10 essential gadgets for carry-on travellers
20 December 2015
A gadget is defined as something small, ingenious or novel. And in an age of minimal, one-bag travel, our gadgets have to be up to scratch with all the latest bells and whistles; both wireless and blameless. Gone are the days where manservants would trundle large cases behind as we flounced around in top hat, seersucker suit and half our worldly possessions, including the kitchen sink.
Today’s traveller is more likely to be a flash packer; eschewing check-in baggage for speedy, carry-on, secure access. To that end, Mackerel‘s choices for travel gadgets are small and utilitarian, yet quite indispensable.
1. BLUETOOTH HEADPHONES - JABRA MOVE
These Jabra MOVE headphones have the distinction of being both ear warmers as well as style setters. They aren’t too bassy, and offer a rather even sound with enough highs to work well for my preferred genres – rock/funk and a hint of spoken word.
Bluetooth connects fuss-free, and the headphones have play/pause functions as well as a volume control. Battery life comes in just under eight hours, and it takes two hours to get a full charge with the supplied micro-usb cable. If you want to save on Bluetooth, attach the included 3.5mm audio cable. No carrying case, but at US$99, I think I’ll just hang them off the side of my backpack. The gold/black version is way too sexy to resist, anyhow.
2. COMPACT CAMERA - SONY RX100 IV
DSLR cameras seemed to get larger rather than smaller before micro 4/3s and then mirrorless came out. The latter formats encroached with a vengeance upon the compact camera market, forcing makers to up their game with a slew of enhancements to keep their market share.
The Sony RX100 IV could be a flagship model amongst fast, high-end compacts. Certainly, at its price point (US$899), it would make most casual users and even some prosumers (a professional-consumer hybrid) balk. After all, you could get a tidy m4/3 kit for that price. But just look at the specs! A 20 megapixel 1-inch sensor, a shutter that goes up to 1/32000, a 24-70 Vario-Sonnar Zeiss lens with an aperture of 1.8-2.8 and not to mention the ability to record 4K video as well as slow motion at 960fps.
Battery life may not be the best, but there is the option to charge via USB. Users with large hands may find the controls a bit fiddly, but ultimately, the camera is a heck of a party that fits in your pocket.
3. STABILISATION - JOBY MINI TRIPOD
Seasoned travellers laugh at tourists who lug around dinky tripods they received as a freebie with their camera, and we tell ourselves, in no way are we going to be caught dead with one of those off-brand plastic unfantastic pieces of junk. But, there are moments when you do need a tripod, at the very least, to steady the camera on an unwelcoming surface.
Enter the Joby Gpod Mini Magnetic tripod. It’s sturdy, tiny and has super-strong magnetic feet. Quite a no-brainer, really. Pair it with a simple phone holder for a quick and easy stand as well.
4. MULTI-TOOL - QUICKEY
It’s a dicey thing to bring a Swiss army knife or similar multi-tool on board a plane, but a key slips past the scanner every time. And this is a particularly useful key. The best feature for me is the bottle opener, but the screwdriver tips are especially useful in a pinch. It rose to fame off a phenomenal crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. And it’s now on InDemand, though at post campaign prices.
5. RECORDING - ASPEN MIC
Ever had an idea for a song or some great line for your next public speaking gig? Or just wanted to capture a conversation? Your typical in-line mic on your earphones is great for a phone call, but is really not designed for recording. While there are any number of external recorders available, the Aspen Mic lavalier comes with a TRRS cable to connect to your iPhone along with a high quality lav mic that far surpasses the quality on your headset. Pair it with a more advanced recording app like Voice Record Pro to really get the most out of it. Pro tip: Aspen often has very good sales, so sign up to their newsletter and wait for the price to drop! (Cat paw not included).
6. MEDIA HUB - RAVPOWER FILEHUB
This is a straightforward device that functions as a powerbank (3,000 mAh), wireless media hub and a wireless bridge network. If you don’t want to fill up your phone with media, having an external hub is quite indispensable. Note: memory card not included!
7. FLASH - IBLAZR2
This is a tiny powerhouse of a Bluetooth flash/video light that was designed primarily for smartphones. It comes with its own dedicated app, a cold shoe mount and a nifty clip on mount to the phone. I bought a pair and they do a very decent job of automatically lighting up a subject. Said subject was quite small, though (in stature, but not in might). However, the 300 lux output (at one metre) of these lights would be sufficient to light a person in flash mode, though you’ll need far greater output when shooting a video with continuous light. One rather clever touch was allowing for the colour temperature to be adjusted with just a quick swipe up or down the touch sensitive back of the device.
8. BLUETOOTH SPEAKER - UE ROLL
Voted by Wirecutter as the best portable Bluetooth speaker of 2015, it’s easy to see why this gets top marks. The single 2” driver and 2 ¾” tweeters pump out a clear, but full sound, and it’s far too easy on the eye. Both Hozier and Leonard Cohen gave as good as they got on our test run. There’s also the possibility of pairing two devices for a true stereo sound. Plus points include water proofing (up to 1m for 30 mins), a relatively long play time of 9 hours and a maximum sound output of 85dB.