My Electronic Toolbox

Gadgets and gizmos that come in handy while on the road By: Monica Poling
New Trent External Battery Pack // © 2010 New Trent
New Trent External Battery Pack // © 2010 New Trent

When it comes to packing for a trip, while my girlfriends are choosing which pair of Jimmy Choos to fit into their luggage, I am auditing my collection of electronics and deciding what gear to bring with me. The selection of items I carry in what my family has dubbed my “bag of technology” is ever changing, but the following are part of my “toolbox” on almost every trip.

New Trent External Battery Pack

If I had to choose one travel item that I couldn’t live without, it would be my New Trent external battery pack. Although I had trouble believing its promise to allow me to play nonstop video for 38 hours on my iPod Touch, the $45 price tag meant I had little to lose by giving it a try.

Not only did this product live up to its hype, it exceeded it. It can be charged both by an included wall adaptor as well as by plugging a USB cable into a laptop. The package included tips for my iPod, a micro USB tip and a mini-USB tip. The battery is compact and provided enough power to let me play nearly 10 hours of uninterrupted video while flying nonstop from Rome to Los Angeles.

Scan on the Run
NeatReceipts Scanner

Despite all my efforts to conquer clutter, I still find myself buried in the brochures that I acquire when traveling. Also, my time on the road often means I’m attending trade shows and, therefore, I’m often forced to collect receipts for my various expenses. The portable NeatReceipts scanner, which I’ve started carrying with me on all my business trips, helps give me a leg up on staying organized.

The device provides software that scans business cards, converts the image to text and, once I’ve approved the text, uploads the data to Outlook or other contact-management software. The same principles work with receipts. Furthermore, it is just wide enough to scan 8½-by-11 pages so, if I need to fax something on the road, I can scan the document through the device and send it by e-mail, eliminating runs to the hotel business center.

NeatReceipts Scanner // (c) 2010 Deborah Dimond
NeatReceipts Scanner //
(c) 2010 Deborah Dimond 

Worry-free Wireless
Sprint MiFi 2200

Sprint MiFi 2200 // (c) 2010 Deborah Dimond  
Sprint MiFi 2200 //
(c) 2010 Deborah Dimond

As the Online Editor for TravelAge West, I must be connected to the Internet for most of my work responsibilities. Because I’m part of a generation that believes that access to wireless networks should be a right and not a privilege, I resent having to pay $30-plus a day to access that network when traveling. While looking for an adaptor that would give my laptop access to the Internet, I came across the Sprint MiFi 2200, which is now one of my favorite gadgets.

The credit card-size tool taps into Sprint’s 3G network and can power up to five mobile devices at once. In addition to being a hit at small meetings, where I can get all my peers connected to the Internet, I also like the security the MiFi offers compared to public, unsecured networks.

I love my MiFi now, however, when my current cell phone plans expires, I will be upgrading to the HTC Evo, which allows up to eight devices to connect to its wireless hub, while running on the faster 4G network and costing less than the MiFi’s monthly access fees.

Solar Sensation
Powermonkey eXplorer

While it is admittedly redundant to carry two different battery packs when I travel, I have just recently acquired the Powermonkey Explorer, by Powertraveller, which caught my eye because it includes a portable solar charger. Although powering electronics by the sun is a slow process, I like the feeling that I’m doing what I can to keep my part of the world green. The device can also be powered with a wall adaptor or a USB cable.

A fully charged battery provides about 40 hours of music playtime for my iPod Touch and about six hours of sun is enough to get the device a third of its total power. The “solar slave” does not need direct sunlight, which means I charge it near my window, plus it comes with a Velcro strap, so I can attach it to my backpack or other outdoor device.

Powermonkey EXplorer // © 2010 Powermonkey EXplorer
  Powermonkey EXplorer // © 2010 Powermonkey EXplorer

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