We’ve all seen the landman that walks into the courthouse and starts unpacking a back page full of gear, taking up far more room than necessary to get all his gadgets set up. This is by no means a comprehensive guide of what to keep in your bag, just an overview of the essentials that I have found make my job easier. Over the years I have gone through a couple of different work bags, alternating between the “carry all the gear you could ever need” and “carry only what you need” mentality. Regardless of which mentality I walk out the door with, I always have a couple of standard items in my bag.
We have all been through the trip to Walmart/Target/Office Max where you have one specific item that you need, but end up finding tons of things that you MIGHT need at some point. Those things will probably end up in your gear bag, suitcase, on your desk, and eventually in a drawer or box somewhere waiting to be thrown out. Every once in awhile you come across something that works great for a specific task or purpose, and it becomes part of your regular gear bag. Everything I have listed below falls into that category for me. Some people can get their work done with just a legal pad and a pen, others carry a backpack full of everything you need to survive the Zombiepocalypse. Our workflows and the tools we use are all different even if we are doing the same job.
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Bag & Laptop
- Current bag: Hartmann soft briefcase that I got from a Hartmann store many years ago. I cannot locate this bag for sale anywhere online or I would provide a link, because it has held up remarkably well to every day use and travel around the world as well. Having a smaller sized bag helps me to keep my gear limited to the actual essentials, but there are enough pockets in this bag to stuff far more gear than I would need on a day to day basis.
- Laptop: currently a 2016 13in MacBook Pro (16gb RAM and 500gb SSD), I have been a “Mac guy” since college and I absolutely prefer using MacOS over Windows. There are occasions that I have to use Windows however (NetDeedPlotter, ArcGIS, Microsoft Access, Forms-On-A-Disk) so I always have a Bootcamp partition installed on my Mac. That allows me to boot into Windows when necessary, although Windows always gets pissy when I do that (f’n updates, STOP THE MADNESS), and I also have Parallels Desktop for when it’s only a quick trip to Windows hell. Anything else that I need to use for work can be done just fine on a Mac. I recently had to get the keyboard replaced on this machine due to a broken spacebar, which is covered under the Apple Keyboard Replacement Program. If you are in the market for a new MacBook I would recommend waiting until they release a redesigned model that does not have a keyboard with the butterfly mechanisms. If you are needing to purchase a new computer now, I would recommend looking at Apple refurbished ones first, and if that does not meet your needs you should check out Amazon’s listings. Apple MacBook Pro (13″ Retina, Touch Bar, 2.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD) – Space Gray (Latest Model)
- Charging cables: (always have a backup too), any brand works and they will all wear out or break eventually, but Anker is my brand of choice for any cables I need. They have good product guarantees and are always among the cheapest brand you can find.
- Battery packs: Most times I carry the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD ($130) and know that no matter what I need to charge, it has me covered. The thing can give me a couple of extra hours on my MacBook Pro or can give me literally days of charges for my phone. This battery is also TSA compliant (yes that’s a thing now) and can fast charge most newer Apple or Android products when using the proper cables. We gave this battery to my father in law for Christmas last year because he also uses a 13in MacBook Pro for photo editing and frequently travels, he swears by this battery for being able to get photos touched up while he’s on airplanes or sitting in airports.
- ****On occasion I will also have a smaller capacity battery pack if I might need to be more mobile, for that reason I love the Jackery Bolt 6000mAh battery ($30) because it has built in cables for both Apple and (older) Android devices. Anyone with an Android phone that uses USB C will need to look elsewhere, because the cable on this is Micro USB. It works great and is small enough that I can stick it in a jacket pocket (or the wife’s purse if she’s not paying attention).
- Phones: iPhone XS on Verizon and Pixel 3A on GoogleFi. The iPhone is my personal and main line, unlimited data (costs a f’n fortune) and the Pixel is my strictly business line. It’s common for me to be in areas where Verizon does not have service, and since GoogleFi automatically switches between Sprint/T-Mobile/US Cellular, I have a good chance of getting SOME service if there is any to be found at all. Add the cell phone booster in my truck and I can stay connected most of the time. I usually have my iPhone in an Apple Smart Battery Case when I am on the road, so that I know I won’t have to plug it in to charge no matter how many photos or phone calls I happen to take/make. (Some of the photos of my iPhone have an inadvertent shoutout to @dog_feelings which is absolutely worth a follow on Twitter)
- Headphones: These days I’m rocking Apple Airpods ($145), because they are great and that’s what everyone else is using anyways…being able to use one AirPod while on the phone has become part of my regular workflow. The charging case keeps these charged for a couple of days with intermittent use, and since it uses the same lightning charging cable as my other iOS devices I always have a cable on hand to top off the battery.
- USB flash drives: of various capacities and file formats, if your computer has USB C I would recommend this 128gb flash drive on Amazon that has USB C and USB A for $23, it will make things much easier when you have to move a file to someone else’s computer that does not have USB C.
- Portable SSD(s): Currently I have two portable SSDs, and I try not to have both of them in my bag at the same time so that there is (some) redundancy in my backups. I attempt to be diligent with my backup procedure but it honestly is hit or miss. Copying all of my photo library, my downloads and documents folders, and backing up my work files takes about 30 minutes and I have a recurring alarm set on my calendar to do it once a week…but we all know how that goes, right? Both of the drives I carry are USB C (faster transfer speeds), the first is a 500gb Samsung T5 drive for $90 and also a 1tb G-Technology SSD drive for $195 which is large enough for me to keep multiple backups for additional redundancy. Data hoarding is something I will admit too…I hate deleting files unless I am certain that I have a backup somewhere, because a week after you delete it, for some reason you’re going to need it.
- Since my MacBook Pro only has USB C connections I have carried a lot of dongles, adapters, and other cables to ensure I can plug in whatever peripherals I need for work. Then I bought a USB C hub ($45) that has all the connections I need (3 usb a ports, ethernet, hdmi, sd card reader, and a usb c power delivery port) and cut down on all the small connectors/dongles/cables in my gear back.
- Smart Tracker: Because, as you can see, I have a lot of tech in my bag, I like to make sure it doesn’t walk off without me when I happen to be off making copies or in the other room pulling a book. Since my phone stays with me most of the time, using a Tile smart tracker helps me to make sure my bag doesn’t disappear as I’m preoccupied.
- Travel Journal: I always have one of these in my truck, in my gear bag, on my desk, and sometimes in my back pocket. Keeping one on hand makes sure that I don’t miss details when I get a call from a landowner or colleague and they need to keep things brief. My wife gets irritated that I have so many of these laying around, but keeping track of details is part of the job.
- Notepad: Essential landman gear no matter how old school you are (yellow, legal is preferable but I have accumulated a large backlog of regular letter sized pads that I routinely try to go through). These can be recycled for new projects (rip out the pages that went to the old project, save them if you want…I usually don’t). Amazon has 12 packs of yellow legal pads for $10 if you need to restock.
- Pens: You can’t write anything without a pen, and having a nice pen can make your days a hell of a lot easier to get through. The cheap erasable pens write like crap, so do yourself a favor and have at least one nice pen in your gear bag. Your writing hand will thank you. My personal favorite (which you can find at most grocery stores, dollar stores, etc is the Pilot Dr. Grip Gel pen. It holds well in my (big) hands and writes consistently, plus it has a solid click if you’re a habitual fidgeter.
- Checkbook: because most County Clerks offices still don’t accept plastic and I don’t always have cash on hand.
- Legal sized file carrier: This is absolutely essential gear for any landman. It keeps documents safe, organized, and can hold your notary book and stamp so you always have them handy. I cannot remember where I found this originally, it’s seen a lot of miles and is still somewhat functional. I think I found it in a Staples back in 2010. The chew marks give it character and remind me of when my dog was just a puppy, but the pull tight fasteners have lost all of their elasticity and barely function at this point. It still serves its purpose though.
- Alcohol swabs: Great for keeping your keyboard, screens, and other gear clean, especially after eating some really greasy BBQ for lunch…
If you would like to see more Landman gear guides, let us know. Also we would love to hear what is in your gear bag, join the forums and tell us about it.