Every sound tech needs a backpack. You need a cool bag to leave fully packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice, and make it a habit to take it with you to every gig!

My current backpack is a $25 Targus from Staples and has lasted me well over 6 years, and I couldn’t be happier. For me, the gig bag is a convenient combination of comfort and necessity (say that 3 times fast!) I always know what little gadgets I have at my disposal to fix problems, and I can live out of it for 1-2 days!

There’s a million little things I carry around, but here are my TOP 10 things I’ve had by my side every single day for the past few years:

1. Extra socks. Self-explanatory, but highly overlooked.

  1. Gaff tape. Don’t cheap out, get the real “Gaff” brand gaff tape. Accept no substitute! Having low-tack board tape is nice too. Even in the digital world, making notes is helpful!
  2. Phase-invert cable. Make at least one XLR with +&- swapped on one end. Mark it very clearly! Can’t hurt to make one short XLR with the ground disconnected too!
  3. 2x Z-Cables. We all know the infamous Y-Cable, but the Z-Cable is far more useful. Brush up your soldering skills, and wire 2 female XLRs and 2 male XLRs in series. You can use it to Y two outputs, two inputs, change genders, or just extend a line that’s just a hair too short.
  4. SPL meter. Mine cost me roughly $15 and runs on one 9V battery. It’s not completely accurate, but it’s a good way to check relative levels night to night or when calibrating a PA system.
  5. Spare Shure SM58. I always have my own mic for talkback, but it’s nice to have a spare to throw on a guest guitar amp or if something goes wrong at the last-minute.
  6. Headphones. Again, kind of self-explanatory, but it’s definitely worth getting a pair that’s not too pricey (it’s bound to get abused) but that you can trust the sound of. I use old Audio Technica ATH M30s, which cost about $40.
  7. Sharpies. Lots of Sharpies. A very smart man I know buys one yellow Sharpie and uses that cap for his black Sharpies so no one wants to steal it. As we all know, Sharpies grow legs of their own, daily.
  8. Batteries. Have a few of each.
  9. A few different phone chargers. Mark them all very clearly as yours! Being able to lend a performer a charger will make you their favorite person ever. You want to be their favorite person ever. (See my blog post on being a performer’s favorite person ever)
  10. Cutlery. I always save those plastic packages you get from Wendy’s with a fork, knife, spoon, salt, and pepper and keep a half dozen of them in an old mic bag. Always comes in handy!

Here’s a handy bonus tip: Get some white gaff tape and wrap a 6 inch piece around the end of a mic bag (the kind an SM58 comes in) and use it to label what’s in the bags! You can write on the end too, making it easier to dig the right one out of the pile of junk in your gig bag!

Like I said, there’s a million good things to carry, here’s a similar list put together by a good friend, Rob Spiers & Associates!