Since my wife got a nursing job in Stockton, I’ve drastically increased the time I spend working while traveling, in coffee shops or hotels where I don’t have my typical desk and monitor setup. Since I get a ton of compliments and questions about it when I’m working from Starbucks all day, I thought I’d share my ultimate mobile workstation guide.
My main requirements:
- Allow me to get a lot of work done, be comfortable, and have good posture. Replicating my in-office experience as much as possible.
- Easy to transport in my backpack
Laptop Stand: Why? Because hunching over a laptop screen is terrible for you. The trick is finding something that’s portable and comes as close to replacing a monitor as possible.
- Best option: The Roost Stand. (~$75). It folds up extremely small and is incredibly lightweight. It also has a really great elevation height – higher than any other stand I’ve seen (but not too tall). Definitely worth the money if you work on the road a lot. It has a unique way to hold the laptop firmly.
- Cheaper option: Griffin Technology GC16034 Elevator Laptop Stand (~$32). I used this at first and it works well and is collapsable into 3 pieces. Compared to The Roost, this stand does make it faster to quickly lift your laptop from it since it’s a simple platform. But it does take up a fair amount of backpack space and isn’t super lightweight, nor is the height quite as tall as I would have liked. So for me, The Roost was a great upgrade.
Keyboard: I use and am very happy with Apple’s Bluetooth Keyboard (~$64). Looks nice, works great once it’s paired once, and is very slim. There are also cheaper options that probably work just as well. Just be sure to get a small one (no number keypad) so it doesn’t take up much backpack room. At my office and home desk I like USB keyboards, but while traveling having fewer wires (via Bluetooth) is a big plus.
Mouse: At work, at home, or while traveling I always use a Logitech Wireless Performance Mouse MX for PC and Mac (~$60). I’ve tried a lot of wireless mice and have happily been using this one for the last couple years. It does have use a tiny Logitech Unifying USB wireless receiver (I had lagging/performance issues with Bluetooth mice).
Headphones: While any headphones can work and simple iPhone earbuds are the most portable, I ultimately got Samsung LEVEL Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones. They aren’t cheap (full price ~$300, though you can often find them cheaper) but I got them for a few reasons:
- Bluetooth. Previously I used simple wired Sennheiser HD-280 PRO Headphones ($87) but mine were falling apart and I liked the idea of not having a big coiled wire hanging off my Starbucks table or getting tangled in my airline seat and being able to run to the bathroom at home without stopping whatever I’m listening to.
- Noise canceling. Actively blocks out background noise from the coffee shop, though this is especially nice for use on airplanes.
- Portable. They come with a nice semi-hard case. It takes up a good bit of room but is nice and protects them from getting ripped in my backpack.
- Sound quality. The Wirecutter recommends the Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones as the best Over-Ear Noise Canceling headphones. But if you do want Bluetooth, my Samsung LEVEL choice is their top pick with Bluetooth.
Standing Desk: It’s good to mix sitting and standing throughout your day. At home I made a cheap standing desk. At work we’ve got Steelcase Series 7 sit/stand desks. But these options won’t work while traveling. Fortunately I’ve noticed that almost every Starbucks I’ve visited has some hightop tables that happen to be at the perfect height for me to stand at. I’ll just alternative every hour or so between standing and sitting. In hotel rooms, I’ve gotten creative with putting my laptop (or laptop stand) on top of various furniture if I want to stand.
Internet: Finding solid internet is crucial. In Stockton, I’ll only work from Starbucks with Wifi powered by Google because those are way faster than the rest.
Power: Whether it’s at an airport, coffee shop, or conference, there’s one little trick that allows me to almost always have access to power outlets, even if it looks like they are all full. I simply keep this little power outlet splitter cube in my backpack. Then even if an outlet is full, I can plug in to create an extra outlet for myself, the original plug, plus an extra free slot.
Here it is…