Posts Tagged gadgets
When you need a burst of power to revive your phone or crank up the music again, this little Eton Boostbloc 2000 will get you going without taking up much room.
We’ve reviewed quite a few portable chargers suitable for travel on this gear blog because there’s just one problem with using your smart phone so much. The battery—especially in an iPhone—isn’t nearly as good as the rest of the device. On a good day you might make it through the daylight hours without recharging. Often you’ll run out before happy hour. (My family’s Motorola and Samsung phones are both good until bedtime, but my thin iPod Touch has seldom been able to make it through one plane ride if I’m playing a game.)
Enter the Eton Boostbloc 2000, a little cube that recharges by USB in an hour and a half. With it fully charged, you can get one good charge to fully restore your smartphone’s battery, maybe with a tad to spare. There are other larger chargers on the market that will do more than this, plus Etón has its own 4000 and 6600 models. If you’re just moving around on vacation or business from airports to hotels, however, this small cube is enough to get you through the trans-ocean flight or to bedtime when you can plug into an outlet.
This BoostBloc is elegant and simple, with no buttons and just two inputs/outputs: USB and micro USB. The included cord has the corresponding male connectors, so you can use this alone if you’re lucky enough to have a micro USB connector like many Android and Windows phones have. (Not mini USB as you see in some photos of this device.) Otherwise you’ll need to use your own charger cord or get an adapter. So this is not quite as handy as the more expensive Innergie charger with 3-in-1 cord I use a lot, but close.
One cool feature with this charger: you can shake it to see how much power is remaining. There are four tiny blue LED lights on the bottom. These will tell you how much juice you have left or, if you’re charging it, when it’s full.
In my tests this 2000 mAh lithium ion polymer battery did what it said: charged up one smartphone that was close to dead. It doesn’t have the capacity of larger chargers that can store 5,000 mAh (milliamps), but this Etón BoostBloc is small enough to toss into any bag and it only weighs 2.2 ounces (63.5 grams).
This lightweight external charger from Fat Cat offers supplementary charging power via a USB output port making them convenient any smartphone or tablet user, especially those who travel.
I have often found myself in situations on airplanes or sitting in taxis where my battery is dwindling fast and I still have important emails to answer! There are even some apps on my phone that suck the life out of my batter but are still essential to my work. I am talking to you Last Alert app.
FatCat’s power chargers are ideal for just those moments where there are no power outlets readily available. The FatCat charger comes in a variety of stylish colors so that it can match with your own personal fashion. Some chargers are designed with higher voltages more ideal for tablets and iPads, but they are still perfect for smartphones.
They are extremely lightweight making them a reasonable addition to my compact carry-on bag. I have even taken to tearing the pages I have finished reading out of magazines to reduce weight thanks to stubborn airlines like Air France and South African Airways that will literally weigh your handbag at the gate to see if it is allowable on board. And, don’t flinch, a bag that is packed with a laptop, charger, book, magazines, and toiletries is barely permitted on board.
Once while in the Papeete airport in Tahiti, I was prohibited from charging electronics in the airport outlets. I am not sure how people stay connected during lengthy layovers there. The neat thing about FatCat chargers is that they maintain the majority of their charge even when not used for extended periods of time. It would have been the perfect solution to not being able to use an airport outlet.
There were a few occasions where irritable flight attendants thought it was some sort of cell phone (presumably because of the logo on the back that makes it look like an iPhone) and insisted I stow it in my bag, but otherwise this is an excellent, lightweight resource for frequent business travelers and costs roughly $80 at the FatCat website or Amazon.
My bud and fellow reviewer Jill Robinson and I spent three days on the floor of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last week, doing a bit of tag team and a bit of divide and conquer to see what’s on the way in travel gear. There were more than 1,000 companies exhibiting, so despite the hectic appointment schedule, we still only saw a fraction of what was out there in detail.
You’ll read about the gear we liked enough to check out personally later in the year, but much of what’s on display now is what’s going to be on shelves 6 months or more from now. So think of this as a sneak peek into the future, though assume some of these non-winter items will be out by June. Like any hack journalists, we’re looking for trends we can boil down into easy digestible blurbs, so here’s what stood out.
We liked the Kelty external frame luggage system that goes from rolling suitcase to backpack to rolling huge suitcase to duffel bag. Long story short, the expanding frame with wheels fits your carry-on, then you can leave the frame in your room and just carry a backpack. Then if you buy lots of stuff you need to take home, the frame expands up and the bag goes up and out. Buy a larger duffel from them and it’ll fit in the same frame.
Everyone was drooling over Eagle Creek’s new Morphus luggage system coming July 1, which is equally adept at transforming itself from suitcase to backpack to more, but it’s also really two bags in one. Half of it zips off and is a full-fledged backpack that can be worn several ways. You can also carry the whole thing backpack style with straps on the front (no wheels in your back). It’s going to be pricey, but it’s the best “one bag” solution for people with limited storage space that I’ve ever seen.
Less Weight, More Warmth
As I mentioned in the Columbia Powerfly jacket review yesterday, a few companies have gotten very good at creating warmth without a lot of bulk. Their Omni-heat system has been rolled out to almost all Columbia Sportswear winter products for the coming year, even shoes. At the same time, there’s usually a venting layer under the arms and when the product is waterproof, a wicking membrane.
Many other companies are combining a waterproof technical shell with some kind of down or Polartec liner to create form-fitting jackets that can still take you down past zero degrees comfortably. With so much heavy competition in the jacket world, features that used to be high-end are now standard.
Shoes Now Refuse to Be Heavy
I picked up and held at least 50 pairs of shoes last week (I’ve really got to learn to book fewer footwear appointments) and the only ones that really felt heavy were damn serious work boots from Baffin meant for the kind of people who work in Antarctica for six months. Thanks to the wonders of chemistry and materials design, all footwear is getting lighter, even rain boots. That’s a good thing for travelers watching the luggage weight limit.
Made in the USA! (Or Canada)
There has been a trickle of companies moving some manufacturing back to North America and some stayed here all along (Darn Tough Vermont, Liberty Bottleworks, Tom Bihn). But now some companies that had been tiptoeing are increasing production here: Woolrich, Keen, and Ibex for starters. Watch for more companies to create jobs in North America, either completely, on one product line, or through some hybrid approach like Coldpruf base layers does: mill the fabric in North Carolina, cut and sew in Mexico, warehouse and ship from North Carolina. (Hey, it’s hard to do it all here for an item that retails for $30.)
Goodbye Throwaway Batteries
There are still plenty of companies making things that require throw-away batteries, but this year seemed to mark the tipping point where rechargeable was taking the lead. Besides the long-time leaders like Eton, Solio, and Goal Zero, there were new products from Brunton, Uco, Princeton Tec, SteriPen, and many others that recharge by USB, sometimes in conjunction with solar chargers.
I also found two cool solar-powered inflatable lanterns from the companies LuminAid and Luci that I hope to review when they’re widely available. They pack down to nothing when not in use, then you charge, inflate, and voila: 6 to 9 hours of light. Naturally, these have huge implications for the developing world and in areas too remote for wired electricity.
Minimizing weight and heft in my carryon-only travel bags is a priority for me especially since many overseas airlines have a nasty habit of weighing even hand bags that can easily be more than 12 pounds if you are carrying a laptop and books or magazines. This new travel razor reduces the charging cord of my traditional razor and is also slimmer and more lightweight itself as well. It is the size and shape of an iPhone and can even fit handily in your back pocket.
The pocket-size nature is great to slide in a side pocket of a briefcase or in your jacket or pants pocket for a quick shave to catch a five o’clock shadow before an important meeting. Long-haul travelers are all too familiar with minor stubble after a long-haul flight that does not warrant a full shave. A once-over with this razor can do the trick in an airplane lavatory or airport bathroom in seconds. No cords to haul around, and no one would even know what it is unless they look closely.
It charges via USB meaning that you can charge it from your laptop while working on the plane or in your hotel room freeing up one electrical outlet. Those can sometimes be hard to come by in older hotels or while waiting in an airport terminal (much less on an airplane). It can also be plugged into an adaptor and charged in a normal wall plug.
While the razor foil itself may not be as wide or large as bulkier razors, it does the trick after a few extra strokes. The space it saves is more than worth it for a few extra seconds of shaving. The smooth blade cover leaves your face free from abrasions and can be cleaned with the small brush. It comes with its own soft pouch for storage so that pesky small hairs do not end up on your paperwork or other baggage contents.
A four-hour charge yields a half hour of use or the equivalent of four or five shaves. This excellent travel accessory is available at the ShaveTech website or Amazon for less than $40 and makes a great gift for business travelers.
Since the days when Starbucks became a fixture in every strip mall and top hotels began installing quality coffee makers or putting a cafe downstairs, getting a good cup of coffee when you travel has become expected. When good coffee is not around, we get cranky. For the price of a couple tall lattés, you can get this innovative collapsible coffee filter from GSI Outdoors and make a good cup anywhere. In the middle of the woods camping or in a cheap hotel with a cheap coffee maker, you can bring your own and get a good cup every time.
This filter collapses into a small disk that’s about the height of a stack of five coins and a diameter of 5.6 inches. The covering case is made from plastic, the filter itself from silicone. That means you can pour boiling water into this fine, but it is very pliable and packs down easily to stuff in a backpack or suitcase. It’s easy to clean and the silicone case can double as a trivet for a hot pot.
It works with standard drip machine paper filters (you do have to bring those along) but you can then adjust the amount of coffee to serve one cup or 12. GSI makes some portable java presses too, which are great for car camping—see my review of the 20-ounce one here—but this takes up far less room for when you’re not able to load up a car. It weighs less than 5 ounces.
The process for this Java Drip is that you center the filter hole over your receptacle (anything with a diameter larger than 2.5 inches) insert the filter and coffee, and pour in hot water. This means you are the actual coffee maker though, so there’s a bit of patience involved in pouring the hot water, letting it drip into the pot or mug, repeating until you’re done. The longer you’re into the cycle for a large pot, the longer it takes for the water to go down.
The waiting is worth it though: the results I’ve gotten with this have clearly bested any commercial drip coffee makers I’ve used. I’ve tried it with enough to fill up a home mug, with the Snow Peak Titanium travel mug, and a pot for four.
I’ve been quite impressed with this handy $13 item and it’s a sure thing for my packing list every time I go camping from now on. I’ll also be taking when I know I’ve got a dubious brand of coffee waiting in my not-so-luxe hotel or motel. (The trick is to use the provided coffee maker to just heat up the water, then transfer it to this filter.)