How many of us travellers have had the ‘It would be nice to have a <insert gadget here>’ moment? A poncho when it’s raining, an extra battery for your smartphone, the wishlist goes on. Here's a list of some gadgets that you might not have thought to pack for your next trip, but they'll be infinitely handy to have.
1. Battery pack
Smartphones and tablets are de rigueur for most travellers these days, but it’s a shame they’re so power-hungry: between surfing websites, Facebook, Twitter and taking photos and videos, your gadgets might run out of juice before you get to a power point. If you're budget-conscious, carry an extra battery pack or two, but for gadgets with sealed batteries, consider carrying an extra external battery pack. Companies such as Mili (www.milipower.com) make packs like the Power Shine, which gives 4000mAh of extra juice: just plug your USB charger cable into the device and you’ll get your iPhone or iPad through the day.
2. Mini camera tripod
Why bother saddling yourself with a heavy tripod? Unless you’re into low-light photography or planning on long exposures, most travellers can get away with carrying a mini tripod, useful for everything from self-portraits to slow exposures. One of the best is Joby’s Gorillapod (www.joby.com) – the legs are made with multi-jointed pods that are strong and can be ‘molded’ to wrap around odd-shaped objects such as rocks and branches. There’s even a magnetic version that can be used with metal handrails.
If you carry only pocket digital cameras or smartphones, consider the Tiltpod (www.gomite.com). This pocket-sized tripod is a flat disc with a rubberised base and a magnetic pivot and is ridiculously clever and tiny.
3. Tough digital cameras or a Gopro
Rugged cameras cost a little more than their conventional counterparts but can do so much more. They’re generally shock-, dust- and waterproof. So whether you want to continue snapping pics during Thailand’s Songkran water festival or while underwater snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, these cameras can capture those key travel moments.
If you already own a conventional camera or smartphone, waterproof it with a case such as those made by Dicapac (www.dicapac.com). The low-profile Lifeproof case (www.lifeproof.com) for the iPhone and Galaxy S3 turns your smartphone into a rugged device. Another device that's been garnering acclaim is the compact, mountable and waterproof Gopro (www.gopro.com) camera.
4. LED light with a key ring or clip
Carrying a light is always useful: whether you’re stumbling back to your hostel after a big night out or want to read on an overnight bus ride or in a camping tent, you’ll be thankful for having one handy. While you could always carry a mini torch, we like something small and flat with a keyring or clip so that it can be hooked to your backpack or the belt loop on your jeans. They’re cheap, too – prices start at US$1 on eBay.
5. Multipoint USB charger / universal travel adapter
All-in-one gadgets mean you carry less in your bag. A universal travel adapter with built-in USB ports means that you can plug in your laptop while charging up your phone or digital camera. Made for the power-hungry, some come with up to four (!) USB ports. Prices start at US$6 on eBay. If that's more than you want to spend, just ditch all your device chargers and charge up via your laptop’s USB ports.
6. Vibram FiveFinger shoes
Running shoes are chunky and take up too much room in your luggage, but there’s an alternative for travellers who want an all-in-one shoe. The Vibram FiveFinger (www.vibramfivefingers.com) is essentially a thin, sturdy ‘barefoot’ shoe that looks like a neoprene toe sock attached to a rubber sole. While these ‘barefoot’ shoes might make you look like a Ninja Turtle, many swear by them. They’re versatile and can be used for hiking, boating or running, and they dry quickly, making them good at the beach, too.
Get a pair of quality earphones (aka canalphones or in-ear monitors) that have rubber or foam tips. This not only insulates your from external noise, but they also double up as ear plugs even if you’re not playing music. If you don’t like the idea of getting tangled up in cables, try a bluetooth version such as Plantronic’s Backbeat Go (www.plantronics.com), Novero’s Rockaway (www.novero.com) or the Jaybird (www.jaybirdgear.com). They work great in the gym or while running too.