7 must-have tech travel accessories
I'm planning a road trip for next month that will see me roaming some of the wildest parts of Scotland in search of haggis, fine malts, Nessie, and a midge repellent that works. Since this tour will take me to some wild places, I want to make sure that I'm kitted out so I can stay on the grid.
Here's a selection of tech travel accessories I'm taking with me.
3G mobile wi-fi hotspot modem
It's easy to think that in this day and age all you need to remain connected to the internet is a smartphone or tablet and you're ready to rock. That's true in an area where you can be guaranteed to get good mobile coverage, but I'm heading into an area that has patchy coverage at best. Also, chances are good that the network my iPhone or iPad is on won't be the one I need at a critical moment.
This is why I'm taking with me an unlocked 3G mobile wi-fi hotspot. I've chosen the Huawei E5776s.
Now I could swap SIM cards in my iPhone or iPad, but I have visions of the SIM card tray falling into an air vent in my car, something that would put a crimp in my day.
There's another added advantage of using a 3G modem over a tablet or smartphone. If you're in a poor signal area you can sometimes get better reception by attaching it to a paint roller extension handle and sticking it up in the air, MacGyver style.
If you spend a lot of time in your car – like I do – you need a way to keep your portable devices charged up while you're on the move. While chargers for smartphones such as the iPhone are plentiful, good chargers that output the 2.1A needed by tablets such as the iPad are harder to find.
Currently I'm using a dual USB-port Just Mobile Highway Pro that keeps my iPhone and iPad charged up – and it hasn't blown up after a couple of years of heavy usage. It's a little pricey at around $30, but it's one of the most reliable charger I've come across so far – and I should know because I've bought a lot of these over the years.
Cables, cables, cables!
Everything I take with me will need a cable, either to connecting it to something else, or to charge it.
I just have a paw full of Amazon Basics cables, which are cheap, durable, and do the job.
One tip though. No matter what cables you choose, bon't bother with curly/springy ones. In theory they're a great idea, but in practice I find them to be hell to use.
The 12V supply from a car can be used to charge a lot of kit, but if you are taking big kit with you such as a MacBook Pro, you need something heftier.
This is where my inverter comes in. Put it into the car's 12V socket and you get mains voltage out of the other end. This works well for devices drawing less than 150W. For heftier devices I'll need to pop up the hood and connect directly to the battery.
Portable Li-Ion power packs are a great way to keep devices charged up when out and about. If I don't have a vehicle to operate from I'll take a portable solar panel to keep them charged up, but when on the road I can just charge them directly from the 12V socket.
Anker and New Trent are two brands well worth considering.
A selection of SIM cards for different networks
You can seem to grabbed pre-paid pay-as-you-go data SIMs on eBay for a lot less than they go for in the shops. In fact, I can usually find SIMs that are such good value that it's not worth it to top them up when they're done.
Decent smartphone cradle
Nothing annoys me more on a trip than a smartphone cradle that's wobbly , doesn't hold the device properly, or one that falls off the windshield every time you look at it. If you're gonna spend a lot of time in your car, then it makes sense to invest in a good cradle.
I've been using RAM Mounts for years and when I see other people's mounts, I know I've made the right choice.
The mount I use is the RAM Universal X-Grip. Thanks to its innovative spring-loaded four mounting legs, this mount will accommodate not only an iPhone--with or without a case--but also any device that is between 0.875 and 3.25 inches wide, and a minimum of 4 inches in height.
While on the subject of insect repellent
At the beginning of this piece I made a jovial reference to midges and insect repellent, but before I close I just want to point something out.
When we talk of insect repellent, most people think of DEET. And DEET is undoubtedly a very effective repellent. But it has a problem for us tech-heads – DEET is incredibly harsh on plastics, and can damage, or even actually melt, some plastics.
Cut a long story short, this is why I don't use DEET. Instead I've transitioned to products containing icaridin (also known as picaridin). Look for brand names such as Bayrepel and Saltidin.
My product of choice is Smidge. It should help me come back from Scotland with some flesh on my skeleton.