I've been a fairly hard-core road warrior for the past few years. Users like me are a challenge for IT departments, because we're trying to replicate the best parts of our offices in one carry-on bag.

My own gadget bag is a continually evolving set of tools, the kind that make it possible to be connected and up to speed pretty much anywhere I happen to be. Your mileage may vary, but these tools work for me.

  • I start with an aluminum Macintosh G4 PowerBook with a DC charger that works in the car and on airplanes, in addition to the regular wall charger.
  • It worries me how much of my professional existence is in this thing. That's why I also carry an 80 Gbyte FireLite device from SmartDisk for routine backups, including a daily backup of essential files such as chapter drafts of a book I'm nearly finished writing. I lost a bunch of important e-mails in the middle of 2003 and decided that it wouldn't happen again. I keep the disk drive in a separate place in my hotel room.
  • Laptops are hardier than ever, but they're not indestructible. On planes, I carry my Mac "double-wrapped." I put the computer in a padded, ballistic-nylon "sleevecase" from WaterField Designs. The sleevecase then goes into a carry-on bag that adds further protection.
  • Once I get to my hotel room, I pull out the sleevecase and attach a padded shoulder strap and piggyback bag that holds my power supply as well as an analgue notebook (this means paper, yes? – Editor)), a digital camera, a couple of cables and other small items. That way I can leave the big bag in the hotel instead of schlepping it around.
  • I'm a convert to the phone/PDA routine. My PalmOne Treo 600 is the best combo device I've seen so far. I've been loading a bunch of third-party software onto it, including a Freecell game for emergency boredom cures.
  • To carry the Treo, I use a padded camera pouch that attaches to my belt. I also have a retractable sync and cable/charger thingy, which saves lots of room and is vastly more convenient.
  • I put a 512 Mbyte memory card into the Treo, found a third-party MP3 player and now listen to music on the Treo. It's not as nice as Apple's iPod, but it's one less thing to carry.
  • One vital road-warrior tool is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which make a huge difference in reducing fatigue from long plane rides. At the moment, I'm using the Sennheiser PXC250 model. I'm eyeing the new Bose set, but it's twice as expensive.
  • Then there's an assortment of other cables, including a retractable phone, Ethernet and FireWire line. I love the convenience of the ones that wind up inside a spindle, helping me avoid cord spaghetti. And, of course, I have extra batteries, a USB adapter for various device memory cards to download pictures and transfer files, and several notebooks, pens, tissues, antibacterial hand wipes, decongestant nose spray (essential if you fly with a cold) and other basic remedies and vitamins.
  • One crucial addition: a paperback book. I never know when I might be waiting in line (the immigration line at Tokyo Narita took an hour last month) and it's always nice to have something to read. Not all of life is digital.

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    Dan Gillmor is technology columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Contact him at [email protected]