Turn the batteries around or remove them – Packing tip

When packing flashlights or other battery-powered devices that might easily switch on, always turn the batteries around inside the device — or, remove one or more of the batteries completely from the device.

This way, if the item is accidentally turned on while hiking or moving about, you won’t drain the batteries.

Power your iPhone (and other gadgets) for up to a week – Gadling reviews the ZAGGsparq

Portable backup power gadgets are nothing new. We’ve covered a whole bunch of them here, but today’s battery pack is something really special. Most power packs have the capacity for one or two full charges of your portable gadget, so imagine how cool it would be if you carried something capable of making your iPhone (or other device) last for up to a week.

This review will introduce you to the ZAGGsparq. The ZAGG name probably rings a bell, they are better known for their excellent device protection film, and their recently introduced ZAGGbox multimedia hub.

The ZAGGsparq looks like your everyday power brick. It features folding prongs, 2 USB ports, a button and 4 LED’s. It is what is inside the ZAGGsparq that makes it so handy – an AC charger (suitable for 100V-240V outlets) and a 6000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery pack. If that number doesn’t make any sense, all you need to know is that the battery in the iPhone 3G is 1150mAh. This means you can get up to five full iPhone charges from the ZAGGsparq.
Using the ZAGGsparq

Using the ZAGGsparq is just like using any regular USB charger – you plug your device(s) into the USB port, and plug the unit into the wall. When you need power on the go, you just plug them directly into the unit, and skip the outlet.

Despite its high capacity, the unit weighs just 8.4 ounces. This is obviously heavier than the original iPhone charger (which is tiny), but when you travel a lot, being able to keep your phone going this long is invaluable. Just imagine a powerpack that can keep your iPhone playing video for up to 50 hours non-stop, or even as much as 150 hours of music.

The investment

The price of such a luxury is fairly steep – the ZAGGsparq sells for $99.99 (down from its normal price of $129.99). If you never find yourself with a dead phone, then spending $100 isn’t going to make much sense. But if you have ever been stuck at the airport, or mid-flight with a dead device, you’ll find the investment pretty simple to justify.

Of course, the ZAGGsparq isn’t just for the iPhone – it’ll work with any device that can be charged over USB. This includes all Blackberries, iPods, many digital cameras and game consoles and anything else with a compatible USB charger cord. It will not power your laptop or netbook, for that you’ll need to invest in something like the Tekkeon MyPower All.

Final thoughts

There is very little not to like about a device that promises to keep your gadgets going. The weight is not too bad, it has two USB ports and it works on any international power supply (assuming you carry your own plug adapters). Included with the unit is a European (mainland) plug adapter, but no USB cables.

My only minor issue with the device is that the fourth power status LED never seems to stay on – even when I have not used the device. After a full charge, I have all four lights, but after a couple of hours it always drops to three. Still, it has not impacted its power capacity (at least not that I have noticed) and in my tests, it really does deliver on its promise – my iPhone 3GS has been charged every night on the ZAGGsparq for the past 4 nights, without the need for a wall outlet.

PROS: Huge battery capacity, dual USB ports, worldwide power compatibility
CONS: Possibly unreliable battery indicator

Product page: ZAGGsparq

Charge your gadgets with or without an outlet – the iGo Charge Anywhere Gadling review

When it comes to powering my gadgets, and keeping them powered, I’m a bit of a freak. See, I have this deep hatred for gadgets that don’t have the battery life to stay working as long as I need them to. There is something sad about a $600 phone that dies halfway through the day, or a media player that can’t last through a long haul flight.

This is where the iGo Charge Anywhere can help. This 2-port USB wall charger has a secret – hidden inside the device is an 1800mAh battery pack. The combination of this AC charger and battery means you can power and charge two gadgets whether you have an outlet or not. The battery is powerful enough to get most gadgets back to 100%, or up to two full charges for smaller devices like an iPod or Bluetooth headset.

The charger is the same size as any “normal” USB wall charger, and comes with a USB to iGo tip cable. This allows you to carry just one cable, and an assortment of iGo power tips. These tips are available for almost every gadget on the market.

Of course, since the charger has normal USB ports, you can also use any USB charging cable included with your gadget.

The charger provides enough power for small gadgets like portable gaming consoles, phones and media players, and obviously does not have the oomph to power and charge your laptop.

The power rating of the iGo Charge Anywhere allows you to use it anywhere in the world as it supports 100V-240V. Of course, you’ll still need the appropriate plug adapter if you plan to use it in a non-US socket.

Operating the iGo Charge Anywhere is as simple as can be – plug your devices into one of the two USB ports, and plug it into an AC outlet. When you don’t have an outlet available, you just plug your devices in and press the power button on the unit.

Because the iGo Charge Anywhere is part of the new iGo Green lineup, it has a built in circuit to eliminate “vampire power”. This means the charger will completely turn off when it senses it has fully charged your gadgets. This means it won’t draw any power at all once it has done its work. The power savings may not be very big, but every tiny bit counts.

Pros: Works on any voltage, double USB charging ports, integrated battery pack, very compact
Cons: Relatively weak battery pack, only one power tip included

The iGo Charge Anywhere costs $49.99 and is available directly from iGo. The purchase price includes one free power tip (worth about $8).

Product page: iGo Charge Anywhere

Gadling Gear Review: Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

I hate cold weather. Hate it with a passion. So when I heard that there was a self-heating jacket on the market, I had to try it. I mean, a jacket, by definition, keeps you warm. But a jacket with internal heaters goes the extra mile. I had concerns, though. Would it be heavy? Would the heater turn me into a rotisserie oven? Would it even work properly? These potential pitfalls were no deterrent, however, as I needed to know if a self-heating jacket could be the solution to my cold weather phobias. So, I optimistically gave the Mountain Hardwear Refugium jacket a whirl. Not only is it self-heating, it doubles as a gadget charger. Did it do the job without getting bogged down by the additional technology?The Refugium is powered by an Ardica battery. Mountain Hardwear partnered with the personal power and heating company to create a battery that is light and flexible. The battery slips into a sleeve in the lining of the back of jacket. It heats both the upper back and the front core of the user’s body. The battery certainly is lightweight, but I was always aware that it was there and felt as if someone was constantly placing their hand on my back. It’s not uncomfortable or burdensome, but it can feel awkward.

The heating system has three settings and is controlled by a button on the front-left section of the jacket. Three small LED lights signal what setting you have selected. One push turns on the heater to the first level. Within minutes, I felt the jacket warming up. It wasn’t terribly warm, but it was definitely noticeable. A second push activates level two, at which point the heat output is much more obvious. I felt the heat throughout my core while still remaining comfortable in the coat. One more touch of the button gets you up to level three. Here’s where the heat becomes pretty substantial. I tested the coat in temperatures ranging from 35F to 50F and found that level three was excessive even at the low end of that range. It would have to be quite cold (and I would have to be quite sedentary) to require level three, since aerobic activity tends to warm you up, as well.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Refugium (if being a self-heating jacket wasn’t unique enough) is it’s gadget charger. Located in the left pocket of the jacket is a USB jack. The charger can be used on iPods/iPhones, USB and mini-USB devices. Simply plug a depleted gadget into the coat and you’ll get some emergency battery life. I tested it with my iPhone and it worked, albeit after some time, Both my iPod and iPhone failed to recognize the coat as a power source initially.

So, the good news is that the jacket does warm up to a substantial temperature and charges your gadgets. But there is also some bad news.

Mountain Hardwear claims that the jacket will fully charge in two hours. I completely depleted the Ardica battery and plugged it in to recharge. After five hours, the LED indicator lights were flashing, signaling that the battery was still charging. It eventually took a seven hours for the battery to be charged.

I also found that the heater often malfunctioned. Once it’s on level three, a single tap should power it down. However, it would often respond to the tap by indicating that it was on level two. I’d tap away at the power button and never be able to get the jacket to turn off. Eventually, the battery would deplete itself and I’d have to recharge it. And each time, it took in excess of five hours to charge.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you have to purchase each of the components a la carte. The jacket itself retails for $230. The battery pack costs $145. And the technology connector kit is an additional $50. Even more problematic is that not every retailer selling the jacket will necessarily sell all of the additional components.

Let’s break it down simply:


  • Both the jacket and battery pack are lightweight
  • Heating system’s three levels are appropriate for a range of cool to cold weather
  • Gadget charger offers emergency power source


  • Components are sold separately and create a high final cost
  • The battery pack feels awkward
  • Charging time is inconsistent and typically quite long
  • Power control often failed to work properly resulting in inability to shut-off the jacket

In the end, I would stop short of recommending the Mountain Hardwear Refugium jacket. The concept is good in theory, but it struggles in practice. For the total cost of the jacket and accessories, you could buy yourself a pretty stellar winter coat that wouldn’t require any bells and whistles.

I still hate the cold and hope to one day own a jacket that is, in fact, also a rotisserie oven. Sadly, the Refugium is not that jacket.

Five ways to make long flights more productive

Every business traveler has said or heard: “I’ll get to it on the plane.” By the time your bags are stowed safely overhead, however, it occurs to you that the flight won’t be long enough for everything on your list. The problem I’ve seen is that most business travelers don’t use this distraction-free environment as effectively as they could. If you could get more out of your flights, you’ll have more elbow room in your schedule when you touch down. So, here are five ways to help you get the biggest bang for your time on board.

1. The flight starts at the gate
While you’re waiting to board, find a power outlet, and plug in. pick up a wireless connection, and take care of e-mails. This seems obvious, but distractions can encroach. When you’re going through your inbox, focus on anything that seems most likely to matter when you’re on the plane: reassess your priorities. The unimportant can wait (or be addressed via Blackberry when you’re waiting for the door to close).

2. Get an extra battery
I’m still amazed at how many times I’ve seen business travelers shut down because the juice is gone. Ask your employer for an extra battery – you’ll have a few more hours of high-octane work time.

3. Print what doesn’t have to be electronic
This is especially true if you can’t score that extra battery. Do on paper what can be done on paper, and save the battery life for work that must be done on your laptop. You’re effectively increasing the value of your battery.

4. Set goals
Don’t try to deal with everything. Determine what you want to accomplish on the flight, and zero in on it. If you have time left over, you can work on other things (or, better, sleep). Be realistic when you define your objectives. If you aren’t, you’ll be perpetually frustrated.

5. Know when to stop
If you’re close to exhaustion or just can’t get your mind to work, take the hint. A plane isn’t the ideal office environment). Close your laptop. Put down your pen. Ask for some pill water, and let someone else suffer at your expense for a change!