Travel Tech – Getting My Gear Together and Taking It On The Road

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Think about this for a moment. Back in the day, when we packed for a trip we made sure we had our cameras, lots of film, and possibly some batteries. Now we pack our smartphones, our laptops, our tablets, and of course SD cards for our cameras (if we’re not relying only on smartphones to capture our memories). We’ve put together some of the products that you might want to consider packing for your next trip, whether you be a tourist or a road warrior.

Trackers: Whether at home or on the road, these small battery powered devices can help you find your keys, your luggage, your wallet, or your smartphone. Most work using Bluetooth, so you pair them with your smartphone before attaching them to whatever you want to keep track of. If you misplace the smartphone, you can push the button on the tracker and it will make the phone ring, even in silent mode. Some such as TrackR have an entire ecosystem, so that even if you are out of range of your luggage, someone else in the TrackR universe (they’ve shipped 4.5 million of them) may be able to locate your bag or other lost object. TrackR comes in a variety of models and colors, but their standard is the TrackR Bravo which sells for about $30 for a single unit, but just about $90 for a five-pack, a substantial savings.

Chargers: There are literally hundreds of these on the market. Some will slip into your pocket. Those are generally the ones that will give your smartphone some extra juice.  Others will charge laptops, tablets, and in some cases will even power a television. Power output is measured in Milli Amp Hours, or mAh. Here are a few that we like:

MyCharge Style Power

MyCharge makes an entire range of chargers from nearly impervious cases for the outdoor adventurer, to tiny fashion oriented units. Among them: MyCharge Style Power – small enough to slip in pocket or purse, this will give most smartphones a complete charge. They come in a variety of colors and cost about $20. MyCharge Amp ProngPlus – This unit will give a smartphone about four complete charging cycles. It comes with prongs so you can plug it into a wall socket to recharge. Price is just about $50. MyCharge HubMax – This unit will give your phone about 5½ charges and includes both a micro USB cable and a lightning cable for iOS devices. Price for this powerhouse is about $130.

Ventev also makes a variety of chargers that will plug into your car or your wall. Their Ventev Wallport r430 has three standard USB ports plus one of the new USB type C ports which are being used on new laptops and smartphones. This is a great device for those of us who need to charge up several devices each night while we’re on the road. Price is just about $40.

OmniCharge 20 – This is for the true road warrior – the OmniCharge comes with a standard AC outlet to power AC devices including laptops and small televisions. Of course, it will also juice up all of your USB powered devices as well. You’re not going to be tucking this one into your pocket, it weighs in at 1.4 pounds, carries more than 20,000mAh of power, and will cost just about $300.

FINsix Dart Laptop Power Supply – If you need to travel with a laptop but don’t want to carry a brick, the Dart claims to be the world’s smallest laptop power supply. It comes with connectors for almost every major brand and will fit into your pocket. Price is just about $100.

Secur Ultimate Solar Charger SP600 – If you’re planning to venture off the grid, but want to keep your smartphone, camera, or other device charged, this solar charger has a built-in 10000mAh battery and dual USB outlets so you can charge it up in the sunlight, then charge your devices overnight. Price is $125.

Kanex Multi-Sync Foldable Travel Keyboard – If you need to do some serious typing on your smartphone or tablet, but don’t want to carry a full-sized keyboard with you, this will connect by Bluetooth to most of your devices and won’t take up too much space. Price is under $50.

NiteIze Slide Lock Carabiners – We’ve found that when you travel there’s almost always a reason to attach one thing to another. A water bottle to a backpack. A travel pillow to a rollaboard. Keys to your belt loops. So, we pack a set of assorted stainless steel carabiners and s-biners from Nite-Ize. Prices range from about $3.40 for one clip to about $11.45 for an assorted package of three.

Sound Grenade Mini Personal Alarm – Ever worry about walking down an unfamiliar street at night? This powerful alarm emits a screaming 120 decibels to alert anyone nearby that you need help and hopefully scare off the bad guys at the same time. Price is about $20 for one, $90 for a five-pack. Other models connect directly to 9-1-1.

React Sidekick Safety Device – React works with a smartphone app to notify your network or authorities if you need help. It will work with your smartphone even if the phone is locked. You can carry it in a pocket, or on a keychain or with a carabiner. You can send an “all clear” signal, or you can ask that your contacts follow you. No subscription needed. Price is $70.

Iron & Glory Mini Plier Multitool – This Brooklyn-based company makes some of the most innovative and high-quality travel gadgets we’ve seen at a modest price. This multitool is only 2” long but includes a plier, flathead and Philips screwdrivers, nail file and tiny blade. And all for $12. A couple of other Iron & Glory travel items you might consider: their LED multitool at $18.00 and their combination lock carabiner at $24.00

Mos Pack Powered Backpack – If you travel with multiple devices, and who doesn’t, you know that keeping them all juiced is a constant challenge. The Mos Pack has an AC plug that goes into a wall socket. Then inside is an AC outlet and two USB ports so you can charge your devices without taking them out of the backpack. This is particularly convenient in an airport. The bag includes lots of pockets and cable management so the inside of your bag doesn’t become a tangle. Price is $99.95.

eBags Connected Luggage Tag – Luggage and travel accessory maker eBags has a 21st-century twist on the traditional luggage tag. It makes use of an app and a coded tag that allows you to store your information in the cloud, and not on a tag that anyone can see.  And if your information changes, you can change it in your cloud-based app.  If your bag gets lost, anyone who finds it can scan the code or go to the tag’s URL to get it back to you. Price is $4.95 per tag. Here’s a short video that explains it.

Oaxis AirScale – This is a clever device that combines two functions that many travelers will find useful. It has a 6500 mAh charger for your devices, coupled with a luggage scale that can handle 88 pounds. If like me, you are stuffing your suitcase to capacity for a long trip, then whether or not you pack that extra shirt could make a big difference when you go to check in. This will tip you off before you tip the scale. Price is $59.

The Airhook – If you find yourself uncomfortably cramped with your airline tray table extended, this simple device will let you watch movies on your tablet and hold a drink, all without having to lower the tray. Since airlines are phasing out seat-back entertainment on domestic flights, we think this will be an increasingly popular option. The Airhook attaches to the tray table while it’s in its upright position, and won’t bother the passenger in front of you while freeing up some room. Price is $22.50.

Garmin DriveSmart 61 Automotive Navigation System -Whether you’re taking your own car or getting a rental at the other end of an airplane ride, having an automotive GPS makes sense. I like to set it up with my destinations before I get on a plane so it makes it easy to get out of an unfamiliar airport. This unit has a big touchscreen, almost 7″. It has the features you’d expect: voice navigation, live traffic information, and lifetime map updates. Price is just about $270.

NiteIze Steelie Freemount Smartphone Vent Mount – If you like to have your smartphone handy while you’re in a car, or you use it for navigation, the Steelie Freemount Vent Mount is an easy way to attach it to any of the vents in the car. You can see the screen, rotate it to almost any angle, and use your device without having to take your eyes off the road. Price is just about $40.

Decibullz Custom Molded Wireless Earphones – If you like to travel with your tunes, there’s no shortage of ways to listen. You mold these phones to your own ears, which helps seal out noise while helping them stay firmly in your ears no matter what you’re doing. In order to get them to fit, you run the earpieces under hot water until they are soft. Then you put them in your ears to shape them. Let them dry and harden. If you didn’t get it right the first time you can do it over again. Price is $119 at Amazon.com.

Silent Pocket Faraday Cage Shielding Sleeves – We live in a world where we are bombarded by electronic signals. Some of them we create ourselves. And many are not protected from prying eyes or devices. Silent Pocket has a range of sleeves for devices from smartphone to tablets that will block your signals from getting out, and the signals from those who might want access to your information from getting in. Sleeves for your smartphone start at $109.95. Tablet sleeves start at $169.95. Other Silent Pocket products can protect a range of devices beginning with your wallet which may be loaded with identifying chips on your credit cards.

Ventev alloy charge synch USB-C cable

Cables – If you are traveling with gadgets, you’re going to need cables. And you should probably take spares, since they are among the easiest accessories to forget on an airplane, in a hotel room, almost anywhere. While there are hundreds on the market, we’ve had good luck with three brands we’ve tried over the years. Ventev has long been known for its flat, tangle-free cables in lots of configurations. More recently it’s introduced metal alloy covered USB-C type cables. Prices range from about $13 to about $25.

Mota Tamo “forever” lightning cable

Mota makes Tamo brand premium cables for Apple’s lightning port. These come in a variety of sizes and colors and are advertised as “forever cables.” Prices begin at $40 for a 3-foot cord up to $50 for a ten-foot cord. If you are easily amused by flashy objects, Tamo also has a line of LED cables that show current moving toward your device (as do others).

 

Eastern Collective lightning cable

Eastern Collective – This company has a line of braided fabric coated cables that are not only utilitarian but quite colorful as well. They come in sizes up to ten feet for Apple lightning devices. Most of their cables cost $19.95 but the ten footers will run you $25.95. They also make cables with standard USB and USB-C connectors.

 

 

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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