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Packing slowed down by carry-on gadget decisions

Packing_0709

My husband and I are in the middle of packing for the last vacation we'll take before our lives are changed forever, and while he knew immediately that his Samsung NC10 and iPod touch would be coming along, I've been mulling over what I should take for the past few weeks and am still undecided. I'm a chronic gadget overpacker and tend to come home with more than I left with, so regular readers might be surprised that I'm having trouble making up my mind this time.

My daily gadget routine and general interest in mobile devices were significantly affected by how terrible I felt in my first trimester, but now that I'm feeling better and can use multiple gadgets every day just for fun, my "non-essential" gear is starting to look attractive to me again.

If I were still feeling the way I was several weeks ago, I'd bring nothing but my Sony Vaio TZ. It's my primary computer at home, a good traveler, suitable for work and play, and the only piece of tech I used while my pregnancy-induced sickness was at its worst. When I'm not sick all day/night, however, I tend to choose excess over necessity and dedicated devices over convergence. That's why even though a single gadget can often perform multiple functions, I would rather carry several gadgets and use each one for the single function it does best.

So even though I could certainly get by with just my Vaio TZ on this trip, I'm leaving it behind and taking a handful of other devices instead. I do this whenever I travel, as evidenced by the "chronic gadget overpacker" links above and my excessive packing for a 7-hour day, but it feels different this time because I haven't finalized what I'm bringing yet.

This is our last pre-baby trip so I want to be as unplugged as possible; I don't want to carry anything around that enables/encourages me to work when we're out and about (the main reason I decided not to get a Verizon MiFi for this trip).

Most of what I've decided to bring so far, then, will be limited to in-flight and occasional hotel room use. Here's my list of "must takes" (and yes, there's redundancy in it):

  • Sony Vaio P. Although I've traveled with multiple computers in the past, I'm only taking the Vaio P this time because it's all I really need. The keyboard is fantastic and I can do all of my regular Pocketables work (email, site updates, forum, comments, general maintenance, etc.) with no compromise. Battery life isn't an issue because of the extended battery; the only time I'll be using the P outside of the hotel will be on the flight and maybe at the airport, anyway, so all-day power while mobile isn't a factor.
  • iPhone 3GS. This is my primary phone, so traveling without it isn't an option. Though its mobile blogging capabilities are better than they used to be, they're still not good enough to tempt me into doing any "real work" when I should be unwinding. In addition to quick internet and email access, the iPhone will provide in-flight entertainment (games and ebooks) and has a decent camera for those rare occasions that my shutterbug husband isn't already taking pictures and videos.
  • Cowon S9. The S9 is the best-sounding DAP I own right now and outperforms the iPhone's audio quality by miles. It can do more than just play music, of course, but that's where I think it shines most brightly.
  • Archos 5. Just as the S9 is best suited for music, I think the Archos 5 is best suited for video. Archos has always been my portable video brand of choice and the playback quality and format support just seem to get better as the years go by. I have the 250GB model so I have a lot of movies and TV shows to choose from while on the plane.
  • Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 Pro. This is my current pair of canalphones, which means that leaving it at home would be madness.
  • FiiO E5. I like using this little headphone amp with my triple.fi 10s. It makes everything sound better to me and is an incredible value for the price.
  • Monster Outlets to Go with USB. I have a smaller non-USB version of the portable power strip as well, but I like this one because of the USB port. Very handy for computer-free charging.
  • Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. I don't mind the Vaio P's trackstick but if I have the choice of using a regular mouse instead, I'd choose this Bluetooth one. This will be a fixture on the desk in our hotel room.

And here's what I have on my ever-changing "might take" list:

  • mintpass mintpad. The only reason I'm thinking of taking this is so that I can write my full review in short bursts on the plane and in the hotel room. I wanted to get it done before the trip, but I think I'm only going to have time to take the pictures instead. I don't really want to write a review while on vacation but then again, I don't want the work waiting for me when I get home either. The unit is so small/light and uses the same cable as the Cowon S9, so packing it wouldn't be an inconvenience.
  • CradlePoint CTR500. Our hotel has free WiFi but in case it also offers a hardwire connection, the CTR500 mobile router would be great for creating a secure network that only my husband and I can use. The router can also be hooked up to USB modems, ExpressCard modems, and cell phones to create a personal WiFi hotspot that up to 16 devices can connect to at once.
  • AT&T USBConnect Mercury. I haven't activated the Verizon account on my Vaio P and I'm not going to bring my Xperia X1 to tether or run WMWiFiRouter, so the only way I'll be able to get online while at the airport is with my USB 3G modem.
  • U2O iWalk 5400mAh battery pack. I usually bring the Tekkeon MP3450 portable power station when traveling, but since I won't be working away from the hotel and the gadgets I'm bringing will easily last throughout the flight, I'm thinking of bringing the smaller U2O iWalk as an emergency backup (my husband's iPod touch has lost some of its battery capacity and he sometimes forgets to charge his phone). It can't be used to charge my Vaio P, but it will work fine with everything else.

Packing_mt

These four "might take" items (shown above without their accessories) are all small enough to easily fit into my carry-on, but little things do add up and contrary to what my "must take" list might suggest, I am actually trying to travel light for the first time in my life.

The four items, along with their chargers/cables, weigh about 2 pounds total; the other stuff already weighs about 5.5 pounds (cases/chargers/cables included). Although I've traveled with more than 7.5 pounds of gadgets and accessories before, carrying an extra 5.5 pounds is obviously better than an extra 7.5 (trust a pregnant woman on this!).

We're not leaving today so I still have some time to decide on my final list, but this is where I'm at right now. What would you do with the "might take" devices? The "must take" gadgets and peripherals aren't up for discussion; despite the overlap in function, those are all coming with us.

Note: Pocketables will continue to be updated while I'm away.You'll likely see more guest articles than anything else during that time, but I'll pop in with some stuff when I can as well.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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37 thoughts on “Packing slowed down by carry-on gadget decisions

  • Avatar of turn.self.off

    im tempted to make some kind of statement about having a luxury problem…

    Reply
  • That poor child is going to be dissapointed someday when you reach into the diaper supplies bag and find nothing but gadgetry. Perhaps he/she will learn to be swaddled in bubblwrap instead of pampers.

    Reply
  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    Jenn, why don’t you try enabling tethering on your 3GS? Then you can leave the CTR500 and Mercury behind. To get it working, go to this site from Safari on the iPhone:

    http://help.benm.at/usa.php

    Select AT&T, and let it install the tethering profile. It works great on mine, and there is no jailbreaking necessary. You can either do USB or Bluetooth tethering, and then you don’t have the hassle of switching the SIM back and forth.

    Just a suggestion, that way you have more room to carry your new purchases home ;-)

    Reply
  • Okay, I can understand having too many gadgets and redundant gadgets… but for me, although I do appreciate better audio quality, it’s just not worth the inconvenience to have to bring alone a headphone amp and a dedicated music player on vacation. And if it was me, I’d rather a portable hard drive to watch the movies on the bigger screen of the laptop. But as you say, those are all must-haves for you anyway.

    Any idea on what that Monster USB outlet can deliver for power via USB by the way? I don’t seem to see a spec sheet on their site and was wondering if it’s the standard 500mA that is delivered by a PC, or if it has the possibility for the faster charging 1000mA that some devices can use now.

    As for the might-brings, is there any possibility the plane you’re on might have AC outlets? The last plane I was on did. Admittedly I flew out of the country, but considering Hawaii is about the same length of time, I figure maybe some planes for that trip would have them too. Might be worth looking into at Seatgurus.com

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  • Jenn, your husband should write blogs for you. A guy who appreciates iPod Touch (not the ATT iPhone) sure has a good sense of value and what’s really good. Better than you. Well, maybe you’re still better, otherwise you won’t find such a husband.

    Until the xpPhone is out, the best mobile solution is still UMPC + Bluetooth + smartphone. BT is far more battery friendly than WiFi (MiFi). BT DUN is supported by XP’s built-in BT stack – no need to install those hugely bloated 3rd-party BT stacks. Only two devices to carry.

    There’s no point to carry 3 devices (the MiFi). The MiFi has no point unless I need to carry an iPod Touch that has no BT (it’s WiFi only).

    Reply
  • English firmware for Mintpad has been released, one more reason to take it with you?

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  • No chance of that happening. SHE’ll be too busy texting to notice *and* she’ll be used to the bubblewrap from day one.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the tip, orbital. A tetherable iPhone can’t replace the CTR500 (which would be used in the room to turn the hotel’s hardwire internet into secure wireless – assuming hardwire is even offered, of course), but it will definitely keep the Mercury at home.

    Reply
  • Yeah, the amp isn’t really necessary since the triple.fi 10s and Cowon S9 already make an excellent pair, but anything that improves SQ is worth bringing to me. :-)

    I don’t have the packaging anymore, but I think the USB outlet is just the standard 500mA.

    No, no outlets on our plane. I won’t run into any battery issues during the flight, as everything has great runtime on its own and won’t be used at all once, but the iWalk might end up being useful for something during the trip. We already have a power inverter for the car that includes a USB port, but on the off chance that two devices need to be charged during a long drive, an extra port would be nice to have.

    Reply
  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    That’s true, it would just be for one user…

    But hey, it’s not too late to go get the MiFi ;-)

    I wish Cradlepoint could get the iPhone working with their routers, that would be really handy.

    Reply
  • I like BT PAN better than DUN. I don’t know if this is really true or not, but the connection always felt faster to me.

    The main advantage the MiFi has over a BT smartphone is that several devices can connect to it at once. My husband has an EDGE-only Blackberry, so tethering his NC10 isn’t really worth the hassle. The MiFi would allow his NC10 and iPod touch *and* some of my stuff to all be online at the same time, which is more convenient than taking turns. :-)

    As for the iPhone, it *is* a great value for those who use it as their DAP/PMP as well. Since it’s also a phone, these people would really only have to carry two devices at all times (computer + iPhone). If you were going to carry around your iPod touch, then you’d be carrying up to 4 devices (UMPC + smartphone + touch + MiFi if you wanted to get online and weren’t near an open network). Depending on your smartphone, though, you could easily take the MiFi out of the equation (with WMWiFiRouter or something similiar).

    I don’t use the iPhone as my primary DAP/PMP, but I still enjoy a lot of its other features.

    Reply
  • I’m still not able to get my mintpad registered to download the update. :-(

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  • I don’t use an iPhone because I hate AT*T and its expensive iPhone plans.

    How many people use multiple devices at the same time when on road?

    Reply
  • I think the Sony P is a excellent choice for traveling light. I use mine all the time but it all depends what I will be doing on the road. I think you got the right gear and you should be good to go. If you had the S5 which I know you didn’t like, it’s actually very portable and useful. I broke down and picked one up and now that has replaced my Aigo P8860. I just use for when I don’t want to power up my Sony P which works great with Windows 7; by the way if you haven’t installed the Graphics driver you should. It made a difference for my Sony P, and SC3. Where are you guys traveling too?

    Reply
  • What about a jailbroken iPhone that you can use with a different carrier? And I can’t speak for anyone else, but my husband and I always use multiple devices while traveling. Maybe we’re the exception, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who use a non-3G netbook, an iPod touch, and a phone like he does. My gear bag is always out of control when it comes to the number of extra gadgets I carry around, but that’s just me. :-)

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  • The only other choice is T-Mobile which is too slow for the iPhone browser.

    For Internet-connected devices, I cannot think of more than a laptop and a smartphone. Yes if you carry an iPod touch, then you need a MiFi.

    I’m not talking about a vacation trip, not many people can afford many a year. I’m talking about daily life. Whenever you leave home, how many of you would carry a phone, an ipod touch, a laptop and a mifi?

    Most people will carry a smartphone only, sometimes plus a UMPC or laptop. Be realistic. Even two devices are too much, 3 devices are simply never acceptable.

    Reply
  • “Be realistic.”

    Please don’t speak for others. While it may be “unacceptable” to you to carry three devices, many people who read this blog DO carry that many – and maybe more – every day to work. I carry two phones, a Sprint MiFi, my laptop, and my Sansa Clip daily. I also have a small USB mouse, foldable keyboard, headphones, and wireless headset.

    Reply
  • Avatar of John in Norway

    You live in Hawaii and you’re going away for a holiday? If you want somewhere cold and damp for a change, you can come here.

    If I take too many gadgets on holiday, my wife insists that we bring a friend along so she has someone to socialise with (I write prolifically when I’m relaxed). Unfortunately, she doesn’t fit in our luggage.

    Reply
  • Well I think the answer Jenn is whether all these tools are making you work around them or whether they increase your productivity (or quality of life). It’s akin to picking your holiday destination based purely on access to wi-fi. From my standpoint you’d make it with your iphone, Vaio P, mouse, triple.fis plus maybe a compact digital camera.

    Admittedly I’m going through a tough effort to find ways to dump just my iphone 3G (which I got to replace my Nokia E61+n800+apple bluetooth keyboard).

    Going back to a good candybar phone with camera seems almost too simple and uncomplicated change with a Vaio P or n810 with BT keyboard. If youtube proved anything, it was great content worked just as well in crappy low resolution video and in turn your posts on Pocketables are great content of just words and photos. Surely the music/video is bearable from the iphone?

    Reply
  • The Vaio TZ is loaded with features – some of which put the MacBook Air to shame. In spite of its smaller size and weight, it has a built-in optical drive, a VGA port, 2 USB, Firewire, LAN and dial-up, and a memory card slot.

    Reply
  • I keep meaning to install the new driver but can never seem to get around to it. The only surefire way for me to get an update is for it to automatically install on its own! We’re headed to the West Coast (northwest this time).

    Reply
  • Sprint is an option for a jailbroken iPhone too (one of the guest contributors uses his iPhone on it), so I’m thinking Verizon is probably a possibility as well.

    Reply
  • Haha. Our favorite travel destinations are pretty much anywhere that has low temperatures that dip below the 70s. It’s about 75 to 85 degrees with uncomfortable humidity levels right now in Hawaii, so we love to go to places that feel like AC at night. :-D

    Reply
  • Good point. I actually want to *avoid* working as much as possible on this trip! My husband and I travel a few times a year, but those trips are almost always work-related. This is our first real vacation in a few years so working is kind of the last thing on my mind. I’m already rethinking my plans to write the mintpad review while I’m away…

    Yeah, the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities aren’t terrible by any means, but if I have something on hand that can handle those tasks better, it’s worth it to me to carry an extra device.

    Reply
  • I meant Internet-connected devices; mouse, MP3, keyboard… are not counted.

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  • Sprint and Verizon are CDMA; as far as I know, there is no CDMA iPhone.

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  • Funny. I been rocking a Sprint iPhone 3G for the past 5 months.

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  • Jenn, take all the gear you want to and enjoy, especially if it’s your last vacation before having the baby! Sit on the airplane and watch movies, listen to music, write articles and relax. The last vacation I went on with with my 1.5 year old toddler, I didn’t really have a chance to use any of my gear on the plnae except for the couple of hours he slept. And it was almost 20 hours of travel time – I spent most of the time playing with him and trying keep him from wailing…

    Reply
  • If true, why a site like Engadget won’t make fuss about it? I only see sites selling unlock craps like scum.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Steven Law

    Jenn, were you thinking of this? http://twitpic.com/28gwk

    Sorry to make a fool of you Jenn, but not only is that not on Sprint (I made some icon hacks since I always tethered to a Sprint phone), that’s not even an iPhone! It’s an Pod Touch =P

    fixup is correct in that the iPhone is not capable of running on Sprint’s or Verizon’s network. Wouldn’t make much business sense for Apple, I’m afraid.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Steven Law

    I should clarify that I didn’t even really “hack” the icons but used some programs from Cydia to change the “iPod” to “Sprint” and to change the “WiFi” signal indicator to “3G”.

    Reply
  • 20 hours?! Yikes! If that were me, I think the toddler would have had to try to keep *me* from wailing instead. I get so restless on a plane!

    Fortunately, this flight turned out to be much nicer than usual and I actually ended up using only the S9 for a few hours. Ah well. Better to be overprepared, I guess.

    Now that we’re here and officially in vacation mode, I think I’ll save the mintpad review for when I get back. :-)

    Reply
  • Haha, yes, that’s the one! You should’ve posted it on April Fools Day (you would’ve at least fooled one person). :-D

    I don’t follow the jailbreaking community, so I remember seeing that pic when you first posted it and thinking, “Oh, the iPhone works on Sprint now.” I just figured that those hackers were so determined that they could get anything to work! I also didn’t know the icons could be changed at whim like that (yeah, I *really* don’t follow the jailbreaking world) or even notice that the device wasn’t an iPhone. I better rethink my gadget investigator aspirations. :-D

    Hmm. I wonder if Todd is one of the guys responsible for all those Sprint unlocking videos on YouTube…

    Reply
  • Avatar of Steven Law

    Theoretically speaking, just like when Apple had earlier copies of OSX running on x86 hardware, they could have test versions of the iPhone that worked with CDMA networks or even had both CDMA and GSM hardware incorporated. However, the currently available models cannot be used with CDMA nets. Unless Sprint has unpublicized GSM coverage in the US or a test network that I hadn’t heard about (which is entirely possible), or Todd has one of those test models, he’s full of it. Even if he had such a device, it wouldn’t be “unlocked”.

    Any YouTube video that “shows” the iPhone running on Sprint doesn’t prove a thing, since the carrier tag is easily switched, as explained before. Similar demos can also easily be faked; for instance, one joker shows the *2 in his call history and taps it to call Customer Service, that being the call code on Sprint. Easily faked by creating a contact named *2 and setting the contact number for Sprint. If it were real, he could have dialed *2 from the keypad.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Steven Law

    (In fact, in that same video, there’s a video response that demonstrates those two very things.)

    Basically, short of watching an iPhone being constructed/retrofitted with a chipset known to work with CDMA networks, and then turned on to work with a CDMA network *all in one shot*, I’d be very suspicious.

    Reply
  • I have two of the things in this list, the P and a 3Gs.
    I’m guessing if you did another list that the Cowon S9 would be replaced by the Walkman X.

    It’s strange how the styling of the iPhone and the Vaio P look very similar (Glossy black with silver details).

    Reply

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