If you have a daily commute or you ever travel – on business or for pleasure – you ought to review the following list. Over the years, mostly by discovering I didn’t have something with me in an emergency, I’ve added eleven essential items to my backpack that I absolutely will not leave home without. All of these items are readily available, so adding them to your briefcase, backpack or daily bag should be easy…

1. First of all, I carry an emergency medical kit: a quart ziplock bag containing the following: a small bottle containing 3-4 days worth of the prescription med I take each day, 20 aspirin or so, a few Pepcid AC®, some multivitamins, Benadryl®, and a couple of decongestants. In addition, I always have a few band aids and a styptic pencil in the bag. A styptic pencil, if you’re not familiar with it, is a small stick which contains aluminum sulfate or titanium dioxide and which will stop a small cut from bleeding, should you nick yourself shaving or get a nasty paper cut. You can find them in the shaving section at your drugstore; they cost less than $2. In addition, as a contact lens wearer, I always have an extra set of lenses in this bag as well. I don’t bother with a toothbrush or toothpaste, as hotels will typically have emergency toiletries available, should you be stranded.

2. Have you ever sat near a screaming infant on a plane? Don’t leave home without a couple pair of disposable foam earplugs, noise canceling headphones, or your ear buds and iPod. You can buy 7 pair of foam earplugs for ~$3.99 at Walgreens or CVS.

3. Emergency cell phone charger: pick up an inexpensive cell phone charger in case you forget your AC charger or are stranded somewhere. Click on this link for a CNET article about 3 different types of emergency chargers.

4. Ever lost your wallet? If you’re traveling, the pain of losing your wallet is multiplied many times. There are a few ways you can still have your critical data. My approach: I composed a simple email with my driver’s license number, credit card numbers, and the 24 hour emergency contact numbers for the credit cards and emailed it to myself. In Gmail, I applied a label and archived the email. When needed, I can access these emails with my Blackberry. In addition, I scanned my driver’s license and medical coverage card and emailed them to myself as well, and again archived them. Of course you should encrypt such emails before sending. Another alternative is to save this data as an entry in your address book in your phone. The advantage of the scan of my driver’s license is that in an emergency I could at least show the scan to a TSA agent or law officer. (Incidentally, you do not need to have a photo ID with you in order to board a plane… see this post from Tim Ferriss.)

A second alternative is to photocopy this information and carry photocopies in your bag. Of course should you somehow lose your bag, you’ve got a hard copy of your data in someone else’s hands.

Finally, you could photocopy the data and have a friend, your spouse, or S.O. keep it and you could call them in an emergency. In any event, plan ahead in whatever way you prefer, should you lose your wallet or purse while on the road.

5 & 6. I carry an extra pair of reading glasses and a cheap pair of sunglasses in my bag… if you’ve ever lost or broken your reading glasses while on a trip or forgotten to bring your sunglasses when traveling to a sunny locale for a day or two, you can appreciate how important this is.

7. There’s something to be said for planning for the worst, and for that reason I pack a small disposable digital camera. If you’re ever in a car accident and need to document what happened, one of these inexpensive cameras will enable you to do so. On a more positive note, if you’re presented with a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity and didn’t pack your regular camera, you’re covered. (Disposable film cameras with flash retail for as little as $6.99, and will work just fine for this purpose.)

8. Back to being stranded somewhere, I pack a pair of Wickers® underwear and a pair of Polartec® socks (any will do, of course) in a ziplock bag. Put them in the bag, press all the air out, zip it shut, and you at least have a change of underwear should you be stranded with your checked baggage unavailable. With all the air forced out, this takes up very little space in my bag. I’m suggesting high tech, moisture-wicking products because they’re easy to wash out and dry quickly should you be stuck somewhere for more than just one night.

9. Energy bars. I always have a few Clif bars or Kashi bars in my bag. If you have an early flight or are delayed somewhere, you’ll have a good snack available.

10. Perhaps betraying my age here, but for the last couple of years I’ve carried a credit card-sized magnifier which has come in extremely handy when trying to read tiny type, instruction sheets, and the like. Although this isn’t the exact one I’m using, it’ll give you a good idea of what I’m talking about. <$10.

11. Finally: 5 $20 bills in a zippered compartment in my backpack. Ya never know when you might need some cash in an emergency.

That’s my list… feel free to comment or share those items you always have in your daily bag or briefcase! If you enjoyed this article, please Digg it and/or subscribe to my blog by clicking the RSS Feed button at the top of this page! Thanks!!

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26 Comments on 11 essential things you need to carry in your briefcase / daily bag

  1. Tony says:

    Instead of just emailing yourself the numbers, attach a PDF of the cards. That way you can print them on a possibly available printer. Also handy for when something like PayPal goes on a tangent and wants your ID as proof for something.


  2. skyline85 says:

    I carry many of the things you mention, but never thought about credit card information… thanks. Also – how about carrying an extra drivers license – is it possible to get a second license from DMV – by saying you lost your license?


    nineballer33 Reply:

    Usually you can go to the DMV and just ask for a duplicate. It’ll cost you a small amount of cash but still, easier than making up a lie. Not too mention asking for a duplicate keeps the information the same as the original card (such as photo, expiration date, etc.)


  3. kktimes says:

    I email my bank and credit card to myself too, to be accessed from anywhere there’s a network. I also save some info on my husband’s cell. I did not think of a magnifier but that one thing I could do with too:), and also a spare pair of reading glasses and a second battery charger. Nice, useful list, just happened on it by chance and then read it carefully, point by point.


  4. kc says:

    @Tony: good idea; thanks.
    @Skyline: in our state (NE) you apparently CAN get a duplicate driver’s license – according to the DMV web site. Great idea!! I’ll double check with our local DMV office tomorrow to make sure it’d be a true duplicate. If not, you could still use the old license for boarding planes.
    @kk: Thanks for your comments!


    PS: One other item I didn’t mention is anti-bacterial lotion or wipes. These wipes are readily available on the internet, and if you’re traveling by air, you won’t have to bother with TSA/ziplock bag hassle as they’re in foil packets:


  5. Wrkout31 says:

    One thing I always carry with me is an inexpensive, very small flashlight. Great post – thanks.


  6. kc says:

    3/24/08 Update: In Nebraska, for what it’s worth, you CAN report that you’ve lost your driver’s license and get a duplicate for $11.25 Your driver’s license number remains unchanged… so in theory you could get another license and store that in your daily bag. It’d get you on a plane, and if you’d lost your wallet, let you rent a car, assuming the rental company will accept your credit card number verbally – and why wouldn’t they??


  7. […] for all those unexpected situations. Kevin Connolly has done the homework for you and lists the eleven fundamental things to pack for your daily adventure in Businessland. He covers medical must-haves, tech requirements (cell […]

  8. […] with documents, and the 11 essential items that are always in my daily bag – described in this recent post. I can always fit a few ties in the bag, should the trip require them. Packed as shown here, it […]

  9. I just about described the contents of my briefcase. First-aid kit, medical supplies, reading glasses, important information (encrypted on USB), energy bars, cash. Everything but the underwear and socks.

    I understand the socks. I even have the perfect pair, a silk and wool blend, thin and warm, but I can’t think of a situation where I’d need spare underwear and not spare pants…



  10. kc says:

    Eric – thanks for your comment. The socks/underwear is a holdover from the days when I’d check luggage. If stranded somewhere, a change of socks and underwear comes in pretty handy.


  11. […] for all those unexpected situations. Kevin Connolly has done the homework for you and lists the eleven fundamental things to pack for your daily adventure in Businessland. He covers medical must-haves, tech requirements (cell […]

  12. […] If it’s a workday and I’m returning home at the end of the day, I do keep a house key on the removable tab in the backpack that serves as my daily bag: […]

  13. […] Posts A minimalist approach to packing for a short business trip 11 essential things you need to carry in your briefcase / daily bagA 12 step program for curing your Outlook In Box addictionAce your second interview!!Achieve a show […]

  14. […] is the counterpart to my post “11 essential things you need to carry in your briefcase / daily bag,” which was published on March 22nd of this […]

  15. […] for all those unexpected situations. Kevin Connolly has done the homework for you and lists the eleven essential things to pack for your daily adventure in Businessland. He covers medical must-haves, tech requirements (cell […]

  16. […] hasn’t been an issue. I’m able to carry everything I need in it, including the “11 essential things” I’ve written about in the past.  The CPA is $10 more than the […]

  17. Glenn says:

    Purchase Roboform which allows one password to access all your passwords at every website you log into regularly.

    Roboform also allows you to store notes. It uses encryption at various rates depending on the length etc of the password you use to protect roboform (128, 192, or 256 bit).

    So one could put their private information on their own computer device and in my opinion it would not be located on someone else’s server. If the laptop is stolen it would be very difficult for someone to break it unless they are a government agency :>)

    Roboform can also be purchased for a USB as well as your windows program.


  18. Michael W. says:

    I often carry an old driver’s license for back-up i.d.

    You didn’t mention a water bottle – odd. Even if you can’t keep in full through airport security, you can refill it and it beats trying to suck water out of those miserable water fountains.

    Some aspirin for self-medicating the early stages of a stroke, until 911 can get you to a stroke center. You mentioned aspirin, but most readers will assume it is for a headache.

    Krazy Glue or medical adhesive to close large cuts or gashes. Better than butterfly bandages. There is also a commercially available coagulant made from shrimp shells (IIRC) that can stop major bleeding, but that’s a stretch. Good old fashioned pressure on the wound is probably sufficient.

    I always carry lip balm and sometimes a hotel sample size hand lotion. I’ve had chapped lips all my life and my hands tend to get dry and chapped too.

    Those “floss sticks” are pretty useful. I’d rank them up there with a change of socks and underwear in case of an emergency overnight stay. An acceptable toothbrush is usually easy to purchase or part of a hotel’s amenities. Floss that works for you, is harder to find.


  19. Deepak says:

    Very nice post Mr. Kevin. its a all in one bag, full of all the useful things. thanks.

    Thanks & Regards
    Country – India


  20. Pako says:

    Now days everyone writes down stuff on their cellphone or palms, but nothing like the old way, but you need paper and a pen… maybe you can carry a little notebook to write down stuff.


  21. Till says:

    Sounds like a bug out bag more than a briefcase. In that case a flashlight and pocket knife would be necessary, too. You are more likely to need those than the first aid kit.

    I carry some paper clips, some clips for closing large envelopes, rubber bands, thumb tacks, stamps in a little case. Have often used those.

    I also have a set of Wisp toothbrushes in there. You never know when you go to a spicy restaurant while still meeting people afterwards.

    Of course, a back-up USB stick resides in my bag, too.


  22. David says:

    I carry on me, at all times, the following:
    1) peanut Lighter
    2) mini maglight
    3) swiss blade army knife
    4) sharpie mini marker
    5) mini widgy pry bar
    6) whistle

    These items are secured by attaching them to an aircraft mechanic’s key ring. Along with these items I also carry a fresnal magnifier lens, folded dust mask and 2yds of duct tape, and a folded plastic water carrier. It all folds up very nicely with a rubber band keeping it together. The most important item I carry though, my Benchmade Griptilian folding knife. There is no tool more important and versatile to carry than a high quality knife.

    Most of these items, and similar, can be found at;


  23. -Keys
    -Granola bar
    -small notebook
    -Business Cards
    -Water Bottle
    -Flash Drive


  24. Donna Trump says:

    I accidentally broke one of the earpieces off the metal frame of my glasses recently, which meant I faced having to spend several hundred dollars on a new frame and lenses (progressives – not cheap). Instead, I found a cheap way to repair the break. I spent a few dollars at Home Depot on a package of electrician’s polyolefin heat-shrink tubing. These are black polymer tubes used as shrink-wrapped insulation on spliced wires. I slid 2 layers of tubing (3/16″ and 1/4″) over the broken earpiece hinge and shrink-wrapped my glasses back together with my lighter. This worked well – as the frames are dark, the repair is not very noticeable. The earpiece hinge no longer bends, though.

    If you wear glasses, these little polymer tubes (and a lighter) are very useful to keep on hand.


  25. […] I read a related and interesting article on the 11 essential things to carry in your briefcase. Lots of good ideas, that maybe everyone has not thought of. Medical kit, ear plugs, cell phone […]

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