Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Well-Prepared Mobile Superhero

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When I was a kid, I always wanted to be Batman. Sure, he didn’t have any superpowers. He couldn’t fly or see through walls. He wasn’t bulletproof like that goody-goody Superman. But what Batman did have was a dark edge, cool mask with pointy ears, and a utility belt containing all sorts of gadgets that always seemed to get him out of dangerous situations.

Being the imaginative and industrious tyke I was, I gathered up my motley collection of toys and homemade “weapons” and assembled my very own superhero kit. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have as much success fighting crime in the schoolyard as Batman did fighting crime in Gotham City. But that didn’t stop me from refining my gear. Today, I have a very different kind of kit: A kit for the mobile writer.

Last month’s Chin Music, Netbooks: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer, led to several discussions among friends and colleagues as to what constitutes an essential piece of mobile gear. Some of the suggestions were indispensable; others were rather superfluous (a flask of whiskey… really?).

The gear you choose to carry with you is very personal and highly dependent on your profession and mobile needs (the Flickr pool, “what’s in your bag?”, is dedicated to showcasing contributors’ kit contents). My mobile superhero gear — usually carried in either a messenger bag or briefcase — contains everything I need to get a job done while in the field. Although it might vary slightly depending on what I’m working on, my kit usually contains the following items (from top to bottom; left to right):

  • Acer netbook (with AC adapter): The command center for all my off-site work. It’s used primarily for email, research on the Internet, and word processing.

  • External hard disk: This ultra-compact hard disk is slightly larger, although thinner, than a deck of playing cards. The unit is powered directly by the USB port and doesn’t require a separate power supply, thus minimizing your load. The contents of this drive are encrypted with TrueCrypt for security reasons (e.g., loss or theft of the device).

  • USB flash drive: Contains copies of all necessary files related to the story and/or project I’m working on. This flash drive is also encrypted with TrueCrypt and is kept in my jacket or pants pocket, not in the bag with my netbook and external hard disk.

  • Digital voice recorder: Used for recording interviews and gathering incriminating evidence.

  • Cell phone: Used to stay in touch and calling in air support.

  • Sunglasses: Because sometimes you just don’t want others to know who or what you’re looking at.

  • LED flashlight: Compact flashlight (about the size of a Bic lighter) for looking into nooks and crannies.

  • Monocular: Trust me, it comes in handy. And hey, if it’s good enough for Jack Bauer

  • Leatherman multitool: Because you never know when you have to strip some wire, filet a fish, or remove a deer tick.

  • Moleskine planner: Used to keep my appointments and to-do lists organized.

  • Various spiral/Moleskine notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters: Used for jotting down notes, ideas, and epiphanic realizations.

  • Wool toque of invisibility (OK, not really): Used to keep brain warm and fuzzy — especially during Canadian winters and bouts of writer’s block.

  • Leather card case: Used to carry business cards and press card.
  • I’m a minimalist and prefer to carry only what I absolutely need with me. But a lot of people fall prey to the cliché, “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”. They believe they’re Sherpas, hauling half their office with them when they’re only going to be out for a single day. Not only will this slow you down considerably, but with all that gear you’re dragging behind you, it increases the likelihood of misplacing or loosing something. So the next time you see the Bat-Signal in the sky, ask yourself whether that portable printer is going to prevent you from catching some villainous thug.

    Paul Chin ( is a freelance writer and journalist.

    This article was first published on

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