Debate Tech Update

I’ve gotten a few messages from students asking one of two questions

-how should I pack/what should I bring to camp?

-what kind of computer/mouse/etc should I get for debate?


This post will address both.


Let me start out by saying, my approach to debate “equipment” is almost exclusively utilitarian- i.e. I want what works best, not what is cool/popular etc. Over the years this has done wonders for my image (the first computer I bought FOR debate was a 2003 Alienware Area 51 in cyborg green, with the power cord it weighed something like 18 lbs- enough to break the strap on a Tumi messenger bag…) and my success no doubt.



The Computer

I bought a new computer just for debate travel last year, the Dell XPS 13 . Before I got it I read a bunch of reviews blah blah blah- it had more awards and positive reviews than any other “ultra portable”- which basically means thin computer with good battery life. It is AMAZING. By far the best computer I have ever owned.

-turns on instantly

-has ridic battery life

-screen, even though I didn’t upgrade, is amazing


-has good accessories- the power companion and dock are the two I got and both are great- with power companion you can get 15 hours of unplugged computing


I mean just look at this woman starring off into the forest from the Dell website.

Dell’s 1 Year Limited Hardware Warranty with Mail-In service after remote diagnosis


If that doesn’t say ” I just bought a great computer” what does?? But for real, it has been a great computer and I highly recommend- in fact like 8 other debate people have gotten it based on my recommendation and all of them love it as well.


Do you need touchscreen? No prob not, save the money


More ram? If you are just doing web/word then no- in fact I didn’t upgrade anything on mine.


There is also now a 15 inch version if you want a tad more screen real estate.

When buying something expensive like a computer make sure you search the web for coupon codes and student discounts.


The backpack


This is a key piece- you need it to lug all your stuff everywhere, and you need it to be reliable. Reliability actually pretty key. Before the TOC I replaced my backpack which had been stolen by purchasing a duplicate . Now I will say, and anyone who has ever picked mine up can vouch, I carry around a lot of stuff. My backpack is always very heavy. Since college I have always shelled out a little more money for it after a bunch of them breaking under the weight of my computer. My previous ROG served me well, but this one the strap broke on the way to the airport at the first tournament I tried to use it, which happened to be the TOC. I had to carry it around by the top handle which is a fate worse than death believe me.


So I went back to the drawing board and got a different one after the tournament- This. It is beastly in all the ways the ROG was, but is also “checkpoint friendly” which means the bag folds open 180 degrees and you don’t have to take your laptop out when going through security. It is a BIG backpack though, and when full prob ways more than several of you reading this post- but you have a lot of TSA friendly options to chose from. My only caution is don’t be that debater who has a macbook air in an ultra thin backpack and then never has a pen, their power cord or anything else because they can’t physically fit them into their tiny bag. Being prepared is good.


The backpack I just got also has a special bag for your power cord- which may help remind some of you to actually bring your power cord places.


Power Strips


So why do you need a power strip and why should you ALWAYS have one with you?

1. Airports- never enough outlets, you are always in them. A power strip will make you a hero

2.Classrooms- most were designed before computers were a big deal, this means they often have very few outlets in them requiring you to share/move tables/other annoying things


There could be more reasons but those 2 should be sufficient to convince anyone who has traveled to at least 1 debate tournament.


As for power strips, I’m somewhat torn between two.


This is my usual go to – it has a 16 foot cord, which is pretty good. It is also set up so the outlets are not too close to each other in case you need to plug in phone chargers and what not that have big clunky plugs. It has served me well… and like tripled in price since I got it.


The other one I like is this Power Cube–  It is much smaller than the above, has a shorter cord (I think mine is 8 feet), and has USB plugs built in (and they are high capacity- i.e. can charge an Ipad). This is especially great in hotel rooms where 2-4 people are sharing a few outlets and all need to charge 8 phones at a time.


There are a million more on amazon that have some/all of these design features in various ways/combinations, so pick whats right for you. Just make sure you have one- AND BRING IT TO CAMP!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BRING POWER STRIPS TO CAMP!!!! The number of people who have to waste time looking for an outlet etc. during rounds/research time is too damn high and wastes a ton of time.



The Mouse


I still like the razer Naga (although I have almost scrapped it over their software a few times), mine is old but similar to this . Before I go one let me stop and say this:

You don’t need a wireless mouse.

Allow me to repeat:



Times I have seen someone trip over their mouse cord or some other way the cord has cost them a debate: 0

Times just this year I judged someone who’s wireless mouse either died or had some other problem: 7


The extra buttons make debate work much faster- you can make two different profiles, one for the buttons to be set to do the card cutting functions in verbatim, and a second where they can be set to do the paperless debate macros. Trust me this will revolutionize your life- I am so dependent on it if I forget to bring it with me I just give up and don’t cut cards- its too much like torture to do it the slow way.



Now, what should you bring to camp?


Standard debate stuff that shouldn’t be surprising




-computer and power cord- AND POWER STRIP

-a notebook for taking notes (not flow paper, do not flow in your notebook and do not take notes on loose leaf paper you are going to lose)

-water bottle to minimize drink delays in debate





What shouldn’t be surprising but probably will be- you should have these things on you, preferably in a backpack, at all times. There is never a time you should show up having left your pen, notebook, computer, or shoes in the dorm. ALWAYS!


Lets say its sunny in the morning but then rains at night, no problem because your umbrella is in your backpack. Lets say someone gets sick and their partner needs you to sub in and debate with them. No problem- backpack.


Lets say you get to the library and its the freezing temp of 72 degrees- THE HORROR! Should you


A. Give up on life, research, and your debate career and lie in the fetal position crying

B. Put on your sweatshirt which was in your BACKPACK


Have other tech recs or product suggestions? Post in the comments

7 responses to “Debate Tech Update

  1. It’s also important to learn how to pack your bag efficiently at tournaments just to limit weight and clutter. Is it necessary to carry 60 g2s? Obviously not.

    If you’re like me you lose headphones often, and you also don’t have much room in your bad for giant cans (is that what they’re still called?) Because of this, I just buy Amazon Basic’s headphones; they have a tangle free cord and the sound quality is dece, especially for the pricepoint.

    I’m also on IG all the time keeping up with Kardashians, which can be rough on my phone’s battery. But having a power bank in my bag bails me out often (I use this one

  2. Thinkpads are pretty awesome too
    -best keyboard of any laptop on the market

    -best trackpoint of any laptop on the market

    -best battery life of any laptop

    and super durable with MIL-SPEC 810G

    Not really fancy though

    • If you want a cheaper laptop with the best keyboard of any laptop, get the 500$ thinkpad 13. If you want a thin and portable laptop, get the thinkpad x1 carbon. If you want a standard, larger laptop with a big keyboard and a ridiculous amount of battery life, get the thinkpad t460s

      Also, you should get a laptop with a trackpoint. It’s easy to use, you can actually highlight text with it, and you’ll never have to take your hands off home row.

  3. Pingback: How to Cut a Card by Lawrence Zhou – Briefly·

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