripherals. It's built-in GPS allows effortless navigation without requiring an active data connection, the 1366x768 display and Broadcom Crystal HD video accelerator serve up flawless 720p playback, while the N570 Atom provides the 2C/4T performance to put even a mainstream mobile Core 2 Duo to shame. I've even been successful in running a dozen DX9 gaming titles, providing for a decent entertainment experience as well.

Most importantly, though, I get to enjoy the same productivity experience as I would if using a notebook or a desktop, a feat slates even with keyboards simply cannot match. That means I can create, edit and view whatever kind of content I like, without jumping through all kinds of hoops to get even basic things done. Install a roomy 512GB SSD to have it boot in an instant, never mind far exceeding storage available on any slate, and without resorting to fee-based cloud storage. Weighing in at an easy 3 lbs and priced at $404 fully-loaded, I'm still waiting for that killer slate ensemble that can top this for capability and value.


Unmatched and unbeatable
If proponents of slates can tote a keyboard around with their device and still proclaim mobility, then by all means I'll include my wireless trackball in my arsenal. The Logitech M570 provides the comfort, ergonomics, performance and precision unmatched by any mouse or touchpad, and unknown to users of a touch screen UI. Productivity absolutely flies with this input device on hand, and once you get used to using it, will positively never want to move back to using a mouse ever again. It is indeed that good.

Priced at a very consumer-friendly $40, it's customizable buttons, 18-month battery life and easy-to-bag dimensions make it even more desirable and an ideal accessory for dedicated notebook/netbook users. Having used the wired model previously for 6 solid years, I can even attest to it's reliability and durability. It's no accident this was the first device to earn the lgpOnTheMove Best Accessory award.


Mobile broadband done right
As many users today will know, no productivity gadget can get work done without a proper wireless broadband connection. Enter the Apollo 4G mobile hotspot from Clear. Feeding fast 4G data comparable to home DSL speeds, it makes a no-brains investment for notebook and netbook users looking for anywhere internet connectivity.

Of course the killer argument in favor of this solution is it's UNLIMITED data plan. No data caps, no overage fees - just a flat $49.99/month. Carriers can scream their shared data plans all they want, but serious users won't be counting geebees and won't be paying triple-digit overage charges. With the Apollo 4G I don't have to care how much data I use each month. The ability to connect with multiple devices makes it very versatile, as does it's informative display and 6-hour battery. Small enough to go inside a front shirt pocket, this is one device you will rarely leave home without. Priced at $99 this is another lgpOnTheMove Best Accessory award winner.


Beyond just a high-end mp3 player
HTC's Touch Pro 2 may be considered obsolete today, but the company has still yet to present a comparable device that has compelled me to upgrade. With a sliding keyboard, tilting screen, wired remote control accessory and numerous high-end features, the 2009 CTIA dazzler never ceases to impress me. Paired with a prepaid SIM, the unlocked GSM handset provides maximum value for voice connectivity priced as low as $8.33/month. That recoups the initial $409 purchase price within 12 months. Combine with a 4G data feed from the mobile hotspot already shown, and you can get a no-compromise voice+data solution for as low as $43/month, all doable with NO CONTRACT. That's a saving of over $700/year compared to what the average U.S. smartphone user pays.

With it's 32GB removable microSD storage, audio streaming docking cradle, in-car BT connectivity, A/V output capability and dual cameras, the TP2 can still strut it's stuff where other handsets fall short. For enthusiasts that like to tinker with Windows Mobile the device offers the ability to easily cook custom ROM's and change system settings, yet still offer the performance to run full-screen multimedia and business-oriented WM6.5 apps. It's by far the best smartphone I have yet to put down!


The most useful battery you will ever have
The Energizer XP8000 has been a major player in my gadget arsenal for the last two years. While my original purchase was for helping keep my smartphone charged, it has turned out to be an indispensable accessory for my mobile hotspot for providing worry-free all-day connectivity.

Alongside it's USB charging port is it's ability to charge any device from 5 to 20 volts that can accommodate a barrel connector, ranging from netbooks, notebooks, cameras, external drives, etc... Knowing that it will outlast any current device and perfectly work with gadgets I buy in the future makes the $99 purchase an absolute bargain. Never again will I buy replacement device batteries, only to have them become obsolete when I change devices. The XP8000 can even be used to replace your notebook's AC adapter, letting you leave your standard power brick at home and make those multipurpose adapters unnecessary.


The small size hides a roomy interior
Last but not least, I present Yours Truly, the Solo TCA511-4. This is where I keep everything shown here, along with my netbook's spare 6-cell battery. The Solo TCA511-4 is the most roomiest netbook case you will find, with a main compartment large enough to accommodate a 11.6" ultraportable, yet barely bigger than a traditional camera case. It has compartments and pockets suitable for carrying a small army of accessories complete with multiple batteries, cables and stuff serious users need to get their work done.

It's 5-year warranty, TSA-friendly design and $40 price make it a great value for netbook users that need to carry more than just a few items. I particularly like it's ability to fit 11.6" notebooks as it makes it unnecessary to buy a new case should I upgrade my equipment later. It's compact, light and the adjustable strap with padded leather shoulder pad makes it comfortable to wear for extended periods. I wouldn't trust my netbook to any other case.


11.6" cases have become more widespread since my look at the Solo, so there probably is something out there given that the one I have shown here is now discontinued. Just make sure that the case you decide to buy fits the gear you plan to take along, as I have found some netbook cases too small to fit even my 10" 210 Mini.

Don't have a Touch Pro 2? Most likely you'll be rocking one of the newer iOS/Android/WP7 flavors, which is perfectly fine. Any unlocked GSM device will pay dividends with a prepaid SIM allowing you to use any plan from any carrier, anywhere. It's unfortunate that in the U.S. smartphone tethering is frowned upon by carriers, making use of a separate mobile hotspot for notebook connectivity necessary.

For those who missed out on snagging an Apollo 4G, Clear now offers the much more compact Voyager mobile hotspot with the same unlimited 4G data plans. I was somewhat partial to the Apollo's great LCD display and 6-hour battery, but the newer Voyager should win fans that prefer the smaller size.

Object of desire - Elitebook 2170p
As for the netbook itself, I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade to a slightly bigger 11.6" device if I needed to. Manufacturers have this year ignored Intel's Atom effort with Cedar Trail, making 10" models very difficult to find. That said, I must express my keen interest in the HP Elitebook 2170p. It's 11.6" footprint is smaller than the dm1-4170us I recently tested, yet offers improved battery life and performance. Of course, with a starting price of $999 it won't be cheap, but neither is a 11.6" Macbook Air, and at least the 2170p uses standard parts for it's internals, negating the drawbacks of Apple's obsession with uber-thin design.

What else could I possibly add to my ultimate gear bag? You've got room to toss in a slim DVD burner or 2.5" external drive, Kensington lock, travel surge suppressor, USB thumb drives, SD cards etc... These aren't necessary for the core functionality, nor stuff that I carry with me all the time, rather extras that can boost your productivity even further. Some may want to add a privacy filter to their screen, which depending on your notebook/netbook display, may or may not be possible.

Should I be advocating everybody go out and replicate the gear bag I have here? The best I can do is give a hands-on impression. I do admit it has held up incredibly well, exceeding my expectations even under extreme/heavy use. It has never once let me down or had me "wanting", and that's probably the most telling statement you'll read. As small and amazingly efficient as this solution is, it clearly won't be for everybody - casual users in particular need not apply. But for those looking to get some serious productivity done without impacting their mobility in any way/shape/form, the stuff I have here is as good as it's going to get.

Tally up the total price and monthly cost, and I challenge anybody who can come forward with a solution that does more... for less!


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