Part of getting the world travel thing right is having the right gear to hand. For the Barefoot Traveler, that means making some difficult choices. Going Barefoot means you can’t take it all. So when it comes to stuffing your luggage, you also need gadgets that are going to save you space. Here, then, are 10 recommended gadgets to get you started that I personally use:
The Essential 10
1) Tecknet power
Despite the constant advance in technology, there’s an enduring problem that seems more or less unsolvable within reasonable budgets, and that’s your gadgets running out of power. Tecknet make a series of power chargers that you plug into the wall that turn this iPhone size device into a portable power source. Simply charge up to the max and attach your device by USB. I originally bought both the Tecknet iEP390 and the iEP387 but dropped the former in favor of the 387 because it was smaller (despite holding a marginally shorter charge). This device will easily recharge an iPhone from flat battery as well as a number of other gadgets before needing a recharge. The i387 also has a different power charge input meaning you can use the Cable adapter listed below to charge it via the wall or your laptop.
2) Cable adapter
If you travel a lot you’ll find that next to power, having the right adapter is your second biggest concern to staying connected. I used to carry numerous adapters and plug banks until I ditched them in favor of a simple USB adapter with changeable heads. I haven’t posted the link to the device here because there are so many variants on the market and they’re all much of a muchness. I advise getting a retractable adapter for organization and space. With the right head you can recharge an old Nokia 3300, Tecknet power adapter or iPhone from your laptop.
A macbook of any type is essential travel material. Not only is the wifi far more reliable that good old fashioned PC but the power adapters are more compact meaning you don’t have to carry round heavy units with multiple changers just in case. If possible, get a Macbook Pro and a Macbook Air as a backup. The Pro serves as an excellent mother computer to do all your heavy lifting. Your Air is excellent for writing outside by the pool, on the plane or at the cafe.
I can’t vouch for other handsets except that the iPhone is well adapted to travel. This is mainly due to the onboard travel related apps – Instagram, Tripit etc that sync well with the Macbook. With Spotify and Audbile you’ll never have to carry a book or CD again, freeing up plenty of packing space.
5) Eye-fi card
Possibly one of the most innovative gadgets around that is simply yet disruptive enough to save plenty of space for the traveller. Basically put, the Eye-fi card is a Wi-Fi enabled SD card (the SD card being a standard memory card you slot into a camera). When you add the Eye-fi card to your camera you can create a network between your camera and phone. If, like me, you have a reasonably good compact camera (Canon G10) but rarely use it because the iPhone is just so much easier and more convenient, now you can have the best of both worlds. I take photos on the G10 which then automatically sync up to the iPhone which I then upload to Instagram. The G10 to iPhone sync doesn’t require a Wi-Fi or mobile network as it creates its own and thus avoiding any roaming or connection issues associated with travel.
Next to the Eye-fi I’d recommend the Mi-Fi. It’s smaller than an iPhone and functions like a portable router. If you do any amount of travelling, data roaming and hotel fees become a real bugbear. In most countries now you can get a reasonable broadband data package on prepaid through a mobile carrier. While you may end up paying a lot more than your mobile package back home you’ll save a lot on those ridculous hotel fees. I recently picked up 12GB of data from 2 Degrees on mobile prepaid in New Zealand. I was doubtful at first that mobile broadband would be any good but achieved a regular, consistent connection of 3-4MBps, significantly faster than any hotel I’ve stayed in recently and as reliable as my fixed line broadband back home. With these kind of speeds you can easily do skype, upload large files and surf the web no hassle. If this is your regular activity and you don’t get involved with large video/audio files and or online gaming, you’ll find yourself consuming around 1GB a day.
7) Packing cubes
Someone wise once said that you can tell about a man’s life by looking at how he packs his suitcase. I’m not sure who said that or what the correct interpretation is supposed to be, but rest assured that a poorly packed suitcase is a recipe for stress and lost time. If you want to pack your suitcase well you must use packing cubes. I’ve used all kinds of solutions from innovative packing methods to those roll up vacuum seal bags. After much experimentation I’ve decided on hardwearing packing cubes. I recently picked up my cubes from Kathmandu store in New Zealand. You need more cubes than you think you will and don’t be afraid to spend on these because they are worth far more in time saved than the outlay. Get packing cubes for everything – from underwear to storing your power adapters and store separate items in each cube so you can easily access stuff from your suitcase.
8) Pacsafe Travel safe
Pacsafe and Apple feature regularly in my packing strategy and there’s a good reason for that – they make good products. I recommend 2 Pacsafe products – the Pacsafe 100 and Pacsafe 12L safe. They are essentially bags with an internal mesh skeleton that prevents anyone from cutting into them. Using a decent padlock (see below) you can create a safe that’s as good as any hotel locker, tying it to an immovable post in the room (a chair, table or wardrobe rail) using the safe’s cable. Sure, it won’t prevent the 1% of thieves who have the right equipment to dismantle this stuff but travel security is about preventing the 99% who look at your stuff and move on because it’s too much work. With the Pacsafe 100 you can store your wallet, passports, online bank security devices, jewelry etc. Use the Pacsafe 12L to store your macbook, iPad etc when you are out of the hotel room and in transit.
9) TSA Padlock
I started using padlocks after some kind baggage handler in India decided he could make better use of my shoes then I could ever do and promptly removed them from my luggage before they reached the plane. Get a padlock for your suitcase or bag when checking in luggage or when leaving it in your room. It will deter most casual opportunists. Make sure you use a TSA approved padlock (it bears a mark similar to the HSBC bank logo). TSA padlocks can be opened by customs officials using their master skeleton key. I also recommend a 4 number combination lock rather than a key based model as you will always remember your combination but could easily lose a key.
And lastly, a great friend for the long haul traveller. Melatonin is essentially a sleeping tablet but unlike others it claims to be from natural sources and certainly works without the grogginess of some sedatives. When you’re lying in the hotel bed at 2am trying hard to fall alseep with jetlag, a Melatonin will have you off in 30 mins. Sure, it’s not the best sleep in the world but that’s a world better than none at all.