Travel, devices, and cables

I was on a business trip in Philadelphia this week. I arrived Monday evening and while I was taking out my contact lenses for the night, I tore one of them. No problem. I always have a spare set of contacts in my shaving kit because I’m a careful planner and forward thinker.

Then I started to remove my Apple Watch, and my opinion of myself took a sudden turn. I realized I hadn’t brought the watch’s charger with me because I’m a terrible planner and worthless thinker.

In my defense, this was my first trip after buying the watch a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t yet established good habits for traveling with it. I have, however, ordered a spare charging cable, so this won’t happen again.

Over the years, I’ve developed a set of charging accessories for travel that tries to strike a balance between simplicity and comprehensiveness. One compartment of my backpack contains

  1. A 5W Apple charger (the little cube that came with one of my iPhones).
  2. A 10W Apple charger (the bigger one with the flip-out prongs that came with my iPad Pro).
  3. Lightning cables in 4-inch, 3-foot, and 6-foot lengths.
  4. A Jackery 6000mAH battery.
  5. A 21-inch micro-USB cable that came with some device I don’t remember.

All of the cables are USB A at the other end. I’m in the lucky position of not having to support both USB A and USB C.

I bought the Jackery 3–4 years ago, and although it doesn’t have as much oomph as it used to, it still gets me through long days stuck in an airport when my iPhone use—either directly or as my iPad’s tethering connection—goes way up. The 4-inch Lightning cable was bought mainly to use with the Jackery; it’s a convenient length when the phone is charging in my jacket pocket or backpack.

I bought a 10-foot Lightning cable a couple of years ago, thinking it would be handy to reach those out-of-the-way hotel outlets. But it wasn’t one of my better purchases. It takes up a lot of space and is so thick—both the cable itself and the Lightning end fitting—that it’s too stiff and clumsy to use comfortably with the phone. This surprised me, as the 3- and 6-foot cables (top and middle in the photo below) are much closer in thickness.

Amazon 3-ft, 6-ft, and 10-ft lightning cables

Maybe a braided cable would be a better choice. In any event, the 10-footer has been relegated to occasional use at home to charge the iPad when it’s being used as a laptop proxy.

The micro-USB cable is there to recharge the Jackery and my Kindle, although I can’t remember ever needing to charge the Kindle during a trip.

I buy only white Lightning cables to make them easy to distinguish from the micro-USB, which is black. I decided to go this way a few years ago after buying a black Lightning cable and getting it confused with the micro-USB almost every time I tried to pull it out of the pouch. I suppose it would be even smarter to color code the different Lightning cable lengths, but I haven’t gone that far.

Adding an Apple Watch to the mix means it’s time to switch from individual wall warts to a multiport charger. That, too, was part of the order when I returned from Philadelphia.

By the way, my watch made it through the trip without dying, from about 6:30 AM on Monday to 9:30 PM on Wednesday without a charge and without switching to Power Reserve. I can’t say it got heavy use during this trip, as I was under the weather and did no formal exercising those three days (breaking my streak of completed rings). Still, that’s 63 hours, which is much better than I expected.