How To Pack a (Digital) DJ Bag

Ever spent weeks preparing for a big gig, only to arrive at the venue and realize that you’ve forgotten a necessary adapter, cable, or worse. As DJs, there are millions of things that can go wrong when leaving the comforts of our home studios to play out. In today’s feature, we share our favorite tips for packing your DJ bag so you can be sure not to forget anything important, get to the gig in one piece, and set up quickly and easily.

We all have a tendency to get excited about shows and focus more on “getting our sets ready” than counting USB cables and perfecting our backpack Tetris skills. In celebration of the release of our new DJTT backpack v2, today we’re going to slow down a bit and cover some fundamentals. Remember, you do not start being a DJ once you get to the show. Your job is to provide music – and that requires that you have all your necessary gear!

The video below features tips from Mad Zach, Ean Golden, and Amp Live (of Zion I), but we’d love to hear your techniques and stories in the comments.

Mad Zach’s Tips

I am a classically-trained procrastinator, and for the bulk of my first year of playing out, I had the bad habit of working on new tunes right up until the last minute. The resulting time crunch would inevitably lead me to forget a critical cable or adapter. I can’t count the number of times I had to pay $10 for some tiny adapter at RadioShack because I forgot something at home.

As such, most of my tips on how to pack your DJ bag are geared around not forgetting anything, as well as fail-safe protection in case something breaks. Here are my key tips for successfully packing your DJ Bag and getting to the show in one piece:

1. Packing Up

  • Make a hard copy packing checklist (save a copy for next time, too) and check gear off as you pack it
  • Stay focused + only work on one item at a time – multi-tasking and distractions can cause you to forget something
  • Grab the gear and all the cables you will need to use that piece of gear
  • Put computer in the bag first
  • Use colored tape: different small pieces of colored tape on each end of your cables will let you tell similar-looking cables apart
  • Bring a power strip; in-booth power outlet real estate is often lacking.
  • Adapters, business cards, lighter, bottle opener, spare cables, batteries, headlamps, etc should all go in the front/smaller pockets, you don’t want to be distracted by these items when unloading later

2. Redundancy!

The single biggest technique I use to make sure every show goes off without a hitch is creating a redundant setup. This means bringing an extra copy or backup of just about everything important. You have to plan for the worst case scenario – because it will happen!

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Your DJ Gear 

Ean’s Tips

  • Make a custom USB snake with gaff tape. This will eliminate the risk of forgetting individual cables, as well as make it super fast and clean to set up and break down. No more cable knots!
  • Make your studio setup mimic the way you would set up in a club.
  • Leave your audio interface plugged in, this will make set up and breakdown faster and less stressful.
  • Pick the right DJ Bag! This will make your life much easier.

Amp’s Tips

  • Put everything in cases. This makes it easy to slip them in and out of your pack
  • Focus your main carry-on bag  to have everything you need to play music just in case you lose bagage at the airport.
  • Use a side loading pack so you can make sure to be able to access your pack

Hopefully these tips help to make your own packing a success – be sure to share your techniques in the comments section! As we all know everyone has their own style and something to add to this conversation 🙂

amplivedj bagsdj packing tipsean goldenmad zachpacking a dj bagprotecting dj gearredundant setupsultimate dj backzion i
Comments (49)
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  • Dion Mavath

    What a topic … How To Pack a DJ Bag, had fun reading it, should try some in my “organized” world

  • Clay Stephens

    i dunno what i can add here that someone else hasn’t already —

    i guess what i’ll say is this: learn how to dj without a computer and always have a wallet full of your more essential tracks burned to clearly labeled CDs. i know its wasteful, but i try not to put more than 6 or 8 tracks per CD — i’d rather look at the cd to decide if its the track i need, rather than scrolling though long lists on a cd player screen.

    better yet, if you have room in your bag for a stack of 10-12 really great records that you know work very well together, then this will save your ass should the unthinkable strike (HD failure, forgotten power adapter, forgotten cables, weird/dysfunctional club set up, etc). i try to go for vinyls that have more than one usable cut. i take them anywhere i know that decks will be available, even when i don’t plan on using them. no one else is going to know this “set” is canned, unless it totally doesn’t fit musically or you’ve already used it before around the same people.

    i’ve showed up with a laptop on more than one occasion only to realize i’d forgotten something i needed or simply gotten the vibe from the other djs that rummaging around trying to hook my shit up while they’re mid set just wasn’t going to fly.

    just my .002

  • Filippo Carrusci

    what soundcard is Ean using/showing in this video ??? please answer 🙂 thank you

  • Johnak47

    Hello, i notice you are using the rme firface pluggd into the xone db2′ can i ask why arnt you using the onboard sound card, and do you find the rme to have better sound quality

  • Scoop

    I think it’s important to note to NOT overstuff your bag, Laptops aren’t really built for heavy road-wear, putting them in a literally high-pressure environment (with all the gear pushing against it) can be pretty hazardous.

  • Ronald Edwards

    This is a good list, but you should (as the Boy Scouts always say) be prepared (for the worst).

    Your DJ bag won’t just carry your gear, it will be your bag of solutions / your salvation for as long as you’re on your journey (even if it is just down the street). If you can do it, get a locking, wheeled, carry-on bag with your name
    and number on it (inside a luggage tag). It’s worth the extra money…
    lugging around a heavy bag of gear for 12 hours isn’t fun. The lock
    just keeps honest people honest, they won’t keep out a dedicated
    thief. Always have something to mitigate spills (because it WILL happen), a towel or (even better) a spare thick shirt (or three) can be used as padding inside your bag but more importantly to wick-away sweat, or spilled beverage. Put something (preferably 2 or 3 somethings) to eat (that doesn’t perish) something like an energy bar or breakfast bar is awesome when you’re away from any place you can get something to eat and a bottle of water in your bag too… especially after a long flight, cab/bus trip, or waiting in a green room. You’ll want a small, portable, light located somewhere easy-to-find so you can look into your bag (or chase a cable) in the dark… and possibly a telephone charging cable as well. Gaff tape (and a white paint marker) is always a good idea to have some of (tape your cables down so you don’t trip over them) and if it’s white gaff, you can use a black marker on it (bring that too) to make notes on (like board tape), and finally, if you’re going someplace where the power standards are different, get a power converter. Most clubs don’t have them and your gear won’t work if you have “the other” kind of power (110 / 220 V.A.C.).

    Bring various cables/converters to go from your gear to the house board inputs (XLR, RCA and TRS). Always presume the establishment will not have what you need. And finally, go through your checklist as you load your bag back up at the end of the night.

  • Sogaard

    And in every bag it should be mandatory with a extra t-shirt and a deo-stick!!!

  • Bogdan Almasan

    Does anybody know the brand name of those white jacks Ean uses?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I am also interested in those white cables used in the video. Please let me know if you find any information on them.

  • Bogdan Almasan

    Does anybody know the brand name of those white jacks Ean uses?

  • mister zero

    Who is carrying a second laptop with them to gigs?

  • Cisco Dj-Ciscoelnino Azaña

    if your going to make your own snake, i wouldnt suggest tape, it gets sticky n ugly. use braided sleeving its much prettier :).
    For my bag im using an ultra laptop backpack i got on sale for $30. fits my laptop, 4 serato records, stand, midi controller, a clone of my macbooks hard drive, power strip, headphones, needles, etc.

  • Jake Styles

    Another nice tip for cable management… Wal-Mart and many other stores, carry shoe bags for traveling and keeping your shoes nice… well those drawstring bags are very handy for putting wires and cables in and they come in two packs pretty cheaply, I think I got mine for under five dollars. So I have my speaker power cables, xlrs, adapters, and power cords for lights each in a left or right bag. It is very handy.

  • Chris Mewtant

    really?? what a rubbish article…. work out how to pack a bag yourselves and spend the time wasted reading this working out a good set….

    • Toontown

      It takes about three days for me to work out a good set so it sounds like it took you a really long time to read this article. I’d recommend seeing a literacy specialist–they can really help with fluency. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about… How long did it take you to read this comment–an hour? Two?

      • Dj Domo

        Who else read that in a British accent?

  • marinelli

    awesome tipps as always.

    I would like to add one thing:
    Never ever go out playing without a torch!

    • Bri? Hogan

      i thought about that one for a sec.. over here we call them flashlights. 🙂

  • Ron Maran

    Great Post, Great Bag, but shipping cost fail! I went to buy one, and shipping is the same price as the bag to Australia. This thing can’t weigh that much surely?

  • Tyler Thompson

    The problem with keeping your audio cables plugged into your soundcard when you throw it in the bag is that it will put stress on the inputs and you can mess up your inputs that way.. i’ve broken USB inputs and audio inputs on soundcards doing that.. I personally wouldn’t recommend it

    • Ronald Edwards

      Absolutely Tyler! Those connector ports are not designed to handle a cable being plugged in and then stressed, you are much more likely to break the solder joints if you transport your audio gear like this. If you’re not sure where the cables go, before you take the cables out, get some white gaff tape and a black marker, write the name of the port that each end of each cable is plugged into and wrap that gaff around the cable end securely… if you have more writing on the tape than you have space to wrap, make a “flag” by attaching the tape to itself around the cable at the end (alternatively, you can use different colored inks on white gaff or color-coded tape on both the cable AND the gear for BOTH ends). When you get to where you’re setting up, it’s simply a game of match the patterns and everything works.

  • Markku Uttula

    If you’re flying, try to keep everything you absolutely need in your carry-on luggage (computer, headphones, cables, power supplies, you name it). Checked-in luggage tends to get lost (if you travel more than a few times a year) – so be prepared. If at all possible, frankly, flight cases are a good idea during flights. That is what they are meant for 🙂

    And honestly; redundancy *is* good. If you need to have a USB-cable with you, take two. If you need RCAs, take more than one. Have a backup copy of your computer’s hard drive with you … you might need that sooner than you realize.

    Also – if something is missing after the flight… improvise. You don’t need your controller – you can always get another one (well, all of them have basically the same functionality… it’s about the same if you for one reason or another did not get the CD-players you asked for … all you really need is play/cue and tempo-controls anyway).

    Last but not least – do not be in a hurry. That is when things go wrong. Have enough time to get into the venue and get to know the place. Also, have enough time to set things up. If you come in at the last possible minute, I can assure that something will go wrong when you least expect it.

  • LP23

    Tomorrow, DJTT will be teaching folks how to breathe, walk and pee.

    • Toontown

      At the same time? I will tune in for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • CHAS3R

    I use a 56 Quart plastic storage box and memory foam as a cheap alternative to having a nice bag and cases for every controller. I just make three layers of equipment placed upside down with memory foam for the knobs to sink into. S2 fits on the bottom layer then F1, X1, MF3D and small mixer on the second and laptop in a neoprene sleeve on the top with power cords and USB splitter w/ cables on the top. Not the prettiest solution but safe and cushioned and have had no issues.

    • Matt Diener

      I do something similar for my summer weekly party. Everything is in one case and it’s all ready to go every week. I never have to unpack. I do carry a bag for my Laptop, Backup CDs, Ipad etc.

    • mispel

      Beautiful. Don’t know why I’ve never thought of this…

    • Aeonian Kafkawits

      Hahaha That’s cool! I did the same exact thing. I cut it the same and everything, but mine doesn’t have stickers…

    • marinelli

      Thank you, that’s a super helpful idea!

  • makar1

    Does this case still have enough room for a 12 inch mixer like the V1 backpack?

  • Wolfram Bölte

    Your new DJ Bag looks quite good and has a decent price tag (but shipping costs to germany are way to high for me). A printed list for all the items you want to put in your bag is so 1998 to me. Just use Wunderlist instead.
    If you want to see how i pack my DJ Bag, you can watch my Videoblog episode on this topic. (yes, it’s in german…)

    • A-Dag-Io

      Aw, c’mon guys – are you serious? 80 bucks economic and more than 100 bucks priority for international postage & handling of a travelling bag?? Maybe if I will find a frequent traveller to frisco to pick 1 up for me…

  • Justin Milla

    I use serato, but my tactic is to just have a bag with everything I need for the club including headphones, needles, cords already packed up. I have a completely different setup at home so my club bag never gets unpacked. the only thing that comes out is my laptop. It costs a bit to get set up but its worth it for the lack of stress when I leave for a gig.

    • Tyler Thompson

      Same here, I’ve been trying to accumulate enough gear so that I can have a gig bag pre-packed and not have to take anything out of it when I’m working in the studio.. only thing I’m missing is a second APC40 and second soundcard.. :/

  • Muzaffar Musa

    well… I don’t think I will add much to the conversation here, but when I was DJing 6 nights a week at a pub, I just tend to leave all my gear inside my bag. Only took out the laptop just to update my playlist or do other thing and occasionally took out my S2 and other equipments to record my DJ mix at home. Apart from that, I tend to have everything checked before going to work. Oh, and I just used some cheap Ecco bag I found selling somewhere near my place. Can’t really afford the Controllerist Bag, Mono or Gator, but it was good enough to fit my laptop, S2, laptop stand, headphones as well as my cables. =)

  • Anonymous

    Definitely like the big open compartment plan vs. millions of pockets.

    • Tyler Thompson

      I’m on the other side, I like having a bunch of pockets because the big open compartment tends to mash everything in together and doesn’t keep things in place, but to each their own!

      • Anonymous

        I guess I should have noted that I put things in specific bags, kind of like they showed in the vid. This way I can just dump it all on the couch and then sort it out;) All good…

  • Ond?ej 'Blofeld' Posolda

    i tie up cords into with a circle with some classic 3m Temflex 1300 tapes… their glue doesnt stick up the cables at all, and you need just a bit to tie down one cable… thats my way of preventing creation of mysterious cable pizzas inside my dj backpack

    • Ronald Edwards

      That works too, but I always over-under my cables (see this video for how to along with tips: ) and use a tie-wrap to secure them. If I don’t have a tie wrap, I run the tail around the outside edge of the coil (think of a helix around a solid center that follows the bundle around the circular curve) so I never have a hard kink anywhere but the coil is still kept. Other people do an overhand knot at the end. I also recommend plugging XLR connectors together when the coil is complete so that the male connectors don’t bend or break during transport.

  • sudeep

    i like one

  • Guy&Girl

    One thing I like to do with the older Controllerist Bag (the one just upgraded and featured here) is switch the laptop pouch out with my stand. If you’ve got a fully loaded backpack with an S2, midifighters and extra controllers, along with all the cables and adapters, the weight from them will push down directly onto your laptop. Even worse than the weight is the torque from everything twisting around on top of the laptop compartment. It might be better for portability, but it will destroy your laptop if you use it frequently (and fly.)

    So instead I put my crane stand into the laptop compartment. It actually fits, except for the lowest post which pokes out slightly. I’ve flown over a dozen times, and internationally without an issue. You basically convert the bag into an internal frame backpack. Win. Then if you just put your laptop in a thick sleeve, it fits nicely in the main pocket of the backpack.

    • Tyler Thompson

      That is my problem with the Big Namba bag.. sure it fits my APC40, laptop, sound card and cables but I have to play tetris to get it all in there and then when I throw it on my back I can feel that it is all smashed together.. I put a t-shirt over the APC40 so I can (somewhat) protect the knobs and faders but it still feels a little risky to me..

  • Ash_S

    A awesome technique i use is when you get a mobile phone or anything mobile say a Apple ipod a mp3 player etc you always get those “money’ type bags with little zip locks on them, they are perfect for Midi controller cables 2 rca cables or 1 or a few jacks in a collection, of course im talking small cables but I use them and it has made tons of space in my small DJ bag. Many of my Dj friends now use this and all say it works wonders 🙂 I always follow your tips and it has helped my preparation 10 fold.

  • Mike Heymans

    Worst April Fools post ever.