Monday, July 30, 2012

How Has My Portable Gear Stacked Up?

When I started my rootless life, a goal was to condense my material life into three pieces of luggage and some change. Toward that end, I bought various items to manage my portable environment.

How have those items stacked up in the past year or so?

Jewelry bag

My original post on this purchase here.

The bag does everything I need it to do. I like the two zippered pockets (one for necklaces and the other for earrings), the ring column, and the bracelet loops. Occasionally, earrings fall out of the holes in the fold-out earring band (see photo above), with the result that they sometimes lay loose in the fold-out area, but I haven't lost any earrings yet, athough the potential for such loss exists. I haven't noticed any signs of wear on the zipper, the fabric, or the vinyl. 

A good purchase and I still recommend it. Available here.

A good flashlight

There are a bajillion flashlights out there, and I did considerable research on which to get.

I also weighed the handheld v. headlamp question, decided on the handheld, thus didn't look at headlamps.

My original post on my flashlight is here.

I still love it. Here's why: 
  • It's very sturdy. I've dropped it several times without harming it.
  • It's small. 
  • Takes only one AA battery. In a pinch, it will also work with a AAA battery. 
  • Has multiple settings for different lighting needs. Where I tend to go, electric power gets lost at regular intervals. This flashlight illuminates an entire room. 

When I'm on the road, I have it with me always. Even when I think I'm only going to be away from my base for a couple of hours, back well before dark .... well, things happen and you often have a change in plans while out and about.

I'll say, though, that a mobile phone with a flashlight is a wondrous thing. The next time I buy a phone, it will have a built-in flashlight as a back-up. 


Everyone has a favorite model or brand, so I'm not going to waste anyone's time talking about my particular model.  (Though, for the record, it's an HP Pavilion dm4 1065dx, and I'm very pleased with it.)

For portability purposes, here are the things that were important to me: 
  • Case dimensions
  • Screen dimensions
  • Weight
  • Battery life
  • Quantity and diversity of ports
  • Optical drive (for CDs, DVDs)
  • Keyboard size/look/feel

The 14" screen dimension is just right for me, both for portability (as it affects case dimension) and for readability of content. I dislike having to use horizontal scroll bars, and with a 14" screen, I almost never have to do so. It's surprising the difference just one inch makes: I knew the 13" was too small for my needs and the 15" too bulky for my portability desires. 

Dimension and weight-wise, at about 5 pounds, it's easy to heft with one hand when I need to. It doesn't take up much room in my backpack or weigh it down. (On the other hand, the power cord does take up a fair amount of space because it's long - an excellent feature otherwise - and is rather awkward in it's tangle-prone sprawl inside my bag.)

Battery life. When I bought my laptop in late 2010, a four-hour battery was good. And until my battery began its sad decline awhile back, the four-hour charge was more than sufficient for my needs. 

Earlier this year, I helped my sister buy a new laptop, which has an eight-hour battery. I was really surprised how much weight that added to her laptop.

Quantity and diversity of ports. The things I connect to my laptop: Flash drives, internet cables, mp3 player, voice recorder, Kindle, printer cables, SD cards (and if that port goes kaput, a camera cable), mini-speaker, remote mouse thingie, and earbuds. Not to mention my AC plug. I'm also set up to attach a projector. 

Because my laptop is my virtual life, I need all these bells and whistles on my little rig. 

Optical drive. With the ubiquity of flash drives, an optical drive for CD/DVDs is no longer necessary in most cases for data transfer. But there are still occasions when an optical drive is either essential or more effective. For example, if I'm installing a new device (i.e. printer) to my laptop, then I think it's much faster to do so with the manufacturer's CD installer than downloading the installer from the manufacturer's website (assuming I even have access to the internet when/where I need it). As an ESL teacher in Georgia, I received CDs that accompanied textbooks. These included audio files and the teacher's manuals. This information was not available online for download.

Bottom line: The portability criteria I used to select my laptop were useful. 

And insofar as the decision-making goes in regard to laptop v. notebook v. tablet - it's still the best choice for my needs to stick with a laptop. Note: HP calls my laptop a notebook, but come on, really. No, it isn't. It's too big and too heavy to be a notebook.

Little electronics case

I'm still using this Ethiopian Airlines comfort case I received from generous Yoseph. It keeps my tiny electronics paraphernalia secure and well-organized. Not everyone lucks out with just the right bag like I did. So if you're looking to buy one, here are the qualities I most appreciate about my case:
  • Small size for maximum portability
  • Two zippered pockets within the zippered outer case
  • See-through pockets
  • Red color to find it quickly in a bag
  • Flexibility in expansion - I've since added spare AA and AAA batteries, a Kindle AC adapter, and a two-prong adapter for old-fashioned US outlets for my three-prong laptop cord

Rain poncho

I bought this when I returned to Georgia after my winter break in the U.S. I went with a poncho instead of an umbrella because I wanted:
  • Good cover for my backpack or bag, which I always had with me
  • More portability than an umbrella

Hmm. What I discovered is that unless it's a moderate-to-heavy rain or I'm out hiking somewhere, the poncho isn't as handy as an umbrella. 

It's a lot easier to manage a wet umbrella upon arrival at a destination than a wet poncho. An umbrella dries faster than a poncho, too, which means I can fold it up a lot sooner than a poncho. Because of these factors, I found myself reluctant to pull out my poncho from my bag during a light rain, whereas if I'd had an umbrella, I wouldn't have hesitated to pull it out and use it. 

So: I'm glad I have the poncho because it has its uses. But I'll be buying a compact umbrella. 


I just bought my Kindle, so I haven't road-tested it yet.

Trekking poles

It's too soon to tell for sure, but so far I believe I made a good investment in money and space to buy these walking poles.

There's no better way to screw up a good time than a stupid slip that wreaks havoc on a bone, muscle, tendon, or cartilage. 

In Georgia, there's no snow or ice removal on the pavements. In many parts of the world, the vertical distance between steps are irregular or are higher than is comfortable for shorties like me. And, frequently no side rails. Unmaintained trails that are slick or precipitous from overuse or erosion. 

So I've found it helpful to tuck my compact, collapsible trekking poles into my backpack for day trips or when I'm venturing onto slippery pavement conditions. 

But over the long haul, the jury's still out on the trekking poles' value when weighed against the space they consume (which is very little) in my bags.


If I were to summarize the universal variables for the best portable gear, they'd be: 
  1. Size
  2. Weight
  3. Visibility for efficient identification and retrieval
  4. Organization for efficient retrieval and security
  5. Utility for my unique needs based on how and where I travel or live (for example, another rootless soul might save considerable space and weight with a tablet or notebook if she doesn't have the same data interests I do)



Sus said...

Great info you've shared, especially love the jewelery case and will have to put that on my want list. Thanks!

Mzuri said...

Thank you very much, Sus!