As an onsite engineer, I carry a verity of tools and supplies to meet the needs of my clients. I’ll start with a list of what I have in case you just want to know what to get, and then follow that list up with the reasons I have each item. Hopefully you find this list helpful.
A laptop may not be required for every site visit, but it is still an essential tool that gets used daily. It may be tempting to get a gaming laptop for the added video performance, but personally I find that I prefer reducing weight where possible and haven’t had performance issues with my Framework. I also prefer laptops that charge over USB type-C and have a compact gallium nitride charger in my bag rather than a standard charger. At least 1 USB C port is required, and an ethernet port is a must. I don’t recommend anything with less than 16GB of RAM and an SSD.
My laptop is a Framework with an Intel i7-1165G7, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus. The ethernet module stays in my laptop almost all the time, and I have also found the HDMI and DisplayPort modules to be rather helpful.
For screwdrivers, you can get away with just your basic Philips and slotted bits, but it is also nice to have some Torx bits. Personally, I use the LTT screwdriver, and I think it is a nice screwdriver with its 12-bit capacity and it is comfortable to use. Of course, that kind of investment in a tool is not required but can make things a little more convenient.
Pocket Knife or Multitool
Mostly used to open boxes, but a knife is a versatile tool. I carry a Leatherman multi-tool for added functionality, and use the plyers and other tools fairly frequently. It’s especially helpful to have one that makes it easy to open the blade with one hand, in case you’re holding something with your other hand or something.
A few guitar picks are useful for taking apart laptops. I have a few different thicknesses and sizes of picks that I use. Guitar picks are generally plastic, which help prevent leaving marks on devices you are prying apart with them.
USB to Serial
If you are working with network equipment with any frequency, it is important to have a good USB to Serial adaptor, as well as a console cable. I often have to connect to a firewall or switch while standing in a network closet to make configuration adjustments, review the existing config, or even to just see what the device is doing.
I’ll either keep a cable tester in my backpack or in my car. If you are working with certified drops and high-quality patch cables it is rare for continuity tests to solve problems, but I have done so a few times where clients didn’t want to run proper cabling in their buildings. I mostly use my cable tester to identify drops that haven’t been labeled. If you have the budget, a proper cable certifier is an invaluable tool. If you can’t afford one, have someone who does that you can call.
It is always good to have a few patch cables, especially when you are deploying new equipment. I carry a few 3’ and 7’ cables since I use them most often, and a 14’ cable in case I need a longer run. I’ve started preferring to carry 28ga patch cables, since they take up less space in my bag and are lighter. They are still permitted by ANSI/TIA-568.2-D for short distances, and I’ve not seen any issues using them.
I also have a thin 25’ purple cable that tends to stand out in server rooms. This is my cable I just use when I need a wired network connection, and having it stands out helps when I just need to unplug it when I’m done.
USB C to RJ45 Gigabit Network Adaptor
These are great for troubleshooting when a client is having issues with their wired network connection, or nice to have when a client just needs one for their laptop. I’ve found having one in my bag has been very helpful. I carry a TP Link model that works with Windows, Mac, and Linux without having to download additional drivers.
A 1’ Power Extension Cable
This is extremely useful if you have a power brick that won’t fit next to other items on a power strip or UPS, or if an outlet is just a little bit too far away. This has been extremely helpful on several occasions.
USB C to A Adapter
With more and more devices finally moving to type C, a lot of devices are expecting you to have a type C port on your computer. Whether a client doesn’t have one on their older computer, or they just used all of their type C ports, it’s nice to be able to get a device function for a client. Often the device they are connecting doesn’t need a fast connection anyways, and the device just expected you to have a free type C port.
HDMI Cable - 6’
For obvious reasons, it’s good to have one or two HDMI cables. I find a 6’ cable solves most issues.
DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter
Most of the computers I deploy are Dells, and Dell seems to be moving away from HDMI in favor of DisplayPort. I’m not opposed to this, and prefer DisplayPort myself, but often clients have a cheap monitor that only has HDMI. I carry 2 of these generally.
Velcro Cable Ties
Not only are these useful to keep your own cables tidy in your backpack, but it is also important to keep your work looking clean with a few cable ties. A clean end product means a lot to a client, and having your work look tidy reflects well on you. I buy these in packs of 50 and restock when I only have around 10. Clients also appreciate it when you can just hand them a few for their new laptop charger or whatever they might have.