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Bags

My travel broadly falls into three categories:

  • <1 day trips. Meetings / study / shopping / eating
  • Whole day trips. Work.
  • 1+ day trips. Visiting my family. Vacations. Business trips.

I use a different bag for each purpose.

Small trips - Cambridge Satchel Company

I bought a Cambridge Satchel Co. Classical Satchel in the summer to replace a cheap shoulder bag which I'd been carrying since the early '00s, and was beginning to look like it'd been run over by a tank. I've loved the understated styling of the Cambridge Satchel Co. brand for years. It's smart and elegant; and I like that it transcends any social occasion. I could take it to a hipster cafe or a gig, but it doesn't look out of place at a pinstriped meeting either. 

The leather is thick and a little inflexible although I expect it'll become more supple with age. Yet the bag is also relatively lightweight. I chose the 13-inch model. It's big enough for books, even my laptop in a pinch, but small enough that it forces me to be thoughtful about what I carry with me. This encourages me to empty it when I get home; processing any items I've collected throughout the day.

The satchel's discretion, plus the fact that it's not easy to open, makes me feel that I'll be less of a target for pickpockets, especially if I wear the bag across my body rather than dangling off a shoulder.

My one gripe is the strap. It's too thin and can dig into my shoulder, even through a thick coat and jumper when the bag is fully loaded. This can be addressed by buying a strap cushion which the bag a lot easier on your shoulder. It would be nice if Cambridge Satchel Co. would something like this with their bags but for a product I expect I'll be using for a decade, buying one myself is a relatively minor inconvenience.

Whole day trips

Trips which  necessitate a change of clothes (like commuting to a day job with a dress code), or day-long expeditions, involve carrying more stuff. I prefer a backpack to a shoulder bag for anything this weighty. 

The Berghaus Twentyfourseven 25L backpack is tough, discrete and inexpensive. As with the satchel, it works just as well when I wear shorts and a t-shirt as when I wear a suit. Most important, I find that it's comfortable with generously wide and soft straps.

>1 day trips

The inscrutably-named [Samsonite Base Hits 55cm Upright](http://www.samsonite.co.uk/base-hits-upright-55cm-20inch/59142.html?dwvar_59142_color=1598#start=3&cgid=SAMS6870) is the most effective roller bag I've tried. It feels tough, lightweight and perfectly sufficient for a week's travel (although I travel light). As with my other bags, discretion is the better part of valour. The wheels are relatively quiet even on rough pavements and the handle mechanism feels extremely robust.

Pod

The real trick to the way I organize my bags is that I keep a "pod" containing my entire suite of mobile tools. The ThisIsGround Mod has been a revelation. It's costly, but it's also something I expect to outlive me. The mod when closed has a clamshell form with a handle on one side and the kind of zipper that I'd normally expect to find on a parachute bag.

The inside front has loops for pens / stylii, and pockets for business cards, a smartphone or cables. The inside back has a large pocket for a tablet; and I manage to squeeze in my tablet's keyboard cover as well. The real trick is the insert. You can order your mod with one or more magnetically-attached inserts which are designed for different uses. I picked the Writer insert because I needed loops for extra pens, and a pocket for a pencil, eraser and sharpener. There's enough space behind the insert for a notebook as well.

The Mod has forced me to decide what I need to carry around with me at all times. Once that choice has been made, it's easy to transplant the Mod between the larger bags as needed; guaranteeing that I've always got my essentials with me.

Fisher Space Pen

My Lamy 2000 fountain pen is my primary writing tool, but there are situations where a fountain pen is impractical, such as writing a quick list when outdoors or scribbling an idea onto a notecard. I like to carry a backup pen for this. For me, that's the Fisher Space Pen. It's simple, small, yet by posting the cap on the barrel when writing it extends into a full length pen. It's famous for being able to write upside down, in space, on burning metal, underwater, and probably a combination of all four; but none of that is interesting to me. It feel's good, it's convenient, and it works without you noticing it - surely a sign of superlative design. 

I did dabble with the Lamy Pico ballpoint pen, which is similarly compact and well-designed. However, it's a little less discrete than the Space Pen and I'm concerned that compatible refills are harder to come by.

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Earthworks Journal

I've got a real weakness for Earthworks’ Journals. I've been using their beautiful leather notebooks for many years as the place where I dump most of my words. Earthworks is a small firm - a husband and wife team - from Northampton, UK; a town known for its (sadly much diminished) footwear and leather industries. 

The thickness of the leather immediately strikes you when you pick up the journal. It's similar to what you'd expect to find on a well-made boot; extremely thick and tough. You could chuck the journal into a bag or drop it from a tall building without too much concern. Like most leather products, these journals look better as they age. My current notebook, an A5 journal, has become more supple over the year-or-so that I've been using it. The scuffs, scars and knocks it has endured make it look unique as an object, but demonstrate that it is primarily a functional object. This is an object to use, not to treasure.

The paper is superb. It's a little more creamy and off-white than most mass-produced journals. While this compromises it for sketching, it's far easier on the eye, especially in bright environments. The paper is archival quality, meaning that it'll probably outlive you. I find that it's rough enough to handle pencils but smooth and thick enough to take a fountain pen. However it might not be absorbant enough if you use a medium nib or thin ink. The sheafs are bound with a thick chord to the spine of the book; its not quite as polished or tight as mass-produced journals. However, I like the rustic look and it gives the book a more substantial feeling. A downside of stiching paper to thick leather is that the book doesn't like to lay flat, especially when the leather is new and firm. It's tolerable when handwriting or drawing but it can make typing up your notes quite inconvenient unless you can weigh it down.

I tend to buy one Earthworks journal for each of my big writing projects. The physical uniqueness that it develops provides a tactile connection to the project. Forgive me if I sound a little esoteric but it's like a physical totem of the words it contains. When your notebook or journal is also a pleasant object, it adds a tactile, almost visceral dimension to writing; a connection that would otherwise be lacking. It helps to build an emotional connection to the project. Handling the book, fiddling with the leather and - being honest - flaunting it a little, gives me something to look forward to when I'm struggling to motivate myself to write. That's quite important!

Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen

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I fell in love with the Lamy 2000 as soon as I picked it up, so don't expect an entirely rational opinion! Harry Potter had his wand, Arthur had Excalibur, Vader saw that Luke had constructed a new lightsabre and thus that his skills were complete. I feel the same about a nice fountain pen. The Lamy 2000 is a design by Gerd A. Müller; a leading advocate of the Bauhaus movement, which first shipped in 1966. It's a prime example of form following function. I spend a great deal of time working with modern devices whose lifespan is best measured in months; it's pleasant to use a tool whose design, while modern, hasn't changed in half a century.

The pen feels utterly excellent to hold thanks to a shape that isn't slippery or obtrusive. Even with big hands, it's very comfortable to hold for hours on end. The superb design even extends to the choice of materials. The barrel is made from Makrolon, a kind of fibreglass that doesn't seem to get sweaty, cold to the touch, or overly warm, while the nib section is made from brushed stainless steel which is appropriately weighty and smooth, and still easy to grip. 

More importantly, the pen writes wonderfully with a cursive hand, although my medium nib digs into thicker paper a little. I don't really bother with fancy inks: a bottle of good old-fashioned Parker Quink Black works great, plus it dries quickly. Ink is impelled into the reservoir using a barely visible screw comprising the topmost inch of the barrel. The mechanism works well; it draws in enough ink for a thousand-words-a-day writer to recharge the pen once a week at most. The barrel features a translucent window which lets you monitor ink levels, although if I have one criticism it's not immediately obvious when you're about to go dry.

The thing is, I could wax lyrical about the writing performance of this pen and its design, but what I most adore about it is its complete discretion. The Lamy 2000 is not a showy, pretentious pen which people will comment upon. Rather, it feels like it was designed to be a great writer's pen; a statement to the world that it is the words which matter more than the hand.

I love it and I implore you to buy one.