Normally, I shy away from gift guides. This year is different.
I consider myself a tech traveller. I travel about 150,000 miles per year (for some that’s insane, for other that’s called “February”). With that, I am always super specific about the gear that I travel with. Because I never check bags, everything must be super lightweight, ultra durable, multi-purpose and truly functional for heavy usage. Over the years, I’ve often had the question: “Where did you get that?,” while sitting in airports, hotel lobby’s or just over lunch with a friend. I quickly realized that I, in fact, am a huge nerd and love scouting out the latest and greatest in tech and travel gadgets that can make your business trip that much more pleasant.
Let’s level set first.
Before rattling off some of the best gadgets for the tech traveller in your life, it’s important to note that I travel with a MacBook Pro (the new one that is USB C only) and the iPhone X. I travel, mostly, domestically in North America and I have a physical aversion to checking any luggage. So, I pack light and wear similar clothes (black only!).
With that, here’s my mini gift guide for the tech traveller your life…
- Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 2-in-1 Portable Charger and Wall Charger. A killer little travel device that enables me to leave all of the Apple charger bricks at home for the smartphones and tablets and — at the same time — this also double as a portable charger for your smartphone. I can’t thank Scott Stratten enough for introducing me to this device. I also love how it plugs directly into the wall and recharges the battery, while being able to handle two USB devices. Simply brilliant. This literally took me from four separate charging devices/portable batteries down to just one.
- Poweradd 2-Outlet Mini Travel Surge Protector. This is another “must have” device. I picked up a portable and mini travel size power bar at a trade show booth for free. I loved it. It eventually died, and I replaced it with this one… and I am glad that I did. This has room for a few devices to plug in, plus two USB ports. If you have ever been to a hotel, airport lounge or airport lobby, you know how scare, hard to find and tight the spaces are to actually plug anything in. This one is so well designed, that it even plugs perfectly into that pesky little outlet that are in the base of hotel room lamps on the night table. Frequent flyers also know how tough it can be to get those Apple chargers into in the in-seat plugs (if you’re lucky enough to have one). This cures all. I love the way the chord wraps and hides itself, and I’m a huge fan of the little green power light as well. You have no idea how often I plug something into a random wall on the road, and I don’t know if the socket is dead, if it’s the charger, etc… This lets you know when it’s actually getting power. This gets you from one plug to two plus two USB ports.
- Anble 4-in-1 USB Type C to HDMI, DVI and VGA Converter. If you have to give a business presentation, you need to have one of these. While my primary dongles to attach my laptop to projectors are the official ones from Apple, I always want to have a back up (especially because these new MacBook’s are using USB C, and very few AV teams carry this new format/dongle). With that, I always want a backup. This is it. It’s an all-in-one, so I would not trust it as the only solution, but it’s great for a backup. The bonus of this one is that it also has DVI. DVI is a format I don’t see often (and Apple doesn’t even have a USB C to DVI dongle), but just in case I always keep this one handy. So, you can connect to VGA, HDMI and DVI all from this one dongle.
- 2 in 1 Lightning iPhone 7 Adapter for iPhone. If you use headphones, one of the biggest adjustments that must be made as you transition over to the newer iPhones, is the lack of a headphone jack. I’ll recommend some great Bluetooth headsets for being on-the-go next, but it’s a shame to waste the headphones that you already have. This would be a solution. The ability to plug into a corded headphone while also being able to charge your device at the same time (a must for being on the go with these battery draining smartphones). Candidly, I’m not sold on these adapters, but they are essential. The challenge (as I have discovered) is that while these do the trick of allowing you to listen to audio while charging your device at the same time (something, the official Apple adapter does not allow), it does render the buttons on your headphones useless. So, if you want to jump tracks, raise/lower the volume or even use the microphone on your headset for a call, these adapters don’t always allow for that functionality. Buyer beware. I’m hopeful that Apple creates an official version of this, at some point soon.
- Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones. These are my wireless/bluetooth headphones of choice for travel. Bose is a brand that many know and love. I’ve gone through the lot of their headphones (and other brands as well). There is no doubt that the sound quality and true noise cancelling is much better on the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, but I am a stickler on a few points that the 30 delivers on over the 35. First, if you ever have to sleep on a plane, I find it much more comfortable to have the in-ear option. The over-the-ears don’t allow you to move your head around as much, and if you’re lucky enough to get a lie-flat seat on an overseas flight, you can forget about sleeping on your side with the 35. I also much prefer the slim form factor of the 30 over the 35. The 35 has a much bulkier packaging, which makes it harder to slip into your briefcase. These are both expensive headphones. Both work great. I choose the 30 over the 35.
- eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack. This is my backpack/briefcase. I could not be happier with it, and I have bought — literally — hundreds of briefcases and backpacks over the years. I’m always looking for something light, durable, black, professional and with enough pockets and areas that I can zip through security and customs without having to fumble around too much. The good people at eBags really have something with this bag. I can’t think of one thing that I would want to add/remove. This one is so smart — from the front pocket for emptying your pockets at security to the base at the bottom of the bag that will hold all external chargers, to the smaller top compartment especially built for your tablet (or Kindle or whatever) and the separate area for your laptop. If you’re looking for a professional bag that does it all… you can’t go wrong with this one.
- Briggs & Riley Baseline Rolling Cabin Bag. Another area where I have spent way too much time, money and effort on is the ideal carry-on. This is the one. By far. Many airlines are now forcing gate check for carry-on bags that are too big. I went in the opposite direction, and I will never turn back. I often find myself on smaller planes, where all bags must be gate checked. This has stressed me out for connections and created delays. This is the best solution. It’s small enough that it can fit in many of the smaller aircrafts overhead bins. And, if it doesn’t, I slip my eBags briefcase (above) in the overhead bin, and this bad boy can go under any seat. I can’t express how much love I have for never ever having to gate check a bag. The trick with this bag, is that you have to pack light. I recommend rolling (tight) all of your clothing and coupling this with Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Specter Garment Folder Small (make sure you get the small version or it will not fit in this bag) for articles that you do not want to wrinkle (dress shirts, sport coats, dresses, etc…) — see below for that product. I’ve been able to use this cabin bag for two nights and three days on the road, though it is more ideal for a quick overnight trip.
- Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Specter Garment Folder Small. I do not know how I ever lived without this product. Remember, if you are going to go with the Briggs & Riley Cabin Bag above, make sure you get the “small” version of this magic little packing solution. This garment folder claims to be able to hold up seven items (according to their website), but from my experience, it really hold two dress shirts and one sport coat tightly. Still, it compresses the clothes and keeps them wrinkle free — and it works like a charm. If you travel, you must try these out. They’re the best at space saving for packing.
- RuMe Bags Baggie All Zippered Organizer. Last (but not least) is this little charmer. Cables, dongles, headphones, adapters, presentation remotes, etc… can quickly turn the inside of your bag into something that resembles a pit of tangled snakes. For years, this bag has been my go-to organizer. I put my two remote presenters in the front pocket with my USB stick of backup files. The middle section gets all of the dongles that I need to connect to random projectors and AV set-ups, and the main compartment gets everything else. These bags are simply awesome and will keep every small-ish piece of tech and accessory organized and never to be lost again. For those who live in Canada, Dollorama has a similar bag in their stores, that I think are actually better (thicker material and slightly bigger) for under $4, so go and hunt it out in the office/school supply section.
Those are my top tech traveller’s business person gifts… what are yours?
note: all of the links above are affiliate links on Amazon. My intent is to donate whatever money is generated by the links to a local woman’s shelter. Hoping that you’re cool with that? And, yes, I really do use each and every one of these gadgets almost every day. If it’s in this list, it’s because I love it and use it.
Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — a global digital marketing agency operating in close to 20 countries. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his successful blog and podcast is a business and marketing bestseller. His second book, CTRL ALT Delete, was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Amazon. Learn more at: www.mitchjoel.com.