Travel tech essentials

Technology can make travelling a much easier and more relaxed experience, but it can also be frustrating to charge, connect and protect around the world. From different power points to dodgy internet and even identify theft, travellers face all sorts of adversity.

Fortunately there is a huge range of devices and accessories that make life a whole lot easier. Picking the best of the bunch, or even just figuring out what you could need is tough, so we have rounded up 16 must have accessories for everything from casual trips domestically, to hard-core business travel and even road trips.

So what do you need? For super lightweight travel, it’s easy to do away with the laptop, and just reply on a smartphone or tablet. Paired with a high capacity power bank, you can then go days at a time without needing to hit up a wall charger.

For those who need to get work done, solid internet access and all day laptop availability is key. Oh, and never discount the importance of having a torch!

What to look for

Identify critical travel issues

With limited space, always try and address a travel problem with each bit of tech you bring along.

Country compatibility?

Do your research and only bring the power accessories needed for a specific country to save space and weight.

Look for portability

Next time your bag just scrapes in underweight, those extra few grams saved on each bit of tech will be well worth it.

Wear-and-tear features

Keep an eye out for handy inclusion such as water and dust proofing to help keep your tech safe.

Do-everything devices

They might cost more, but you can save space with devices that perform multiple jobs — especially when it comes to charging.

USB focus

Most tech charges from USB these days, so make sure you have a charger with many ports and a backup power bank.

Internet access

One of the most useful yet also often frustrating aspects to travel — look for devices that make connecting easier and faster.

Business travel

With a different focus than a relaxing holiday, being able to work anywhere without running out of power is important.


Armourcard

travel-kitRFID or NFC equipped cards are super handy — from tap and go credit cards to electronic passports. The problem is that they are also susceptible to digital attack, through RFID skimmers.

Using affordable readers, data can be accessed remotely or credit cards cloned. Inbuilt card security isn’t always able to stop it either — as some can simply clone the entire RFID chip, encryption and all. Travellers and tourists are often targeted, especially for identity theft.

It’s possible to buy passive RFID blocking sleeves or wallets, but these can be overcome with higher power RFID readers.

Armourcard is an Australian invention that actually actively jams the RFID signal, rendering your cards unreadable. The credit card sized device can be slipped into a wallet or purse and provides a 100 mm diameter zone of protection.

We tested it alongside our normal RFID credit card and it did successfully block the tap and go payment. The protection can also be disabled at the press of a button.

Price: $59.95
From: Armourcard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Belkin Travel Adaptor and Surge Protector

150831_Belkin USB World Travel Surge Protector (2)A travel adaptor is essential to powering your devices when in other countries. But rather than packing a standard (boring) unit, grab the Belkin BST201.

Sure, it’s a bit more expensive, but it makes up for it with comprehensive surge protection.

Aussie power is pretty stable and reliable, but some of the more interesting international places to travel are not so lucky. The Belkin takes the local electrons in via 5 different plugs — covering Australia, America, Europe, India and the UK.

It then feeds it through a fast activating surge protector with 918 joule capacity. The BST201 has dual Australian plugs to protect multiple devices at once.

To free up your travel bag even further, it also has two USB ports (also surge protected) that can handle 2.4 amp fast charging.

For total peace of mind, the Belkin unit has a Connected Equipment Warranty. In a nutshell, it means that if used properly, Belkin will fix any equipment damaged by surges when connected through the BST201.

Price: $69.95
From: Belkin

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


JANSJÖ USB Lamp

Ikea2It might seem like an odd choice while travelling, but a USB light can be incredibly useful. The Ikea JANSJÖ is actually one of the better models available, especially considering the cheap price.

So why a LED lamp over a simple torch? A common travelling accessory is a power bank for phone or laptop. Plugging the USB lamp into the power bank creates a versatile torch without having to carry any extra gear.

To put it in perspective, the efficient LED JANSJÖ will run for over a week straight from a standard 10,000 mAh power bank.

The long flexible gooseneck also makes it ideal for positioning in a range of different ways. Point it at the roof for a flood effect, or bend it over as a reading light. Or better yet, plug in two or more and have multi directional lighting.

The JANSJÖ has a 10 lumen brightness, and draws around 0.15W. It’s also available in blue, red, orange and black.

Price: $4.99
From: IKEA

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Kingston DataTraveler microDuo

DataTraveler microDuo 3.0 xGB_DTDUO3_xGB_so_hr_18_06_2014 12_23A flash drive is a handy device to carry at the best of times, but the OTG models are especially useful when travelling.

On one end is a standard USB port, while the other sports Micro USB. Combined with a compatible smartphone (or other device) the drive can be plugged in and accessed

This makes it super simple to backup photos or videos when on the go, without needing a computer. It also means you can add extra storage to a tablet or smartphone — such as music or movies for getting through a long flight.

Sadly though you can’t use it as the world’s shortest USB cable for charging or data transfer.

The Kingston OTG drive is USB 3.0, and is rated for up to 70MB/s transfer speed. In real world use we managed 54MB/s, which is still pretty impressive. The unit itself is tiny — just 27mm long, 16mm wide and 8mm thick. It’s also backed by a 5 year warranty.

Price: $25 (32GB)
From: Kingston

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Laser Power Bank

150806_LASER Co_Portable Power Bank and Car Jump StarterPower banks are a critical travel accessory, but it takes some special features to stand out from the crowd. The Laser Universal Power Bank has the fairly unique ability to not just juice up your USB devices, but literally jumpstart a car.

It really works too, which makes it a must have accessory for your next road trip. It can handle large V8s, as well as boats and motorbikes. In fact, it can power up pretty much anything that needs 12v.

When not bringing your vehicle back from the dead, the Laser Power Bank can revive a typical smartphone about 6 times and has a 2.1 amp fast charge. The unit also has an inbuilt 86 lumen LED torch (with strobe function), which can run for a huge 120 hours.

Unlike lesser power banks, the Laser unit is pretty chunky at 400 grams, can’t charge via USB but comes with a carry case. Instead it has a 240v wall charger, or perhaps more usefully, a 12v cigarette lighter socket cable.

Price: $129.95
From: Laser

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Netgear A6200

A6210_Adapter_3-4Lft_HiRes[1]Nothing is worse than trying (and failing) to connect to dodgy Wi-Fi when travelling. To avoid the frustration, an easy solution is to use a USB Wi-Fi adaptor with a more powerful external antenna.

Not only can it boost marginal signal, the Netgear unit uses 802.11ac, so can offer a speed increase for older computers. The other major advantage is that it includes a USB cable with dock, so the dongle can be moved around to search for the very best signal strength.

The Netgear adaptor is rated for up to 867Mbps, and supports both dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz. In practice (and our testing) the real world speed is significantly slower, but at short range, 487Mbps it’s still more than enough to stream HD video.

With a little creative positioning, it was possible to pick up a useable Wi-Fi signal from a standard home router up to a very impressive 104 meters away.

Price: $65
From: Netgear

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Wsken X-cable

5A third party company has stepped up to create a magnetic USB charging cable for both lighting and micro USB plugs — somehow bypassing Apple’s patents.

Simply plug the tiny “dongle” into any compatible port, where it creates a flat plate with contacts. Then it’s just a matter of moving the special USB cable close enough and it will snap in place.

To remove, the cable is push sideways and easily disconnects. This magnetic connection is particularly useful when traveling, where a device may be charged in a pocket or bag and could sustain damage with a normal connector.

The X-cable isn’t just for charging either, it can handle data transfers. The catch is that while for charging it can be either way up, for data it can only be installed in one direction.

On the plus side, we tested the data and charge rates and found them almost identical to a normal cable. The X-Cable is available as two dongles and a single cable pack from global sites such as eBay and Amazon.

Price: $20
From: Wsken

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Braven 705

B705PBP_bSometimes headphones or phone speakers don’t really cut it, and while there are plenty of Bluetooth speakers available, extra functionality is needed for the perfect travel unit.

The Braven 705 has a few very important advantages — like an IPX5 water resistance rating so it can take a splash and keep on going. It also has the ability to charge your devices, doing away with needing a separate power bank.

It can also take the Bluetooth music stream from a smartphone and feed it out via a 3.5mm jack, letting you tap into a more powerful system when available. The Braven unit also operates as a hands free thanks to an inbuilt microphone.

The 705 can provide around 10 hours of music on a charge and has a 10m range. The large rubber buttons make it easy to control directly and the unit itself feels very tough. Audio quality is excellent considering the size and makes it easy to throw an impromptu party while on the go.

Price: $149
From: Braven

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Dell Power Companion

PW7015M Portable Power CompanionDespite 10+ hour battery lives on some laptops, it’s still easy to run out of juice when travelling.

There are various universal laptop power banks available, they don’t always work with all models. To ensure 100% compatibility, Dell has produced its own power companion to keep your laptop charged.

The 12,000mAh capacity battery plugs in between your laptop charger and laptop itself, acting as a power buffer. It’s a smart system, so the laptop is always charged first and if it’s removed from AC, the power companion drains first.

Both the large and small Dell round power plugs are included. Handily, it also has dual USB ports for sharing power with your other devices.

We tested with the Dell XPS 13, and the power companion could restore the laptop from 10% up to almost full, and almost doubled the overall life up to 23 hours. For bigger laptops or longer time away from the socket, there is also an 18,000mAh option available.

Price: $169
From: Dell

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


D-Link USB to Ethernet Adapter

DUB-1312_A1_Image_L(Side)It’s rare to stay somewhere with wired internet only, but perhaps even worse is when the available Wi-Fi is unusually slow or has a very weak signal.

Fortunately many hotels offer wired connectivity. But then many of the newest super thin and portable laptops have ditched the bulky LAN port.

The D-Link solution pairs a super-fast USB 3.0 connection with a Gigabit LAN port. The whole shebang is sandwiched into a little dongle and is easily tucked into a travel bag.

Even with the fastest Wi-Fi, making the jump to Gigabit LAN typically offers a great speed increase. It also means you can bypass the often sketchy or congested hotel Wi-Fi.

Annoyingly the drivers come on CD, which is not a drive typically included on laptops without a LAN port. In our testing though it worked without drivers on Windows 10, but not Windows 8.

In use, network transfer speeds matched that of a built in chipset, and we managed to hit 58Mbps.

Price: $39
From: D-Link

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


mBeat Gorilla Power

mb-chgr4u-blk_0The problem with having multiple USB devices that all need to be charged (and often at the same time) is you have to pack three or four chargers, a plug board and a universal power adaptor.

The mBeat Gorilla Power lets you ditch that mess and bring a single 34W four port work travel charger that includes changeable power heads. The unit covers the US, Europe and the UK, and also has an Australian plug too of course, so is just as useful for charging at home.

In testing, the mBeat handles fast charging (a total of 6.8 amps) over all four ports, though is rated at 1 amp across two ports and 2.4 amps across the other two. The charger is quite small at 96 x 50 x 41mm and weighs just 135g.

The mBeat charger also has a range of inbuilt charger safety, including over current, voltage, short circuit and heat protection. Importantly for Australia, it complied with our rigorous safety standards.

Price: $29
From: mBeat

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Logitech K480

KB03048Travelling without a laptop can be rather freeing, but sometimes the need to bash out a long email is too much for a touchscreen keyboard. The Logitech K480 makes itself useful by operating as a Bluetooth keyboard for pretty much any device.

In other words, it can connect to Windows, Mac or Chromebook PC, or an Android or iOS phone or tablet. Even better, it has a dial that lets you switch rapidly between three different devices.

It also has a very handy built in stand slot that holds your tablet or phone at just the right angle. The laptop style keys are small, but easy to type on with a solid feel.

The keyboard runs from two AAA batteries (which are included) and can run up to 2 years before new ones are needed. The unit itself is 195mm high, 299mm wide and 20mm thick.

It’s heavier than it looks at 820g, but that does help it stay solidly in place on a desk.

Price: $79.95
From: Logitech

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Tile

Print-Tile-image-white-backgroundTile is a traveller must have — a Bluetooth enabled tag that can be attached to almost anything.

Essentially, tile lets you use an app to ‘call’ your bag, wallet, keys or whatever you attach it to, in a 30m range. But what if you lose your phone? Just grab the nearest tile and give it a squeeze to make your missing device ring. You can pair up to 8 tiles at once.

Tile is not just the hardware — there is a simple yet comprehensive app that actually tracks where your items were last seen.

It also has a Community Find feature, where your app can access other Tile user’s phones through the internet and find your lost or stolen items around the world.

Each tile is water resistant, so the occasional soak in the rain doesn’t pose an issue. The inbuilt battery lasts about a year, and can be exchanged out for a fully charged unit at a reduced cost.

Price: $40
From: Tile

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Targus Universal Car Laptop Charger

0012747_targus-laptop-car-charger-phonetablet-chargeKeeping a laptop charged is often very important, but isn’t always easy when on the road. The Targus universal charger makes running your devices from a car cigarette lighter socket super easy.

It’s got a 90w output to handle higher end models and thanks to 8 interchangeable tips, is compatible with most major brands. It’s also got a 2.1 amp USB port that can top up a phone or fast charge a tablet.

The Targus car charger is surprisingly small, thanks to needing fewer components to boost the cars 12v up to 19v. In fact, it measures in at 90 x 52 x 20 mm. The Targus charger can run from 11v up to 16v, and can peak at 10 amps — delivering 90 watts continuously.

Sure, it is possible to use an inverter and your existing laptop charger, but for those who want a compact all in one solution, the Targus is hard to beat. Even better, it is also backed by a 2-year warranty.

Price: $80
From: Targus

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


TP-Link M7350

tl-m7350_0Sure, it’s possible to tether data via a smartphone but a more elegant solution (albeit expensive) is to use a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot and data sim.

The TP-Link M7350 is 4G ready, so can provide speed up to 150Mbps on a range of worldwide networks. To share the internet connection, the unit has dual band 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi that can support up to 15 users at once.

It’s all powered by an inbuilt 2550mAh battery, to keep the data flowing for up to 10 hours away from the wall plug. Charging is done by a standard micro USB cable, so the unit can share a charger with a phone or tablet.

The M7350 has an LCD screen to provide relevant info, such as remaining battery life, connection strength, data used and more.

The unit also has a microSD card slot, which can handle up to 32GB. It can then share the card onto the network, making it easy to access files or stream media.

Price: $179
From: TP-Link

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Photofast Memory Cable

MemoryCable_04_128GBThe Photofast Memory Cable makes copying photos incredibly easy by automatically backing up while also charging a phone. Simply install the app, plug it in and relax.

The slightly bulky cable looks normal, but hides 32, 64 or 128GB of memory inside the connectors. The downside is that it is pricey, at $129, $169 and $299 respectively.

For those who like to get a little more hands on, the cable storage can be used to play other content such as videos. You can also securely lock away the data on the cable using the fingerprint reader on a compatible iPhone.

While a little bulky compared to a normal cable, the 13cm long Photofast weighs in at just 9.4g. Photofast also has a USB drive that will back up photos via a lightning connector, but the Memory has the advantage of also being a charger cable.

The cable will be available through select retailers, including Harris Technology and Catch of the Day.

Price: From $129
From: Photofast

Rating: 3 stars out of 5