For the last year, I’ve been living out of a van for a project I called Connected States. I’ve logged 20,000 miles driving around the U.S. and have somehow managed to remain gainfully employed. While this may seem miraculous, I’m here to tell you that with the right tools you, too, can keep on working from the road. These are my top tools in my very mobile office.
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 6620L Hotspot
Aside from my laptop (MacBook Pro) and phone, this little puck is easily my most-used item. I’ve had solid data speeds from Verizon almost everywhere I’ve gone, which is a stark contrast from my T-Mobile phone. Promise I’m not being paid to say that. The Jetpack broadcasts a nice, wide Wi-Fi bubble wherever I am, ensuring I can send emails and upload photos (and watch Game of Thrones) when I need to.
WeBoost Drive 4G-X Signal-Booster
For those times when I’m waaay out of civilization’s reach, my Drive 4G-X signal-booster has been a life-saver. It has an antenna that magnetically attaches to the roof of your car, and a box that plugs into your cigarette lighter. I went from zero bars to two when I was in Big Bend National Park, which was just enough to check email and make a phone call. It also turned a one-bar 4G signal into three, enabling me to stream video when I was on an island off the coast of Georgia.
Anker Astro E4 Classic 13,000mAh Portable Charger
The days I’m not living out of my van, I’m generally living out of my backpack, and those are often days I don’t have ready access to power outlets. The Anker fits in a jacket pocket, has two charging ports, and packs in a whopping 13,000mAh—enough to charge an iPhone 6 five times.
Kelty Redwing 44L Pack
I’ve purchased three generations of this pack now, and they just keep getting better. The 44L version has a huge, padded laptop sleeve (which can also double as a hydration pouch pocket), tons of organization pockets for smaller items, and a big gaping cavern in the middle that can accommodate a tent, a camera, or all of the above. Go for the 50L if you need just a little more space.
Seagate Backup Plus Slim Portable Hard Drive
I’m knocking wood as I write this, but Seagate’s portable hard drives haven’t failed on me yet. They’re small enough to fit in my jeans pocket, they’re rugged enough to have survived some nasty falls, they’re extremely fast, and they don’t break the bank. I don’t travel without one. Personally, I like the 2TB size.
Zoom H6 Recorder
This may be a bit specific for my line of work, but I find the ability to make high-quality recordings on the fly to be absolutely essential. The H6 is both incredibly versatile and powerful. It’s capable recording up to six separate channels at the same time. I’ve used it to capture everything from interviews to jam sessions to recording notes to myself, and the quality is definitely pro-level.
Sennheiser Momentum 2 Over-Ear Headphones
When you have to work on the road, sometimes you need to be able to shut out the chaos around you. Personally, I don’t care for sound cancelling headphones as they suck a lot of power and they don't always work well. Instead, I went for The Momentum Over-Ear headphones. They’re comfortable enough that I can wear them for hours at a time without getting sore, and they produce luscious sound that drowns out the surrounding clatter.
Evernote Premium App
Paper is your enemy when you’re on the road. You’re always getting advice on places to go and people to see, which you want to write down. You pick up business cards. You want to record thoughts on the fly. Evernote let’s you do all of that and sync it across all of your devices. The premium version lets you digitize business cards, see previous versions of notes, and makes attachments searchable.
Sony A7s II Camera
After using this remarkable mirrorless camera for a month I sold my beloved Canon dSLR. The A7s mark II is nicely compact without sacrificing ergonomics, but more importantly it’s an absolute beast in low light. I haven’t carried a flash all year because its noise-levels are so low. Check out some of the Milky Way shots I’ve been able to grab with it. It also shoots gorgeous, professional-looking video.
Keen Glenhaven Shoes
When you’re traveling you want to eliminate redundancy wherever possible. When I found the new Keen Glenhavens I got rid of several other pairs. They’re incredibly comfortable, with wide toe-boxes and almost no drop, they slip right on and their bungee laces keep them nice and snug, and most importantly, they are the perfect blend of casual and attractive. I where these when exploring new cities, going to business meetings, doing on-camera interviews, and even for dates. They’re simply the best all-around shoes I’ve ever owned.
Brent Rose is a freelance writer, actor, and filmmaker. Check out his year in a van at connectedstates.com. You can also follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and at brentrose.com.