How to REALLY Pack Like an Automotive Journalist

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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how to really pack like an automotive journalist

Recently, august buff book publication Car and Driver published a piece of content dubbed “ How to Pack Like an Automotive Journalist.”

The piece doesn’t appear to be sponsored content – it reads as if C/D polled staffers for recommendations, and followed it up with revenue-generating links for readers to click if they want to buy said items.

I’m not picking on C/D for running this type of content – we run buyer’s guides and place Amazon ads in some posts, so I’d be a hypocrite if I did. It’s how money is made in online journalism these days, and it harkens back to the days of print. If I have to work my way past a fashion spread of watches I can’t afford in order for Esquire to pay authors like Charles Pierce enough that I can read them while waiting for my haircut, so be it. Just like y’all can skip past similar content on our site (although we’d prefer you didn’t. Like Dax Shepard in Idiocracy, we like money).

No, no. That’s not why I laughed at the post when I saw it floating around the Twitters this week. I laughed because the number of automotive journalists who will buy things like the items in the post – regardless of whether they can afford to or not – is precisely nil.

Here’s how you really, truly pack like an automotive journalist:

  • Backpack: You’re best served with an Ogio backpack that bears an OEM logo. I have one! Two, if you count one with a broken zipper that I buried in a closet after a repair attempt failed and forgot to toss out. It doesn’t matter which Ogio, but it’s best if you didn’t pay for it.
  • Jacket: I like traveling with a light jacket available, no matter where I am going. It gets cold at night in certain places, even during the summer months, and having the extra pockets comes in handy. To be like a journalist, you need an OEM-branded piece. This is where I admit to you, dear reader, that I am a failure, having lost an OEM-branded light jacket in a cab after a night of revelry celebrating my birthday some years ago. That sucker was warm. Now I just wear something from Columbia like every other 30-something in my neighborhood.
  • Suitcase: I have yet to see an OEM give out a suitcase, so you’re on your own here. You might get snazzy luggage tags, though.
  • Ballcap: Do this job for a year and you’ll have so many you can open a Lidz.
  • T-Shirt: Either an OEM shirt, or something from Blipshift.
  • Water Bottle/Coffee Mug: Forget Target or Walmart. You no longer need to shop there for these. Although you can’t have my non-OEM-branded Contigo I paid for out of pocket unless you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
  • Sunglasses: I buy cheapos because I tend to lose them or sit on them. But if you’re not as clumsy as me, you can get a nice pair from an upscale brand if you wait long enough for the right event.
  • Shoes: If you don’t have a pair of Pilotis you got gratis, you must be a newb. If you wear them to drive a compact crossover across downtown San Diego, you must really be a newb.
  • Cold-weather gear: Need a parka? Gloves? Winter hat? Scarf? Hope to be invited to a winter-weather trip in some cold, snowy place. The kind of place that makes California-based journos shake in fear.
  • Notebooks/pens: The must-have tools of any journalist! But skip the line at Walgreen’s – you’ll be given these at the morning brief.
  • Tablet: Accepting something of this value would be against TTAC policy (small items are one thing, but a tablet? C’mon). But that hasn’t stopped OEMs from occasionally offering them. You might be able to skip the Apple store, after all.

Some of you will note that I’ve disclosed taking swag home before. I am not trying to be hypocritical here. But that doesn’t mean I can’t poke fun at myself, or the weirdness of this industry I work in (also, I like Blipshift. Cool stuff there, and I’m not getting paid to say that). Other parts of the journalism industry aren’t offered the level of swag we see. When I covered sports, we maybe got free food or a free beer. And a whole paper stack of stats.

So you don’t need to follow Car and Driver’s lead and pile up huge credit-card debt to pack like one of us. Just sign up for every airline’s frequent-flier program, every upscale hotel chain’s reward program, and use a pile of gifts to outfit yourself.

I’d say you could use your savings on booze and shrimp, but that will be covered, too. Cheers!

[Image © 2019 Steph Willems/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for, CarFax,, High Gear Media, Torque News,,, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as,, and He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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3 of 7 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on May 31, 2019

    Damn, sounds like a swag-fest.

  • Civicjohn Civicjohn on Jun 01, 2019

    Kinda sounds like the music business. I probably did 20+ golf tournaments and the occasional release party, I have more water bottles than I can count, enough hats to open 2 Lidz stores, polo shirts with a trendy logo, golf balls, leather binders for notes, probably over 100 t-shirts (distributed to the kids), stacks of CDs (that shows my age), live lobsters delivered to my door, wine, whiskey, more food than I could ever eat at the events, cigars, Zippo lighters (6 at last count), headphones, and more crap I’ve probably forgot. I do have a Hatch Show Print (google it) of a Universal Records showcase of Chris Stapleton when he played his first gig at the Ryman. Everyone in the room knew this guy was gonna be a star. I actually had that framed and it hangs in my office.

  • 285exp If the conversion to EVs was really so vital to solve an existential climate change crisis, it wouldn’t matter whether they were built by US union workers or where the batteries and battery materials came from.
  • El scotto Another EBPosky, "EVs are Stoopid, prove to me water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius" article.It was never explained if the rural schools own the buses or if the school bus routes are contracted out. If the bus routes are contracted out, will Carpenter or Bluebird offer an electric school bus? Flexmatt never stated the range of brand-unspecified school bus. Will the min-mart be open at the end of the 179-mile drive? No cell coverage? Why doesn't the bus driver have an emergency sat phone?Two more problems Mr. Musk could solve.
  • RICK Long time Cadillac admirer with 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham, always liked Eldorado until downsized after 76. Those were the days. Sad to see what now wears Cadillac name.
  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.