Top 20 Useless Travel Gadgets of 2007

Unsure what to buy for that special traveler or backpacking someone who’s got it all? Just in time for the holidays, we bring you Vagabondish’s first annual guide to the “Top 20 Useless Travel Gadgets of 2007″.

Whether you’re looking for air conditioned clothing, magic electronic meat sniffing devices, monogrammed disposable airline seat covers, or oil fragrance burners for your laptop … it’s all here.

Happy holidays!

#1 – Air Conditioned T-Shirt

Air Conditioned T-Shirt

Plan on trekking the Sahara or braving the South East Asian heat? Why rely on bottled water on throngs of natives to personally fan you with palm fronds in the comfort of your Range Rover when you could pack an air-conditioner … right in your shirt?

Previously unavailable in the U.S. until this year, this odd little bit of clothing is available for just $159 via Japan Trend Shop.

#2 – Solar Powered Cooling Helmet

Solar Powered Cooling Helmet

… and you can of course complement the above top with this little bit of ingenuity to help cool your noggin. Not to mention it looks simply ravishing. Available from (who else?) Hammacher Schlemmer for less than $50 US.

#3 – Pillowig: The Ultimate Travel Pillow

Pillowig - Travel Pillow

I personally think the photo speaks for itself. But I’ll let the designer elaborate on the concept:

“Pillowig” is hand made wearable pillow comforting trieness of people in daily lives, enabling users to sleep comfortably whenever and whenever they’d like. When user test is done in public spaces – subway, airplane, library, class room and laundromat, viewers commented: “I would like to have it for my trip.”, “Very funny.” “This is practical, but a laugh, too.” I made 50 limited editions and sold 47 pieces at the exhibition of the work and gained “Pillowig” fans. Two months later fans did a group performance piece at the Old Palace, Seoul.

Sadly, this is only a concept design with no plans to actually put it into production.

#4 – The Buddy Throw

Buddy Throw

It can get lonely on the road when you’re traveling solo. For those long train rides in a car by yourself, curl up with a nice LP guide and the Buddy Throw to help remind you of the time when that special stick figure in your life was there for you. Available from CharlesandMarie.com for $139 US.

#5 – WiFi Network Detector T-shirt

WiFi Network Detector T-shirt

Nothing clearly screams, “Yes I’m a well-to-do geek traveler, carrying a state-of-the-art laptop and several thousand dollars worth of travel gadgets in my daypack.” like a battery powered Wi-Fi network detector shirt. Available from ThinkGeek for $29.99 US.

#6 – Find a Loo Anywhere in the World

MizPee Homepage Screenshot

Not a gadget, but an invaluable bit of web ingenuity. MizPee claims:

Do you ever find yourself desperately looking for a clean toilet in the city? MizPee finds the closest, cleanest toilets in your area.

The site’s even mobile-enabled, meaning you can log on from your cell phone and never fear getting arrested for public urination outside your local elementary school again!

… or you could just duck into one of several hundred thousand hotels or McDonald’s around the world. But where’s the challenge in that?

Service is free at MizPee.com.

#7 – Magically Fabulous Electronic Food Sniffing Device

SensorFreshQ - Food Safety Tester

Also called the SensorFreshQ Food Safety Tester which:

… confirms the freshness of uncooked meat or poultry in less than a minute!

This small, food freshness tester ‘sniffs’ the air above meat and poultry, detecting bacteria-produced gasses and determining meat freshness. Over 2,000 air samples are taken in less than a minute, and the results are color-coded for easy recognition. The green light indicates fresh food, yellow means the food is still ok – but eat fast! A red light indicates that the uncooked meat or poultry has spoiled.

Of course, you could also make it a point not to eat meat from food stands where the “cooks” routinely scratch themselves and put their hands in inappropriate bodily crevices. But that’s just me. Plus, if you live in a place like New York, it’d be impossible to eat anywhere. Available for $89.95 US from Amazon.

#8 – Vending Machine Urban Camouflage

Vending Machine Urban Camouflage

Given the ubiquity of vending machines and muggings in urban centers throughout the world, it’s no surprise that some innovative soul decided: “Hey, if I only I looked like a vending machine, I’d be safe from assault and other petty crimes against my person!” I wish I were kidding. Via Kisune Noir:

One designer, Aya Tsukioka, has created a skirt that unfolds to become a realistic looking vending machine, to hide from would-be attackers. She’s also created a backpack that looks like a Japanese fire hydrant for children to hide behind, as well.

More info via NY Times. Unavailable for purchase – currently only a concept. Sorry.

#9 – ZapperClick – Bug Bite Relief Zapper Gadget

ZapperClick - Bug Bite Relief Zapper Gadget

Via the company’s own description:

The best way to get fast relief from mosquito bites and to stop scratching!

ZapperClick works by the rapid expansion and contraction of crystals that takes place when you press the activating button. This creates a harmless impulse, similar in effect to a mild static electricity charge.

“The rapid expansion and contraction of crystals”? Rrrrrright.

Call me a cynic, but this smacks of a late-night infomercial product available for just $19.95. ACT NOW AND GET HUNDRED ZAPPERCLICKS ABSOLUTELY FREEEEEE!!! Available from Amazon UK for £5.95.

#10 – SENZ Extreme Umbrella

SENZ Extreme Umbrella

The whole notion of “extreme [insert non-extreme thing here]” has really gone the way of “gourmet”. We have Extreme Doritos, Extreme KFC snackers and extreme bowling. Now … the extreme umbrella? Could any product in the world be less worthy of the adjective “extreme” than a freakin’ umbrella?

The price hardly seems worth it, although if it’s bragging rights you’re after, the video below will clearly solidify your place at the top among your umbrella-toting friends.

Yes, those are skydivers “testing” the umbrella under 180MPH wind conditions. Just for good measure, you may want to bolster your weather ego further by checking out this footage of the SENZ in a hurricane simulator.

Available in five dashing colors from the SENZ Umbrellas webshop for €49.95.

#11 – Ambient Weather Forecasting Umbrella

Ambient Weather Forecasting Umbrella

If your umbrella inclinations are a bit geekier and lean more towards sizzle than steak, the Ambient Forecasting Umbrella will no doubt fill that void.

This umbrella has been injected with some wonderful technology in the handle. A built-in wireless receiver gets a daily weather forecast from Accuweather.com, and blue LEDs will flash to let you know if the forecast is rain or snow. The LEDs located at the bottom of the handle will flash in proportion to the chance of precipitation for your area; if there is a 100% chance, it will flash quickly, and if a 10% chance, it will flash slowly.

My favorite forecasting method: open the damn shades and look outside.

Available from ThinkGeek for $99.99 US.

#12 – Wearable Sleeping Bag

Wearable Sleeping Bag

The biggest problem with old school, utilitarian sleeping bags is their lack of style and panache. They’re bulky, frumpy and just plain boring.

But what if you could actually wear your sleeping bag? The Wearable Sleeping Bag guarantees a great look if you’re into the Michelin Man school of fashion. Now we’re talkin’! Just be prepared for the throngs of admiring, backpacking co-eds who’ll no doubt be chasing you around the hostel to see just how many people can fit in there with you.

Available from IWantOneofThose.com. Price unknown – currently out of stock. Rats!

#13 – Violight Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer

Violight Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer

The concept is simple: the Violight uses germicidal UV light to kill up to 99% of bacteria on your toothbrush. Particularly helpful if you’re a germaphobe with OCD and a particular hangup about what little villainous microbes might be lurking on your toothbrush. But c’mon. Do we really need to go this far? Throw it in a cup of Scope and be done with it.

Now if someone were to invent a UV Light Hotel Sheet Sanitizer … then I’d be all ears.

Available from Drugstore.com for $29.99.

#14 – Location Earth Dog Tags

Location Earth Dog Tags

Everyone knows the biggest concern when you’re on an interplanetary travel mission is, what happens if you get lost? Fortunately, with Location Earth Dog Tags, when the Venutians find you, they’ll know exactly which rock around the sun you came from.

Why do I have the sneaky suspicion that these are only half tongue-in-cheek?

Available from EarthBoundDog.com for $12.99 US.

#15 – Mobile Smoking Shelter Hat

Mobile Smoking Shelter Hat

If the fashion statement alone isn’t enough to get you to beg, borrow or steal one of these things, the sheer utility of it will be.

Mr Charlton, who owns the Clifton Hotel on Portland, developed the idea alongside hotel manager Mark Pollard.

The mobile shelter – available to guests and staff – is an umbrella large and light enough for people to wear to cover their heads and shoulders.

“[W]e came up with these shelters as a way for people to stand out the front and smoke and not worry about the wind and rain so much.”

The hotel now provides boxes filled with the mobile shelters’ for its patrons’ and staff members’ to use as they need.

Not yet available for purchase, but it’d certainly be easy enough to make one, no?

#16 – The Nordic Bearded Cap

The Nordic Bearded Cap

Longing for that authentic Nordic Viking look? Get your inner Olaf on with this Bearded Cap. That Scandinavian woman you’ve been ogling all night will never even know your true heritage.

Available in four colors and two beard lengths (!) from Scandinavian Grace for $135.

#17 – Personalized Airline Seat Cover

Plane Sheets - Personalized Airline Seat Cover

With “air rage” already on the rise, do I really need some joker stretching a washable, monogrammed, cheetah-print cover over his seat next to me? From the manufacturer:

More than a half billion people will fly on domestic airplanes this year. This means airline seats will get used more, becoming less sanitary and less comfortable. PlaneSheets offers today’s travelers an innovative and practical way to personalize their travel space while keeping at bay germs, crumbs and spills from previous passengers.

Is anyone out there traveling without pants? Probably not since that incident, right? I’m pretty sure that my jeans act as a good barrier between the unsanitary, germ-riddled plane seats, no?

Like the toothbrush sanitizer, I’m sure this’ll satisfy obsessive germaphobes and What About Bob? types, but I’ll keep relying on my own clothing to separate my buttocks from any gunk left over from previous passengers, thank you very much.

Available from for $29.00 US from PlaneSheets.com. Monogram extra.

#18 – Breathe Air Helmet

Breathe Air Helmet

Via Times Online:

The “Breathe Air” helmet was created to filter out particles that irritate hay fever and asthma sufferers. It covers the cyclist’s nose and mouth with a shield behind which the filtered air circulates.

Okay, so it’s not entirely useless. But do you really want to look like a Star Wars Stormtrooper defending the Death Star while you’re cycling around Phuket?

Currently unavailable. Expected to retail for £100.

#19 – Zuca Luggage

Zuca Luggage

When draping yourself in the American flag at the airport is too much, but the Abercrombie + Fitch wardrobe and backwards NY Yankees baseball cap isn’t enough to prove to the world that you’re a true American patriot on the move, there’s Zuca luggage. As Travel Gear Blog notes:

One of the key features of the ZUCA bag is that you can sit on it. Is it really too much trouble to walk to an empty seat? Or did dragging your rolling bag wear you out too much? Does no else see what this is doing to humanity? With such a high rate of obesity and heart conditions in this country you would think the FDA would ban such products.

I say: screw the FDA; support the USA.

Available from Zuca.com from $45.00 US.

#20 – Laptop USB Fragrance Burner

Laptop USB Fragrance Burner

Yes, really. I wish I were kidding.

Thumb Size USB Fragrance Oil Burner can aromatize your home, office, car, etc. Fragrance oil can also make you feel more relax while you are working.

Available for $8 US from Brando.com.hk.

What are your favorite useless or ridiculous travel gadgets from 2007? Let us know in the comments below!

About The Author

Mike Richard
Founding Editor
Google+

Mike Richard has traveled the world extensively since 2008. He's camped in the Jordanian desert with Bedouins, tracked African wild dogs in South Africa, and survived a near-miss shark attack in Mexico. He loves the great outdoors, good bourbon, and he (usually) calls Massachusetts home. He also enjoys speaking in the third person.

16 Responses

  1. Ambar Hamid

    This is so funny. I can tell you that for the majority of the product listed above are things that I would not be caught dead with :)

    Some of them are very useful I know..but hey look at them..LOL
    Great fun btw.

    Reply
  2. Brandon Wardlaw

    The rapid expansion and contraction of crystals”? Rrrrrright.

    Obviously, someone is unaware of how piezoelectricity works. This phenomenon creates the spark that is responsible for starting fire in most modern lighters that “click” rather than having a spinning wheel striking flint.

    I’m not sure what it would do for a bug bite, though…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectricity

    Reply
  3. Mike Richard
    Mike

    Brandon: You learn something new everyday I guess. Thanks for the schooling on piezoelectricity – the concept’s completely foreign to me. Still a little unclear on how that stops bug bites from itching though.

    Reply
  4. Robin Baker

    ZapperClick – Brandon has explained the principle of peizoelectricity, good. The effect of a high voltage/low amperage ‘Zaps’ on a bitten area are sufficient to inhibit the histamine build-up around the bite that causes the urge to scratch. Serious clinical studies have been undertaken on the principle of the product and found to be effective.

    Reply
  5. Olivia

    What about a personalized airplane seat cover made out of the buddy throw? It’s a great way to avoid awkward conversation with the leering older businessman sitting next to you. And in the really awkward situations, it’ll turn into a vending machine.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I can see how a bag that you can double as a seat would be handy when you’re waiting in a 2.5hr line at the security checkpoint, or the other 2.5hr line to go through customs.

    Also to note that the model shown is not built to fit the airplane carry-on box. But the Zuca Pro travel does.

    Reply
  7. Solar Book

    I’ve enjoyed reading this – it made me chuckle. I’m just writing an article on the ‘rise and rise of the solar gadget’, featuring such wonders as the solar powered bra…

    Reply
  8. joshua

    A wifi detecting t-shirt?
    A coke vending machine camoflage kit?

    Brilliant! This is an excellent list of useless crap I absolutely have to have!

    Thanks for bring them to my attention.

    Reply
  9. mattnnz

    The ‘Merica Luggage is badass. If it had flames it would be even more awesome! The frame may actually protect your stuff though. By the way it comes in other fabric patterns the US haters on this website might approve of. :P

    Reply

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