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Travel smart

A laptop that’ll work even if you drop it — or drop coffee on it. A car charger that’ll take care of your electrical power needs as you trundle along as a road warrior. A world-band travel adapter that’ll help you plug-in eclectic electrical sockets across the globe. A handheld weather monitoring station that’ll keep you updated on impending climes — fair or foul — when you’re out trekking or camping in the wilderness. An e-book reader with a built-in lifetime 3G service that lets you download 3,60,000 titles wherever on Earth... And more. Yes, there’s a gadget for every reason and any season out there.

Here’s some 21st century travel survival gear that allows you to stay connected with the world, to do whatever you want while on the trot. So, keep those gizmos ticking — no matter how far your Seven League boots take you from home and hearth. And before saddling up for your next trip, be a little travel-wise and check these out. For you never really know, when a luxury becomes a necessity...

Amazon Kindle

Price: $259

The worth of a book is measured by what you can carry away from it. But with the Amazon Kindle it’s to do with how many books you can carry around in your hand: This 5.3x8x0.4-inch, 289gm device can hold 1,500 books. And what’s more, it can bring to your palm, anything you want from Amazon’s e-bookstore that stockpiles over 3,60,000 titles and 85 newspapers almost in a jiffy (a 300-page book takes approximately 60 seconds to download). Yes siree, if you’re fond of reading and reading onscreen is second nature to you — currently there’s nothing better than the Kindle. Every Kindle comes with a lifetime AT&T 3G service — even in India — to purchase books over the air, has 6-inch e-ink, non-backlit screen and a battery that lasts two weeks. Ideal travelmate, if you’re not a stickler for the papyrus genre.

USB Port Hub

Price: Rs 250 onwards

Fuming with frustration at the limited number of USB ports in your laptop or netbook while on your travels? Procure a USB port hub and extend your USB ambit to as many USB devices as you want in a blink. A USB hub is a tiny contraption that lets two to four USB devices connect to the single USB port of the host computer — or even another hub. It’s an invaluable little device for your laptop bag if you are constantly juggling USB connections between the phone, iPod, external hard disk, pen drive, etc. There’s a range of different kinds of hubs out there — from unbranded Chinese imports, to the Targus Travel four-port hub with Notebook Light and built-in cable, to the convenient Belkin Clipon, to the flexi Belkin Swivel. The Targus Travel USB 2.0 4-Port Hub with Notebook Light allows you to hook up to four USB devices simultaneously while also illuminating your keyboard with a light and providing a two feet extension cable to extend the hub’s functionality. The Belkin Clipon attaches to the edge of your desk or to a bundle of cables, keeping your desktop cable clutter-free while offering all the functionality of regular hubs at the same time. The Belkin Swivel permits easy access to other ports by allowing you to swing the hub left, right, up, and down.

Travel Adapter Plugs

Price: Rs 120 - Rs 450

All your bags are packed and you’re ready to go. And you’ll be leavin’ on a jet plane. However, unlike Mr John Denver, before leavin’ please verify what kind of electrical sockets pock the walls of your destination country. And carry a travel adapter along before you catch that plane. If you’re an intrepid Marco Polo who frequently — or even off and on — dons his Seven League Boots to travel to several countries across continents, it makes a lot of money sense to buy a single multi-country travel adapter. These will let you plug your laptop/ phone/ other device chargers into electrical sockets in other countries. Some of these even have USB ports. Country-specific units are much sturdier and longer lasting than the multi-country option. And it is always a better idea to buy one before leaving India as it’s usually cheaper here. Also, you arrive prepared.

Seagate FreeAgent Go

Rs 4,500 - Rs 10,000

At times a pen drive — no matter how capacious — is not enough to backup your data. Or, if your hard disk is brimming you may need extra storage space. And if you’re an awfully fastidious soul, you may not like to keep movies, music such extras on your laptop. In such cases, a portable hard disk is the only solution. A pocket-sized portable hard disk does the same job as a regular desktop external hard drive — backing up, sharing and protecting your data, photos, videos and music — but it is much smaller. Plus, since it doesn’t need an external power supply, it is far easier to lug around. Though several options are available, you can opt for the Seagate FreeAgent Go. With a height of 12.5mm, this pocketable drive is available for Windows and Mac platforms in capacities of up to 500GB and comes with built-in shock and vibration protection. An additional Rs 1,600 gets a diminutive docking station and case as well.

SanDisk Ultra Backup USB

Price: Rs 1,499 onwards

Blissfully smug in the knowledge that your files are sitting safely on your notebook? You can never be too sure. Anything can happen to that laptop on your travels; it can fall, it can be stolen, the hard disk can crash... Usually the most vital element you lose in this process is your data. The SanDisk Ultra Backup USB Drive is a nifty tool for backing up critical files and documents — especially when you are on the trot. Baah! Just another pen drive, eh? Nopee. This diminutive device (in 8GB to 64GB capacities) gives you more than a regular pen drive as it has special built-in backup software to ease and automate the task. It also comes with a dual layer of security. Pressing the dedicated Backup button automatically copies pre-selected data from your computer. To secure your data in case the drive falls into roguish hands, password protection and hardware encryption safeguard your privacy. Of course, it’s always there to serve its purpose as an ordinary pen drive — to cart chunky, mega- gigbyte files from computer-to-computer.

GPS Devices

Price: $250 - $700

Hansel and Gretel may have used breadcrumb trails or the stars to find their way around. But we think you’d prefer the autonomous 24 medium Earth orbit geo-spatial navigation satellites via a host of a load of diminutive GPS receiver devices. If a wrist-bound solution is what you are looking for, pick an ‘Orienteering’ watch from Suunto (www.suunto.com). If a handheld with a bigger display is what will keep you on track, check out what Magellan Triton (www.magellangps.com) or Garmin (www.gar-min.com) have in store for you. Be it for the trail, water or air there’re umpteen toughened navigational aids available today. Besides, other than an awesome array of GPS navigational functionality, they also work as compass, chronograph, altimeter, and barometer.

Netbooks

Price: Rs 14,000 upwards

Netbooks may have come to roost because recession ruled and cutbacks crushed budgets. But it’s more their immense portability that makes these sweet deals sweeter. Without breaking your bank (at Rs14,000 to Rs 30,000) or your back, netbooks make ideal travel companions for road warriors. Typically tipping the weighing scales at 1 to 1.2kg, a usual configuration today comprises a 9- or 10-inch colour display, Intel’s Atom N450 processor, 160-250GB hard disk, 1-2MB RAM, full keyboard (that is 89 per cent to 93 per cent smaller than that of a regular notebook), 2-3 USB ports, built-in web camera, and an embedded mic and stereo speakers. Battery life on some of these ultramobile models can be up to a whopping 10 hours. A netbook is more than sufficient for all your essential office applications, Internet connectivity, and entertainment needs on the go.

Universal Solar Chargers and Panels

Price: Rs 4,000 to Rs 10,000

Off to an adventure camp in the wilderness and wondering how you’re going to re-charge your gadgets out there? Well, we have the sun, don’t we? Devices like the 4-12V, 0-1A rated output Solio Classic Charger (www.solio.com) offer you an internal 3.6V, 1650mAh Li-ion battery that stores energy for up to a year and recharges from sunlight (or a wall socket). One hour of sun gives you 15 minutes talk time or 40 minutes of MP3 music. The 156gm charger is weather resistant and comes with an adapter tip system cable, USB port replicator tip, mini-USB tip, Nokia/Samsung/LG tips, and a global travel charger with US/ UK/ EU/ AU-NZ adapters. Oh, and it is compatible with over 3,200 gadgets, including cameras, PDAs, media players, GPS devices and phones. There are rollable, flexible panels from PowerFilm (www.powerfilmsolar.com) and universal solar chargers from Brunton (www.brunton.com) that also harness solar energy to keep your gizmos going. The devices are weather-resistant, rugged and usually come with various types of adapter tips, including a USB port replicator jacks.

Kestrel Pocket Weather Tracker

Price: $250 - $500

To warp that oft repeated cliche a tad, when the going gets tough, the tough like to keep going. And if you have the Kestrel Pocket Weather Tracker (www.kestrelmeters.com) in your hand, you easily can. Because it gives the advantage of telling what you are up against — albeit only environmentally. For among other things, this handheld can tell you your compass heading (true and magnetic), altitude, pressure trends, wind direction, crosswind, headwind/ tailwind, temperature, and relative humidity. If you can make sense of dewpoint, wet bulb temperatures, density altitude, wind chill, and various types of air velocities — then all that and more is there too. The Weather Tracker comes with a backlit display, can automatically store measurements, recall values, chart historical data, and upload data to a PC, etc. It runs on two AAA batteries and is completely waterproof. Each Kestrel instrument is individually calibrated, tested and certified against the US National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) standards.

Ruggedised Laptops

Price: $1,500 - $4,500

A 6-foot freefall is all in a day’s work for magnesium alloy Panasonic ToughBook 30 (www.toughbook.eu) laptop. Steam baths, freezing or near boiling temperatures, vibrations and shock don’t bother it either. A sealed all-weather design helps keep the natural elements from spoiling your work encased in the 250GB hard drive — which is protected by special shock absorbing dampers. The 13.3-inch sunlight-viewable touchscreen is handwriting-friendly. GPS, backlit keyboard, SmartCard reader, Fingerprint reader, HDD and battery lock, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are all there. So much for The Great Outdoors. For business toughies that can buffet the rigours of corporate travel, the HP EliteBook series (www.hp.com) is where you should look. Apart from assuring built-in hardware reliability (magnesium alloy chassis, magnesium/ aluminum display, metal alloy hinges with hardened steel pin axles) that protects the laptop from impacts, bumps and minor drops, several security and privacy features to safeguard your data have been built in. Models like the EliteBook 6930p offer up to 24 hours of battery life.

Belkin Anywhere AC

Price: Rs 1,800

Spend a lot of time trundling down the road in your car and often feel the need to charge your gadgets — laptop, cell phone, iPod or camera — even as you’re en route? Belkin AC Anywhere and USB inverter/ charger can plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket. It converts your car’s battery power to common household current. An LED indicator protects against current overload, high temperature and low DC voltage. An alarm sounds if the vehicle battery voltage drops below a certain level and automatically power-off the contraption when under the minimum level. Apart from an AC socket, it also sports a USB port. An on/off switch with the power indicator, fuse protection and a cooling fan — to keep the device’s temperature under control while charging — are its other features. The AC Anywhere can manually restart if automatic power-off is due to overloading. This power-on-the-go solution comes with lifetime warranty.

ashishone@gmail.com or twitter.com/ashishone

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