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Tech gadgets and travelling - we break it down

By Patrick Pilcher, Wed 5 Aug 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

You’d be forgiven for thinking travel and tech are about as compatible as oil and water, yet packing the right gadgets can make a huge difference to any vacation.

A cardinal rule of packing travel gadgets is that each widget should serve a specific purpose, or better still, several.

All gadgets should also fit into a laptop bag (along with a laptop). With airlines charging the GDP of a developing nation for excess luggage, travelling light is simply a no-brainer.

This means each gadget should also be able to be charged using a USB cable, so you only pack a single power adaptor instead of several (many hotel room TVs also pack a USB port which can handily be used to charge widgets too).

A Smartphone: The Huawei P8

The P8 Smartphone packs a 13mp sensor, and a DSLR quality image processor. In non-tech speak, this means that it takes cracking great photos and is easily the equal of many dedicated point and shoot cameras.

It’s also got dual SIM slots, so you can see incoming text messages sent to your New Zealand mobile number. These can handily be replied to using a locally purchased SIM so you don’t get hit with roaming fees. The P8’s versatility not only as a camera, but music player, games and Internet doodad guaranteed it a place in my luggage.

Positives: Takes stunning photographs. Versatile.

Negatives: Needs protection against drops, isn’t waterproof.

Olixar Clip on Lens kit.

As great as the P8’s camera is, there’s always scope for improvement. Enter stage left, Olixar’s range of clip on lenses for Smartphones).

These use a cleverly designed adaptor that fits most smartphones. The lens then screw into the adaptor. The two included lenses consist of a fisheye/wide-angle and macro combo. In use they extended the shooting capabilities of the P8, but some barrel distortion was noticeable.

Positives: Can extend the shooting capabilities of a smartphone

Negatives: Small and easy to lose. Some barrel distortion noticeable

Mackbook Pro 12”

Apple's latest Macbook pro is ideal for travel. Not only is it thin and light, but its battery seemed to last for ages. It also made keeping track of flights, checking out accommodation options and staying in touch with home dead easy.

The only fly in the i-ointment is Apples decision to only include a single USB C port. This meant I had to carry around an extra USB/Ethernet/HDMI adaptor, adding to luggage clutter. These grizzles aside, robust media playback and Internet access made the Macbook Pro one of the handiest gadgets I packed.

Positives: Light and slim, impressive battery life

Negatives: A single USB C port. Why Apple, why?

Moshi Protective Macbook Pro cover

The MacBook pro is a fragile beast. Spill a drink on its keyboard and it instantly transforms from indispensible travel gadget into a very expensive boat anchor.

Bearing this in mind, I equipped my MacBook Pro with a Moshi protective case, plus keyboard and screen protectors.  The case consists of two clip on transparent plastic shells. One clips into the screen lid and the other onto the underside of the keyboard. They don’t add much bulk, and offer protection from knocks scratches and bumps. While the case worked, the bottom cover sometimes annoyingly unclipped.

The keyboard protector is a transparent silicon mat that has fits the Macbook Pro’s keyboard. Two adhesive strips stick on its underside ensure it sticks to the keyboard. The screen protector adheres to the screen and has cutouts for the Macbook’s FaceTime camera.

A final layer of protection was provided by a Moshi Macbook folio. Essentially a small fabric pouch, the  folio case has a slot for the Macbook to slide into with a protective flap to ensure it stays put.

Positives: Robust protection for your Macbook

Negatives: Protective case sometimes flimsy

Olixar Selfie Stick

Shooting a selfie can be tricky. Only by holding the phone at full arms length can you get more than 2 people into a shot. Then there’s the challenge of using the camera shutter button without blurring your selfie efforts.

Olixar have this licked with their selfie stick. A spring-loaded adaptor grips almost any smartphone and it’ll play nice with IOS and Android hardware. It also has a Bluetooth shutter button which helps eliminate camera shake. The stick is telescopic and extends 900mm, folding down to take up little luggage space.

Positives: Simplifies selfies

Negatives: Banned by a some tourist attractions

Samsung Gear VR

One of the biggest downsides to long haul travel is spending hours stuck in a cramped seat next to a complete stranger with your knees around your ears. Sure you could pay to upgrade to business class, but Samsung have a better and more affordable solution with the Gear VR.

Essentially a virtual reality adaptor designed to use a Galaxy S6 as its display, the Gear VR headset can transport you to all manner of virtual worlds. Watching a movie transforms an economy class seat into a vast (and empty) cinema. While you’re likely to get more than a few sideways glances from fellow air travellers,  it can make a grim long haul flight just that much more bearable. About the only real downside is its bulkiness.

Positives: Cramped cattle class seats? Who cares!

Negatives: Isbulky. Make sure the S6 is in flight mode before use

Kobo e-reader

If there’s one gadget that is a must pack, its an e-reader. E-books weigh nothing compared to their printed counterparts and are easily obtainable from most public libraries.

Positives: Transport hundreds of books with no weight penalties. LED backlight allows you to keep reading when the aircraft cabin lights go out.

Negatives: What’s not to like?

Huawei TalkBand B2

Travelling across multiple time zones means mucking about setting your watch to local time. No so with the Huawei Talkband B2.

It synchs with an IOS or Android smartphone so will automatically set itself to local time. A built in step counter also tracks how many steps you’ve taken while sight seeing (I clocked up a whopping 25,000 steps n one day!). Should someone call, the Talkband vibrates and can be unclipped to act as a Bluetooth earpiece.

Positives: Sets itself to local time, counts steps

Negatives: Strap catch can be flimsy

Navman Nuvicam LMT

Driving in another country can be incredibly stressful. Thankfully this trauma is avoidable by packing a GPS preloaded with maps for your destination. There’s a lot to be said for being guided to your destination without heated exchanges with fellow travellers. 

The days of dedicated in car GPS’s may seem numbered thanks to mapping apps and GPS enabled smartphones, but Garmin have added several features to their NuviCam LMT including a built-in dash cam.

Should you get into a fender bender, it continuously records video footage to an SD card, acting as an infallible eyewitness. it knows your location, speed, and G forces, making dealing with insurance companies just that much easier.

The nüviCam also offers Forward Collision Warnings which can alert drivers if they get too close to any traffic ahead plus a lane departure feature that warns the driver should they drift into another lane.

Positives: Reduces holiday driving stress and arguments, can help with fender benders

Negatives: None

Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Being stuck inside a metal tube with jets roaring outside at 38,000 feet doesn’t encourage sleep (and less jetlag at your destination).  Making matters worse, the headphones supplied by airlines are usually dire. Bose have the answer with their QC25 over ear, android friendly noise cancelling cans. Supplied with a handy travelling case and airline plug adaptor, the QC 25’s reduce the jet noise to a gentle murmur, allowing you to enjoy in-flight entertainment. While the QC25’s sound great and performed flawlessly, their travel case adds additional bulk.

Positives: Silence, blissful silence (or airline movies and music)

Negatives: Travel case adds bulk

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