I have made some big changes since my last overview.
Since the beginning of the year, when I did my Tech Bag Review, quite a few things have changed. Some very small but some pretty major changes — my bag, for instance. So I thought it would be good to do an update. I don’t foresee much changing by 2024, so this will probably be my bag for a while.
When I approach my Tech Bag, I have just the essentials. Some things are considered extras but are very small things that don’t take up much room at all. Everything else is the stuff I need and use every time I take my bag with me out of the house.
Without further ado, I think it would be best to start with the bag since that is the most important part of a tech bag plus it is also the biggest change for the mid-2023 update:
The North Face Vault Backpack
After using my Amazon Basic backpack for over three years, I felt it was time to upgrade my bag. This blue, very cheap backpack has served me well, but the straps and cheap material have all started to get uncomfortable and pretty worn. I will keep it as a backup bag, but it will no longer be my daily driver.
I knew I wanted to get a black bag this time; my feeling-blue period ended a while ago. Black bags are slick, and the black color for the specific bag I wanted looked awesome. I almost went down my previous route and bought a bunch of bags to try out, but instead, I did quite a bit of research and landed on the one bag I wanted.
Now that I have teased it enough, the bag I ultimately got was The North Face Vault backpack. It is a 27L bag with decent storage in a smaller package. I like the design and slim style it gives when looking at it straight on. It has two zippered pockets, separating the front pocket from the main storage area, which also has a laptop sleeve.
The bag can fit up to a 15-inch laptop, so there is more than enough space for my MacBook Pro 13-inch, with plenty of room in the front of the sleeve for my other gear. That gear includes my Sony headphones, tech pack, notebook, and occasionally my S6 Lite tablet.
When I take my bag to work, I usually don’t take my MacBook Pro; I only sometimes take my tablet. I like to have the space to bring my work laptop home if I plan to work from home or take it back to work after working from home. Since my work-issued laptop is also a 13-inches, it fits just fine and is much thicker than my MacBook Pro.
The front pocket is just as functional, if not a little more, as the Amazon Basic bag. I get two mesh pockets, a decent amount of space in front of them, and a small zipper pocket above/behind. I also have two pen pockets to hold my Studio Neat writing tools which the Amazon bag didn’t have.
However, not much more is offered over the Amazon Bag besides the two pen pockets. That was my biggest letdown with this bag. My Amazon bag had a front pocket where I could put my mask, which this bag does not have. I was also disappointed it didn’t come with extra pockets for my sunglasses.
Another letdown was no zipper on the back pocket area’s side to pull my laptop out easily. I didn’t use it that often with my Amazon bag, but it was nice to have. Ultimately I decided that these missing features were not that big of a deal and that the front pocket had plenty of room for my mask.
With everything fully packed, the bag is very comfortable on my back. The slimmer design provides a more solid feeling when carrying it. My Amazon bag felt a little loser and less durable. I do also like that there are two handles on the top. I can use one to hang it on something and the other to pull it off, which is a nice addition.
The style of the bag, as I already mentioned, is mostly why I went with this bag. After using a cheap bag for so long, I wanted something with more style and professionalism, which the Vault gives. The two pockets on the side fits my water bottle really nice; the sizes are fantastic if I plan to go to a bigger bottle in the future.
Overall this bag is fantastic, and though it is a bit expensive at 65 bucks, it isn’t as expensive as other bags out there. The Peak Design and Tom Bihn bags can be ridiculous in price, but for The North Face Vault, $65 is alright, especially coming from a sub-20 dollar bag.
My 2017 MacBook Pro is still going strong. I have written about it quite a bit already, but it continues to be a champ for me, even though it is going on seven years old soon. It is a great laptop with a dual i7 Intel Processor, 16 GB RAM, and 1 TB of storage. The display is crisp and beautiful, and the keyboard still survives without issues.
I love the butterfly keyboard, so the feel and style are not an issue. My biggest fear is reliability, but so far, no keys have gotten stuck permanently. I have had a few close calls but a little air, and everything is back to normal. I also had a close call on the Touch Bar, where nothing showed up, no matter how many times I rebooted or stopped the services, but Ventura updates resolved that.
My fear of this laptop failing isn’t 0%, but it also isn’t above 60%. I feel it is possible, but so far not something big enough for me to worry too much right now. I have been tempted to look elsewhere, with iPadOS 17 sounding excellent with Stage Manager on the iPad Pro and that pretty 15-inch MacBook Air. But I want to stick it out until next year as I finish my Systems (not Tools) yearly theme.
As part of my Tech Bag, it is my most important item if I don’t carry my work laptop. My MacBook is always there when I use my bag for personal outings, but when going to and from work, it is likely to be a work-issued Dell computer in my bag. The MacBook Pro slips in really nicely, though, and I can barely tell it is there with its lightweight and ergonomics of the bag.
I wrote a review about the RG35XX a few months ago, and since then, it has been my daily driver for gaming. I have been playing Pokemon Crystal and Metroid almost every day — most of the time, it is Pokemon, though. So it took the spot of my Gameboy Pocket and sits in one of the front mesh pockets in my bag.
Whether I am on a break at work and don’t want to go for a walk because it is over 100 degrees outside or in my car waiting for my drive-up Target order, I usually spend a little time on this device. Because of the awesome sleep mode in GarlicOS, it is easy to boot it up and pick up where I left off. And because the battery is so good, I rarely charge it — maybe once every week and a half to two weeks.
The size and shape fit perfectly in my bag, so it is always there when I take it. And because I now have my Vault backpack, the mesh pocket doesn’t flop forward like it did a little in my Amazon bag. I like it more than my Gameboy Pocket lately since I have so many games in a gaming device that is comfortable, compact, and has an amazing display.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite
I need to do a full review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite, but I did post about switching from an iPad to an Android tablet, where I talk about the S6 Lite quite a bit. When I write my full review, I will link it here for reference.
The Galaxy S6 Lite has been, first and foremost, a reading device for me. This device is where I catch up on the news with Google News, Feedly, and Mastodon. I have also been reading a lot lately using the Kindle and Google Books apps. I have also been trying to borrow some books from Hoopla but keep running into a daily limit error with my library.
As I stated in my post before, I have had a matte screen protector on it since I bought it, which has helped me view it as a reading device first. I also watch my shows on it, including streaming services Hulu, Max, and AppleTV+. I figured out a workaround for AppleTV+ by bookmarking the web version of the service from Chrome to my home screen — it is very annoying that Apple doesn’t have an Android app for AppleTV+.
Other apps I have installed are Apple Music, Medium, YouTube (of course), and TikTok. It has become my consumption device, so I usually keep it at home unless I am really into a book and want to read it during breaks and lunches at work. It has become a great addition to my tech bag, taking up very little space and providing so much use.
Sony WHX900BN (Khadas Tea)
One of my hall-of-fame gadgets on the list is my Sony WHX900BN headphones. I have had these about the same time I had my Amazon Basic backpack, so almost three years now. They are and will continue to be my main over-the-ear headphones.
I love how they sound and feel, and they will always have a place in my tech bag. I take them and sometimes leave them at work when I want to Deep Work. But I also like to have them on hand when a new album comes out.
When I listen to a new albums like Utopia and AUSTIN, I make sure to have my Khadas Tea DAC with my headphones so I can listen to them a bit louder and higher quality. I am not an audiophile, but the Tea makes music sound better, which I appreciate for experiencing new music.
I got a tech bag from Alpaka to review last year, which continues to be an essential part of my bag. In it, I carry various cables, dongles, an external hard drive, an Apple MagSafe battery pack, and a couple of other things.
When it comes to cables, I like to have an Apple Watch charger, an Apple USB-C to Lightening cable, and an Apple USB-C to USB-C cable (not pictured). I also have two power adapters one from Anker, the PowerPort PDNano, and the other is a 60W Aukey (not pictured). These give me all I need to power up and charge all my tech bag devices.
The two dongles I carry are an SD Card to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A(not picutred). They are nothing fancy, and both are from Apple. It is rare these days that I use the USB-C to USB-A dongle, and I only use the SD Card when I use my Canon DSLR.
I also keep an Apple MagSafe Battery pack, a RavoPower 512 GB External SSD, and a MagSafe PopSocket. I like to have the SSD to transfer files easily or store something large that I don’t want to keep on my MacBook.
I like to use the Apple Battery Pack if I do something after work or forget to keep my phone charged so I have enough juice to last the evening. The PopSocket is something I used to use a lot, but recently less; it is instead there if I need it in my bag.
I like to keep some non-digital items in my bag, which sometimes can be good for brainstorming or journaling while taking a break from screens. I have been using my Moleskin with the Sharpie Pen to journal and think through some ideas, but I also have Studio Neats Mark Two and, new, Mark Three too.
I like to always have at least two pens in my bag just in case, but the Mark Three is a mechanical pencil I haven’t used much since I got it. I like to support Studio Neat, and the Mark Three is a cool addition to the Mark One and Mark Two I also have. Sometimes sketching ideas with a pencil is better than a pen, and it is what I may use it for, but as I said, it has yet to be used much.
A couple of other extras are my Aer Mask, which I have already talked about a few times. I don’t wear it anymore, but having it just in case is nice. You never know when someone might be sneezing in front of you, or maybe me coming down with something, and it just feels responsible to throw it on.
A new addition to my bag is a Hank from CodekEDC. It is a simple piece of clothing I can use to wipe anything, including my sunglasses or nose. I would not use it simultaneously for both of those tasks, but again, it was something that The Brooks Review recommended many times, and I thought I would finally get one. The one I got is called Code, and I like it.
I like to keep a Hydroflask water bottle near by when I am on the go. I have impressed myself for not losing this bottle since getting it around the same time my son was bro two years ago. It has gone on plan trips, road trips, and daily trips from home to work. I love the white color and the colorful stickers that I have added makes it pop.
It has endured much wear and tear and still works great. Sometimes I feel it is not big enough, since I can dring the whole thing pretty fast. But the 24 oz size fits create in my cup holder in my car, and in the side pocket of my tech bag.
My tech bag from earlier in the year was definitely ultimate and I can say that the updates I have made keep that same description, if not more. It continues to provide me all I need when I am on the go, and has been curated to be pure essentials. Next year, I may upgrade my computer but other than that I will keep many of these things for the long haul.