Travel Gadgets for 2013

Travel Gadgets that Make Your Trip A Little Better

By Max Hartshorne

Hercules Laptop Backpack K7102

ECBC Hercules Laptop Backpack K7102
Hercules Laptop Backpack K7102

Everyone carries a backpack now….they have become ubiquitous, and from the tiniest school child to the oldest man alive, they all have backpacks. But there is a difference, I’ve learned, between what you might find at Target or Wal-Mart and a top quality bag. I must say I have been giving the ECBC Hercules a major testing, both on day to day business and on two trips. Both times the strength of the material and the well-placed pockets made this one a winner. There is even a pocket in the back for an iPad, which can fit in along with the laptop. Up top, a very sturdy padded handle allows me to carry it like a briefcase.

I also like having two shallow outside pockets. This is certainly worth of its name HERCULES! A champ! Comes in black, blue, green, linen and berry. Once I even had to leave my luggage outside, in the back of a truck in Colombia, and by God, nothing got wet. I love this pack! Hercules Laptop Backpack $139.99

For travel to China and Other Places….iTwin Personal VPN

iTwin Personal VPN
iTwin Personal VPN

If you’re planning on visiting China, Iran, or Syria, this would be a good product to bring along. Because in these countries government censors block Twitter and Facebook, among other sites that they deem a threat.

This device is the size of two key drives. You can access one of the company’s own servers and avoid worrying about sites that are blocked by authoritarian governments. iTwin Connect is a zero-configuration Personal VPN device, comprising two identical halves. It supports two features: Public VPN and Private VPN. You can use one of the iTwin dedicated servers or your own Trusted PC to browse securely and privately. It's an entire operating system on the drive.

Using the two halves of the device you can also set up a secure bi-directional Virtual Private Network(VPN) between any two computers which gives full network access both ways. All data transferred is protected with hardware-grade security. The encryption-key resides only on the two halves of your iTwin, providing complete confidentiality.

If you lose one half of iTwin, you can remotely disable it so that even if someone finds your device, they don't get access to your data. One time cost of the device covers unlimited accesss and data transfers. There are no subscription fees involved. iTwin works with Microsoft® Windows® XP, Microsoft® Windows® Vista, Microsoft® Windows® 7 and Windows 8 Pro. iTwin Personal VPN $129.00

Phiaton Moderna earphones.
Phiaton Moderna MS200 earphones

Phiaton Moderna MS200 earphones

This is a product that every traveler needs…a good pair of headphones to use just up until the flight attendant comes down the aisle and informs you that it’s time to put away all electronic devices. Even though listening to music on your iPhone has nothing remotely to do with flight safety or navigation…or radio transmission. So, you sigh and slowly detached these snug fitting earpieces and tuck the red strap into its little leather holder. A nice pair of earphones here, great sound, and this rounded little case tucks away perfectly in my Hercules backpack. Cool looking too, in red with black trim. Snazzy.

Sensu Artist Brush and Stylus

For backseat art creation If you have a long road trip planned, here’s a gadget to give to your budding artist. First toss back your iPad, then give them this neat little artist’s brush and stylus. It’s a full fledged artist paintbrush that works on an iPad. It's a bit pricey for a paintbrush...but then again, it's no ordinary paintbrush, it works ona So you can create magical art as the miles roll by. It’s best when used with popular painting and drawing apps like Procreate, SketchTime, ArtRage and Brushes. Go ahead, make a masterpiece in the back seat! Sensu artists brush and stylus $39.99

Braven BRV1 portable Bluetooth speaker.Braven Wireless HD Speaker and phone charger

This rugged little beast packs quite a punch. First you can play music without any wires…once you get the thing to sync which is sometimes a little frustrating. But the sound is pretty bold, and it doubles as a USB phone charger. I must admit, I am a little late to the Bluetooth concept….but it’s growing on me.

One night we had a dinner party and between Spotify and this wireless speaker, we were grooving on tunes by request. Some times the Braven doesn’t sync, but when it’s got a full charge it’s a great device to have. It’s can also take being left out in the rain, though not dunking it in water. Rubber edges make it durable, if it falls off a table it will definitely survive. I have enjoyed other Braven music products but this is the best so far. It comes in a cool cobalt blue color, very stylin! Braven Wireless HD speaker $179

Maui Jim Keanu sunglasses

I like these heavy weight glasses, and they come from one of the most respected top manufacturers of sunglasses on Earth. With a $249 price tag, Maui Jim Keanu sunglassesthey feel like a really well made pair. The quality is evident too, besides the weight, in the touch clamshell case that came with them, and also a cleaning cloth. If you are careful and don’t lose these, it’s likely you will have a pair of Maui Jims for a very very long time.

Writer Tim Leffel, who knows more than I do about sunglasses, had good things to say about the pair on his Practical Travel Gear blog. He lives in Florida so he has to wear them all year long. I wish I had these when we visited Cartagena de Indias Colombia this year. Having a top notch case makes it easier to store the glasses, lessening the chance of losing them.

These Maui Jim’s come with Maui “High-Transmission” lenses, which offer improved visibilty for for overcast days or the beginning/end of day instead of peak sun time. They I get sharper contrast and more vibrant color, so that “low light is perceived with new vibrancy," according to the company. Maui Jim Keanu sunglasses $249

ibattz Dual USB portable chargeribattz Dual USB Battery Pack

You never can have too much power, I say. This is one many portable battery packs that offer you a juice up on the road for your cellphone, laptop, camera or other device. This one comes with a very rugged rubber case, with well-designed bumpers on all four sides. It looks like it could withstand a drop from a very tall building. You top off the device by plugging its USB into a running computer and then you have two separate USB plugs to plug into to recharge. It comes with two 30 pin iPhone connectors, (which won't do you any good for an iPhone 5).

New Trent Travelpak portable travel battery.
Travelpack Portable battery

This one is heavy duty, weighs about 13 ounces. With its rubber housing, it could withstand being dowsed, not dunked, with water. It's about the size of a deck of cards. It offers 8500 mega amps, which is a lot of juice! It has 4 blue LEDs that indicate the charge level and a check battery button. When charging, one of the LED will blink and all will light up when charging completes. Double clicking on the button will turn on/off a white LED "flashlight". Ibattz Dual USB Battery Pack $44.95

TravelPack Portable Travel Battery This is a slightly smaller version of the iBattz, except that it offers 4000 mega amps vs 8400, so it's a about a third less heavy than the larger one. Sleek design plug into the wall to gain a charge instead of using cords. The company says it provides twice the battery life for your iPhone 4/5. The unit doubles as a little night light, which might be nice to have in a hotel room. Travelpack Portable battery $44.95

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