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We’re big fans of traveling 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 a great travel gadget that ticks all the boxes, something so good that we find space for it in our bags and take it around the world.
These are our recommendations for the best travel accessories worth buying in 2018.
Anker Powercore 13000 Portable Battery
Phones, tablets, and laptops are getting thinner and lighter all the time. That makes them look great and be easy to carry, but means it’s rare for any of them to last more than a day away from a power socket.
That’s just about manageable in daily life, but not so much when you’re on the road, so we’ve spent quite a bit of time tracking down the best portable batteries for travelers, from companies like Jackery, Anker, RAVPower, and others.
Our top overall pick is this Powercore 13000 due to its compact size, high capacity, and good value for money, but whether you want a tiny charger to keep in your wallet for emergencies, something to power your laptop for extended work sessions, or anything in between, you’ll find our detailed recommendations here.
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, there are never enough travel adapters to go around when you’re overseas .
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 a couple of smartphones at the same time.
Note that it has a three-prong grounded plug, so be sure to get a compatible travel adapter (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 it apparently really is. We’ve tested a whole bunch of different models, and it’s been surprisingly difficult to find anything we like.
Loose plugs that fall out of the wall, bulky housings 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 travel 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 for something that doesn’t have USB sockets or other extra features, but what it does, it does well.
It’s small and light, and won’t block other devices. We’ve used it all over the world, and each of its four plug sections fits snugly into its designated socket.
The storage box has the list of countries each section works in printed on the sides, which is a nice touch. There’s no problem using a three-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.
If you’d like one that’s a bit different — with USB sockets, for instance, or as cheap as possible — you can find the rest of our travel adapter recommendations here.
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 both 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.
iKits 4-Port USB Travel Wall Charger
If your power needs lean more towards phones and iPads than laptops and hair dryers, this little four-way USB charger is ideal.
Rated to 6.8 amps, it has enough juice to charge two or three recent smartphones or tablets simultaneously, or up to four lower-power devices like e-readers, 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 in another as needed. Removing the need for a separate travel adapter helps keep weight, cost, and hassle down. It also makes it easier to fit the charger into tight spaces behind beds and dressers.
If you’re traveling as a couple, or a tech-laden single, this will be one of the best travel accessories you buy.
Kindle Paperwhite eReader
A decade after it introduced the first Kindle, Amazon has well and truly won the e-book war. It’s dominated the market with the killer combo of an enormous book library and good, sometimes great, reading hardware. The company offers several different versions, with a range of features and costs, but for us, the Paperwhite is best.
The Paperwhite is a big step up from the most basic model. It has better battery life, higher screen resolution for sharper text and images, water resistance, and, most usefully for travelers, a built-in light for reading in the dark.
Rather than a brightly-lit phone or tablet, the Paperwhite has a dimmer, front-lit screen that makes it easy to read without disturbing those around you.
There’s enough storage onboard for thousands of ebooks and dozens of audiobooks, and while it’s slightly heavier than other models, the Paperwhite’s 6.4oz (182gm) weight is still barely noticeable in a day bag, and easily managed with one hand.
While there’s the option of an LTE-enabled version, it’s not worth the money unless you regularly find yourself without Wi-Fi for extended periods of time. Limited to accessing Amazon and a few other sites, most travelers are unlikely to get much use out of cell connectivity on their Paperwhite, and it drains the battery quickly.
One piece of advice: like any other piece of fragile electronics, you’ll want to add a case to protect the screen from being crushed or cracked. We’ve seen too many broken Kindles on the road to suggest anything else.
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Panda PAU07 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 traveling, or connecting to networks your laptop can’t even usually see.
This Panda model ticks most of the boxes: it’s small, reasonably powerful, supports the latest wireless standards, and works on Windows, Linux, and older versions of MacOS. Just plug it into your laptop’s USB socket, and you’re good to go.
If you’re looking for something a little different, whether it’s maximum range, a Wi-Fi extender that works on the latest versions of MacOS or without a laptop, or even something to boost the Wi-Fi at the RV park, we’ve got a bunch of alternative options here.
GlocalMe G3 Mobile Hotspot
Staying connected overseas is one of the biggest hassles faced by international travelers, especially when they first arrive in a new country. Data roaming is often cripplingly expensive, and most international SIM cards aren’t much better. Local SIM cards bring the price down, but can be a hassle to find and buy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to deal with all this?
The GlocalMe G3 is the closest we’ve found to an affordable solution to this problem. It’s a gadget about the size of a cigarette packet that connects to the data network in 100+ countries, creating its own Wi-Fi hotspot to give Internet access to all your devices.
That’s not especially unusual, but the G3 has two killer features that others don’t: it also has two slots for use with local SIM cards, and its own data plans are surprisingly affordable.
In the real world, this means that you can happily arrive somewhere new, turn on the GlocalMe device and use it for a day or two without worrying too much about the cost. If you’re staying in the country for a while, you can then pick up a local SIM card to save money when you get a chance, and drop it into the G3 to share among your devices.
As a final bonus, you’ll get up to 15 hours of use out of it, and it can even act as a portable battery if your phone starts running flat.
Check out our full review for all the details, but in short, we were very impressed with the GlocalMe G3, and continue using it on our travels to this day.
GRAYL Ultralight Purifier Bottle
Travel water purifiers don’t have an easy job. They need to be able to get rid of all kinds of waterborne nasties in a simple, foolproof way. Durable yet lightweight, they also need to be able to purify a useful amount of water while staying small enough to throw in a day bag.
They’re good for your health, your wallet, and the environment, but only if you’re actually happy to carry and use them on your travels.
We’ve tested a few different models, and our current pick is the GRAYL Ultralight Purifier. It’s kept us safe and hydrated, even in countries where the tap water definitely isn’t safe to drink.
It’s reasonably priced, easy to use, and is about the same size as a normal water bottle. The purification cartridge filters up to 40 gallons (150 litres) of water before needing replacing.
Our full review of the GRAYL purifier goes into much more detail about our experience with it on the road. In brief, though, it’s an easy recommendation for travelers who care about their health and environmental impact.
All product photos via respective manufacturers, except main image.