Gadling Gift Guide: Tech For Travel

From keeping us entertained on a long flight to helping us stay connected with friends and family while on the road, technology has had an undeniable impact on the way we travel. Whether we’re going across the state for an important business meeting or around the globe to experience a foreign culture, our favorite gadgets have become indispensable gear for modern adventures. If you have a traveler on your holiday shopping list, here are a few suggestions for tech toys that may make their next road trip a more enjoyable one.

Samsung Galaxy Camera ($499)
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest development in in the world of point-and-shoot photography, then you’ll certainly want to check out the brand new Samsung Galaxy Camera. It features a 16-megapixel sensor, 21x optical zoom, 8 GB of built-in storage and a bright 4.8-inch super clear LCD display. But what really sets it apart from the pack is that it runs an advanced version of the Android operating system (4.1 Jelly Bean), giving the camera access to thousands of apps that will help extend its functionality beyond just snapping pictures. Add in GPS functionality, the ability to give voice commands and on-board photo editing and you have yourself a powerful device. It even comes with the option for full 3G and LTE wireless connectivity, allowing photographers to share their images on social media or save their photos to cloud storage immediately after taking them.

Mojo Battstation Tough Dual Pro ($29.90-$39.90)
The new Battstation Tough Dual Pro sets a new standard for portable battery chargers for power hungry devices. Not only is it tough and durable, it also features two USB ports for charging more than one device at a time. Available in two configurations, one with a 7200 mAh and the other with an 8400 mAh battery, this little box is capable of providing plenty of juice for your smartphone, camera, GPS device or just about anything else you can plug into it. It’ll even charge the new iPad, which is no small feat considering the amount of power it takes to fill its massive batteries. Best of all, the entire package weighs less than 7.5 ounces, which makes it the perfect travel companion for those trips when power outlets will be few and far between.Incase iPhone Cases ($29.95-$59.95)
If the gadget lover on your holiday list also happens to be an iPhone owner, then a stylish new case from Incase may be just what they’re hoping for this holiday season. The company’s offerings come in a variety of colors and styles that will give any phone a unique look all of its own. Better yet, these cases provide a fantastic level of protection without detracting in any way from Apple’s iconic design. That means the phone will remain light and thin but will still be well protected from accidental drops and other hazards. Considering how fragile – not to mention expensive – modern smartphones can be, one of these cases may be the best investment for the accident prone traveler too.

Google Nexus 7 Android Tablet ($249)
Android has dominated the smartphone market over the past couple of years and now it has a viable option in the tablet space as well. The Nexus 7 makes a great alternative to the iPad and comes packed with plenty of features that are sure to appeal to any gadget fan. The device includes 32GB of storage, a beautiful 7-inch display and a battery with enough power to keep it running for up to ten hours between charges. Thin and lightweight, the Nexus 7 also has access to a growing library of apps, movies, books, games and more via the Google Play Store. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you can even get a model with 16GB of storage for just $199, although I recommend springing for the extra space. You’ll need it when you start filling up the device with travel photos.

Timbuk2 Power Commute Messenger Bag ($199)
While on the road, there are two things that every techie traveler needs. The first is a great bag to securely carry their laptop, tablet, and other items and the second is a source of power to keep all of their devices fully juiced up. Fortunately Timbuk2’s Power Commute messenger bag has us covered in both areas, giving us a great over the shoulder sling pack for hauling our gear while also cleverly integrating an energy pack for recharging batteries. The Power Commute’s battery pack is capable of charging most smartphones and tablets through its USB port, providing quick and convenient energy when needed. Other nice touches include a TSA compliant laptop sleeve, plenty of organizational pockets and water resistant fabrics to help keep important gear safe from the elements.

Jawbone Jambox Portable Speaker ($199)
Over the past year I’ve been lucky enough to test a number of good Bluetooth portable speaker systems and out of all of them, the one that I continue to enjoy the most is the Jawbone Jambox. Compact and lightweight, the Jambox is small enough to slip into your bag on any trip and yet its speakers have the power to fill a room with booming audio. Sound quality is exceptional and the ten hour battery life keeps the music flowing far longer than expected. The Jambox’s built-in microphone even allows it to serve as a speakerphone, which can come in handy for those impromptu business meetings that sometimes arise while we’re on the road. Music lovers and podcast junkies will absolutely adore the Jambox whether they are traveling or at home. The device is available in a variety of colors, but the most fun comes from completely customizing the look yourself.

Belkin Wireless Travel Router ($80)
Sharing an Internet connection in a hotel room can be a major challenge, particularly when Wi-Fi access is limited or even non-existent. Belkin’s wireless Travel Router can save the day however, turning a single Ethernet jack into a wireless network for multiple devices. The router supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, can be password protected and even has VPN functionality. Built with travelers in mind, the router is compact and even comes with a travel case to safely store the device, its power supply and an included network cable while in transit. This is the kind of gadget that many travelers don’t even know they need until they actually have one.

Lenovo Twist Ultrabook Laptop ($745)
Ultrabooks have been a godsend for frequent travelers over the past few years. These lightweight and super-thin laptops have shaved a considerable amount of weight from our packs, which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Now Lenovo has taken the design one step further, creating an Ultrabook that converts into a fully-functional Windows 8 tablet. The Twist derives its name from the fact that the screen is capable of rotating a full 180 degrees, easily converting it from laptop to tablet mode. This gives it a level of versatility that few other notebooks have, making it incredibly useful in a variety of situations. The base model comes with 4GB of RAM and a 1.8 GHz i-3 processor. Performance in that configuration is snappy and fun, but there are options to expand the hardware for those that truly need it.

Be sure to check out Gadling’s other Gift Guides for more holiday shopping ideas.

[Photo Credits: Samsung, Incase, Timbuk2 and Lenovo]

Gadling Gear Review: Booq Python Courier Camera Bag

As digital SLR cameras continue to grow in popularity, new buyers will inevitably be looking to purchase a good travel bag to protect their investment. A high-quality camera bag not only allows them to tote their gear around safely, but also keeps it well organized and close at hand. It doesn’t hurt if that bag provides a healthy dose of versatility and happens to look great too.

The Python courier from Booq certainly meets that description and then some. This sling bag is made of high-quality ballistic nylon that is both water resistant and incredibly durable. In fact, everything about this pack screams quality, including the thick interior padding, rugged buckles and seat-belt style nylon shoulder strap. The result is a camera bag that should securely and comfortably carry all of your camera gear for many years to come.

While the Python’s exterior is certainly impressive, Booq hasn’t skimped in any way on the interior either. The cavernous main pocket has plenty of room for a digital SLR body with an attached lens, as well as up to four more additional lenses. Adjustable padded panels give the pocket a measure of customizability to accommodate a variety of different equipment sizes. A second internal organizational pocket keeps other items, such as spare batteries, memory cards and pens, neatly in place, while a handy clip ensures you won’t misplace your keys while traveling either.

A third pocket on the back of the bag features a water-repellant zipper and is large enough to comfortably carry an iPad, MacBook Air or other tablet or small laptop. Those devices have become indispensable tools for professional photographers and travelers alike and the inclusion of this well-padded, extra pocket is a nice touch on the part of Booq. I found that while testing this pack, having this extra pocket actually made it possible for the Python to serve as my carry-on bag. With plenty of room not only for my camera gear and iPad, but also an iPod, smartphone, earbuds and just about everything else I needed for a trip, I generally didn’t see the need to carry anything else.Booq’s attention to design extends to the look of the Python as well. At first glance you wouldn’t suspect that this is a camera pack at all, as its general outward appearance resembles that of any traditional messenger bag. In fact, the Python can actually become a full-blown courier pack when needed. The inner padding that serves to protect and organize camera bodies and lenses can actually be completely removed to allow other items to be stored inside. That means that this pack can pull double duty, acting as a workbag for day-to-day use and a tough camera bag when on the road.

I found the Python to simply be a joy to use. It is as comfortable and durable as any camera bag I’ve ever put to the test and far more organized than simply throwing your lenses and SLR body into a daypack, which is often my typical modus operandi. Booq has a legendary reputation for creating high-quality products and this bag more than lived up to that reputation. Not only have they created a bag that looks great and provides plenty of versatility, but it is also logically designed for ease of use as well. While I personally prefer a backpack for most of my travels, this is a sling pack that definitely won me over and has me reconsidering my options for future trips.

I’d be remiss in writing this review if I didn’t mention Booq’s Terralinq program. Each of the company’s bags comes with its own unique serial number ID and bar code displayed on a metal label somewhere on the pack. When the bag is registered with Booq, that serial number can be used to connect an owner with his or her gear in the event that it becomes lost or stolen in the future. Of course, we all hope that we never need such service, but it is nice to know it is available just in case.

If there is a knock on any of the products offered by Booq it is likely their price. The Python retails for $179.95, which definitely puts it at the higher end of most camera bags on the market. But much like the various options for buying luggage for your travels, you often get what you pay for. Anyone who has ever purchased cheap luggage knows that it typically doesn’t last long and you end up replacing it sooner rather than later. The same holds true for a bag like this one. The Python is likely to last you a lifetime, while a less expensive bag will show the wear and tear of travel much sooner. Besides, after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your camera equipment, don’t you want to protect it with the best bag possible? Yes, the Python by Booq is more expensive than some of its competitors, but it is also worth it in every way.

Gadling Gear Review: Vaya Pannier Hybrid Bicycle Bag

Once upon a time I was a hardcore bicycle commuter. This means I still know what I like in bike gear because when you do enough time in the saddle, you get opinions about these things. Vaya makes good looking bike bags that will help you get your gear from point A to point B – and make it easy for you to carry your stuff around when it’s off your bike. I checked out their Pannier Hybrid, a bag that goes from your bike rack to your back.

Their pannier is a bucket style roll top back that closes with a big clip. I like the sturdy hardware and I like the easy to use clips that attach the bag to your rack. The liner is waterproof and the roll top closure makes sure your stuff will stay secure. The strap that keeps your bag from swinging around when it’s on your bike converts to a shoulder strap, so when you’ve unclipped it from your bike, it’s totally manageable, unlike my old Ortlieb bags.

There’s something about the configuration of this thing that I didn’t love, though. It doesn’t quite hold what I need for commuting – or perhaps I need two, as I can’t get away with just one. I put a pair of shoes (I ride in cleats) and a clean shirt in the bag and it was almost full. It’s a little narrow to hold the kind of stuff I haul around on commuter days. While my Ortlieb panniers are not great for carrying around, they’re easy to load and unload and hold lots of stuff.

There’s an external pocket on the back (the side that would be up against your bike or your back). I’m a little confused about what I’d use it for, though. Because it doesn’t seal, I don’t think I’d put my wallet or my phone in there. Maybe it’s for stowing a candy bar or other small things that you won’t be stressed about if they should go missing.

The bag is great looking, totally sharp, made from recycled bike tube material and super heavy-duty scrap canvas. You can pick your colors – that’s cool – and which way you want the bag built, for slinging over your left shoulder or your right. I really wanted to like this bag but my years of commuting mean that it’s not quite the bag for me. If you don’t need to carry around a lot of stuff – you want to stow your lunch and your laptop and maybe a book – then it will absolutely work for you.

The messenger hybrid is $135 from Vaya. While you’re poking around in their site, check out their other bags too. I didn’t love the hybrid, but the other bags look totally hot. Really.

Gadling gear review: Keen Harrison 15 messenger bag

When setting out on any trip these days, a good carry-on bag is one of the best items that you can have at your disposal. Considering we rarely leave home without our laptops, tablets, iPods, and various other gadgets, the ability to carry all of that gear comfortably and safely is a high priority. It doesn’t hurt if that same bag can help us quickly and easily navigate through airport security checkpoints while still managing to look good in the process.

The Harrison 15 messenger bag from Keen meets all of that criteria and then some. Designed from the ground up for travel, this bag has plenty of options that frequent fliers will definitely appreciate. It not only features two large compartments for carrying a laptop, iPad, or file folders, but also includes an interior mesh pocket and a larger exterior pocket located just under the lid. All of those storage options come in handy and are extremely helpful in keeping us organized while on the go. The bag’s wide shoulder strap allows travelers to carry large loads with aplomb, while its high quality zippers and Velcro fasteners keep interior items safe and secure as well.

Built from water resistant fabrics and sporting heavy duty buckles, the Harrison 15 is also designed to handle the rigors of day-to-day use without showing too much wear and tear. I’ve been using the bag on an almost daily basis for a number of weeks now, and it still looks like it just came off the rack. That speaks well for the overall build quality of the Harrison, which should prove to be a loyal and sturdy travel companion for many years to come.
Perhaps the best feature of this bag is that it doesn’t require travelers to remove their laptops for inspection by airport security. The Harrison 15 conforms to new TSA specifications that allow computers to stay safely inside their protective sleeves while passing through the x-ray machine, keeping them well away from prying eyes or a potentially tragic fate on the airport floor. As someone who rarely travels without his laptop, this was a major selling point in favor of this bag. There is an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes with breezing through security as quickly and effortlessly as possible, and the Harrison 15 can help accomplish that.

Traditionally I prefer to use a small backpack as my carry-on bag, but I found some nice benefits in going with the messenger style instead. For starters, it provided more convenient access to the various items stored inside the bag and kept everything well organized too. The shoulder strap design also provides hands-free access to the interior, which is much appreciated when juggling passports, boarding passes, and a cell phone while standing in line.

The Harrison 15 won’t completely replace my backpack however, as I found that it doesn’t carry larger loads quite as nicely as I’d like. For instance, while it was great for hauling my Macbook Air and iPad, along with other basic travel items, adding a DSLR camera to the mix made the bag overly bulky and less comfortable to wear. This may simply be a personal preference of course, but for me, the messenger bag was much better suited for lighter tasks.

That said, the Harrison isn’t just for travel. Commuters will find that it is an excellent bag for general day-to-day use and I’m sure that more than a few students will enjoy using it on campus as well. This is a durable and versatile bag that helps keep you organized and provides plenty of space to carry all of your gear. With a price tag of $110, it is an affordable option for someone looking for a high quality carry-on for their next trip, that can also pull double-duty while at home.

Timbuktu’s Messenger Bag for your Camera

The classic Timbuk2 messenger bag. I’ve got one, it’s in Rasta colors because, dude, I rode a bike everywhere and I live on the West Coast, man. It used to be all I needed to carry around with me (before I went mainstream with actual income and a car and a phone with a data plan) was my driver’s license, a pair of Chuck T’s, and some beer money. (If you think I’m making this up, you didn’t live in Seattle in the 90s. What? I’m old.)

I loved that bag, though I stopped carrying it when I needed to drag around a camera with a big-ass lens and a laptop everywhere I went. The husband kind of took it over and would use it when we went rollerblading down at the beach, tossing in a water bottle and the car keys and, so we could call 911 if I broke an elbow, that same phone with the data plan.The bag. The bag. It’s been redesigned as the Snoop Camera Messenger. that’s where I was going. It works great for all that stuff your modern life makes you carry around and it doesn’t look life you’ve cashed in all your urban cred for a lawnmower. Though I totally have, even if our mower came from Craig’s List. The bag. I was talking about the bag.

To keep your photo gear safe, there’s a padded velcro insert like any classic camera bucket. You can move the dividers around to organize your kit the way you like it. I had no problem stowing the camera with the 28-300 telephoto, the compact video camera, a pocket camera, a removable flash, and the netbook. There was still space for things like my phone, the Moleskine notebook, business cards… you get the drill. And that was all in the smallest size of the Snoop. So, yes, it does hold all your gear. All of it.

There’s a shoulder strap with an adjustable pad, plus, a waist belt to add on if you’re really going to cycle with this thing — that helps keep the bag in place when it’s fully loaded. There’s a clear pocket in the front, maybe for your transit pass or your press pass. There’s a “photoggy” thing I’d not even considered before: silencer tabs on the Velcro that keep the noise down when you’re opening the bag to switch lenses (or whatever).

I had to fuss with the strap and the shoulder pad to get it to fit right but that’s easy enough to do. I really liked the quick release buckle that adjusts the strap length, and once I had everything set, carrying all that gear around got a lot easier. It’s all secure, it doesn’t slop around in the bag, and it doesn’t look like a camera bag at all. Nope, it looks like a messenger bag from my bad-ass days of riding a bike everywhere.

Any downsides? I wanted a handle on the top so I could move the bag around when it’s not on my shoulder. The front pockets seems like they’ll hold a bunch of stuff, but that’s only true if it’s all fairly flat. An interior pocket for your valuables and a D-ring or clip for your keys would be a nice addition. Other than that, no complaints. It’s good looking, holds a lot of electronica securely, and it’s totally messenger chic. I like that.

Get your own from Timbuk2.