What’s in My Bag

by Sunita

This is a lightweight post to compensate for a couple of heavyweight weeks.

I first ran across the popular “What’s in your bag” category at The Verge, but it’s expanded to cover all kinds of people, from celebrities (Mayim Bialik’s bag is charmingly normal) to men who like to carry tools, to hipsters to anything you can imagine. I thought about doing one but balked because I didn’t think (a) it would be interesting; and (b) I had a sufficiently consistent “everyday carry” to make it fit the theme. But for the last year or year and a half, I’ve basically been carrying one type of bag (a backpack) and one set of core items, with a few things switched in and out depending on how much I need and which size backpack is required to hold it. So while (a) may still be true, (b) is not.

Here you go: my most common Everyday Carry:


(click photo to embiggen)


From left to right, top to bottom: handkerchief, earbuds, 6th gen iPod Nano, pen case, tissues, flashdrive/cables/etc. pouch, band-aids, file folder, Dell Venue8 Pro tablet, Midori Traveler’s Notebook, weekly planner, sunglasses, Midori Passport Traveler’s Notebook (w/Pilot Prera fountain pen), cosmetic case (including comb & Altoids minis), key pouch, and reading glasses. I used to carry a folding knife but after losing one at TSA because I forgot it was in the bag, my current one stays at home now.

That’s a Longchamp Pliage backpack, everything fits and it’s surprisingly comfortable. I walk home from work most days, which takes about 30 minutes, and I prefer a backpack to a satchel because the weight is better distributed.

This assortment of stuff is what I have on an average teaching/seminar day. The folder has printouts of the most immediate papers I’m reading (class materials, student papers, peer review articles, seminar papers). I keep pdfs of most of my class stuff on the tablet as well, so I don’t have to carry books or fat articles (I mostly assign book chapters and articles, rarely whole books). The larger Midori TN is for class and research notes, while the small one, the Passport, functions as my wallet, inbox notebook, and ToDo list keeper. The key pouch holds my university ID and transit pass along with the keys, so I don’t have to get the wallet out when I am commuting; I usually take the bus to work and walk home.

It may look like more than the backpack can accommodate, but it all fits comfortably.

If I have more papers and/or a book or two, or if I’m carrying my lunch, I switch to a larger backpack (this one). I keep a water bottle at the office so I don’t need to carry that. I’ll occasionally carry a separate bag as a lunch bag, something I can fold up and stick in the backpack for my walk home.

I sideload all my books onto my Nook and I use my work computer to sync it with Calibre, so sometimes I take the Nook as well. On non-teaching, non-seminar days I leave the tablet and file folder at home and swap in the Nook:

What's in my bag, everyday version


This is more or less my minimal carry. If I’m wearing glasses I don’t take the reading and sunglasses, but otherwise everything fits in a relatively small purse as well.

Also note that my phone (on top of the green planner) is an old-style candybar. Yes, I’m back to the Nokia unsmartphone. Since I’m rarely on social media anymore I really only need access to calling, text, and email, and this one also gives me the ability to read feature-phone-optimized websites (i.e., many news sites and some blogs). I love that it’s small, and since I mostly carry it in a pocket I managed to forget to put it in the first photos I took. I’ll switch back to the smartphone when I’m traveling later this month for a conference and when we drive across the country in May, just because having maps and other information available is useful then. But for my day to day life I don’t need to carry a black slab around with me all the time. Even though my smartphone, a Nokia 635, is considered small now (it has a 4.5″ screen), it’s still big enough to be awkward in some of my pockets. And I don’t need it. I know many people do lots of things on their smartphones, but I don’t. The only thing I occasionally miss is reading books, but if I have time to read I just listen to an audio book or music instead.

So there you have it. What I carry on a normal day. When I’m not teaching I carry a lot of the same stuff, I just put it in a purse or a small satchel. When I’m traveling I add a computer, chargers, and some more files or a print book and I use a laptop-friendly bag or a tote bag. But the core components stay the same. My minimal carry can see me through a day of errands, a day of non-teaching work, or a day of playing hooky.

How about you? What’s in your bag?