- Buyer's Guide
What’s In My Tech Backpack: Incase ICON Edition
In what is either a case of self-fulfilling prophesy or hubris, the Incase ICON is a bag that really ended up living up to its name. It’s truly an ‘icon’ when it comes to ‘tech backpacks’ and one of the very first to put an epic level of thought into ultra-organizing ones backpack for modern tech and daily essentials.
I bought my first ICON in 2015 and I remember marveling at the amount of organization it had. I got my hands on the latest version, courtesy of Incase. Visually, not much has changed but there have been been numerous small tweaks and fixes. It’s a bag that manages to check many boxes for those looking for a good work, laptop or school bag.
In junior high, I was all about the cargo pants. Back then, the more pockets, the better because why wouldn’t you want options to carry more stuff? I am glad to say my fashion sense has changed since, but my underlying need to be organized when I am carrying has not.
What Makes A Good Tech Backpack?
A good tech pack fits you comfortably, travels well, and can hold everything you need to get your work done. All the while protecting your expensive tech from scratches, water and bumps, and giving you the right amount of access to it all when you need it.
It’s not a surprise that you see so many Incase ICON or City Packs on the backs of students and business professionals, in any major city center or airport you visit. What I like about the ICON is the sheer number of pockets it has. But in addition to being pocket rich, it carries very light with the thick padded shoulder straps, load lifers and a fully padded back panel.
The Incase has a volume of 17L, a size that is frankly shocking when you see how much it can actually hold. A 15″ Macbook Pro fits comfortably in its super padded felt compartment. It has dual main compartments, one for documents and one for tech accessories. It also boasts some specialty compartments like wings around the waist that are meant for power packs and a felt-lined compartment near the top for your sunglasses or small camera lenses. It also has a separate compartment for your tablet so you don’t need to stack it with your laptop, like in some other bags.
In this tech load-out, I’ll show what I might bring on a weekend trip where I want to stay connected and creative while relaxing, or on a trip where I might have to do some work.
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I am definitely a Windows and Android fan at heart but developing on a Mac makes a lot of sense. This is a Mid-2016 Retina Display one and it’s never failed me. The new 2019 Macbook Pros with Touchbar and the lighter and thinner chassis are a dream to use.
Something happened last year when Apple decided to update their standard 9.7″ iPad and sell it for under $350. At the same time, they majorly updated their iPad Pro line-up, giving them, in some cases, Macbook beating powers. But the final straw was forking the OS into iPadOS with v13 coming out this fall. This changed everything for me, finally making the iPad a feasible main portable consumption and creation device. With support for external drives through the USB-C port, smaller icons and spacing for easier organization and a Files app that actually lets you manage, well, your files, I’m going to see where this thing takes me on my quest to draw more with Procreate and edit videos in LumaFusion.
I’ve gone most of my life without noise canceling headphones and I honestly didn’t know what I was missing. Now that I got a good pair of headphones that block out nearly all engine and cabin noise, I don’t know how I ever lived without them. Since prices have dropped, the MDR100s are an excellent value at $268, but if you want the best of the best, check out its older brother, the Sony WH100XM3. I took a listen recently and nearly hit Buy Now on Amazon!
I’ve owned various action cameras in my life but have come to the realization that my life is pretty mundane compared to the ones that GoPro features in their commercials. While I might not need a camera strapped to my helmet as I bomb down a mountain bike trail, I love to carry a camera with some smarts to document my adventures when I travel.
The DJI Osmo Pocket came with me on a recent trip to Italy and produced some really memorable shots. I like to shoot with a constant shutter speed and low ISO and to keep the lighting in check, I brought along a set of Neewer Magnetic ND/PL filters. And to minimize weight and keep the package small, I popped on a PGYTECH Gimbal Protector which allowed me to leave the case at home. It’s a setup I can totally recommend.
After college, I picked up my first action camera, the Contour Roam. At the time, it was a major competitor to GoPro and that made it more attractive to me. Despite having a great design and arguably a better feature set, the company eventually went bust. Fast forward some 15 years later and the founder is back with Moment and doing great things in the phone accessory space!
They sent over a pair of lenses, the Wide 18 and Tele 58, and a case for my Pixel 3 to try out. The company has been on my Instagram radar for a while now and with the lenses in hand, it’s taken my mobile photography to a new level. It doesn’t make a bad camera amazing, but this quiver makes a great camera like the Pixel 3 incredible.
I recently was asked some advice and I told my coworker that the Aukey PD power bank is the best I’ve ever used. The volume and weight to capacity ratio is very high while still staying pretty thin and easy to carry. It offers both quick charge output and input. It has a simple set of LED lights to give you a good-enough estimate of remaining battery life and it can recharge my phone over two times.
Truth be told, even when I am in tourist mode running navigation, translating test, taking photos and videos, and searching for the next meal, I use up maybe 1.5 batteries worth. This pack has saved me countless times and it’s been around the world with me.
Usually when I running on fumes, I connect a short USB-C cable between my phone and the Aukey and just drop it in my sling while I enjoy a meal. By the time I am done, I should have over 50% power.
I admit, I don’t write in a notebook often but I always have one in my work EDC pack and I always carry one with me when I am traveling. On my honeymoon, we wrote down our passport numbers, directions to the hotel, information on which trains to take, common phrases, and more. Yes, you can rely on your phone for most stuff but you never know when your international roaming isn’t going to work or your battery might be dead.
I love carrying Field Notes notebooks because of their amazing cover designs and fun reference pages. But what I don’t like is getting the corners bent and covers creased. The Bellroy Notebook Cover Mini is the perfect companion to keep things nice and tidy. And, it comes with a mini pen you can clip right on the spine.
A small pen is great to fill out a short customs form, for example, but your hand can really start cramping up quick. For times when you need to have a longer writing session, the Ti Click EDC is just the ticket.
It’s made out of titanium which means it’s light but strong. It has an all metal clicker mechanism for a lifetime of use and it accepts over 100 inserts. I’ve met many people who refuse to upgrade from disposable pens because they have grown to like a particular pen or refill. With the Ti Click EDC, you can have a pen that lasts a lifetime, looks incredible, and you can still use your favorite insert in it.
I wrote with a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil for my entire education including at university. When I heard about Andrew Sanderson’s Kickstarter to make a high-end mechanical pencil, I was immediately intrigued. I love the classic look updated with modern materials and components. The stainless steel version (handcrafted in the USA apart from a mechanism made in Japan) I am using has a nice heft to it but writes well in the hand because of the balance. And I’ve got to note, it’s quite the investment, but with the lifetime ‘no questions asked’ guarantee, it’s really the only pencil I’ll ever need to buy.
Leatherman just came out with the second of three sets of tools in their Free lineup. As you might recall, the Free P series rifts off their classic pliers multi-tools, adding specially engineered magnets to it for easy opening.
The Free T series is their “tool” series and forgoes the pliers for a smaller overall package. Although I went with the P2 which is the lighter model of the two, I went with the more deluxe T4 to carry in my EDC pack. This adds scissors, a file, and tweezers to the T2 at the cost of one more ounce. To me, scissors probably the most useful EDC tool, so I had to spring for it. And keeps the same one-handed easy opening action I grew to love on the Free P2.
I am a huge fan of building small portable Retropie setups and I couldn’t pass up the chance to have one on my keychain. I’ll admit, the claims of portability are a bit exaggerated but the TinyPi Pro is definitely among the smallest fully functional retro gaming devices I’ve used.
It’s powered by the Pi Zero which means anything up to the Super Nintendo is fair game (no pun intended). The case is printed using SLS which means it’s much better quality than traditional 3D prints. It all goes together with pogo pins which means you could build one in under 10 minutes with practice. It’s great to toss in your bag so you have it at the ready in case you need a stress break or you’re waiting at the DMV or doctor’s office.
I started with trimming down my wallet to the essentials, but it took years for me to get my clunky keychain down to a manageable weight. The Orbitkey Key Organiser really helped with that. Now, I just carry a RFID tag for my apartment, my mailbox key, a multifunction tool, and a bright LED flashlight. The Orbitkey keeps things nice and contained and rattles are a thing of the past. Perfection.
This article was developed in partnership Incase