Disclaimer: We are Apple people, don’t hate.
We are in the middle of a worldwide technology renaissance and the backpacking world is no exception. Forget internet cafes, today travelers carry any and every travel tech possible to make their adventures more comfortable and more connected.
And why shouldn’t we? The technology abounds, the designs are lightweight and slick, and often the most powerful and versatile devices fit in the palm of your hand and pocket! iPh0nes, iPads, Kindles, laptops, portable speakers and hard drives, you name it, all now commonplace on the backpacking or “flashpacking” scene. They help us stay connected with home, help us make both spontaneous and longterm travel plans, and save us a bunch of time and, we reckon, money. (That’s time travelers used to spend crammed in smelly internet cafes trying to us a PC from 1992 or make a phone call over the sound of five German kids displaying the symptoms of a Red Bull and Call of Duty induced heart attack).
After 5 months on the road we’ve found these six wonders of travel tech quite simply indispensable.
Pasture Braised’s Travel Tech Top 6
6. Samsonite Travel Adaptor / Monster Travel Power Strip / Belkin Retractable Power Cords
Yes, that/sounds/like/cheating, but these three charging systems are always connected, and work as a fail proof charging hub wherever we go. Each piece is the result of a lot of research on how to maximizes the travel life of all our gadgets and gizmos. Most modern tech comes with a built-in converter, so you only needs a power adapter to get plugged in. Smaller travel devices with lithium batteries almost all have a mini USB charging option, making USB one of the most convenient methods to keep your gear charged.
- Samsonite Travel Adaptor – This adaptor works in over 150 countries. It’s built solid but fairly light. It has two USB connections and accommodates grounded devices.
- Monster Travel Power Strip – The monster travel plug gives us three outlets and one extra USB outlet where ever we go. It also serves a power surge protector which is great when you’re staying in some questionable electrical wired hostels.
- Belkin Retractable Power Cords (various)- We currently only use the mini USB to USB cord, but we love the design so much that we’ll give a shout out to the entire line. these guys save a ton of space and tangled cord hassle, and work just great. They charge our portable speaker and connect our camera to our computer.
5. Fox Portable Bluetooth Speaker and Spotify Premium
Again, with the two for ones, we know, we know. But what good is your sound system without your favourite music, and how good is your music if you can’t fill a room with it? Traveling without a portable speaker these days is just, well…old fashion. The Fox Portable Blue Tooth Speaker really makes the most of your hostel room jam sessions. We tried out a bunch of portable speakers before we made our decision for our RTW trip. Our good friend and musician Kerry introduced us to the sound quality of this little beast. It’s a bit pricy, and luckily we snagged it as a Christmas/going away gift from my sister. We use it all the time and couldn’t imagine traveling without it at this point. Dinner parties, beach parties, hostel room parties, packing parties, you name it we rock out with our Fox out. Spotify Premium lets us bring all of our favorites and have a listen whether we’re online or off, receive new play playlists from friends, and seek out local music in new countries. If you’re not already using Spotify, check it out!
4. iPod Touch 5th Generation
In an ideal world, this spot would be held by an unlocked iPhone 4s (which holds a traditional sim card versus the new mini sim of the iPhone 5). After our iPhone 5 was stolen, we deliberated over getting a new phone, but in the end realized it was the iPhone’s camera we were after more than the phone. Like a guardian travel tech angel, our friend Sam descended into Peru with an iPod Touch and we were soon back to snapping and Instagramming. Additionally the new super slim design and much cheaper cost (compared to a new iPhone) of the iPod Touch 5th generation makes it an ideal choice for RTW travel.
3. WiTopia VPN
Traveling with your own Virtual Private Network is when you know you’ve officially crossed the line from backpacker to flashpacker. A VPN allows you to mask your I.P. address and access your online life behind an encrypted wall. Not only does that give us peace of mind when using the WiFi at a local coffee shop, but the VPN comes with a few extra perks. Namely, we can mask our I.P address and log into American Gmail to use Gmail’s phone system to call our friends and family back home for free! We didn’t realize how much this was saving us until we called our friend Max from an internet cafe in Brazil and ran up a $45 tab on a 30 minute conversation. Our VPN subscription literally paid for itself with our first few Gmail calls. Additionally, the VPN lets us log into America’s movie/TV streaming sites (hello, Hulu) that would otherwise be off-limits due to international copyright laws. There are plenty of VPN providers out there, but we’ve found WiTopia incredibly reliable and easy to use.
2. iPad Mini
The Swiss Army knife of travel tech. What can we said about that hasn’t already been said about a book, a guidebook, notepad, phone, computer, camera, TV, jukebox, GPS, calculator…the list goes on and on. We use our iPad Mini daily, it fits into the palm of our hand and in most our pockets. It is the perfect eReader (sorry kindle lovers, it is) and it has a killer battery life for those long bus rides. Natalie was leery about leaving the world of paper books behind, but we’ve both enjoyed tucking into a good book on the mini’s novel-sized frame. We’re even able to download Lonely Planets and save our selves a ton of space and weight. There really isn’t anything bad we can say about our iPad Mini, except for the fact that we only have one!
1. MacBook Air 11′ + Plug Bug + Speck Case
Another packaged deal here:
- MacBook Air 11′ — The grand daddy of our travel tech gear. While the iPad Mini gives the Air a run for the #1 spot, our MacBook Air is still King Kong when it comes to multitasking, video chatting and watching, and maintaining this here blog. Our MacBook Air is not only a great tool, but it’s incredibly lightweight and slim, making it easy to carry around and pack up. We can drop this bad boy into our day pack and barely even know it’s there. We believe it’s the best long-term travel computer out there.
- Plug Bug — A must-have for all Mac users, traveling or not. The Plug Bug attaches to your Mac’s power converter, giving you an extra USB port that packs a whopping 2.1-Amps of power. This gives you a super quick charge on all your USB devices. Our iPad, iPhones (when we still had them), iPods, etc all charge super quick via the Plug Bug. The the bright red design makes it stand out, and we’ve avoided hostel skirmishes over whose charger is whose.
- Speck Case It would be stoopid to travel without a case. We like Speck for not messing with the Air’s streamline perfection. Plus we’re able to put a non-permanent disguise over our Apple branding with our super-kewl travel sticker collection.