After years spent traveling for work and leisure (as well as being a massive geek), I’ve come to rely on a selection of gadgets that make life on the road easier and more fun. Here is a selection of my 10 Coolest Travel Gadgets for 2019.
1 – NETGEAR UNITE EXPLORE WIFI HOTSPOT
As a freelance video editor, having fast, stable internet is very important. After years spent traveling for fun and for work and trying to establish the best way to stay connected while on the road, buying a SIM at the airport with as much data as possible and sticking it in a mobile WiFi hotspot has become my preferred option. Not only does a hotspot generally give you fast and stable internet, it means your phone battery lasts a lot longer (as you’re not using your phones 4G connection), you can receive phone calls and SMS messages to your home number (particularly useful if you need to receive an SMS to make purchases on your credit card or log into mobile banking), all of your devices connect instantly as soon as you open them, and you can share the connection with friends/family/partners. You can’t go wrong with the Netgear Unite Explore ($300 USD). Not only does it make a 5G (as well as 2.4G) hotspot, it’ll also share media (from either a connected hard drive or a Micro SD card – particularly useful for downloading movies, which you can do from any connected device) and even charge your phone and other gadgets too. If $300 is a bit much, the smaller but still excellent Netgear 770S is a bargain at $70USD.
2 – NEBULA CAPSULE PROJECTOR
Possibly my favourite travel gadget and the one that gets more “OMG how cool is that” comments than any other. The Anker Nebula ($300USD) is a projector and speaker the size of a coke can with built-in Wifi and Android (which means Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and any other Android apps you might want to download). You can use your phone as a Bluetooth remote control and although on paper the resolution and brightness might seem pretty measly, in practice it’s very cool watching a movie or TV show on the side of a building/tent or on the ceiling while lying in bed.
3 – LUMIX G9 CAMERA
I love this camera. The Lumix G9 ($1200 USD) is basically a prosumer version of the GH5 (with some improvements) and is for me the perfect travel camera. It’s small and light, uses interchangeable micro four thirds lenses, has an insane burst mode (60fps!), shoots excellent video (4K 60fps) and has a built-in 5-axis stabiliser which means your video looks smoother, you can shoot better images in the dark and even take long shutter images handheld – a feature I bloody love. Pair it with one of Lumix’s fantastic IS lenses like the 12-35mm f2.8 ($900USD) and you’ll get dual stabilisation – it’s almost like having a gimbal in your hand. I have shot half-second exposures handheld and they look remarkably good. If the G9 price tag is a bit too much, the last gen Lumix G85, now going for a steal ($700 including lens) is still an excellent choice.
4 – DJI MAVIC PRO
Nowadays a drone has become an almost essential travel kit item. DJI are nailing it at the moment and the Mavic Pro ($900 USD including remote and batteries) is a truly incredible device, shooting amazing video and images in a small, foldaway frame.
You can go even smaller with the DJI Spark ($540 USD including remote, batteries and accessories) which still shoots good images but from a device that looks more like a toy (which can be helpful if customs opens up your luggage in a country where drones aren’t allowed – not that I condone shooting illegally!).
5 – MOMENT WIDE ANGLE SMARTPHONE LENS
One of the biggest limitations with many modern camera phones – including the iPhone – is the lack of a wide angle lens option. The Moment lens system is a complete game changer. Rather than clipping on a fiddly lens that makes everything look washed out and fuzzy, with Moment you get a smart, good-looking camera case (available for several flag ship devices for around $30 USD) then simply snap the lens ($120USD) into place when you need it. There are a number of lenses available but the most valuable to me is the wide angle converter, which give you an 18mm equivalent, perfect for landscapes and indoor situations when you need more width. The images are of fantastic quality and far superior to any other clip on lens I’ve used. Moment also have a Telephoto lens, a Macro lens, a fisheye and an anamorphic lens (very cool) in their range, which all get good reviews.
5 – SAMSUNG T5 HARD DRIVE
As a video and photo editor, having a fast hard drive is essential. Using traditional hard disks isn’t really an option – and it’s not just about speed. Standard drives are simply not designed for traveling. After a few knocks and bumps they fail. Trust me – I know. USB 3 SSD drives are much faster (read/write speeds of around 500Mbps versus around 100Mbps with normal drives) and have no moving parts, so are inherently less susceptible to failure due to being dropped and bashed around (this isn’t to say they are impervious though!). My favourite is the Samsung T5 range ($180 USD for 1TB). They’re fast, good value, and they even look pretty cool. I have two identical drives and keep everything (my photos, video, music library, downloads) backed up in two places (as well as on Google Drive), with each one stored in different parts of my luggage just in case. You can even connect the drive to an Android device allowing you to back up images and video, or use it as storage for movies and TV shows.
6 – SCRUBBA PORTABLE WASHING MACHINE
As someone who likes to travel light, regular hand washing is essential, and the Scrubba Wash Bag ($50USD) has become one of my favourite travel accessories. Throw dirty clothes in with some detergent and water, scrub for a minute or two, rinse under a tap and hang to dry. It’s tiny, and makes a big difference when compared to washing clothes by hand in the sink or shower. Such a cool travel gadget.
7 – GRAYL PURIFYING WATER BOTTLE
I hate using plastic bottles and being able to confidently drink from the tap or from streams in places you’d otherwise not be able to (without that weird chemical taste that purification tablets leave) is a game-changer. There are many purifiers and sterilising water bottle out there but the Grayl Water Purifier ($60USD, $25 for additional cartridges) is especially cool as it both sterilises and filters, and although it’s fairly small, you can easily attach a foldable water pouch ($12USD) making it ideal for all day adventures.
8 – GARMIN FENIX 5 SPORTS WATCH
As an avid runner (yeah I’m one of those weirdos), my sports watch is an absolutely essential companion and all the more so when I travel. Being able to step out of a hotel and go for a 5km or 10km run while knowing how fast and how far I’ve gone is invaluable. Garmin have really upped their game in recent years and their latest range is excellent. The Fenix 5 ($510 USD) is hands-down the best sports watch available; week-long battery life (even longer if you don’t need notifications), an accurate altitude meter and barometer, as well as all the usual sports watch functions. It also looks pretty cool.
If the Fenix 5 is a bit on the pricey side, the Vivoactive 3 ($195 USD) is a fantastic watch, a bit less chunky, and more affordable.
9 – RAVPOWER 24W SOLAR PANEL CHARGER
I recently spent 2 months camping in New Zealand and the Ravpower 24W Solar Panel become one of my favourite and most well used devices. In good sunlight you can charge three phones simultaneously (or one very quickly), and it folds up so small and light you can slip it into your bag next to your laptop or even clip it to your backpack while you’re hiking.
10 – GOOGLE DRIVE & GOOGLE PHOTOS
It’s not really a gadget per se, but the Google Photos/Drive system is something I have to recommend. Google Drive (recently rebranded as Google One) gives me access to my work files (as a traveling video editor this is invaluable), my iPhotos and Lightroom libraries (I can edit my photos on any of my devices whenever I need to) as well as all of my documents. I can instantly share files or folders using any device and it’s fast and reliable. Whereas iCloud charges you for image storage, Google Photos is unlimited and free for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p. Only files significantly larger than that will cost you to store. And even then, 100GB is just $1.99USD a month and 2TB $9.99USD per month (or $99.99USD/year). Not a bad price to pay to know that all of your precious photos, videos and data are backed up nice and safe and can be easily accessed and shared.
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