Travel gear and gadgets for when you're on the go
This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
Spider Monkey(Credit: Octa)
NAME Spider Monkey
WHAT IT IS A lightweight stand for the tablet or e-reader you've brought along on your trip.
THE GOOD The flexible "tail" on this handy accessory will anchor your tablet to all kinds of irregular surfaces, whether you're reading on a French Quarter balcony, video chatting or watching a movie on a 747. The eye-level viewing reduces neck strain and improves posture, and the 360-degree base rotates for easy screen adjustment. You can also wrap, curl or tuck it in place in bed or on the couch, and it stores easily.
THE BAD It works better on lighter tablets, such as the iPad.
AVAILABLE FOR iOS
WHAT IT DOES Lets you discover new places and create travel bucket lists based on photos from those who have gone before you. Go to Skyscanner to compare flight prices to your destinations. Your list is organized into a map ready for you to use.
WHAT'S HOT When you're looking at images, it's fast and easy to "heart" the ones you like. The app keeps track for you and groups them by destination. Next, click over to the Flights section and see how airfares to your destinations stack up against one another.
WHAT'S NOT The Plan feature's search bar isn't great for cities you don't know. You're better off using the app's funnel tool, and then typing in, for example, "coffee house in Austin." You'll get a list of suggestions with addresses. -- Los Angeles Times
Flight Tonight app(Credit: Hopper)
NAME Flight Tonight app and hopper.com
WHAT THEY DO To use Flight Tonight, a simple iOS app from Hopper.com, input your hometown airport code and it will return same-day flight deals -- domestic and international -- for that airport and nearby cities. Results vary throughout the day because of frequent updates. If you check later in the afternoon and evening, you'll find deals that leave the next day.
WHAT'S HOT It's great for booking a last-minute trip. Check the app early in the day for the broadest selection of flight and deal options. To get details on cheap flights between two destinations, see the "When to Fly and Buy" section on the Hopper.com website. Click on "Deals" for upcoming destination-specific deals from your hometown.
WHAT'S NOT hopper.com is a little more work to navigate than the app, but you'll find even better prices and more destination options. -- Los Angeles Times
Crumpled City Maps(Credit: Palomar)
NAME Crumpled City Maps
WHAT THEY ARE These waterproof, lightweight maps can be creased, squashed and easily bunched into your back pocket.
THE GOOD A no-fuss, convenient solution for the travel buff who prefers printed maps to GPS devices -- without the slapstick of trying to properly refold a map. The maps are printed on a special technological material that can be crammed into your pocket, backpack or the carrying pouch provided with no worry about refolding. Cities range from Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin, to Cape Town, Chicago and Hong Kong, and each map provides details about a large part of the city, including streets, monuments and a sightseeing index.
THE BAD Of the 40 maps available, Chicago, New York and San Francisco are the only U.S. cities.
INFO palomarweb.com-- Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Sounds out the correct pronunciation of names in 14 languages, including Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Bengali and Russian.
WHAT'S HOT It's great if you know how to spell the name of the person before calling or meeting him or her. Input the spelling of a "full name" in the search bar. Once it finds the name (if it can't locate the original among the 14,000 in its database, it will suggest a similar alternative or invite you to add the name), click the sound icon and listen to the pronunciation. There's even a "Slow" button if you need the name pronounced more slowly.
WHAT'S NOT This tool needs to be pocket-size. NameShouts knows that and is working on apps for both iOS and Android. -- Los Angeles Times
Charge Hub: Universal Charging Station(Credit: Charge Hub)
NAME Charge Hub: Universal Charging Station
WHAT IT IS A one-stop charger that can handle up to seven electronic devices simultaneously, at full speed, with just one plug.
THE GOOD The Charge Hub is a small, compact, beautifully designed disc-shaped charger with seven USB ports to quickly power iPhones, Androids, iPads and more with just one outlet. It's perfect for a plugged-in family on the road. An added bonus: You can custom design your Hub with a logo, photograph or art at no extra charge.
THE BAD It does not come with cords, so travelers must remember to bring the ones that come with each device.
COST $49.99, thegrommet.com
WHAT IT DOES This ad-free app lets you search for and book hostels, with more than 35,000 accommodations worldwide. Need a bed at the last minute? Same-day booking is available.
WHAT'S HOT Searching on your iPhone is much easier than using HostelRocket's website (hostelrocket.com). It's a visually appealing, quick-to-use app with hostel photos, reviews and pricing upfront. If you're looking for hostels that surprise and are easy on your wallet, you'll find them here, like Casa Alto Vidigal ($12 a night) in Rio de Janeiro.
WHAT'S NOT The review categories are extremely positive -- "It's clean!" "Awesome staff!" and "I love this place!" -- so if the hostel you're considering has only two out of five stars, be careful. You might be missing out on a different hostel with a better rating.
COST Free, iPhone, Android, web
Travel Money Tracker(Credit: iWitness)
NAME Travel Money Tracker
WHAT IT DOES This app converts a country's native currency to U.S. dollars. You also can set up an alert that tells you when you're overspending.
COST $1.99, iPhone only
WHAT IT DOES iWitness connects to emergency services and records your whereabouts. It is set up to work in 146 countries. International users can select the region, and the app automatically localizes to the emergency equivalent of 911.
WHAT'S HOT Arm the iWitness app, and at the touch of a button or the screen, or by shaking the phone, you can start recording your predicament (for five minutes) or call 911.
WHAT'S NOT Be careful with the 911 feature if you're testing the app. Once it's armed, all it takes is a touch of the screen to set off the "calling 911" alarm. You have five seconds to cancel.
COST $2.99 a month, $29.99 a year
WORTH IT Absolutely. Even if you use it only once, it could be a lifesaver.
5 Blades Travel Razor by eShave(Credit: MCT / Handout)
NAME 5 Blades Travel Razor by eShave
WHAT IT IS A sleek nickel-plated razor that breaks down for storing inside its own easily packable metal canister. The handle uses Gillette Fusion blades.
THE GOOD This thing looks a lot more like art than something as pedestrian as a men's razor. But appearance aside, this razor is so nicely balanced in the hand, it's actually fun to shave. Most important, it was designed to easily expel accumulated hair with a single run under the water. Why can't every manufacturer do this?
THE BAD Expense, plain and simple. This will appeal to guys who are financially comfortable or to generous families of more financially uncomfortable guys who really deserve something special as a gift that's going to make one of life's drudgeries a pleasure. Sometimes the splurge really is worth it.
AVAILABLE FROM eshave.com
WHAT IT DOES Acts as a virtual concierge to help you plan a day-to-day itinerary based on your travel style. Available for five U.S. cities and 28 in Europe.
WHAT'S HOT There are two ways to dive in. Begin at the Destinations page for a great overview of a city and 16 ways to see it -- through sports, entertainment, food, culture, history, etc. Even better: Type in your city and the dates, then check the Trip Profile selector for suggestions. You can toggle between "The First Timer," "The Returning Traveler," "The Luxury Traveler" and "The Backpacker." It's easy to refine the picks by using the scroll bar to indicate your activity interest level.
WHAT'S NOT More cities, please. And once the suggestions were in the day-to-day planner, it would be useful if you could manipulate their order throughout the day by clicking and dragging them in the itinerary planner. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Scout is a recommendation and review site that covers 370 hotels, lodges and chalets as well as 48 ski resorts in North America, Japan, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
WHAT'S HOT All the website content (and the guidebook given to customers who book a multiday trip through Scout) is written by Sarah Plaskitt, a skier and writer who has visited every resort and property on the site and has hand-picked the destinations. Don't miss the "Scout Collections" if you're looking for the most "extreme steeps," the best family resorts or lodges with the best hot tubs.
WHAT'S NOT In the "Browse & Book" section, some of the pinned resorts led only to pop-up descriptions. For the full insider's point of view, you must scroll down to a list of the resorts that links to more info.
'Walt Disney World With Kids 2015'(Credit: Fodor)
NAME "Walt Disney World With Kids 2015"
WHAT IT IS A guide to planning a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
THE GOOD The book does a wonderful job of explaining the new MagicBand wristband ticketing system, the FastPass+ program and the My Disney Experience App. Families can pre-plot their days to spend the least amount of time possible on lines. The book includes maps of each Disney park, information on each ride, and tips and advice galore. This is the 25th edition of the book, and the writers have each visited the parks at least 60 times.
THE BAD The guide also covers Universal Orlando, SeaWorld & Aquatica but these parks are addressed in far less detail. And, when the book went to press, the newer Harry Potter offering at Universal Orlando hadn't yet opened, so that area is not covered in great detail.
NAME Storehouse app and Storehouse.co
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone and iPad
WHAT IT DOES Select photos from your iPhone or iPad and turn them into a magazine-like photo essay.
WHAT'S HOT It's quick. It's beautiful. And unlike most photo apps, it's not so much a place to store your photos as it is to tell a story. Use the Explore feature and hashtags to discover stories related to #travel or a specific destination, such as #london or #sanfrancisco. Push the "circle" button to import photos from your phone, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and a menu of your images categorized by time lapse, panoramas, recently added, videos and more. Once your images are loaded, edit the sizes and add text at will.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice if Storehouse featured more stories from everyday people.
WHAT IT DOES Recommends neighborhoods and hotels best suited to you based on what you want to do on your trip. Destinations include Bangkok, Barcelona, San Francisco, Paris and Seoul, South Korea.
WHAT'S HOT Pick your city, then interests, such as restaurants, bars and pubs, nightclubs, museums, sightseeing and shopping. Then, note who will be traveling and your per-night hotel budget, hit explore and a map of neighborhoods appears. A drop-down list of neighborhoods that have been scored for you and recommended hotels come up. The site is simple to use, and travelers can quickly fine-tune their results by altering star ratings, budget and activities.
WHAT'S NOT Recommendations were spot-on, but for the traveler new to the city, more travel descriptions about neighborhoods would be useful.
WHAT IT DOES Hazel Lane curates and ships boxes of treats that represent a city's spirit. Indulge in vibey, city-themed souvenirs after your journey, when you're feeling nostalgic.
WHAT'S HOT You can subscribe, or give the boxes as gifts, for one, three or six months, with five sizes to choose from and prices ranging from $24.99 to $179.99 a month. You won't know the contents of the box until it arrives. Individual items such as necklaces and art prints also can be purchased separately. The Brooklyn box was full of little-known hipster products in honor of the HBO show "Girls"; the Los Angeles-themed box included fun-in-the-sun items; and the San Francisco box had a foodie theme.
WHAT'S NOT It would be fun to see more single gifts offered by city.
"Cockpit Confidential"(Credit: Sourcebooks, Incorporated)
NAME "Cockpit Confidential," by Patrick Smith
WHAT IT IS An airline pilot's guide to airplane basics, flight and travel.
THE GOOD As a child, Patrick Smith, publisher-writer of AskThePilot.com, watched planes landing and taking off over Revere Beach in Massachusetts, fueling a lifelong passion for the mechanics and romance of flight. What makes this book worthwhile is the way Smith integrates great writing, humor and technical knowledge. He juxtaposes wide-eyed wonder (comparing the aurora borealis, "a quivering, horizon-wide curtain of fluorescence" to "G-d's laundry flapping in the night sky") with practical, fear-alleviating answers to questions such as "Why does a plane bump, jig and turn at steep angles during climbout?"
THE BAD Airplane buffs might find the material familiar.
INFO Amazon.com -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
WHAT IT DOES This website lets you plan and book golf games in the United States and 47 countries from your desktop, tablet or mobile device. Make a wish list of courses you hope to play.
WHAT'S HOT It's a tempting site for the destination golfer. The home page features golfing destinations in Da Nang, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; and Hua Hin, Thailand, to name a few. There are plenty of course photos, a map and lists of amenities and weather reports, plus golfers can rate and review the courses. Users can make instant bookings in California, Arizona and Nevada.
WHAT'S NOT You're getting just a sneak peek at features. By year's end you should be able to search by city or individual course rather than by just a list of destinations. Also, some tabs do not link to results yet, but they're working on it.
Jackery Giant Rechargeable Battery(Credit: Jackery)
WHAT IT IS A powerful portable and rechargeable external battery with two ports that can charge a smartphone and iPad at the same time.
THE GOOD The Jackery Giant can quickly charge two devices at once and is powerful enough to provide an extra 220 hours of operation. The Giant is great for camping, long flights and blackouts, and it's compatible with Apple products, Androids and most electronic devices. It also serves as an LED flashlight for up to 700 hours of illumination.
THE BAD Squat and thicker than an iPhone and weighing more than half a pound, the Jackery Giant is heftier than a "lipstick"-size charger, so it's best stowed in a glove compartment or large backpack rather than a small purse. (Jackery does offer a mini, less-powerful version.)
WHAT IT DOES The Jet-Smarter app lets you book a seat on a private plane from your smartphone for flights around the world. Find deals at a steep discount or book your own charter flight.
WHAT'S HOT If you're looking to charter a flight, plug in your dates and departure times, let the app search for planes, then review your options. For a weekend L.A.-San Francisco round-trip flight, there were five options for booking a turboprop, four for "entry-level" jets and dozens more options for bigger jets -- even airliners. The deals are marked with a green tag. Click on the price to get to plane information and pictures. The "tap for more info" link takes you to a list of amenities.
WHAT'S NOT The $6,999 annual membership fee. You would have to put this app to good use to make that fee worth it. And wouldn't that be fun.
NAME Picnic Plus Tandoor 4-person picnic
WHAT IT IS A durable polyester backpack outfitted with all you need for a picnic for four (except the food). The Tandoor Backpack includes a large thermal foil-insulated food compartment, two insulated wine or beverage bottle carriers, bottle opener, waiter's tool, stainless steel salt and pepper shakers, wooden cutting board, cheese knife, silver-toned bottle stopper and a dining set.
THE GOOD Travelers and hikers will appreciate this twist on the traditional, unwieldy picnic basket. With the Picnic Plus your hands are free to scramble up to your favorite mountaintop spots. The backpack is well-made with zippered closures.
THE BAD The backpack is roomy but has no space for a ground cloth. An external strap to secure a rolled-up tarp or blanket would be an easy fix.
WHAT IT IS A compartmentalized stuff sack that enables travelers and campers to pack more efficiently and access items more quickly. Five pie-shaped compartments inside the bag and drawstrings on both ends of the roll allow for easy access and organization. Straps along the body of the sack reduce volume by up to 50 percent.
THE GOOD This lightweight cylindrical bag fits more than you think it can and compresses down to almost football size. Watch the video on the website to see how Hoboroll users fit multiple pants, shirts, shoes, puffy jacket, raincoat and toiletries in one small sack. You can fit a Hoboroll in a larger backpack along with camping gear or wear it alone.
THE BAD If the Hoboroll is filled to capacity, the drawstrings at each end don't close completely, so it's not watertight.
INFO GobiGear.com. -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHENN
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
WHAT IT DOES It's a Web bookmarking tool that lets you collect and store your travel itineraries, complete with maps and the ability to download and share.
WHAT'S HOT This site boasts a beautiful, friendly design and the ability to print out a PDF of your itinerary. You also can access travel plans from a smartphone or tablet and share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
WHAT'S NOT While it's super-easy to add itinerary items from the Web, there's an annoying pop-up box that comes on-screen every time an item has been added. It would be nice to have another browser tab open for BonVoyaging.com where you could toggle over and then edit the date and itinerary placement for the newly added activity. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME ParkMe Parking (Available for Android, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch)
WHAT IT DOES Provides a "heat map" of real-time parking spaces in lots and garages in 1,800 cities around the world. Sometimes you can pay in advance to reserve a spot.
WHAT'S HOT The app and Web version (parkme.com) will save users time and irritation looking for parking at a sporting event, concert, business meeting and more. You can sort your search results by "Best Price" or "Least Pain." At some point, it's not worth saving $3 if you have to walk umpteen blocks to get to the cheaper lot.
WHAT'S NOT The "Nearby Places" feature is hit or miss -- recommended places are sometimes 14 to 30 miles away.
WORTH IT? Yes. Who likes looking for parking spaces or lots inexpensive enough to suit your budget? Nobody. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME Findery (a website and also available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch)
WHAT IT DOES Geo-tags "notes" all over the world connecting people with places, and places with stories. Create your "notemaps," or list of notes. Even better, discover the world through other travelers' lists.
WHAT'S HOT Lots of hyperlocal travel apps point out hot spots, but Findery delves deeper, encouraging travelers and locals to imprint their memories and stories on a place. Type your destination in the search bar, then click on "Notes matching 'Peru,'" for example, and you can scroll through quickly.
WHAT'S NOT Don't forget to scroll right to left for more content. Also, when searching for destinations, look for green dots, which will reveal many more markers in a particular place, as well as profile pics.
WORTH IT? Absolutely, and it's addictive. -- Los Angeles Times