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These 4 tech gadgets are essentials for long commutes

From MagSafe battery packs that keep my phone battery boosted or personal alarms that make my commute feel just a little safer, I can't live without these tech gadgets as a super-commuter.
Written by Kayla Solino, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Casely Power Pod
Casely Power Pod
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Casetify Snappy Cardholder + Stand
Casetify Snappy Cardholder + Stand
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Birdie Personal Safety Alarm
She's Birdie safety alarm in black attached to my keychain wallet.
Birdie Personal Safety Alarm
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AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
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Nothing's worse than an extra-long commute, but having the right tech can make a grueling hour(s)-long journey to the office fly by. I commute into New York City a few days a week to work from the ZDNET office, with a journey that involves taking a car and multiple trains, and walking. I've been able to put my job reviewing handy tech gadgets like MagSafe battery packs, MagSafe wallets and accessories, and more to good use during these commutes to figure out which products are the most helpful in daily life. 

Also: Everything you need for commuting 

These are the top four products I'd recommend to anyone new or seasoned in super-commuting. They've kept my phone's battery boosted throughout the long days going to and from the office and my 2.5-hour trips to and from the office enjoyable, and most importantly, safe. 

My favorite tech for a long commute

Kayla Solino/ZDNET

For anyone who commutes regularly (especially if it's a longer haul), a battery pack is a must to keep your phone powered up. As a young woman traveling alone, a fully charged phone is essential in the event of an accident or emergency. Aside from that, though, my phone keeps me occupied during my 5-hour round trip commute. 

Since I test MagSafe battery packs for ZDNET, I've tried both some great options, and some that missed the mark. But the Casely Power Pod is the battery pack I always have on me. Its design features a smaller footprint than competitors, it's lightweight, ergonomic and comfortable to hold on my phone, it's a great size for portability, and it perfectly matches my iPhone case. Based on my own testing, it boosted my phone 36% in just an hour, and I still had extra juice left over. I always make an effort to charge my phone before leaving the office, but in the chance that I don't, I keep this power pod handy.

Also: Finally, a MagSafe battery pack that doesn't look like a brick (and it's 25% off, too)

Power Pod users on Reddit said they liked its great design and fit on their iPhones, the fun colors and designs, and the handy on/off button positioned on the front of the pack. One Redditor even said they preferred the Power Pod over packs from Anker and Apple. However, some thought the Casely pod got too warm to handle. No matter your preference, carrying a battery pack of some kind is a smart move, especially for on-the-move individuals. 

Also: The best MagSafe battery packs of 2024: Expert tested 

A MagSafe wallet is another essential that I can't commute without. Since I frequently test MagSafe wallets, I've had the chance to try many different styles, card capacities, and features during my actual commute, so when I say this Casetify cardholder lets me access one card speedily and with ease, I really mean it. 

On the days when I don't need or want to carry a ton of cards, this cardholder is just enough for arguably my most important one in my wallet -- my NJ Transit SmartLink card. Not only can I whip this out easily at turnstiles, but the Casetify cardholder gives me a secure place to quickly stow it away, too. Plus it comes in several fun colors and styles, and doubles as a phone stand once I'm settled in the office. 

Also: The best MagSafe wallets of 2024: Expert tested

Casetify Snappy Cardholder users on Amazon said they liked the numerous patterns and designs offered, the quick storage for their card, and the super fast kickstand feature that snaps up and into place instantly. However, some customers said the cardholder "catches" too often on their back pockets.

She's Birdie safety alarm in black attached to my keychain wallet.
Christina Darby/ZDNET

This may not be a commuting essential for everyone, but as a 20-something woman who travels alone in and out of the busiest metropolitan areas in the nation, it's a must. I've carried this Birdie personal alarm all throughout college, and have continued to do so since. While I hope to never have to use it, every dollar I spent on it is worth it for the peace of mind it brings me. When the top pin of the Birdie is pulled out, a 130db siren sounds and a strobe light flashes for up to 40 minutes. And while this may not prevent me from danger, I like knowing that at any moment I have the option to draw attention to myself and hopefully thwart any nefarious activity. I carry this on my keychain, and have it on hand while walking alone in New York City, Newark Penn Station, and even from the parking lot to the train station. 

I don't recommend this product out of fear or to scare anyone, but I'd rather have a Birdie alarm and not need it than have nothing at all. Especially with the recent violence towards women in New York, and the numerous stories of women harmed while doing basic activities like walking to work or running

Also: This tiny keychain is a mighty tool for your personal safety 

Current Birdie users on Reddit said they liked the loud siren, discreet design, and overall peace of mind the Birdie alarm provides, and Redditors across the board recommended carrying a personal safety alarm or other safety tools just in case -- for activities ranging from running alone to heading to class. And while there's no guarantee that you'll ever need to use an alarm, several Redditors shared instances where they believed their personal alarm saved them from harm

Also: The best personal safety alarms to carry 

Kayla Solino/ZDNET

For any long-distance commuter, the need for a quality pair of headphones or earbuds, particularly ones that offer noise cancellation, is pretty crucial. I couldn't go one day of commuting without my AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). I bought them this past October specifically for commuting because my Beats Solo 3 headphones were too bulky and annoying to take off when I needed to, but my original AirPods couldn't hack it, either. I use my AirPods Pro to listen to music during my commute, to watch videos and shows, and simply to drown out the outside sound of the train and daily hustle. 

Also: The best earbuds of 2024: Expert tested

These AirPods have two times more noise cancellation than the previous version and feature an upgraded adaptive transparency mode which automatically lowers the volume of harmful noises above the 85dB threshold. I enjoy using all of these features during my commute, and especially appreciate conversation awareness, which makes it easy to order my coffee without taking my earbuds out. 

Redditors said the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) are the best buy out of the entire AirPods lineup currently, thanks to the upgraded features, new chip, and new USB-C charging option. One truck driver on Reddit who describes himself as an audiophile said the improvements of the 2nd Gen Pros were noticeable, to the point where he couldn't even hear his truck's engine running like usual. Other Redditors said these AirPods provided pretty good noise cancellation and overall value for using on airplanes and long flights 

Why should you trust me?

I test, review, and scout the best deals on tech for a living, from MagSafe accessories and iPhone battery packs, to iPad gear and beyond. I have the unique opportunity to try out new tech accessories everyday, and incorporate them into my daily routine and lifestyle. That includes taking them with me on my super commutes to the office. 

Beyond this, I am constantly checking out ZDNET's competition for the newest products, reading up and researching on customer reviews across Reddit, Best Buy, Amazon, and more, collaborating with our other experts to analyze what makes devices good or bad, and compiling all of that knowledge to share it directly with you. 

For this particular article, if I hadn't tested a product myself, I sought out a ZDNET expert who had. I considered price, quality, everyday function, practicality, and more to curate this list, and while my work bag is full of lots of interesting knick knacks and gadgets, these four remain steady, in some iteration. I'll never be without earbuds, something to hold my transit card, a safety alarm, or a battery booster. 

And while there are tons of other tech products I could've convincingly written about and recommended you buy for your own commute, these are truly the top four things that I would recommend to my closest friends if they were embarking on a commuting journey (especially on public transit), and products I have already recommended tons of times over -- both here at ZDNET and in my personal life. 

What basics do I need for commuting?

As a super-commuter, I feel uber-qualified to recommend a few bare minimum essentials to have on hand while going back and forth to work. Here's my top 5 picks for most people: 

  • A comfortable bag or tote
  • MagSafe battery pack or portable charger 
  • Noise-canceling earbuds or headphones
  • A MagSafe wallet (or anything that gives easy access to transit cards and tickets)
  • A water bottle (the Owala FreeSip is my personal favorite, though I have used bottles from Swell, Stanley, Hydroflask and more, too). Any bottle will do, just stay hydrated.

What is a super commuter?

A super commuter typically refers to the practice of undertaking long-distance commutes to work from where one lives. Some say this involves traveling over 90 minutes or more one way, crossing multiple zones or regions, or traveling to one metropolitan city center for work while living much further outside of it. Whatever your definition, it essentially boils down to a lot of time spent commuting on public transit, flying, or traveling in a car. 

Some scholars suggest that super commuting is on the rise, especially since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, though it remains difficult to quantify or measure. 

I live in central New Jersey and commute twice a week to New York City. Getting to work requires a drive to the train station, a train ride, a transfer at Newark Penn Station in Newark, NJ to the NJ PATH train, two PATH train rides, and a walk to the office. The whole process often fluctuates due to weather, day of the week, time of year, and any unforeseen circumstances, but the commute is usually 2.5 hours each way, for a grand total of 5 hours round trip. 

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