On the road? Pack this essential tech gear

(MoneyWatch) I'm off to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, and that means I will not just be seeing a slew of technology -- I'll be bringing a lot of it with me. That's not especially unusual, of course. Every business trip requires you to pack some combination of personal and professional gear. But it's easy to go overboard and weigh yourself down with stuff you don't really need, or pack too light and forget something essential. Since I'm packing for the biggest tech show of the year, I thought now would be a good time to catalog the right mix of tech for any business trip.

Laptop optional. These days I can do almost everything of consequence with an iPad, making my laptop seemingly vestigial. If you have essential business tools that require a laptop, then by all means pack it. But if not, I suggest you carry a tablet like the iPad instead. Paired with a keyboard folio like my personal favorite from Logitech, you can work on it like a laptop for a fraction of the weight and several times the battery runtime.

Tablet and phone. As I just mentioned, laptops are no longer absolutely essential. If you can get away with it, take a tablet instead. For me, an iPad and iPhone work instead of a full PC about 90 percent of the time.

Mobile mouse. If you do choose to bring a laptop, definitely pack a mouse. I've explained before why a mouse beats the laptop's integrated trackpad, and adding a wireless travel mouse adds virtually no weight or bulk to your bag.

USB key. For those occasions when you need to exchange files with someone, I recommend skipping hardware and just share bits via the cloud with a service like Dropbox, SkyDrive, or Cubby. If that absolutely does not work for you, though, carry a spacious USB key. It takes up virtually no space in a bag, so you can leave one there for the rare occasion when you need it.

Cables. Make sure that you bring power cords to charge your gear. And I always leave a short Ethernet cable in my travel bag to make it easy to connect to an Ethernet port wherever I find one -- in the hotel, at a remote office or elsewhere.

Noise cancelling headphones. Perhaps a dozen years ago, I splurged on a crazy-expensive luxury: a pair of Bose QuietComfort headphones. Againt all odds, it has proven to be among the best purchases I've ever made, drowning out the headache-inducing drone of the aircraft cabin to a distant whisper. If you fly a lot, you're crazy not to own a pair of quality noise-cancelling headphones. And I do mean quality. I have found many $30 noise cancelling headphones aren't any better than the box they come in at reducing noise.

A backpack charger. I've recently fallen in love with my Powerbag, a backpack with an integrated battery that can top off my iPhone or other electronics even when I'm away from an outlet. At a trade show like CES, where I'm on my feet all day with little opportunity to recharge electronics, my Powerbag is like a CamelBak for electronics.

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