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Double-duty gear: fewer items that do more stuff

March 27, 2018

When a reader recently emailed me to ask if a mirrorless camera fits in the top pocket of my Minaal Carry-On, I thought, “Well I’ve got one of those,” and went to send a picture of my latest packing spread… then realized I haven’t done an update in months! It’s just as well. There have been quite a few changes to my (now lighter!) one-bag haul with a new priority principle in mind - double duty.

I recently added and culled a few of my items and, incredibly, I now have more items and more space in my bag. Huh. The key to this was to add items that are a) smaller than the ones I got rid of and b) at minimum are twice as useful. As usual you can view the entire packing list here. In this post I’ll point out (read: rave) about a few of my newest acquisitions that highlight the double duty concept.

Tripod and monopod

Monopod mode.

I’m so happy with this bluetooth tripod/monopod combo from BlitzWolf that calling it a “selfie stick” almost seems derogatory. The first thing I noticed when I first picked it up is how solid and well-made it feels - this is a far, far cry from a cheap chrome-plated telescoping rod.

Tripod mode, engage!

The bottom portion opens up to transform into a small but sturdy tripod, and the bluetooth shutter button - get this - is detachable so you can use it as a remote shutter trigger. This is pretty much all the functionality I need for travel photography in a neat little package that collapses to barely larger than my phone itself. It also only weighs 150g, so I hardly notice it’s there until I need to use it.

Headphones and earplugs

JBL’s Reflect Mini are by far the best sound-isolating headphones I’ve owned. I use them as earplugs on planes, in noisy cafes, and at loud concerts and movie theatres.

Durable and portable daily carry.

They’re bluetooth, which means just enough wire that I can hang them around my neck but not enough to get in the way. The in-ear design stays perfectly in place even through a vigorous run, burpees, and one recent particularly energetic karaoke night. For the tiny size and weight (14g) they last a full 8-hours (as advertised - in my own experience it’s frequently longer). My favorite part is the placement of the controls unit, which hangs just under my left ear and never bounces or bonks my face or neck when I’m moving.

Conference call and party time

I’ve long believed Anker to produce some high-quality electronics, and the SoundCore nano is no exception. If you didn’t know by now, I work remotely. This typically calls for a) hands-free conference calls and b) the need to fill my quiet little hotel room/Airbnb with awesome dance party music. Seemingly unrelated? This sleek little 80g box does both.

Tiny and light, except for the sound.

Whether calling, using WhatsApp video, or my preferred appear.in, a hands-free speaker that isn’t your tinny-sounding phone is really nice to have. The nano takes it one-step further with a built-in mic, so if you’ve got more than one person in the room, they don’t all have to shout into your phone. The bluetooth connection works with my computer and my phone, so it doesn’t matter which device I need to make the call on. As a speaker for music, I’m very impressed with how much sound comes out of this thing, and how good and clear it sounds. I like to lull myself to sleep with classical at night, and even listening to audiobooks works well, though speech sounds a bit garbled if I walk a couple rooms away. I’ve no doubt that if I spontaneously happened upon a hundred people in a hotel ballroom with a desperate need for string music because their four-piece concerto didn’t show, I could adequately help them out. It never hurts to be prepared, anyway.

Travel mug and desk mug

You know how most vacuum insulated travel mugs and thermoses are really thin and tall? It’s not a big deal of course if you’re just walking from place to place with your coffee, but there may be a reason or two that someone prone to talking and excitedly waving their hands around (me) might not want to use a vessel like that at a desk… next to their laptop.

My previous travel mug was a tall thin affair from Starbucks that I really liked for packing and carrying, but never really used when sitting at a desk. Also I’m one of those people who makes coffee and then totally forgets about it for an hour, so using the hotel’s (clean?) ceramic mugs usually resulted in cold/wasted coffee (no microwave). Enter my new most favorite everyday carry item, the Stanley Classic Vacuum Camp Mug 16oz.

Needs its own superhero theme.

This thing is awesome. It’s short and shaped like a typical ceramic desk mug, but keeps my coffee hot for hours, even if I leave off the leak-proof lid! You can hang it by the built-in D-ring, put it through the dishwasher, and even use it as a hammer (okay maybe not that last one). It’s seriously solid though - and yet, weighs just 454g. (A ceramic mug of the same size, for comparison, weighs over 600g.) The first time I brought it to a packed Starbucks in the middle of a rush, the barista paused, holding my mug and looking it over, then said to me, “Nice mug. Where’d you get it?”

Other double duty staples

Several of my not-new possessions do double (or more) duty, such as the nightlight/signal light Petzl E+LITE Emergency Headlamp, scarf/dust mask Lightweight Merino Wool Buff, and like every prepared traveler, I know where my Packtowl Ultralite towel is.

Oh, and as for the original question, I usually keep the liquids bag in the top pocket for various practical reasons, but…

Olympus PEN EPM-2 Mirrorless Camera in the top pocket of the Minaal Carry-on

A mirrorless camera fits just fine, provided you leave enough room on the inside of the bag because the pocket expands inward. (My bag is fully packed in this photo.) So yes, I suppose this pocket does double duty too. :)