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FascinatingTravel - Gadgets for the long term traveller

Packing for two weeks in the sun can be stressful enough but what if like more and more of us you are getting a little more adventurous and are fleeing the country for a few months at a time. Our own adventurous traveller Ruth looks at  what tech might help you lighten your load.

So planning a  6 months  jaunt where I work and travel.   I am sorry but you will not find me as one of those women crossing London with a case so heavy that I cannot lift it and I have to do the helpless female act at every set of stairs I encounter. I’ve seen the backpacker with rucksacks so heavy that they look like a comic as they are in danger of tipping over backwards.

So I want my tech and I want to be connected but I do not want to become a weight trainer! So here is the challenge - my suitcase:

       50cm                               3.2Kg                           20cm

One half is clothes and the other half is shoes, wash kit and tech!!!

The case has to be light with increasing cuts in airline allowances. I’m blowed if I’m wasting my allowance on the case but I do need enough protection for my tech so hence the hard sided case.

So what qualifies as a good tech item, light, works anywhere in the world, practical. Easy to work. Here are some examples of these sort of things that work for me:

Charging all those devices is always a challenge but the change to USB for most chargers has been a great way to save space with the iluv plug with three USB sockets in one plus so instead of carrying this tangle of extension leads and plugs at 0.4kg....

...try this iluv plug that accepts three USB cables, does not even register on the scales and better still will fit in my shoes.

Now talking about shoes I usually manage to fit in 3 pairs - one on my feet and two in the case. I pair of trainers as I like to get in a work out, a pair of heels - a girl needs glamour after all - and then a dainty pair of crocs. Yes not that pair that look like a pair of ugly crocs.

These dainty ones are the number. They don’t need drying if you come across a flood in Bangkok when you climb off the boat. They can easily be cleaned with a spare toothbrush when you have been strolling round the market in Phnom Penn. Trust me they will be black!! So no polish to carry, no replacement heels to buy just wear them out on your trip. Best of all they weigh nothing.

Phones-wise the first rule is that it has to be quad band and unlocked. Currently I’m using a Windows phone 7 and a Sony Experia Z. The Windows 7 phone is becoming restrictive as a number of apps are not available for it, however the Nokia drive app was useful in both Europe and Australia as it can navigate offline so no data charges.  The Sony Experia was a way to combine devices with a 13MP camera and a in-built MP3 player which saves me carrying a separate player. However  to enable me to use the media it is a bit bigger so form factor wise some of you would reject this.

Watching your figure while you are travelling not a problem with this little light weight number:-

These Ade scales weigh a mere 0.6kg and have a screen that folds away. The catch is that you have to be good at balancing and sometimes the bathroom floors in some hotels and hostels are so poorly laid that they are not level!!!!. These not only tell your weight but they will also tell you fat percentage, fluid, muscle mass and bone. So if you want to know more than your clothes are getting tight here is the way to know.

Now what next?  Headphones! They can be useful to isolate from the babble of noisy cities till you get over the shell shock. They can be handy to cut down sound in the plane and to be honest you can just dance sing and make you laugh depending on what you are listening to. The other option is to consider Bluetooth which can be useful in poorer countries as you don’t want to make yourself a target for thieves and they can allow you to hide the player away. They need to be comfortable and sometime you might want to sleep in them too particularly on the plane and finally they have to have a good range of sounds and good detail. So how do we deal with this?

Noise isolating can be very key and cut low hum sounds very well. Then remember that I like to run so ideally I like them to stay on while I’m wearing out the treadmill. Is there a perfect pair to cover all these roles –not yet in my view.

For sleeping in then look to the sleep phones which are two speakers in a soft fleece headband. They don’t have sound cancelling and if you turn up the volume too much they will leak sound so your fellow travellers can curse your lousy taste in music. But if it’s just you having a sleep then a good plan.

For noise isolating but not for size then try the Velodyne  vQuiet ones. Personally I prefer an in ear design and so smaller and lighter. So if you have noise isolating headphones that are in ear style and deserve a test let me know.

For running the last ones I’ve tried that were worth buying were the Klipsch sports headphones. Now these are not the most expensive headphones but they have a good range and they stay put.  I’ve taken them out on the half marathon and they stayed put. I’ve taken them up to 12mph on the treadmill and again they stayed where they should be. They can handle the competition with the gym music which can be a pain as you often have to turn your music up too loud so I generally give up listening in those circumstances.


The cable tangle game now that is a curse but I have tried the zipper ones and they are a waste of space as they are too heavy and the weight pulls them out of your ears. They did not have a brilliant range either.

However recently I have had a pair of Urbanears on test and they have two simple features to help with this. One if you take them out you can clip them together by reversing the ear pieces and clipping together. Then there is a point to clip in your plug into when you wind them up.


An inline microphone can be very useful for all those skype chats. However a number I have seen only work with the iPhone… I usually plug into a pc or a tablet if I’m having a chat. Garry has also reviewed these very convenient earphones.

Then what PC or tablet to travel with?

In the past I have used a netbook starting with the early Asus Eee pc moving on to the Acer Aspire netbooks but they seem to be a bit temperamental as I had to change the hard drive into a new pc with only the aid of a youtube video. Then a second one failed so I don’t think they take the knocks of travel well.  

More recently I’ve used a Surface RT and a Surface Pro. However the RT is restrictive and cannot have your own software installed. So for running Sage and other programs this simply would not be suitable. However it does come with the office products ready installed. The Surface Pro is good and quick but I am hoping the installation of Sage will not  cripple the speed.( Note to Sage stop slowing up everyone’s  PC’s) However it is expensive and the battery life in the  first version  was nothing to write home about.  

Version 2 though is a stronger product but the best trick may be to keep the original Surface Pro and then to add the new powered keyboard. However the Microsoft products are expensive in comparison to the competition in my view. The Pro does not come with a keyboard or the office apps installed although both are available at extra cost.

Then cost wise you would certainly look at the Android tablets that with a keyboard are quite usable with the right work apps downloaded. You would need to pick carefully as some of the initial ones were slow and lacked performance. These however are moving fast rapidly so this is probably your most cost effective option if you are not running accounting packages.

Not ignoring the Apple products with the iPad and iPad mini which both could be possible options. However there is for me limited compatibility with Sage.  They however would work well for research, eReading, word and excel type apps. Not to mention the games that will be played and the movies that will be uploaded etc.  Apple has one of the largest app stores and the most compatible products for their devices so that is a factor you may wish to consider.
Also you may need to watch the ability to print from some of these as when you need to print the odd boarding pass or visa the lack of an ability to print in the internet café or business centre may be an issue.

Overall there is no perfect answer but things are changing and improving all the time.

Hopefully I have given you some hints on how to lighten your load and make packing a lot easier.

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