Compass Rose logo The Compass DeRose Guide to Road Warrioring

Written by Steven J. DeRose, November, 2002. Last updated 2008-08-23.

This is a guide to things I find useful to have along on the road. They are meant to make it easier to get online, to network local computers, to exchange data, and to be prepared for the inevitable surprises of travel.

Tricks of the trade

There is a general collection of ideas, tricks, and things it's good to know. As with all my Guides, I welcome your feedback and suggestions for enhancements.

It's a good idea to label all your stuff with your name and contact information; if you lose it someone may mail it back to you. Also, pick 2 or 3 colors and put strips of tape on cords or other things you may need to find your stuff quickly at the end of a meeting. I use yellow and black, so pick something different. Getting an electric engraver (under $20) and using it is great, especially for identifying keys; return-address labels work on all sorts of things, like inside the battery cover on your cell phone.

Moving information between machines:
Connecting to the Internet, local nets, and on-the-fly nets

There is a lot of detail in how to do this, so I've split it into a separate document. The main idea is to have the resources to connect and to transfer data in multiple ways, because no one way will work in all situations.

Foreign phone adaptors
Cheaper bought in your destination country, but hang on to them for the next time.
A touch-tone dialer
Some countries have a lot of pulse-dialed phones left, and there are many systems (like voice-mail retrieval, and even some home answering machines) that you can't control without touch-tones. Touch-tones really do work by the sound, and you can get a little box with a keypad and a speaker: hold it up to the phone and when it says "press 1", you do. If you don't have one, you can try turning the volume all the way up on your cell phone (even if it's a cell phone that doesn't work in that country), and try using it to generate the tones. It might work.


Reference information

All of the following should be in your organizer, organized so you can find the information fast:

CDs and Reference e-books

Because CDs, DVDs, and flash drives hold a lot of information, you might as well bring a lot. Internet access is not yet universal.

My friend and colleague Jon Bosak was once on a plane, talking to another friend via the passenger phone system. A question came up that any good encyclopedia could answer. Much to the other friend's surprise, a moment later Jon had the answer, because he carries a couple CD encyclopedias along.

I think the most critical information should also be on your palmtop. This probably means you want a palmtop with some kind of removable mass storage.


First aid

More important than any equipment you carry, is knowing what to do. Take a Red Cross or similar first-aid course; preferably advanced. Get certified in CPR. Know how to use an automatic defribrillator.

Of course if you have some form of medical training, or a special condition, you may want to carry more; but in that case you should also know what you want to carry.

Other handy gadgets

A few handy links and sources

How to carry it all?

I've spent a lot of time and money the last few years trying to find a good way to carry all the electronics and other stuff I want with me. One fundamental snag is that the "on the road" pack and the hometown pack are quite different.

As I have it now, the road warrior pack contain basically all the computer stuff (laptop, universal power and tips, palm sync&charge, ethernet cables, CD-Rs, Imation flash memory adaptor, etc.

Some options I've tried for carrying stuff include:

Standard pockets
No way. Not enough room. Pointy things like keys eventually dig into your legs. You have to move everything everytime you change clothes.
Dockers™ Cargo Pants
Nope. A lot more room, but it's not really handy, and you have the same move-everything-every-day problem. I'm also dissatisfied with their range of sizes and styles.
Fanny packs
Generally they have too few compartments, so you end up with one big disorganized pile of stuff. They also tend to zip, making them hard to get into.
Photographer-style vests
There are great as far as capacity, organization, and quick access. One of the best solutions I've found (actually, David Durand suggested it). Orvis makes a line of such vests. The main problem I had with this solution was weather conditions or style constraints that prevented using it.
Millitary-style ammunition belts
These are available in army surplus stores. Typical ones have 10 snap-close pockets around the perimiter. A Pilot fits if you take out the stitching separating 2 pockets. The main problem with this solution is that you "look military".
Flat shoulder bags
Too small and too few compartments. You can put the cell phone on the shoulder strap, which is nice.
Portfolios, briefcases, and the like
No thanks. I thoght I had a workable portfolio once, but having to zip it open and closed, and worry about which way was up, made it a pain.
Typical computer and business style shoulder bags.
I use one of these for my computer and all its related stuff. But look hard and long, because most of them are so badly designed they're almost useless. Some of my requirements:

Finally, I found just what I wanted. I was in a hardware store and saw an over-the-shoulder tool-bag! The key, critical difference this brought is that all the internal compartments had 4 sides, not just 2 pieces of cloth sewn together with no actual space. this keeps things from falling out all over the place, and makes it much easier to organize.

Picture of the CLC ToolWorks bag The bag I got is this one from CLC ToolWorks. It's the 25 pocket BriefBag™, item 1122 (16"W x 12 1/2"H x 1 1/2"D). This picture is not that great a view -- the main cover flap is everything above the top of the manila folder you can see sticking out. About $30. Here's why I think this bag is great:

They have a huge selection of other bags:

#1130 (14"W x 16"H x 4"D)
is a toolbag designed as a small backpack. 20 inside and 6 outside pockets. Worth a look.
#1115 (18"L x 6"W x 9"H)
is a much larger bag with 9 inside and 41 (!) outside pockets -- probably just big enough for me to combine my road and home bags, which would be nicer than carrying 2, though when I'm home it would wear out my shoulder unless I pulled out all the computer stuff.
#1113 (# 18"L x 7"W x 9"H)
is even a little larger, but with a less dizzying number of outside pockets (only 17). This might have just enough room to add in a change of clothes, toothbrush, etc. for an overnight trip.
is a nice combination tool bag and tool belt -- very practical for tools, though for computer stuff you'd look overly geeky.

IMHO, this bag or something very similar is the way to go. It never occurred to me to look among tool bags instead of computer or business bags; but it seems to me that's where the designers with the most clue must be working. Just as I didn't think to look in the costume jexelry industry for links from which to make chainmail armor -- but that, and not industrial chain, was where to go.