CES 2009 Prep: The Things We'll Carry

CES can be a lot of fun, but it’s a whole friggin’ lot of work, too. Meetings, press announcements, booth tours, darting back and forth from hall to hall, show floor to hotel, and a whole lot of trekking around the show floor in search of diamonds in the rough. Media attendees probably walk more in the four days of CES than most people walk in a month – all while wearing a backpack stuffed to the brim with every single tool we might need.

If you were to take a peek into one of these mystical blogging tool chests, what might you find? Lets take a look at the bag I’ll be carrying this week, which is a fairly standard example of a blogger’s road gear.

The Bag:

The brand, color, and shape may vary, but it’s one of the most crucial tools in our kit.

After a handful of shows and many sore-shouldered nights, most of us make the jump from over-the-shoulder style laptop bags to a backpack. On (very) few occasions, it’s a stigma; stuck in the mindset of tacky blazers and leather briefcases of yesteryear, certain folks in the industry look at backpack’s as bags appropriate only for school children and hikers. To these naysayers, we say: Enjoy your back aches, chumps.

What’s inside:

  1. Data keepin’ tools
  2. Accessories
  3. Cables

Trade shows mean two things: a crap ton of walking, and a crap ton of people. There are many tens of thousands of people around you – surely one of them might consider walking away with your stuff. You definitely don’t want to put this bag down if you don’t have to, so you’ll be wearing it for a long time. Besides having enough room for all your gear, the only thing that matters about the bag is that it’s comfortable; I’d gladly rock a bright pink Hello Kitty bag over anything else if it had some better support and cushioning in the straps.

Door #1: The Data keepin’ tools

  1. MacBook Pro: Unless you’ve figured out some way to get the job done with smoke signals and carrier pigeons, it’s a whole lot harder to blog an event without a laptop. The 15″ MBP is a solid system – plus you get access to a special “Apple Only” section of the Media room where you and the other mac owners all give each other high fives and talk about your favorite coffee joints.
  2. EEE 1000: Whaaat? A second computer?! Insanity, I know. It’s worth the extra 3 pounds or so to carry around a netbook. If one machine is choking as it tries to handle that HD video you’re forcing through it or one of your team’s laptops catches fire, you’ve got a cheap, reliable system to work on without much sacrifice.
  3. T-Mobile G1: CES = Chaos. We’ve got at least 6 guys who will be all over the massive convention center, and we’ll be texting and e-mailing each other to organize insanely precise strike movements almost endlessly. QWERTY keyboard for the win. Plus, Android will probably be a hot topic at CES, best to have a bot-powered handset handy.
  4. Apple iPhone: It’s needed to get into the Ultra Elite version of the aforementioned “Apple Only” room, which is exactly the same except it costs more.
  5. Paper and pen: The classic. If you want to leave your 15″ LCD ball-and-chain in the media room, you can still get the story. But wait – didn’t I say you don’t want to leave anything laying around? The media room is no different, but as long as you’ve got a team member or two watchin’ your goods, you’re set. Peter Ha is a ninja and I once saw Doug Aamoth kill a man with his own pants, so quick trips shouldn’t be an issue.

Door #2: The Accessories


  1. Nikon D90: With the crap fluorescent lighting and glass display cases which always seem to have been sprayed with some sort of ultra-glare coat, the show floor is no place to try and capture a masterpiece. You don’t absolutely, positively need a dSLR – but you’ll want one. If you roll into a booth with a pocket shooter, people look at you like you’re a dad holding up the line in the Indiana Jones ride so you can get a picture of your kids next to a hidden Mickey. People have this idea that only Pros are licensed to carry dSLRs, which means that everyone else will have one.
  2. Canon SD630: But that doesn’t mean you won’t want a point and shooter. When the sun goes down over CES, it’s party time. It’s a little known fact that Devin gets up on the bar and dances Coyote Ugly style when he drinks – it’s a sight to see, but its not worth (drunkenly) dragging a $1400 dollar camera into a bar. This SD630 is beat to hell, but it still takes better shots than my phone – it’s the perfect bar cam.
  3. Canon HG10: It’s a dedicated HD cam, so we’ll only bring it out for the big stuff. HD looks great and all, but it’s not worth the processing and encoding time if it’s just a two minute video of the latest in microwave oven technology.
  4. Logitech Revolution: The best mouse I’ve ever used. It’s not really a travel mouse, but it has found its place in my bag anyway. Could I just use the touchpad? Sure. But with everything I can do on a touchpad, I could have done it 5x faster with my mouse; efficiency means my posts go up quicker, meaning I’m doing my job better. I use a dongled mouse rather than bluetooth, as switching it from laptop to laptop takes a whole lot less time than dealing with pairing/unpairing.
  5. USB Drives: Big stories often involve more people than the one name you see in the byline. One person will be editing/resizing photos (often times huge RAW photos), another will be writing, and USB drives are the least complex and most fail safe way to get these big ol’ files back and forth.
  6. Extra SD cards:: No matter how many times you think that this year’s tradeshow is the lamest yet, you still walk away with hundreds and hundreds of photos – and they build up quick.
  7. Multi-in-one memory card reader: Lots of gadgets means lots of different memory cards. Fortunately, card readers are compact enough that covering pretty much all of the common ones shouldn’t take up much space at all.
  8. Clif Bar Z bars: Are they for kids? Sure. Are they friggin’ delicious? Hells yes. You can only eat so many day-old turkey sandwiches before your stomach starts yelling at you, and protein bars do the trick without packing on the pounds.

Door #3: The Cables

This one’s pretty simple – chances are, you can deduce why these are necessary. This ones purely to boast about how much crap we manage to tuck away into these tiny pockets. I won’t explain what each one’s for, but I’ll make a few notes where worthy.


  1. Nikon D90 Charger
  2. Canon SD630 Charger
  3. Monster portable 3-way power splitter: The most useful convention swag I’ve ever received. Monster gave it out one year, and it hasn’t left my bag since. Show organizers usually know to pack the media room with power strips – but if all the ports are plugged and no one’s looking to leave, a quick switch works keeps everyone plugged in with two extra ports for you to juice up with.
  4. Canon HG10 charger
  5. 2x mini-usb cables
  6. iPod/iPhone data cable
  7. EEE charger
  8. MacBook Pro charger

All in all, the bag works out to roughly 28 pounds. So – if Thursday rolls around and you get an inkling to make a comment implying that you’re not getting your $0 dollars worth of subscription fees out of our coverage, remember this, if nothing else: we gladly lug around 28 pounds of crap for 8 hours a day to cover these things. Why? Because we like you.