The more you travel, the more you learn about travelling comfortably. There are enough difficulties inherent in the vagabond’s lifestyle. Any little bit of gear that simplifies a difficult task or adds to your quality of life on the road is naturally a good thing.
Every item on this list is simple and inexpensive, yet brings the comforts of home to a life spent drifting between far-flung ports and distant cities.
#1: The Airplane Headphone Adapter
For most longer airline flights you’ll have the option of paying to watch a movie, usually followed by an assortment of TV shows. As part of a cost-cutting measure, the airlines that still offer this service now charge for headphones. There’s no 3.5 mm jack on your seat so your options are to pay a fee or go without entertainment.
Unless you’ve got your Airplane Adapter. This $3.95 adapter lets you use your normal headphones while in flight. Don’t step into the terminal without it. And a pair of headphones, of course.
#2: The Targus Universal Power Adapter
It’s 6:30 A.M. in Philadelphia, and I’m waiting outside the gate of my connecting flight to Tokyo. Ahead of me is a 15 hour plane flight. Normally I’d pop a hearty spoonful of Kanna into my airport tea and drift to sleep listening to Styx for the bulk of my journey. Alas, I’ve got a full work-day ahead of me.
There’s a problem. My laptop battery lasts only six hours and this flight doesn’t have any sockets I can use. SkyMall offers a $120 power adapter, but even if I buy it now I won’t be able to use it on this flight. Am I doomed to sink into a raving, media-deprived madness?
Not with the Targus Universal Power Adapter. This kit comes with different heads for a variety of notebooks and works in most cars, planes, boats, and RVs. If you don’t mind shelling out close to a hundred bucks, this should handle all of your airplane power needs.
If not, there’s a wide selection of other airline power converters built specifically for certain brands of notebook, or made for different plane connections. Before buying anything, check to make sure it’ll work with your gear AND work on the flight you’re taking.
This site explains everything you need to know about finding out what power adapter will work on your flight. This link has recommendations for a bunch of other adapters. Buy what works, and enjoy your mile-high unlimited access to pornography and torrented episodes of Family Guy.
#3: The Yogen Mobile Charger
Unfortunately, reliable power outlets aren’t everywhere you want to be. Whether you’re hiking through desolate wilderness or touring the third world, every world traveller eventually ends up somewhere without power. Life ‘off the grid’ is one of those experiences that’s genuinely good for your soul. A few days without blaring electronic media or the Internet helps to put things into perspective …
But sometimes you aren’t up for an amazing new experience. Sometimes you need power, otherwise you’ll be unable to call and change your travel arrangements or use your GPS or contact medical help in the event of an emergency. For times like these, we have the YoGen mobile charger.
It costs $39.99, and it allows you to give all your handheld devices a working charge no matter where on earth you are. It’s small enough to slip inside a side pocket on your laptop bag, and useful enough to earn a place in your travel kit regardless of the destination.
#4: The Devotec Solar Charger+Battery
Solar power is another elegant solution to the ‘no reliable electricity’ issue. Unfortunately, most solar arrays are clunky or require a fair amount of set-up in order to get working. Only a few are manufactured to be easily portable, simple to set up, and durable enough for travel. One of these few is the Devotec solar charger.
Their solar panels are tough and efficient and the company provides fantastic customer support. For less than $80, you can own a high-capacity 4000 mAH battery and an extended solar charger set.
Need something a little bigger? This $136 foldable solar panel can keep your laptop trickle-charged during more intensive trips.
#5: Personal Filtered Water Bottle
These bottles cost just $26. They’re portable, well-made, and conform to EPA protocols for Microbiological Purifiers. Wherever you are, this will make the water safe (or at least much safer) to drink.
Grab a bottle of Iodine pills if you’re worried about exceptionally nasty water. The iodine will kill EVERYTHING and the filter will remove that nasty ass-and-death taste from your now clean drink.
If you intend to travel in the third world or extensively in the wilderness, you need this product. No matter where you go, a travel-cup with a water filter is indispensable if you value your intestinal tract.
#6: PacSafe Anti-Theft Bag
The wise traveller never carries all of his valuables on his person when he can avoid it. Leaving an extra credit card and/or some cash hidden behind at the hostel is a great way to ensure you’re not SOL in the event of a mugging or severe pants-catastrophe (pantstastrophe). But where to leave your filthy lucre and valuable documents?
The PacSafe TravelSafe 100 is damn near bulletproof and easy to secure. It costs $44.99 and takes up next-to-no space in your backpack.
#7: A Sarong
It doesn’t matter if you’re a dainty little princes who sweats perfume or a 400 pound construction worker with a glandular disorder; your travel towel is going to get disgusting, fast. This is especially true during the winter and throughout all of Central and Eastern Europe. You can wash your towel thoroughly every couple of days, or you can nab a few sarongs.
Aside from being useful as make-shift scarves and clothing, they also make great towels. The material dries out super fast, which is something terry-cloth can’t claim. Take a bottle of anti-bacterial spray or sanitizer with you. Every other day, wash it out, wring it out, and leave it in the window or in front of the fan to dry. Within an hour or two, it’ll be dry and ready to go.
Online, you can find just about any color of sarong you want for $20-$25. If you want to save a ton of money you can pick a few up on your next trip to India. Get ‘em now, while the exchange rate is still favorable.
#8: Space Bags
I hate to endorse anything advertised in an infomercial, but in this case the product is actually pretty damn cool. Space Bags are little plastic sacks with an airlock. You stick your clothing in, hook a vacuum up to the lock, and suck all the air out. Nothing does a better job at cutting down on clothing bulk. I’ve seen these in action, and they’re a life-saver for the space-conscious traveller.
Don’t worry about bringing a vacuum with you. Any hostel or hotel worth staying at will let you borrow theirs. It only takes a minute or two and it makes packing way less of a headache. $19.95, plus S&H.
What essential travel gadgets do you never leave home without? Let us know in the comments below!