We’re big fans of travelling as light as possible, especially when it comes to gadgets and accessories. They’re often overpriced, unreliable, too heavy and break easily, and most of them aren’t particularly useful either. Now and again, though, we come across something that ticks all the boxes — something so useful that we would (and often do) find space for it in our bags and take it round the world.
These are our recommendations for the best travel accessories worth buying in 2017.
MAKETECH Travel Power Strip
If there’s one certainty about travel, it’s that your hotel or hostel room won’t ever have enough sockets for all the gadgets that need to be charged. Even if by some miracle it does, when you’re overseas there are never enough travel adapters to go around.
This little Maketech travel power strip deals with both of those problems. It provides two North American AC sockets and three USB sockets, in a strip that’s just 4.2″ long. There’s a three-foot cable, and it can handle gadgets that draw up to 1250W. Total USB power output is four amps, which is enough to charge two or three smartphones at the same time.
Note that it has a three-prong grounded plug, so be sure to get a travel adapter that’s compatible with it (like the one recommended below).
Flight 001 4-In-1 Travel Adapter
You wouldn’t think it’d be hard to make a good international travel adapter — and yet, apparently, it is. We’ve tested a whole bunch of different models, and are yet to find one that works perfectly. Loose plugs that fall out of the wall, bulky adapters that block other sockets, blinding LED lights, USB sockets that don’t work properly and more, it’s amazing just how many ways companies can find to screw up a pretty basic accessory.
The best we’ve found so far is the Flight 001 4-In-1. It’s a little more expensive than we’d like, and doesn’t have any USB sockets or other features, but what it does, it does well. It’s small and light, and won’t block other wall sockets. We’ve used it all over the world, and each of its four sections fits snugly into its designated socket.
The storage box has the list of countries each section works in printed on the sides — a nice touch. There’s no problem using a 3-pin US plug with it, either, which is more than can be said for many of its competitors.
Just remember that like any other travel adapter, it only converts the plug, not the voltage. If you’re using a 110 volt device in a 220 volt plug, or vice versa, you’ll need a voltage convertor as well.
Hootoo Wireless Travel Router
The HooToo Wireless Travel Router promises a lot. As well as giving you better Internet connections, it’s also a 10,400mAh portable battery, media streamer, and a way of copying files to, from and between your mobile devices. Unusually for multi-purpose gadgets like this, it actually does everything it’s supposed to, at a remarkably good price, without being too big and heavy.
We wrote up a full review here, but in short: the battery has enough capacity to get smartphone owners through even the longest travel day, getting a stronger Wi-fi signal is straightforward, and streaming videos and backing up files from tablets and smartphones is seamless as long as you’re not doing them simultaneously.
If you’d like better Internet, simple backups, extra charge and easy music and video streaming on your travels, in an affordable and compact package, buy this device.
aLLreLi 4-Port USB Wall Charger
If your power needs lean more towards phones and iPads than laptops and hair dryers, this little 4-way USB charger is ideal. Rated to 6.8amps, it has enough juice to simultaneously charge four lower-power devices like phones or e-readers, three tablets, or various combinations, while staying small and light enough to drop in a daypack and forget about it.
In a nice touch, removable power plugs for most of the world are included — just clip one out and plug another one in as needed. Removing the need for a travel adapter helps keep weight, cost and hassle down, as well as making it easier to fit the charger into tight spaces behind beds and dressers.
If you’re travelling as a couple, or a tech-laden single, this will be one of the most useful travel accessories you buy.
Dart Laptop Charger
Laptops are getting smaller and lighter with every new version, but the chargers that power them typically aren’t. That’s a real problem with many Windows laptops in particular, which often have charging bricks that fall out of wall sockets at the slightest provocation.
Apparently equally sick of retrieving their charger from the floor, the folks at FINsix crowdfunded the Dart. Billed as the smallest laptop charger in the world, it’s compatible with most Windows laptops that use a 65W charger or less.
We tested one for weeks, and it was rock-solid — both in terms of powering my laptop, and staying put in the wall. There’s also a single USB socket built into the cable, which works equally well.
It’s tiny, reliable and genuinely useful.
TYLT Smart Charger 6K
Long travel days and hours spent exploring new cities are all part of the travel experience — but they’re not great for keeping charge in your phone. We’ve long recommended travellers pack a portable battery to keep their electronics going on even the lengthiest of overnight bus rides, and with some airports now insisting you power up your gadgets at the gate before they’ll be allowed on the plane, it’s become even more important.
There are literally hundreds of different portable batteries out there, but we’ve been using the TYLT Energi 6K for a while now, and like it a lot. It’s well-made, compact and reasonably light, and super-simple to use.
Unlike most others, it’s a charger as well as a battery — in other words, you can also use it to charge your device from the wall. You just plug it into the power socket via the fold-out North American plugs, then connect your device to it. It’ll charge the device first, then charge its own battery, so after a few hours you’ve got two fully-charged gadgets.
There’s a short built-in cable (Lightning or micro-USB, your choice), plus a 2.1amp socket for any other USB cable. You can charge two devices simultaneously if you like — the 6,000mAh capacity should be enough to charge a pair of smartphones from empty.
The “international” edition of the TYLT 6k comes with UK and European/Asian socket adapters, and only costs a few dollars more — it’s the version we’d recommend. After a recent price drop, this charger costs little more than a standard portable battery, with plenty of features to justify the extra cash.
Panda PAU06 Wireless Range Extender
Great news! The hotel has free Wi-fi! Bad news! Your room gets one bar of signal, if you hang your laptop out the window and hold your tongue in just the right position. Oh well, who doesn’t love waiting twenty minutes for Facebook to load, anyway?
We’ve been recommending Wi-fi range extenders for years. They’re an easy way of getting faster Internet while travelling, or connecting to networks your laptop can’t even usually see.
This Panda model ticks all the boxes: it’s small, powerful and works on current and older versions of Windows, MacOS and Linux. Just plug it into your laptop’s USB socket and you’re good to go.
Sugru Mouldable Glue
Charging cables always cause problems for travellers. Sure, they’re always a few inches too short when you’re trying to use them with ridiculously-placed sockets in hotel rooms, but they’re rarely durable enough either. No matter whether it’s a high-priced Macbook charger or some cheap micro-USB thing you picked up in a strip mall, continual bending and squashing leads to one inevitable result: broken cables. Replacing them on the road is an expensive, time-consuming affair.
No matter how much you paid for them, and whatever design tweaks have gone into them, they almost always break in the same place. The spot where the cable exits the connector gets the most stress put on it, and over time the wires inside bend and break. Sometimes you can spot it in advance, due to a visible bulge at that point. Other times, the cable will just stop charging reliably, or at all.
Sure, you can wrap it up in duct tape as a short-term fix, but a while back I came across a better solution. A company called Sugru makes what it calls “mouldable glue” – a plasticine-like substance that starts out soft and pliable, then hardens within a few hours into a flexible silicone rubber.
Since prevention is better than cure, I typically use Sugru ahead of time to reinforce that weak spot on both ends of my cables. So far, so good — none of them have broken. If you’re not that organised (and to be fair, I haven’t been in the past), you can also use it in an emergency to patch up cables that break, split or otherwise look like they’re on the way out.
Since a little goes a long way with this stuff, Sugru is a simple, inexpensive way of avoiding the hassle and cost of replacing chargers on the road. We like it a lot.
All images via manufacturers. Main image via Gekko.