How Do I Put Together A Tech Survival Kit?

Dear Lifehacker, I need to put together a tech survival kit with different cables, adaptors and tools. What should it include, and how can I organise it? Sincerely, Cableless

Dear Cableless,

We've actually looked at the problem of creating a tech essentials backup kit briefly, but never tackled the subject head-on. What goes into your survival kit is going to depend a lot on your needs, but we've got a few suggestions on how to figure it out and a great way to organise it.

What to Put in the Kit

Ultimately you're going to have to figure out what you need, specifically, but there are a few must-have items that belong in the kit.

The Thumb Drive

It probably takes little to convince a Lifehacker reader that they ought to keep a thumb drive with them, but even if you're not a big fan of the stick-shaped disks it's important to have one with you — plus it's tiny, so why not? While sharing files online and over the network is great and really simple, sometimes those things fail you. Having a thumb drive with you at all times means you have a way to easily copy files between machines regardless of the circumstances (unless there's no USB, in which case you're in a very rare and special situation). Just make sure your thumb drive is formatted so it can be read on Windows, OS X, and Linux so you don't have any cross-platform issues. Generally FAT32 will do the trick, so long as you don't need to move any files over 4GB.

Multiple USB Chargers

Nowadays you're likely a user of many USB devices, so you best be ready to charge them all. While one of our favourite USB chargers is the Belkin Mini Surge Protector—as it offers two USB ports and three plugs in a compact form factor — it's still a little bit bulky. Have a couple of USB-based chargers is useful and takes up far less space if you get the right ones. My personal favourite is Amazon's Kindle Charger, which also comes with a micro-USB cable. It's tiny and works with just about any USB device/cable I've tried. The same goes for Apple's USB charger — which is surprisingly cheaper (but don't come with a cable). Whichever route you take, you'll want to have a few USB cables. If you've got an iDevice, you'll want to make sure you have an iPod sync cable, but everyone should have both mini- and micro-USB cables. Short cables are particularly helpful, but if you need a longer cable you might want to try retractable cables instead.

Video Cables and Adaptors

If you hook up your laptop to a monitor and need to go from, say, Mini DisplayPort to DVI, you'll probably want to carry that adaptor around. Or perhaps you need a VGA to DVI adaptor. Whatever the case may be, most of these are pretty small and easy to come by. Figure out what you need and include it in your kit. This can be a lifesaver when you need to suddenly hook up your laptop to a projector. This situation may not come about too often, but when it does you'll be very glad you were prepared.

Other Cables and Tools You Might Need You'll have to figure out what cables you're definitely going to need for your particular situation, but here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Actual video cables, like HDMI, composite, component, etc.
  • A headphone splitter, for when you want to listen to a music or movie along with someone else
  • A stylus for your touchscreen smartphone
  • A backup pair of headphones or a headset for your phone
  • A 1/8-inch stereo audio cable, for plugging your music player or phone into a set of speakers
  • A portable audio recorder, like the Zoom H1 (I use this all the time and it's awesome)

How to Keep the Kit Organised and Ultra-Portable

Organisation is super simple because the best tool for the job is Cocoon's GRID-IT. We took a look at these awhile back, but they're still the best option for organizing a bunch of random stuff in your bag. I use a couple of them for cables, and they're very easy to remove. You can buy them with neoprene sleeves if you need a little extra protection. You can find all shapes and sizes on Amazon, pick them up locally at The Container Store, or get them directly from Cocoon if you want to order them outside of the US (or inside, too).

Hope this helps you get your tech survival kit together!



For those of you who already have some awesome tech survival kits, let's hear about 'em in the comments.


    I guess the kit really needs to be built to suit your needs. I have 2 thumb drives, an encrypted one for data and the other with ubcd4win, ghost and true image setup to boot. The cables I have are crossover, console, and various types of usb cables. I also carry a usb to ide/sata convertor incase I need data from a hard drive from a failed computer. Tools are pretty standard in that I have 2 phillips and flathead screw drivers and a single small star screw driver in case I need to pull apart a blackberry.

    That kit suits me, but its really up to you as to what you'll be using it for EG there is no point in getting a console cable if you don't have access to any devices that use them.

      I second the USB-to-IDE/SATA converter, it's made things so much easier for me. My kit that I can fit in a laptop bag includes:
      -cheap netbook, dualbooting linux and xp
      -usb 3g modem (borrowed from work, but a tethered phone will do)
      -usb to IDE/SATA connector
      -kettle cord, some network cables, usb cable
      -a few boot CDs, an AVG-boot-thumbdrive
      -screwdriver with a whole bunch of different heads
      -a small pencil case of various small adapters I've accumulated. vga to dvi, molex to sata, din to mini-din, a phone line splitter, 3.5mm to dual RCA, serial to VGA...there's a lot I wont ever end up using again, but they take up almost no space.
      -metre of phone cable, cat5, usb mini/micro/B, etc
      -an old multi-charger I picked up for $12 a few years ago. doesn't work for a lot of newer laptops, but a lot of older ones are fine.
      -an old 8 port 100mb switch
      -one 4-port powerboard

      If I wanted to make the kit better and more general-purpose
      -a real laptop multicharger, at the $50+ range
      -a usb cable with swapping heads
      -a powerboard with usb ports
      -maybe, just maybe, a pico-projector. frivolous, but it does increase your options.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now