What’s in My Bag as a Civil Engineer

women looking at the screen

So this isn’t fully on brand for the content of the blog, but I wanted to share it anyways. I was recently spring cleaning and thought I should also tackle my work bag in the process. It had gotten weirdly heavy as of late, so it was probably worth looking at.

Most of my work is doing inspections of existing buildings, with a bit of new construction from time to time. So I end up in all sorts of different environments and types of work in a week. Which will probably show with the stuff I carry with me.

My work bag is a navy backpack with faux leather accents. As seen below being checked out by a cat I was taking care of at the time.

So what was in my bag. I took it all out and made a flat lay.

  • Wallet: pretty standard
  • Extra Mask: The worst feeling is when your mask breaks and you awkwardly have to hold it as you go to the reception of the building you are reviewing and ask if you can bum a new one. I totally have never done that… But I like to have a couple extras a back up.
  • Two notebooks: Not sure why I had two. I removed the smaller one from the bag. The larger one lives on my clipboard (not shown) and I typically use that or a pad of paper to write my site notes.
  • Measuring tape: to measure stuff on site to confirm it’s the size it’s supposed to be. Or if I’m bored, I can see how much of the tape I can pull out before it collapses
  • Screw driver: great for opening access hatches, or removing the cover off a piece of equipment.
  • Flashlight: there’s a flashlight on my phone, but it’s good to have one that’s a bit more powerful. Work sends me to some pretty dark and scary places sometimes. It also kinda acts as a laser pointer when I’m trying to show something to a client or colleagues, where I can just shine the light on the thing that I’m talking about.
  • Four pens: I keep losing them on site, so I would rather have too many than not enough. It’s nice to have multiple colors on hand if you need to mark up a drawing or highlight something in your notes.
  • Two sets of gloves: as the seasons change, I don’t think I need to carry both. One pair is my fall/winter set of gloves. The other pair have some grip to them incase you need to lift something dirty.
  • One USB key: pretty helpful to have on hand.
  • Camera and charger: I know many people just use their phone for site photos. But an old school point and shoot doesn’t drain the battery of my cell, and typically the zoom is better.
  • Wet film thickness gauge: used to measure the thickness of liquid coatings.
  • Random charging cables: to charge my phone or connect it to my laptop when I’m on the road. The other is for my camera. I have no idea why the latter is in my bag since my computer has an SD port for transferring files.
  • Reusable Bags: Good for if I’m picking up groceries after work, and generally a nice thing to have. Probably don’t need to be carrying two of them at all times.
  • Sunglasses: got to look cool on site 😎.

Not shown but also in my bag:

  • A boatload of receipts and random papers.
  • A small first aid kit, that’s mostly Band-Aids, alcohol wipes and advil.
  • A plastic cutlery set: never know when your burrito bowl order won’t come with a fork.
  • Period Products: pretty self explanatory.
  • Business cards: I store business cards everywhere. My jacket pockets, my bag, my car, anywhere. I still find old business cards from the job I had 4 years ago from time to time.
  • A water bottle or travel mug: these items don’t live in my bag since they are always being used or washed but if I’m out of the house I generally will have one of them in side pockets.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: these items don’t live in my bag full time, and I take whatever is appropriate to the site I’m going too. In general I have an extra hi-vis and my harness for working at heights just living in my car.

I carry so much stuff…

So this exercise made me realize how much stuff I carry at all times. I probably can take some of this stuff out and only pack what I think I need when I go to site. But that involves way more planning, and I don’t want to do it.

In general, I need to make more of an effort to go through and clean my bag. I found so so many receipts, post-its and change. I probably could have gotten like two fancy lattes with the money that was sitting at the bottom of the bag.

Is there something weird you have to carry as part of your job or commute? I would love to read about in the comments.

Bonus Content: Here’s a video of what the cat found when he stuck his head in my bag.

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