As a creative person, you probably carry a sketchpad and pens or pencils with you everywhere. Aside from these key analog tools, there are a variety of gadgets small enough to take with you everywhere that boost your creativity and productivity and make life a little easier.
1. Laptop or Tablet
It goes without saying that you’ll want to carry your phone with you at all times, so we’re not including it as an item on this list. But you’ll also probably want a small laptop or tablet.
Ideal choices include the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro. Cost, weight, and OS are all key to your decision making.
Without the keyboard, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 weighs only 1.7 pounds, and with the keyboard, it’s 2.4 pounds. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $799, with deals from Microsoft saving you up to $200. Rumor has it though that the savings signal a Microsoft Surface Pro 5 is on the way.
If you’ve settled on the Apple iPad Pro, you can choose between the 9.7″ and 12.9″ models. The 9.7″ iPad pro weighs up to 1.0 pounds and starts at $599, while the 12.9″ weighs up to 1.6 pounds and starts at $799.
2. Digital Camera
You might be satisfied with the camera on your phone, but a small mirrorless camera won’t add much weight to your bag and will add some really handy manual settings for total control over your photos. Carrying a good quality camera will allow you to capture moments you don’t want to forget, with the ability to capture it the way you see it.
Fuji, Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic all offer popular mirrorless cameras. You can choose between a camera with a lens system or without. Going for a camera without a lens system will be more affordable, and you probably don’t want to weigh your bag down with additional lenses.
Check out the video below on how mirrorless cameras differ from DSLRs:
Another option is to go the point-and-shoot route. Many of these cameras are much more affordable, but won’t give you as much manual control.
3. Instant Camera
If you’d prefer to go old-school, rather than carry a digital camera, you could go for an instant camera. Creatives might appreciate the physical photo they can hold in their hands rather than yet another digital shot.
Fuji has an extensive line of instant cameras and instant printers:
As is to be expected, Polaroid also offers instant cameras and printers in its current lineup, but Fuji’s offerings are definitely more varied both in prices and specs.
If you want more control, both Polaroid and Fuji offer small portable printers. The Polaroid Zip prints 2 x 3-inch images while Fuji’s SP-2 prints out small 1.8 x 2.4-inch images and uses the same film as the Fuji Instax cameras
4. Card Reader
To get the digital photos to your laptop, tablet, or phone — you’re going to need some sort of card reader. A basic SD card reader is perfect for anyone who is carrying their laptop around with them.
Or a wireless SD card is useful if you’re looking to cut back on the number of cables in your bag. If you’d prefer to edit or share your images on your iPad or iPhone, you can use Apple’s Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader. Most Android phones have a Micro SD slot, so you could just be sure to use a microSD card with an SD card adapter. Alternatively, you can use a card reader like the $9 BasAcc MicroUSB Card Reader.
5. USB Flash Drive
A USB flash drive or small external hard drive is extremely useful to make sure that you don’t run out of space on your laptop. This is particularly necessary if your creative drive has pushed you in the direction of graphic design, photography, or video.
As a creative person, your creativity will probably extend to your gadgets — even the lowly USB flash drive. A popular option among creatives is the 4 GB Pantone Chip Drive, which comes in seven Pantone colors.
But don’t rely just on your physical external drive to backup your work. We would definitely recommend saving your work in two places with cloud storage serving as a great backup option.
6. Wacom Intuos Draw
If you’re an illustrator or graphic designer, you probably already have a Wacom tablet, but they tend to be unwieldy and aren’t suited to a mobile lifestyle. Wacom Intuous has a line of small pen tablets: the Intuos Draw, Art, Photo, and Comic.
If you’re wondering which one is right for you, check out this video:
7. Bluetooth Mouse
Your Wacom Tablet can replace the need for a mouse, but if you’re not a graphic designer or illustrator, you won’t need one. Instead, a decent mouse to accompany your laptop will come in handy.
You can either opt for a small travel mouse that won’t take up too much space in your bag or if you don’t mind the larger size, a trackball mouse can offer a more comfortable experience.
If you’re a Mac user, you might find that OS X works better with your laptop’s trackpad and you can put that money you would spend on a mouse toward something else.
8. Bluetooth or Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Regular wired earphones that come with your phone are perfectly fine, but if you tend to work in public places noise-cancelling headphones can come in handy. If your priority is to have something to listen to while you’re on the move, Bluetooth headphones can be a lot more comfortable.
You don’t have to break the bank with either. You can purchase affordable noise-cancelling headphones for as little as around $50.
Check out this list of affordable noise-cancelling headphones to choose from.
If you want to go the Bluetooth route, check out this list of four Bluetooth headphones with good battery life. If you’re looking for more variety, check out this list of best Bluetooth headphones in 2016.
9. Portable Charger
With all those gadgets in your bag, you’re going to want a way to keep them all charged. There’s a huge selection of power banks to choose from.
If this is something you’ll probably be carrying around with multiple other gadgets, you’ll want something light. And you want to charge several devices at once, you’ll want it to have multiple ports.
The RAVPower 22000mAh (UK) is a third option which can charge multiple devices and comes with three ports. It can charge your phones up to nine times and your tablets up to three times. It comes in white and black and costs $35 on Amazon.
10. Cable Organizer
All these gadgets come with a whole lot of cables. While you can keep your cables at a minimum by sticking to a single brand, you’re still going to need to keep them all organized. While technically not a gadget, a cable organizer is a must-have gadget companion.
The Tech Dopp Kit is by no means a cheap option at $249 but it’s gorgeous. Made of handcrafted leather, you can fit charging cables, adapters, headphones, and other tech accessories.
11. Portable Scanner
If you’re in the business of selling prints or digital downloads of your artwork, a portable scanner can be a very handy tool. The Doxie Flip is a cordless scanner weighing a little over 1 pound that uses two AA batteries.
It can only scan items up to 4 x 6 inches, but at a quality of 300 or 600 dpi. The supported file formats are JPG, PNG, and PDF. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support TIFF.
To use the Doxie Flip you don’t actually need a computer to scan images — you can scan straight to an SD card. Couple that with an SD card reader, and you can send your sketches or drawings on the go without having to carry a laptop around. The Doxie Flip sells for around $140/£120.
12. USB Hub
Between your camera, phone, battery charger, SD reader, Bluetooth mouse, external hard drive, and any other gadgets you might have that require the use of a USB port, you probably don’t have enough USB slots on your computer. An easy fix for that is a USB hub.
The USB hub can be used to charge your gadgets and to transfer data between your computer and external hard drives or SD cards. The Anker 10 port USB hub (UK) will set you back about $40 and includes three 2.1-amp power ports for fast-charging of large devices like an iPad.
What Are Your Must-Carry Items?
The cost of this full list of gadgets can really add up, and in many cases, you might have to be selective as to which items are essential to you, your life, and your career. A portable scanner, for example, won’t be a priority for all creatives. A portable charger, on the other hand, is an affordable gadget and one that will come in handy for all creative types ensuring you can say connected and productive all day.
Which items on this list are your must-haves and what else would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.