What's in my bag / by guillaume hammadi

Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

- Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

This is very true, and something my ever-changing, commitment-averse, The grass is always greener on the other side self could spend some time reflecting on. Anyway, today I felt more like writing about what else than myself I usually take with me.

content of guillaume hammadi travel bag

I've read posts similar to this one quite a few times, always being a bit indecisive as to knowing if I liked the idea or not.

I definitely liked the images though, and that's what decided me to finally do it. So this post is as much about trying to get a nice picture of what's in my bag as it is a little story and personal investigation into myself, as I'm currently wandering about where and when to go next. Let's dive.

Wireless headphones

I mentioned it in a previous blog post, it's a deal-breaker when trying to get some serious work done and I end up in a noisy place. There's not much else which will enable me to get in the zone. I'm not a big fan of the Beats Studio Wireless though, to be honest. They are descent, but totally overpriced for the experience they provide:

  • 12hr battery life, and they won't run in passive wired mode once the battery is dead.

  • the Bluetooth connection is only with one device. No easy way to remember the connection to a few devices.

  • Active Noise Cancellation is all right, but produces a very distinguishable hiss whenever no music is playing.

  • Not robust. I had to get them replaced when an ear-cup cushion started tearing apart. After 6 months...

On the plus side, they are light, comfortable (I only live by around-ear headphones), and fold in a pretty compact way.

The jury is still out on taking them again on my next journey abroad.

External drive

The Macbook comes with 512Gb of ludicrously fast storage. That's easily filled nowadays. Years of photo archives, some movies, two operating systems and a few games on the Windows side of things, my music collection because I can't live with the idea of going music-less because:

  1. I don't have an internet connection (incidentally, it's more common in Australia than in a lot of places I've been to).

  2. I forgot to synchronise some playlists from one of the streaming services.

  3. I don't like these streaming services anyway.

2Tb of good ol' spinning platters goodness help with all this. Plus an automated backup system at home.

Microfibre cloth, and a slip

With so many displays and optical systems, a microfibre cleaning cloth is always hiding somewhere in my bag. I also carry a Crumpler The Slip. It's a weird product, originally built to sit between keyboard and display of a laptop, when closed. Macbooks used to have a tendency to bend during transportation and displays would end up in contact with the keyboard, sometimes leaving marks, or even scratches, on the display. This thin fabric layer prevented it. I still use it out of habit, but it mostly serves me as an anti-slip support for my iPad when taking notes.

A wallet

This is a Katmandu (I believe it's a New Zealand company) fabric one. Again, not the fanciest, but dependable, robust and thin enough. Just a few cards, some notes, coins, and home key when I live in a place which has the decency to rely on a single key.

A little piece of string, with a hood-style stopper added to it

Pretty basic, but I've also gotten myself out of annoying situations with it. Attach a kite to a bicycle, DIY leach for sunglasses when on sailing days, secure a hand-held Gopro when snowboarding in tons of powder, helping an astonished workmate maintain his bag closed for the evening ride back home (he couldn't believe I was actually carrying a piece of string with me!).

A Swiss army knife

This one is by far the oldest piece of gear I own and carry with me all around the world. A present from my father from the time he was seasonal worker fixing yachts during winters, almost thirty years ago. I highly doubt he acquired it very legally, though.

On top of the sentimental value, this knife has helped me out countless times. Nowadays, it's completely blunt, but still gets some good use from times to times. Tip: remember not to leave it in carry-on bag when flying.

A lighter

Nothing fancy here, it's just a disposable gas one. Cheap and reliable (again, not to be forgotten in carry-on bag when flying). When empty, buy another one. Fire is life. Helps with heat, cooking, light. And even as a non-smoker, it's made for some fun ice-breakers with lung cancer candidates all around the world. Obviously, my smoker friend used it a few days ago, and "forgot" to put it back where it belongs.

Sunglasses

I used to own multiple pairs, but at the moment my Oakley Holbrook are the official permanent residents. Solid, stylish and offer a pretty good shading experience. In Australia, sun will burn everything, your eyes included. Ah, and the lenses are replaceable, which will come handy soon as I recently got a bad scratch on one.

A mirrorless camera

guillaume's sony a6000

Phone cameras only go so far when one is obsessed with creating images. I used to carry my DSLR on every trip, but I've fallen in love with the freedom of mirrorless cameras.

Alas, I didn't fall in love with the Sony α6000. This thing is technically sound, with an incredible autofocus and once some descent lenses screwed on, it is a rather dependable tool. But that interface... The buttons layout is more or less usable (why is it so non-obvious to find out which of 4 different buttons to press to get the autofocus collimator back to the center? I make the mistake every time I use the camera).

The menu layout, though, is nothing short of disgusting. Functions are seemingly thrown around randomly, the navigation is slow and cumbersome, and some camera modes will trigger menu entries to disappear. I mean, I understand that some features are dependent on a setting. But why not simply greying out the menu entry rather than hiding it? Instead of communicating a sense of unavailability, the camera is playing hide and seek and makes you feel like a fool.

The Apple fanboy triptic: Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone

I'm a software engineer by trade. I've been building the web for about a decade now and I'm deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. I'm less and less fan of their laptop hardware choices, but I'm still way too dependent on the OS to switch. I've owned eleven of their laptops in the last thirteen years. I disliked the 2015 15" model, as it was crippled with thermal throttling issues. Not a big deal on my day job, but I dreaded coming back from a photoshoot with hundreds of images, knowing how long I was going to wait between image edits just because the machine was busy slowing down its processor. As far as I could tell, this was due to the cooling system being optimised for thinness and silence. It's all well and good, but sometimes, when I have a batch of heavy work to get through, I'd rather choose fans cranking up if it means I can get the most power out of a "Pro" labelled machine.

I've been using a 15" touch bar for the last year or so. No more thermal throttling, but whatever the people who decided that the Touch Bar was a good idea were on, I don't want to know.

Not much to say about the phone. It just works. I don't mind the price of a workhorse I use many hours a day, every day of the year. Gets the job done, is transparent in my daily life, does all I need. Particularly bringing me back home when I'm lost. Which happens often.

The iPad (with an Apple Pencil) is an interesting tool. I use it mostly for 3 tasks.

  • I started sketchnoting a few years back as a way to try and stop falling asleep in meetings. It worked wonders! This little hobby has proven itself countless times a great memory helper and focus keeper. Plus it's really fun to do!

  • I also read a fair bit, and the ability to carry plenty of books at the same time in a 400g package is invaluable to me.

  • Finally, it's a very nice, more organic way to show my photography portfolio to clients and prospects. It gets much less in the way than a computer.

old-fashioned pen

Nothing special. Same as the lighter. Post office without a pen? check. Airport customs form? check. Quick note jotted for someone? Almost checked. Finding some paper might be more of a challenge.

SD-Card reader and lightning-to-jack adapter

That adapters frenzy started when I got a MacBook Air 11". Nice little machine, but Apple had already decided that ports were bad, and dongles were good. I don't agree. But no one cares. So I carry dongles.

lip balm

Not so much of a problem in Australia, but back in France my lips would just start bleeding during winter if I didn't use one of those regularly.

Envirosax from UX-Australia conference

A foldable, sturdy, lightweight grocery bag. I've used this thing hundreds of times. The only time I got delighted by a piece of conference swag. I've had this guy for four years. That's hundreds of single-use plastic bags that I didn't use.

Wired earbuds

Music, and sound isolation are a fundamental part of my daily life. Whenever the wireless headphones run out of battery or otherwise die on me, I can get these inexpensive wonders out (and the dongle) and get going.

 Crumpler Cheesy Disco messenger bag

crumpler cheesy disco

And finally, the bag itself. As many regular travellers, I struggle to find the perfect bag. Even if I try and own little stuff (makes it easier to move around the world), and get my happiness out of experiences more than gear, I own 3 backpacks, 2 messenger bags, a duffel bag, and a bike bag here in Australia. There are a couple more stored back in France. That I'll get rid of. One day. Maybe.

I've owned Crumpler gear for over a decade, and that's about the age of this messenger bag. I didn't even know they were a Melbourne-based company before I moved here. From my French point of view, surely they were German. Funky ones, but surely, the only people able to build something that robust and well thought had to be Germans, right?

Truth be told, the other bag brand I use (for sports) is Evoc. It's more for cycling and mountain sports than urban bags. And these ones are actually Germans!

To conclude

I've enjoyed this little Inventaire à la Prévert. More of a way to get back to writing for myself than anything else.