Written by

Chris Gonzales


Astrid Paramita

When people think about writing, they often envision sitting at a stationary desk somewhere, or at best, lugging a laptop back and forth between home and their favorite coffee shop. While there’s nothing wrong with that, writing is a far more portable activity than many realize.

With this guide, we hope to help you assemble a writing kit you can take anywhere, without hindering your travels.

[A note on the photo above: Yes, the iPad and keyboard pictured are older models not even mentioned in this guide. Back in February 2013, I asked Astrid Paramita if I could use her photo for an iPad writing guide I was working on. That guide didn’t materialize until much later and in a very different form, but I still like the image and thought I would use it for today’s guide. Sorry I’m so late Astrid! —Chris]

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The iPad Air 2. ($499–$829, based on storage and connectivity)

The iPad Air 2. ($499–$829, based on storage and connectivity)

The iPad Air 2 »

As we said in our recent guide to writing with an iPad, the iPad Air 2 offers a mobile writing experience that is at once simpler, lighter, and more focused than the relatively clunky setups of yesteryear. The lightness factor is key here. Even the 12″ MacBook, the lightest of Apple’s Mac lineup, cannot compete with our current favorite iPad setup (we’ll discuss the keyboard more specifically in a bit):

Of course, you could go even lighter with an iPad mini 4, which tops out at a ridiculous o.67lb. Our only problem with this is that the writing experience feels a bit too cramped. YMMV.

Interestingly, the larger iPad Pro, coming next month, will clock in at only 1.59lb for the Wi-Fi + cellular model. We imagine that when combined with an external keyboard, it will likely be on par with the MacBook Air 13″ weight-wise.

Belkin's QODE Ultimate Pro keyboard case for iPad. ($115)

Belkin’s QODE Ultimate Pro keyboard case for iPad. ($115)

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro iPad Keyboard Case »

Belkin’s QODE Pro is the Cadillac of iPad keyboards. It comes with a shell for the iPad to clip into that works in conjunction with the keyboard itself. When you’re done working, simply pull the iPad away from the magnets in the base and supporting piece in the back, and the keyboard will stay behind, leaving the iPad in a thin rubbery case.

The case can support the iPad Air 2 in landscape or portrait and has two angles of viewing. Out of all the keyboard cases we’ve tested, the iPad feels the most secure in the Qode Ultimate Pro.

The keyboard itself is outstanding. It’s backlit (yes, you read that right!) with three levels of brightness. The keys themselves are slightly rounded and feel great, even after extended periods of typing. All of the function keys you could want are present, but our one quibble is that the Siri key is inline with fn, option and cmd, making it easy to hit accidentally.

Apps and Music for Writing

Bang & Olufsen's BeoPlay H6 headphones. ($388 for natural leather, $338 for black)

Bang & Olufsen’s BeoPlay H6 headphones. ($388 for natural leather, $338 for black)

B&O BeoPlay H6 Over-Ear Headphones »

If you’re going to listen to any of the writing music mentioned above — or, heck, even if you want to procrastinate from writing by listening to podcasts, I’m not judging — you’d have a hard time finding a better way to listen than with the B&O H6 headphones.

These over-ear cans are not only lightweight, surpremely stylish, and surprisingly comfortable (even for those of us who wear glasses), they also sound great without being overly boomy. They isolate sound well too, not in a noise-cancelling fashion but in an “I’m not disturbed much by outside noises and I’m thankfully not disturbing anyone around me with my music either” kind of way.

Other nifty features:

  1. The headphones fold flat for easy stowing while traveling.
  2. The replacable cable (with in-line clicker controls) can conveniently be inserted into either side. Lefties rejoice! And as Marco Arment adds in his closed+portable headphone mega-review, “Another headphone can even be daisy-chained to the unused side if it has a cable that fits.”

Ugmonk's waxed canvas messenger bag. ($235)

Ugmonk’s waxed canvas messenger bag. ($235)

Ugmonk Waxed Canvas Messenger Bag »

We recommend Ugmonk’s waxed canvas messenger bags a lot around here, and for good reason — they’re stylish, water-resistant, and roomy enough to accomodate all your portable writing gear.

Each 14oz waxed canvas bag is lined with 500 denier Cordura nylon and sports premium, full-grain leather straps and nickel-plated hardware/rivets. The shoulder strap is removable, so you have the option of wearing the bag over your shoulder or carrying it by the top handle. There are several interior pockets throughout (including a 15.4″ compartment for an iPad or laptop), plus front and back exterior pockets for easy document access.

Comes in four colors: navy, black, charcoal (sold out as of this writing), and army.

Baron Fig's Confidant notebook. ($16)

Baron Fig’s Confidant notebook. ($16)

Baron Fig Confidant Journal »

The dot-grid Confidant by Baron Fig, in our humble opinion, is just about the best journal notebook on the planet. It’s exactly the right size, has exactly the right type of paper, and is very well made. Whether it’s to record our travels or jot down ideas that strike, we never leave home without one in our bag.

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm gel pen. ($15 for pack of 10)

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm gel pen. ($15 for pack of 10)

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm Gel Pen »

There’s something comforting about having a whole bunch of your favorite pen, reassuring you that if you lose one while traveling (or lend one out to a stranger) it doesn’t matter because they’re cheap and replaceable. For us, we prefer stocking up on the Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm. Its fine, somewhat scratchy tip just feels good to write with, and the ink goes on nice and clean. Also, the balance and weight of the pen feels great in the hand.

Other noteworthy contenders in this space are the Pilot G2 0.38mm, the Zebra Sarasa 0.7mm, and the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.4mm.

Saddleback Leather's passport wallet. ($70)

Saddleback Leather’s passport wallet. ($70)

Saddleback Leather Passport Wallet »

Writers who travel internationally and want a wallet that lasts a lifetime will appreciate Saddleback Leather’s Passport wallet. It holds up to ten cards, along with cash and boarding passes, and has an RFID-shielded inner sleeve that can hold up to four passports (useful for family trips). Fair warning though: this is a large wallet (4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″), better suited for being in your bag than your pocket.