Travel gear and gadgets for when you're on the go
This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
WHAT IT DOES Constructs an easy-to-use packing list, whether you're traveling for business or leisure, taking just the basics, bringing a baby or planning to do laundry.
WHAT'S HOT The lists made with Packpoint were smart and quick to create. You can choose items based on activities in your itinerary and add original items. After you create a list to your liking, you can save it and use it again for another trip. Do you make packing lists for others? You can share them by email, text message, Twitter and Facebook. It also lets you know what the weather will be like at your destination.
WHAT'S NOT You'll need to email your list to yourself to get a printable copy.
Urban Hybrid Briefcase(Credit: MCT / Handout)
NAME Solo 15.6-inch Urban Hybrid Briefcase
WHAT IT IS A roomy polyester briefcase that converts to a backpack or shoulder bag, all weighing less than 2 pounds. One large cargo area, with two padded dividers, can hold a laptop, iPad, Kindle, etc. Two exterior compartments can take smaller items, such as a passport and phone.
THE GOOD This is the perfect "personal bag," as the airlines call them. That means it's not a checked bag or even a carry-on. It can slide under an airline seat while easily holding all the clothes you might need for a few days, plus an iPad and other small electronics. And don't worry about smudges; the charcoal color hides a world of dirt.
THE BAD The buckles and connectors are made of plastic, but metal accoutrements on bags are heavier and pricier.
WHAT IT DOES Uses actual camping experiences and glorious photos of nature -- not to mention handy Google Maps -- to make camping more accessible to those who are not regulars. Have an RV, kids or need a pet-friendly campground? Search destinations using its amenities section.
WHAT'S HOT The tips section for each campground is excellent. Even the most hesitant camper will feel more confident strolling into his or her campsite with info such as this: "Remember to get a fire permit as well -- gathering driftwood is allowed, but toward the end of the summer it will likely be sparse, so bring a bundle!"
WHAT'S NOT The pictures of the general areas were beautiful, but they don't show actual campgrounds. If you need more info about individual campgrounds, the booking links lead to sites such as Reserve America, where you can book your campsite. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME TRS Ballistic Carry-On by Club Glove
WHAT IT IS A two-wheeled, tough, stylish carry-on that pairs nicely with its larger sibling, the Check-In, whose attachment strap slides over the telescoping handle of the carry-on to create a "weightless" combo that will glide through the airport.
THE GOOD The carry-on bag, like the larger versions, is almost square in width and depth at 13 by 9 inches. That means it's more linear (and seemingly easier to fit in an overhead bin). Even with the larger bags attached behind it, they will trail you neatly so you won't have to dodge travelers with fatter suitcases.
THE BAD The only thing you might miss are 360-degree wheels, but the slender design helps make up for more limited two-wheel maneuverability. It's pricey luggage, but built to last.
COST $699 for the carry-on. (Check-in is $750, and Check-in XL is $799.)
INFO clubglove.com -- The Chicago Tribune
NAME Pocket Poppet
WHAT IT IS A jersey women's cardigan that collapses into its own built-in nylon ripstop pocket, concealed on the interior back of the sweater. Designed for stowing in a handbag or glove box, it's like a fashion first-aid kit for frosty airplanes, icy cubicles or frozen-food aisles.
THE GOOD Folded into its pocket, the sweater can slide into a crowded midsize purse. The open-front waterfall cardigan flatters the figure, draping to the top of the thigh. Ruching on the sleeves keeps them at three-quarter length without constant re-scrunching. Sophisticated enough for a dress, casual enough for yoga, it's available in seven colors.
THE BAD When the cardigan is worn, the pocket's Velcro closure is exposed to the shirt you're wearing beneath, so there's a slight chance of snagging delicate fabrics.
COST $99 for the Classic (rayon and spandex) or Lotus (moisture-wicking bamboo, rayon, spandex).
AVAILABLE FROM thepocketpoppet.com. --Chicago Tribune
NAME OVVO Optics Phoenix polarized sunglasses
WHAT THEY ARE Sunglasses composed of a steel-titanium composite that makes them incredibly light (they weigh less than an ounce), yet seemingly indestructible. The glasses are made in Germany and Poland.
THE GOOD They seem indestructible -- drop them on the pavement, fold them, even stand on them and they still look brand new. The company claims the frames, when stretched out flat, can hold 90 pounds without breaking. Also, the screwless hinges mean you don't need to keep tightening them.
THE BAD Like umbrellas, sunglasses seem to get lost more easily than regular glasses, and these are just pricey enough to make such a loss really hurt.
WHAT IT DOES It's a bike-sharing service that lets you rent a bike or list one. To rent a bike, choose a date and time, message the owner and arrange to pick it up. For those who list their bikes, know that they are insured for up to $5,000.
WHAT'S HOT The geographic possibilities are impressive. U.S. cities with the biggest rental inventory include New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Europe, there are listings for Rome, London, Barcelona and Paris, where a tandem bike can be rented for $6 an hour, or $26 a day.
WHAT'S NOT There are buttons for renting surf and paddleboards or ski and snowboard equipment. However, it was harder to find destinations that offered these rentals. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES It's a collection of YouTube videos pinned to a map by location. The video footage must be taken by a drone (nonmilitary) and show, in good quality, the area where the drone flew. The public can submit videos, which are reviewed by the website before being posted.
WHAT'S HOT There are lots of drone videos from all over the world. A column on the home page lets you know about the most recently published ones. You can zoom in and out of the global map to find where the videos are from. It's fun to view the aerial shots of the Serengeti in Kenya, the streets of London, and Kilauea and Maui in Hawaii.
WHAT'S NOT You might want to hit the mute button; the music that accompanies some of the videos is not for all tastes. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME "101 Tips for Women Travelers E-book," oattravel.com/101tips
AVAILABLE AS Interactive flipbook, pdf for laptop or personal computers, ePub for iPad (with iBooks), Sony Reader and all other non-Kindle e-book readers, .mobi for Amazon Kindle devices.
WHAT IT DOES This free, downloadable e-book by Overseas Adventure Travel is packed with practical tips to help you become a smarter, better-prepared traveler. It's written for women by experienced female travelers, but everyone will be savvier for reading it.
WHAT'S HOT It's filled with plenty of tips. For instance, if you want to avoid a pat-down at security, leave your money belt out until you get past inspection. The book is also filled with digital resources, info on clothing sizes around the world and a section with 25 uses for a scarf.
WHAT'S NOT The interactive flipbook is much more user-friendly than the epub for iPad 3. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME Clothing Arts' P-Cubed Ultimate Travel Shirt
WHAT IT IS A nylon shirt that you would swear was made of cotton. It has two secret zippered pockets hidden behind standard button pockets. If someone tries to pick your pocket, they'll never see nor feel the small hidden zippers.
THE GOOD There are the secret pockets, which will ease your mind about anyone stealing your cash, ID and debit and credit cards. Surprisingly, this is also a sharp-looking, versatile piece of clothing that's amazingly resistant to wrinkles. It dries quickly, so if you're washing clothes in a hotel sink at night, it will be ready to go the next morning. The dark gray shirt looks either casual or more dressy, depending on what you do with the sleeves and buttons.
THE BAD More colors beyond dark gray, tan and white would be nice.
WHAT IT DOES This website pours on the inspiration -- and the resources -- you need to handcraft your own wine-focused trip without resorting to packaged tours.
WHAT'S HOT Your options run deep. Had enough of Napa Valley or France? Pack your bags and head to wineries in Argentina, Croatia, Romania or Georgia, the oldest wine-producing region in the world. It's a Britain-based website, so it's no surprise that there are extensive European options. The Wine Hotels section features accommodations in captivating settings such as the Chateau d'Artigny in France's Loire Valley, the Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza, Argentina, and the Morfes Luxury Residence on the Greek island of Santorini.
WHAT'S NOT It's not for wine enthusiasts who are looking for wineries in the United States. Napa Valley and Sonoma barely get a mention, so don't expect to see other wine- producing areas of the country. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES It's a one-stop-shop website that lets you find and book bus and train tickets for travel in the United States and Canada.
WHAT'S HOT Wanderu just added Greyhound to its long list of bus and rail partners. Greyhound routes in the Northeast and Canada will be added first. To use the site, plug in your destinations for departure and arrival (see the Wanderu Station Map for locations served), and filter your search results by price, departure or arrival time and duration (an important, often-overlooked factor). You can also fine-tune for other features, such as Wi-Fi and extra legroom, by clicking on "See More Filters" above your search results.
WHAT'S NOT It's not good if you're planning a trip months in advance. Make sure you search and book your trip within the two-month window. Why? Most bus companies don't release their schedules beyond two months. --Los Angeles Times
Remaining in contact with family and colleagues is crucial, especially if you're going to be out of town for an extended time. Here are two products to help you stay wired on the road.
A great item for powering devices in the car when their batteries run low is the CyberPower mobile power inverter with electrical outlet. It plugs into your car's cigarette lighter and allows you to hook in other devices as if you were plugging them into the wall at home. $54.95 at cyberpowersystems.com.
When working on the road away from your car, having a bag or piece of luggage that's wired with backup power can be a lifesaver. TYLT's Energi backpack features a built-in pocket for a multi-charge-capable battery, connecting wires for multiple devices to charge at once, and threading slots so the wires can reach any location in the bag's numerous pockets. $199.99 at tylt.com. -- MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
NAME Lipault Paris 22-inch four-wheeled patent carry-on.
WHAT IT IS A chic carry-on bag that will separate you from the crowd at the airport gate. It has multidirectional wheels, a retractable handle, two plush and comfortable carrying handles, a luggage tag and a large zipped pocket for things you need in a hurry, such as a passport or boarding pass. The main compartment inside has two tie-down straps, a large zipped pocket on the inside cover and a smaller zipped pocket on the side. The bag comes in red, light blue and black.
THE GOOD The bag holds enough for a week or weekend getaway and boasts plenty of utility despite its stylish look. The glossy patent finish cleans easily.
THE BAD Though the bag has plenty of structural support, it is soft-sided and might appear a little lumpy, depending on how you pack.
AVAILABLE FROM lipaultus.com -- Chicago Tribune
AVAILABLE ON Android, iOS, online
WHAT IT DOES Sources where to eat, stay and play based on 675,000 recommendations and 60,000 city guides around the world.
WHAT'S HOT Heaps of new features, including the ability to share a travel itinerary among multiple users and to organize itineraries day by day and sync them with multiple devices. You don't need to set up an account in order to use the app to book a hotel, find restaurants or discover travel inspiration.
WHAT'S NOT Search results for restaurants and things to do are tagged with themes or "tribes," which is great. Unfortunately, clicking on tabs such as "foodies" or "families" doesn't work. The only way to see or edit your "tribes" within the app is to click on the "Filter" line in the bottom nav bar. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME 6-in-1 Grill Daddy Camping and Tailgating Grill Set
WHAT IT IS An eight-piece grilling kit that provides a spatula, fork, spoon and tongs. It all fits nicely into a 121/2-by-61/2-inch zippered nylon carrying case.
THE GOOD A camper or traveler -- with a little practice -- can quickly and easily assemble the tools for whatever grilling task is called for. Though the disassembled kit is compact, the elements themselves are not miniaturized. The spatula face, for example, is a hefty 4 by 51/4 inches, and with the provided extensions the tools are full size. The heat shield also is a valuable asset. The stainless-steel utensils are dishwasher safe.
THE BAD The case's inner lining is a bit thin and tears after several uses.
AVAILABLE FROM Buygrilldaddy.com and retailers such as Home Depot, Brookstone and Sears. -- Chicago Tribune
COST Free app for iPhone and iPad available from Apple's iTunes store. Getfirechat.com has further details for downloading.
WHAT IT DOES FireChat allows individual phones to communicate off the grid in locations where Web or cellphone connectivity isn't available.
WHAT'S HOT Want to keep in touch on a group outing, or gain a crowd-based perspective on community events such as concerts, parades or festivals? Open Garden's FireChat lets devices communicate within a 200-foot range, with messages hopping from device to device to extend the program's reach. The app uses a technology called mesh networking, which works off peer-to-peer connections via Wi-Fi radios in each phone. The latest version allows users to create their own chat rooms.
WHAT'S NOT Hopefully as the technology continues to evolve, the connectivity range also will expand. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Lets runners, hikers, mountain bikers and others share their favorite trails. Traveling to a new country and hankering for a brag-worthy trail to run? Crowdsource it from another passionate enthusiast before you pack your shoes.
WHAT'S HOT It's not all about the where -- you get a story, too -- and the large trail pictures bring the travelogues to life. Need a map to pinpoint the trail location? Done. Make sure you click on the initial map to get to trail run details and extra photos.
WHAT'S NOT Is it too techie? Depends on you. Trailburning says, "It's as simple as uploading a GPX file from your running watch or favourite tracking app." They do have a "trail capture guide" to walk you through the best ways to make a Trail Card you can share with others. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman
WHAT IT IS A smartly designed hatchet, tree saw, stake mallet and stake puller that is easily converted from one task to the next. It comes with two saw blades that stow away in the hatchet handle.
THE GOOD A great tool for campers but likely not backpackers wary of weight; it's 3.4 pounds. The tree saw cuts through maples 3 inches in diameter in 30 to 45 seconds. The hatchet is sharp, nicely shaped and easily wielded. Just watch out for your legs if you chop downward; if you miss the wood, you could be on your way to the emergency room.
THE BAD It's not a toy. I wouldn't let older children use it unless they have had plenty of instruction and are supervised.
COST $79.95, but watch for sales
AVAILABLE FROM zippo.com and amazon.com -- Chicago Tribune
COST $7.95 to print and mail your Travel Savings Card to you.
WHAT IT DOES Helps you achieve your travel goals by providing a system for saving money and organizing your travel budget. It also offers tools to book your trip and discover deals.
WHAT'S HOT Saving money for travel is hard, but Outski helps you create and fund a virtual savings account by automatically debiting money from your checking or savings account. It then lets you spend your funds with a Travel Savings Card that acts like a credit card. It's also great to have the flexibility to book a trip on the site.
WHAT'S NOT Outski.com is still in beta so you might need to be patient. If you wanted to get a Visa brand Travel Savings Card, for example, you can't. All that's available is Discover. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Helps travelers crowdfund their global adventures.
COST Varies depending on whether you have a fixed or flexible funding campaign. There's also a PayPal fee (the method used to collect donations).
WHAT'S HOT Many of the trips are purpose- driven. Your "funding campaign" is placed in a category such as "Charity and Volunteering," "Education and Research," "Music and Arts" and more. If you're looking to solicit funds for your post-grad round-the-world romp, there are categories for that, too, such as "Backpacking and Hiking" and "Adventure and Sport." Unique trips get attention, such as "20 Cities in 50 Days in a Wheelchair," in which two men are trying to raise $6,000 to fund researching and writing a guide to wheelchair-accessible travel in 20 major U.S. cities.
WHAT'S NOT Many of the campaigns listed on the site had already expired. Funding campaigns have a shelf life of 10 to 90 days. --Los Angeles Times
NAME Coghlan's LED Nail Pegs
WHAT THEY ARE They're 10-inch steel tent stakes with very bright, swiveling LED lights affixed to the tops. The stakes also are tough as nails and should penetrate any kind of ground except outright stone. The batteries will keep the stakes lit for 30 hours.
THE GOOD For anyone who has ever tripped over a tent stake and line in the dark, these stakes are a godsend. They also work as flashlights if you're heading to the bathhouse late at night, or if you want to read scary stories by the campfire.
THE BAD The lights turn on by rotating the light itself, so they might easily pop on while in storage or in transit. Keep tape on them while traveling or remove the batteries.
COST $4-$6 for a pack of two, plus shipping AVAILABLE FROM academy.com, amazon.com and go2outfitters.com, or check well-supplied outfitters stores. -- The Chicago Tribune
AVAILABLE FOR Android and iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (requires iOS 6.1 or later)
WHAT IT DOES It lets you filter your email by topics and people you need to hear from while you're away. Assign the priority email addresses or keywords.
COST Free for 30 days; $5-$49.99 a month after that.
WHAT'S HOT If important work emails arrive while on vacation or on the weekend, AwayFind immediately sends a text to your smartphone. You can even fine-tune what time of day you'd like to be notified.
WHAT'S NOT The pricing plans don't allow for a vacationer's short-term needs. A starting price of $60 a year is a lot.
WORTH IT? Yes, if you and your business can afford it. It works great, and the setup is quick and easy. You do get two months free if you pay upfront for the year. -- The Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This search tool helps you discover travel deals, including airfare and hotels.
WHAT’S HOT The site remembers your home airport, so even if you don’t like what you see on your main dashboard of “favorite” destinations, additional travel inspiration is a click away. On the left nav bar you’ll find topic lists such as “most amazing beaches,” “foodie cities” and “family and kid-friendly cities.” When you select a list, up pop flight deals from your home airport to a dozen locations. Dealscoopr lets you select the departing month, then choose from a variety of start dates (such as traveling on a Friday or a Saturday, or leaving any Wednesday in the month) and the approximate trip duration.
WHAT’S NOT It would be nice to have the ability to save and compare individual trips.
-- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT IS A thermoelectric cooking pot that produces up to 5 watts of power to charge smartphones, iPods, GPS devices, etc., when heating water. The 18.2-ounce kit includes a power-producing pot and a smaller pan, plus an electrical cord that plugs into the unit. The adapter has three sizes of plugs, and the main cord has a standard USB-size plug.
THE GOOD This is a camping geek's dream. In a couple of trial runs on a kitchen stove, the PowerPot charged an iPod by 10 to 15 percent while the pot simmered for 90 minutes and charged a BlackBerry by 50 percent while simmering for 70 minutes. If you let the pot boil, it will charge devices faster. The anodized aluminum pot and pan seem to resist marking.
THE BAD Some critics say the pot is too large for backpacking.
AVAILABLE FROM thepowerpot.com, rei.com and amazon.com