Dear Lifehacker, Everyone is back at work or university now, and lots of people have to travel to do so. You need a lot of gear — chargers, headphones, USB cables — to keep a functional self ready for all occasions. What is Lifehacker’s solution to handling all the cables in a manageable way while keeping your bag tidy? Thanks, Tangled
Everyone approaches this problem in a slightly different way, but there are a few general principles you can follow to minimise the amount of tangle. We’ve detailed lots of methods for controlling office cables in the past, but bags require their own rules. Here are the most important:
1. Go multi-functional whenever possible
Pictured above is one of my favourite cables: USB on one end, retractable micro USB, mini USB and Apple on the other. This one cable can connect every device I routinely travel with to my PC, and as such it is always in my travel bag. Fewer cables equals less chance of tangling, especially as the cable is retractable.
2. Keep spares in all your active locations
That said, I also keep standard cables in my office desk and in my desk at home. That ensures that my travel cable is always in my travel bag. I’ve got plenty of space in my desks(s), so keeping multiple individual cables isn’t a problem. It also makes me popular at the inevitable moment when a colleague stands up and bleats “Anyone got a spare iPhone charger?” If you’re a student, you might only have two sets — one for your satchel, one for your bedroom — but the principle is the same.
3. Keep cables in a separate pocket
I’ve changed travel bags quite a few times over the years, but one rule remains consistent: cables go in a separate pocket wherever possible. That ensures they don’t get tangled around pens, USB keys or other ephemera. The only exception is with power bricks, since they’re bulky enough to need to go in the main part of the bag. But both power cables and other cables are subject to the same final rule . . .
3. Wrap before you stuff
This applies to headphones, USB cables, power chargers, whatever: spending a few seconds carefully wrapping the cables before they go in the bag is much quicker in the long run than trying to untangle them when you remove them.
That’s not a complicated set of rules, but it works for me (and I change locations an awful lot compared to most people). Anyone got other cable-management-on-the-go tips to share?
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has a pleasant case of the ever-shrinking cables. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker. Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.