[IMGCAP(1)] I don’t travel anywhere near as frequently as I used to. But there are still times when I have to visit a client or go to a vendor or press event out of town. Over the years, as a reviewer, I’ve had the opportunity to test a lot of equipment and accessories. One of the better perks of this is being able to put together a short list of what I like to have in my travel kits. I use the plural because I have three different “go bags” that I choose from, depending on what I think I’ll need to do when away from home office.
I want to share my travel kits, but I have to be up front about things. When it comes to accessories, I often get a break on something I’ve reviewed. It’s not something I ever insist on, and if a vendor wants a review item back, it goes back with no argument. But some of my favorite accessories are pretty high end. I’ll mention them here because I really like them, but you might want to go for something less expensive.
My travel accessories all revolve around the three pieces of equipment I most frequently travel with: an inexpensive HP 15-inch laptop, a Microsoft Surface 3 with the keyboard cover, and an Apple iPad Air. If at all possible, I prefer to go with the iPad Air or Surface 3. But if I’m going to have to do a lot of typing or spreadsheet work, the HP, with its large screen, becomes my travel companion.
If I can get away with a tablet, it’s often the iPad Air. The choice is made largely because of the case I have it in, which is a Logitech Type plus folio case and keyboard. It sells for approximately a hundred dollars and has a Bluetooth keyboard that feels much better to me than the keyboard/cover that’s on the Surface 3. If I’m doing limited typing and mostly checking on my email, that’s the device I take. I also generally pack a Logitech M535 Bluetooth mouse. I hate touchpads, so the 40-buck mouse goes into the travel kit regardless of which device I travel with. Other vendors make similar accessories, but I’ve had real good luck with Logitech’s products. I also have one of the company’s Bluetooth keyboards that I use with a Lenovo Android tablet, though I don’t generally travel with this particular device unless I have to test Android software as part of an engagement.
The Surface 3 comes with me if I need a Windows 10 device and don’t want to schlep the almost five-pound HP laptop. I’m not crazy about the feel of the keyboard cover, but I’m not a good enough typist that it really matters. I have MS Office 2016 installed on the Surface 3, so if I want Office compatibility, there’s nothing like the real thing. When I travel with the Surface I also pack an iLuv USB/Ethernet adapter. I’m not sure they still sell it, but it’s a small box about 2 x 1.5 x .5 inch with a 5-inch USB cable attached. The case contains two USB 2.0 ports and an RJ-45 100Base/T Ethernet jack. I don’t remember what it cost (though it wasn’t very much), and it’s been a lifesaver when wired ethernet was available and Wi-Fi was either flaky or not available to a guest.
Another accessory that is almost always packed is a $55 VisionTek Charge & Sync USB 3.0 Seven Port Hub. It’s a small (4.5 x 1.75 inch) powered hub with a small wall wart power supply. It has one 2A charging port to fast charge a tablet, two 1A charging ports for smartphones or other devices, and four USB 3.0 ports. Of course, you only get USB 3.0 transfer speeds if the devices you’re using also have USB 3.0 ports. The only downside is that the hub isn’t usable with the iPad, as it lacks any USB ports.
I use the same case regardless of which tablet I travel with — a Link from STM. It costs about $50, but isn’t much larger than either tablet. It has plenty of room for the power supply plus the few accessories I carry, and is small and lightweight while still providing plenty of padding and protection. I’m kind of a klutz, so that’s an important feature for me.
Finally, there’s the matter of a case for my laptop. I really like STM cases, so I have another for the laptop. This is a Bowery Energy Laptop Brief. It’s a very light, brief-style bag with a built in battery and charger. You charge up the battery, and you can recharge a smartphone or tablet on the go when you can’t get to an AC outlet. I previously used a PowerBag backpack, but the STM bag is much lighter. It’s my bag of choice when I need to fly. At $200, it is expensive, but the power capability and high quality make it a reasonable buy if you’re looking for something a bit different.
Finally, I always have a plastic zipper bag with an assortment of cables including a USB and Lightning cable “just in case” as well as a three-foot ethernet patch cord.
As always, feel free to chime in with what’s in your travel kit. I’m always looking for new things to add to mine.
Ted Needleman writes frequently on software, hardware, and technology-related subjects, and was previously the editor-in-chief of Accounting Technology.
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