26 Killer Travel Gadgets Every Geek Needs
by Mike Richard | May, 2007
Update: For even more kick ass gadgets, check out Another 26 Travel Gadgets Every Geek Needs.
I admit it: I’m a tech-head. I love gadgets and I love to travel. Put the two together and I attain a state of bliss somewhere between watching a Meredith Baxter-Birney marathon on Lifetime and that feeling you get when you think about puppies and marshmallows together at the same time. See where I’m going?
Anywho, I run through my checklist of essential gear every time I travel: laptop? Check. Travel guides? Of course. Digital camera? Yup. Pink feety pajamas and the Mama’s Boy teddy bear from my girlfriend? Aye. But … there’s still something missing. I’ve never felt Inspector Gadget-ish enough.
I started doing some digging and realized I’ve been missing out in a big way. Without further adieu, I present twenty six essential gadgets that no self-respecting traveling geek should be without. Why twenty six? I’m not sure. Better than twenty five, I guess.
#1: De-Pooify Your Water Supply
If you’re not a big fan of drinking animal droppings with your river water while hiking or on the go, the MSR Miox water filter is all you need to de-pooify a steady, virtually unlimited, potable water supply.
The Gorillapod. Tripods are so last month. And who wants to actually hold their digital camera, like with their hands, when they can mount it virtually anywhere and to anything with this beast?
#3: A Hammock for Your ‘lectronics
It’s tough to tell from their German language website, but this 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque device is, as Gadling puts it, “a hammock to keep your small electronics from falling to their death while hanging from oddly-placed outlets.” I can honestly say I’ve never been in such a situation, but I like to be prepared.
#4: Laser Virtual Keyboard
Relieve your hands of the stress of constantly pushing down heavy keyboard keys with a Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard. This thing is Minority Report cool, but without Tom Cruise’s crazy antics and all that 1984-style big-government-gettin’-up-in-your-piece nonsense.
#5: A Real Global Cell Phone
My cell phone can beat up your cell phone. That’s because I have National Geographic’s Talk Abroad Travel Phone. Can your cell phone call anywhere in the world from over 100 countries? Doubt it. This new travel phone from NG can for under $200. (Actually I don’t really have this phone. But I wanted a reason to say “My cell phone can beat up your cell phone.”)
#6: … or this Other Real Global Cell Phone
Or if you’re a cheapskate or a National Geographic hater, perhaps Mobal’s $99 world phone is more your speed? Sure, it’s not especially sexy or chic but did I mention it’s $99? And it’s global? As in: it works around the globe.
#7: Indestructible Travel Cases
Checking your crackberry or updating weekly travel expenses on your Treo while scuba diving is easier than ever before with the waterproof and crushproof Pelican Micro Case Series of cases. There’s even a purge valve to equalize the pressure!
#8: Mission Impossible-Style Banking
Online banking over unsecured wireless networks is sketchy to say the least. Who knows whether that shady guy sitting next to you in the pleather jacket with his laptop and a Ron Burgundy mustache isn’t sniffing the 802g airwaves for your web passwords? Get the ultimate in password security with ETrade’s SecurID® Two-Factor Authentication token. It uses strong authentication by generating a random password every 60 seconds. Tom Cruise would be proud.
#9: The Only Travel Adapter You’ll Ever Need
The 150-Country Auto-Detecting Travel Adapter And Converter. Not the catchiest product name, but we can’t all afford big budget marketing departments. Hammacher Schlemmer describes it as “the lightweight, compact device that automatically detects incoming voltage, converts it to 120-volt AC power, and provides plug adaptation for over 150 countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Caribbean, and Australia.” You’re out of luck in Antarctica I guess, but I don’t think they have electricity down there anyway. At least now you don’t have to carry around 150 adapters like you used to, right? Also: “The plug configures to fit a variety of international sockets, and it has a built-in USB port that allows you to leave chargers for cell phones, digital cameras, iPod®s, and other devices at home. The device allows simultaneous AC and USB connection to charge two devices at once.” Very cool.
#10: Soap on Crack (for Your Crack)
I think we can all agree that finding a reliable meth dealer while on the road is difficult to say the least. This might be your opportunity to Say No to Drugs and get your morning buzz on the safe, Nancy Reagan-friendly way with Shower Shock Caffeine Soap Travel. ThinkGeek says: “It works. No, we’re not kidding and no you don’t eat it. The caffeine is absorbed through the skin…” If they said it, it must be true, right?
#11: Turn Your Laptop Into a Travel Safe … Sort Of
The Stashcard hides cash, credit cards, and that picture of Fluffy you always take with you so you’re not lonely at the hotel.
#12: Hide Your Valuables In Plain (Stained) Sight
But if you’re at all concerned with hiding lots of money and other valuables inside your most valuable and theft-worthy electronic gadget (read: your laptop), consider BriefSafe. It’s a pair of nasty-looking, “pre-skid marked” drawers with a hidden pocket for all your cash, passport, etc. Add a touch of realistic, poo-smelling Doo Drops and you might not want to touch your own valuables.
#13: Stash Sandals
Or if you’d rather your hostel-mates or the hotel chambermaid not think you’re a disgusting chap with a penchant for showing off your poo-laden unmentionables, Reef’s Stash sandals are just the trick. Although they’re technically marketed towards the ladies, they are offered in jet black. So if you’re a dude, no one has to know that you like to wear women’s shoes.
#14: Superman Wine Glasses
Le Travel Store fills the travel-addicted gadget-head wino niche perfectly with their Indestructible Travel Wine Glass. You just never know when the urge for booze will strike.
#15: Bottle Opener Sandals
Fancy yourself more of a hops fellah than a wino? The aforementioned Reef has outdone themselves by combining the classic staple of beach life – the sandal – with the classic staple of the beach life boozer – the bottle opener. Introducing the Fanning. Brilliant! Why didn’t someone think of this before?
#16: Wind Up Cell Phone Charger
If you’re a long ways from home (and a power outlet), this little beauty will keep your cell phone juiced for as long as you have a working hand. Of course, the obvious question is: if you’re that far from civilization, are there likely to be cell towers near you? Just a thought.
#17: GPS Photo Tagger
Serious traveler/photographers know what a pain in the ass it can be to keep track of where each and every one of their photos were taken. You could keep a running diary of every shot, but who needs that hassle? Enter the Sony GPSCS1KA GPS Unit Kit. All you need to do to use it is turn it on and carry it with you. It takes a snapshot of your location at fifteen second intervals. Back home, the included software checks the EXIF data from each photo and matches it to where you were at that point in time.
#18: A Space Pen To Out Space All Other Space Pens
If John Wayne were a pen, he’d be the Fisher’s Bullet Space Pen. All you need to know:
- Writes at any angle. Great for harried travelers with cell-phones stuck in their ears having to write on notepaper on a wall.
- “Writes through dirt, oil, grease and in freezing cold; down to -55F BELOW ZERO”
- All Brass and Steel Components
- Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee
- It’s a no-brainer at less than $17
#19: Waterproof iPod Shuffle
We’re not talking some fancy rubber case to wrap around your iPod. SwimMan actually disassembles genuine iPod Shuffles and reassembles them using “proprietary waterproofing technology”. Neat. You can snag waterproof headphones from them too. What – no photo? C’mon, you know what an iPod Shuffle looks like!
#20: PacSafe Safety Camera Strap
If you’re a serious photographer and one who’s crazy enough to lug a $1K+ camera around on your travels, you’re quite the likely target for hustlers and pickpockets. PacSafe says “the CarrySafe Camera Strap is embedded with snatch-proof, high tensile, stainless steel PacSafe CarrySafe Camera Strapwire”. “Snatch-proof”? Moving along …
#21: Tourist Remover Software … No, I’m Not Kidding
In the same way that HDR photos can take all the best bits from multiple exposures of the same subject and combine them into a single kickass photo, futureLAB’s cleverly named Tourist Remover Software can de-tourist-ify your travel photos. Simply snap a few shots of a building, statue, etc., happy tourists and all. Their software will combine all of the un-touristed sections of each pic into a single tourist-free photo. Simple and pretty damn cool.
#22: Casio Pathfinder Watch
Plan on climbing Everest? With Casio’s Pathfinder watch, you can lug the rest of the crap on this list around and still know what time it is and how freakin’ cold it is at the top. This beast sports an altimeter, thermometer, compass, barometer, auto-setting atomic clock functionality, tide graph, depth gauge, and dive log. Oh and it’s solar powered. Is it really still considered a watch at this point?
#23: Batman’s Swiss Army Knife
When an 84-tool Swiss Army Knife isn’t enough, you need Wenger’s Giant Collector’s Swiss Army Knife. This 8-inch monstrosity weighs in at a cool, practical 2 pounds, 11 ounces and boasts 85 tools – that’s every tool ever created by Wenger. Oh and it’s only $1200. The only thing missing? Flamethrower. You just never know when that’ll come in handy.
#24: Keep The Malaria Outta Yo Pants
Is that malaria in your pants or are you just happy to see me? If you’re wearing Ex Officio Buzz Off Insect Shield Clothing, it’s probably the latter. Insects are a real and potentially fatal problem in many parts of the world. So if you’d rather pass on picking up malaria or any number of other fun maladies involving flesh and organ hungry parasites, hook yourself up with these insect repellent infused clothes. The “clothing line has permethrin, a man-made version of a centuries-old natural insect repellent, bonded to the actual apparel, so it repels mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers, and no-see-ums without having to apply any chemical to your clothes. The odorless protection lasts for 25 washings, doesn’t change the feel of the garments, and comes in everything from socks and shirts to hats and vests—you could swaddle yourself in the stuff.”
#25: Tune In, Tune Out
Still using Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. Tsk. Sorry to hear that (pun intended). Outside Online points us to Ultimate Ears ear buds:
The base model—but, trust me, more than adequate—UE-5c ($550, www.ultimateears.com) is tuned specifically to optimize the sound of mastered music and has a low-frequency and high-frequency speaker in each ear, delivering an unbelievable salience of sound—not to mention the full spectrum of a recording. You might as well have your head stuck in an amp. Think of something you know by heart, then think again. Most likely, you haven’t heard the half of it.
Mmkay. Sounds like aural sex (another pun intended). The price includes a visit to an audiologist for a custom fitting. Yup – each pair is 100% custom to each individual’s ears. Sound appealing? (I’m done, really.)
#26: Solar Powered Backpack
… and you can throw everything above into the solar-powered Voltaic Backpack. This bad boy will power every one of your gadgets (save your laptop) as long as there’s daylight. And when the sun goes down, you can always take to the streets to impress strangers with your new 8-inch tool (no, your other 8-inch tool).
By the way, I own none of these. So if you’re thinking of some early Christmas shopping … I’m just putting it out there.
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About the Author
Vagabondish founding editor, Mike Richard, is a Rhode Island native, professional web designer and travel junkie with an unhealthy addiction to backpacking, hiking and seeing the world. He enjoys knit hats, small, declarative sentences and speaking in the third person. His professional credits include "Woman's World magazine contributor" and having once been interviewed by Tyra Banks (seriously).