What’s Coming with Us to CES, the 2013 Edition

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Every year we make the trek to Las Vegas, and every year we try to strike the perfect balance between the gear that we’ll need and a few extra things that will make our lives easier; the trick is to not forget anything vital or to too seriously overpack. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we fail miserably.

Here’s what’s coming along this time …

Judie: I’ve been going to CES since 2002, and you would think that by now I’d have a perfect kit prepared … but technology keeps changing, and so does my gear. I think I might have everything in order this time, though — really!


I’ve finally found a backpack that carries everything I need to bring with me when I travel. It looks good, protects my gear, doesn’t weigh too much (it’s empty anyway), and is comfortable to wear.

That bag is the Lexon Airline Double Compartment Backpack, and it is the bag that I bought to replace another that wasn’t cutting it during Mobile World Congress last year. The Lexon has a ton of space with plenty of pockets and slots for my gear — so many that I have temporarily lost things inside! =P

The backpack straps tuck inside a zippered panel on the back, so when I am not carrying a heavy load, I can tuck one or both away and use only the top handle. Speaking of which — I love the way the handle on top has been sheathed in aluminum; it adds a bit of flash, and it keeps the strap from cutting into my hand when the bag is loaded.

I’ve used this bag as a daypack/purse when in New York, Barcelona and Las Vegas, and I’ve received many compliments on it — not bad for an impulse buy!

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Laptops & Peripherals

For years, I’ve been trying to figure out how I could travel without a laptop, using only a tablet to write articles on. Although I have managed to make it work in the past, being able to do everything I need without trying to figure out a workaround is worth carrying the extra weight. I’m using the 15″ MacBook Pro retina, which functions as my main computer and my travel laptop.

The MBPr is small enough that I don’t feel too overloaded when traveling with it but large enough that I’d rather leave it in the hotel room during the day and work on my iPad when I’m on the showroom floor. I look forward to knowing that I will have the full keyboard and large screen to work on when I return at the end of the day.

I have a full-size NeatDesk that I use at home, but when I travel, I always bring along the Neat Receipts Mobile Scanner. It’s surprising how many tech companies will (still!) hand out paper press kits at CES, and sometimes the info contained is something I need in order to do a write-up.

Being able to scan the pages and then put the papers straight into the trash lightens my load each evening. I also use the mobile scanner to import info from all of the business cards I’ve collected throughout the day. The scanner is so small and light that it is no problem to pack and bring.

External Batteries & Chargers

This year, I’ve got the Kanex DoubleUp Dual USB Charger to use in the hotel room. I threw it into my suitcase along with several iCables and a microUSB cable (neatly tucked inside my Skooba Design Cable Stable Rollup Kit). This meant I didn’t have to bring along two wall chargers, and I could also use the cables with the external battery packs I’m toting.

The Mili PowerKing is the main battery pack I’ll be carrying. It’s big, but its 18,000 mAh capacity makes it worthwhile. My only regret is that it doesn’t have two (or more) built-in USB ports.

The whole idea behind the Power King is that it comes with all these proprietary adapters that you are supposed to use with their cables. It’s great that it can charge a netbook and forty different phones, but I don’t have a netbook and I am down to three different types of chargers max.

I tossed them all, because the only cables I use (or carry) anymore are USB based; besides, those proprietary tips were too hard to keep up with!


I also have a lighter and slightly smaller capacity, 11,200mAh Yoobao. I’m not sure that I’ll need it, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. (Yes, I over-pack for CES … are you surprised?) This battery pack does have two USB ports; like the Mili, it also came with proprietary cables and tips, but I tossed those, too. =P

Phones & Cases

Two days ago, I went to the ATT store and had the miniSIM in my Nokia Lumia 920 turned off, and a shiny new microSIM was inserted back into my iPhone 5. I had debated using the Lumia on the showroom floor, but then I decided that I was going to have to go with convenience.

Dan, Carly and Kevin will all be using iPhones, and not only will they be using iMessage to communicate, they’ll also be sharing a CES Photo Stream. I don’t really want to be the odd (wo)man out, so … iPhone it is. But my Lumia 920 will be in my backpack … next to the

LG Optimus G, because I like to over-pack. I mentioned that, right?

I’ve got my iPhone, Lumia 920, and Optimus G, each wrapped in a Bodyguardz UltraTouch ClearSkin, but I decided to go a step further with my iPhone since I’ve already managed to put a ding in it.

Luke from Not A Scratch recently sent me a set of laser-etched wooden iPhone 5 Cases (Floating Tree, Zombie, and Aztec), and I’m surprised by how much I like them! Take a look.


My case is made of cherry wood. Luke also sells zebra and sapele wood cases, and all three types are available for both the iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5; bamboo is also an option for the iPhone 4/4S

I’ll have a full review soon after CES (and two to give away—hooray!). In the meantime, I’ll just tell you that the case adds hardly any weight to the iPhone 5, and the corner protection is exactly what I needed when I dropped my iPhone the last time. Live and learn, right?

I should also mention that inside my Optimus G, I have one of the three 64GB microSD Ultra cards that SanDisk sent for Dan, Carly, and me to use at CES. The fact that I can fit 80GB worth of music and movies on my Optimus G makes the Lumia 920 (32GB) seem downright stingy, and my 64GB iPhone seem somewhat lacking.

I wish that all phone manufacturers would allow us to add additional memory to their devices! I may have to swipe it though, and use it in my MacBook once the Nifty MiniDrives that Dan and I backed on Kickstarter finally ship. Space is growing very tight on my 500GB laptop, and 64GB would be fantastic!


When I am on the show floor and at press events, I will liveblog, post, and keep up with my email—all on my iPad mini. The mini is also a fantastic eReader when I’m on the plane (because I refuse to work then … I just refuse); the mini does everything I need it to do—short of performing like a 15″ laptop—and that is fine by me.

I don’t have my iPad mini in a case right now (it is wrapped in a Bodyguardz UltraTouch ClearSkin, of course), but I am hoping that I’ll find something I love on the CES floor. I’ll keep you posted.


I’ll be using my iPhone 5 for many of the pictures I take on the fly, but for the shots taken from across the press room or for times when I’m stuck with truly poor lighting, I’ll be using my Canon G11.


The G11 is relatively light (for a metal-bodied camera) and very portable. It uses an SD card instead of a CF card, and most importantly, it takes fab photos.

Inside my G11 is an 8GB Eye-Fi memory card that I can use to wirelessly upload to Picasa, plug directly into my MacBook Pro, or plug into my iPad with the Lightning to SD Card Camera reader for quick photo uploading and editing.

Hopefully, I’ve got everything I’ll need with me, but I will let you know after the show — or most likely during the show if I’ve forgotten something truly necessary. We’ll see … =)


This is my fourth CES, and this year, I have the good fortune to have more options than ever when it comes to covering the show. While having so many options is a great problem, it is still… a problem since I had to actually make… gasp… choices about what I would bring.

So, let’s run down the options and decisions. Here’s a quick video look at everything that is part of my CES 2013 kit.

I also thought I would walk through what I am using and the rationale behind the choices I made.

Phones: I had some nice choices regarding the phone I could bring. I could bring the iPhone 5, the HTC One X, the HTC 8X (Judie’s review), the Nokia Lumia 710, and the Motorola DEFY XT on Republic Wireless (my review).

Ultimately I decided to bring the iPhone 5 and the Motorola DEFY XT. The iPhone 5 made the cut because it is truly a pocket computer that takes great photos and videos, integrates with my iPad and MacBook Pro and has proven itself as a mobile blogging tool. (I shot, edited, and uploaded the video using it. That is the reason the iPhone is missing. The lack of the iPad mini… I simply forgot.)

That was reason enough for me to use it as my main phone during CES despite the fact that it runs on AT&T’s network, which has repeatedly proven itself to be the worst of the bunch during CES. I brought the Motorola phone we recently reviewed because, running on Sprint’s network, it has the best chance of getting a signal when others fail me.

I should note that I was quite tempted to bring the HTC 8X but chose not to since, despite my love of the Windows Phone operating system, I am still learning about it and don’t have time to “play” with it and learn right now.)

Laptops: While I love working on my MacBook Pro, I wasn’t going to bring it. Sure, it has great battery life, is a pleasure to use, and, at this point, is second nature to me. But the laptop is big and heavy.

Toshiba was kind enough to send one of their UltraBooks to review and use for CES. It is light, fast, and a terrific piece of kit. Although the Toshiba shipped with Windows 7, the company was kind enough to update it to Windows 8. That was a mixed blessing.

You see, it may be the latest and greatest version of Windows, but I’m not proficient in using it. After loading Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 and getting the laptop set up, I found that there was still a learning curve. With the speed of CES, I just can’t afford that time to learn about the OS. Carly was kind enough to agree to leave her Chromebook at home and use and review the UltraBook.

So, long story short, I am using my MacBook Pro for CES. It will stay in the room rather than get carried around all day, but I expect I’ll still be more efficient using it during limited “in-room” hours than using something unfamiliar.

I do miss owning a MacBook Air.

Tablet: I had a choice of a 3rd generation iPad, and iPad mini, and a BlackBerry Playbook. This decision was a no-brainer. I brought the iPad mini. It is small and light, has great battery life, has a decent camera that takes images and shoots video with ease, and, for the most part, is as speedy as my iPad.

It, combined with a ZAGGkeys FLEX keyboard and stand, will serve as my mobile blogging platform during the day. My iPad is in a Bodyguardz case.


Camera: While I expect I’ll use my iPhone 5 and iPad mini for some pictures and video, after all, they are great for on-the-fly editing and uploading to YouTube, I brought my Canon T3i and PivotHead Video Recording Glasses.

Shooting with the Canon is a pleasure, and the pictures tend to turn out quite well. I also brought the Marshall Electronics MXL FR-310 Hot Shoe Shotgun Microphone I reviewed. (Read it.) It is a great way to get better audio when using the T3i for video. To carry the camera, I’m using the Joby neckstrap we reviewed here.

I just reviewed the BlueWi Nighthawk Bluetooth microphone and was impressed but I think it will serve Carly quite well when she walks the show floor. The PivotHead Video Recording Glasses have been a pleasant surprise and I plan to use them as my sunglasses and backup for video and pictures.

Backup Batteries: Keeping things charged and running is an annual problem at CES. Not only do we use our gear non-stop but the weak signals in the Convention Center mean connected devices are working hard to lock onto a signal. This runs batteries down in record time. So I brought:
The MyPower Backup Battery we were given at last year’s CES
The Just Mobile Gum batteries we reviewed last month. (Just Mobile Max and Just Mobile Gum)
The Gear Diary-branded PowerStick batteries we reviewed last month.
The ZAGGsparq 6000– I love this one because it is not only a backup battery but also a wall adapter for two USB-connected devices.

Bags: I wanted to go to CES with a work backpack and a smaller, lighter bag that was big enough for my key gear—iPad mini, keyboard, camera, and backup battery—but small and light enough to carry comfortably.

To serve the latter function I brought the new version of the Tom Bihn Ristretto I reviewed some months ago. This bag, which does approach being a murse, is well-built, highly organized, and comfortable to carry. It is actually a mainstay at home.

I wanted a backpack that wouldn’t be too heavy when empty, be comfortable to carry, accommodate a 15″ laptop, and be designed for ease of use on the go. I ended up getting a LowePro Video FastPack 250 AW. I love it.

As you’ll see in the video, it holds a ton. It is designed for those of us who use a DSLR and carry a 15″ laptop and need a bag that helps us stay organized. It does all that yet is rather light when empty. It only came yesterday, but I’m already a fan.

Assorted Extras

Evernote Moleskin Smart Notebook. I’m going old-school for notes this year. With the Smart Notebook, I can handwrite my notes, snap a picture, and have it automatically filed under CES 2013 in my Evernote account. How’s that for competent organization that does require anything of me?!?!

I brought the Solid Titanium Pen+ Stylus I backed on Kickstarter.

Phiaton PS 250 NC in-ear noise-canceling headphones. I almost bought the Phiaton on-ear noise-canceling headphones I reviewed last month but wanted something a bit lighter. These fit the bill, and I was able to get a great deal on them through Amazon a few weeks ago.

Skooba Design Cable Stable Packs to keep everything organized.

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Packing Cubes: On Cyber Monday, I bought some packing aids from Timbuk2. The OCD Packing Cubes and OCD Packing Folders made it much easier for me to pack while requiring me to really take the time to think through what I brought. I also brought the Hidden Messenger I picked up, so I have some extra room for gear if needed on the go.

It is a lot of gear, but I expect it will all come in handy.


This is my first CES, and I am trying not to overpack or miss something important! I will be wandering the floor quite a bit, so I am leaning more towards keeping things light but powerful.

I plan to lean heavily on my iPhone 4S and 3rd Gen iPad, as I have a good rhythm with them and often post and edit on the go using WordPress for iOS on my iPhone and Blogsy on my iPad. As far as accessories, I have a Logitech tablet keyboard for the iPad that I will also keep handy for longer posts on my iPad.

Finally, rounding out my mobile device’s arsenal will be an HTC Sensation 4G; it has an excellent camera, fast internet, and it’s an extra mobile device that can handle WordPress on the go.


For more serious computing, I will be bringing the Toshiba Portege Z930 Ultrabook. Toshiba was nice enough to send it to us to make CES run more smoothly. So far, I am still learning Windows 8, but the slim profile and zippy performance will make this a great addition to my gear bag.


Speaking of gear bags, I will be carrying the Ogio Manhattan messenger bag. This is a new bag from them, and we’ll have a full review up after CES. But I’m excited to use it; there’s a padded laptop area and plenty of organizational pockets as well. I like messenger bags because they make it super easy to access items on the go, and I always feel more organized using them.

Hopefully, I will remember sometime before my shoulder feels like it’s falling off to switch back and forth on how I wear it!

As far as charging, I have a Toshiba Powerstick and Mophie external battery that Dan sent to me for extra juice. In addition, I plan on bringing my Belkin mini surge protector. It’s fantastic while traveling since you can plug several chargers plus USB cables in all at once…and I am sure I will need to top off everything each night!


So there you have it — the gear that Dan, Carly, and I will be bringing. I have a feeling that a lot of it will be swapped back and forth as needs arise, but hopefully, we’ve got everything we’ll need to make it through the week!

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct smaller.com; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.