5 Travel Gadgets to watch out for in 2015

Travel Gadgets to watch out for

Travel Gadgets to watch out for

As a technology and media lover (nerd …Ahem) and avid traveller, I am always on the lookout for the latest Travel Gadgets. I spend hours and hours searching the internet for the latest improvements that could make my battery laden life a little bit easier. 2015 has been an interesting year for battery and battery-powered gadget developments so I decided to compile the below “Wishlist” with some nifty gadgets to watch out for.

1) Travel power generation with Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk Urban

Kraftwerk Urban

After a successful crowd funding campaign this device is due to reach the markets by early next year. You are probably wondering why this reads power generation? Well that’s the great news, because it IS A Power generator! Kraftwerk allows you to generate electricity on the go to power any USB chargeable device. Just a squirt of lighter gas into this device and the unit will provide electrical power for many phone or other device charges.

The upsides:

Instant power without the need for you to wait around a wall socket to recharge every so often.

  • Lighter than a battery pack.
  • Safe to fly with.
  • The energy source (lighter Gas) is readily available anywhere.
  • It’s energy generation is highly efficient.  One spray can of light fluid could do you for a long time

The downsides:

  • Powered by lighter gas, which you would need to bring around with you.
  •  2 Watt continuous rated output, means it wont be the fastest charger on the market (it can supply 10 watt peak using the built in buffer battery).
  • Not out yet so no reliable reviews available yet.
  • At $149.- this is not a cheap solution

Where to get it:

Make a kickstarter pledge here
OR
Get notified when it goes on sale to the public 

2) Music on the road with Minirig

Minirig speaker

Minirig speaker

Are you sick of those tinny sounding or large battery operated speakers that don’t last long enough on batteries? I am.. This prompted me to do some research. Eventually I stumbled upon a British speaker designer that took it upon himself to solve this problem. He created a product called the minirig. A fairly small portable speaker with high-grade audio quality, built-in Hi-power battery and amplifier in a solid cast aluminium enclosure.  That’s quite and ear full, but the result is astounding. I own one of these myself and it’s been a staple of my travel bag since it landed in my letterbox a few years ago.

So where does the 2015 come into play? The creator Pasce has just updated the design to include Bluetooth (it could only be connected with an audio cable before) which now allows you to have a truly unplugged source of high-grade audio for the park, the picnic, the tent or the mountain top.

The upsides:

  • Very long-lasting battery. Rated at up to 40 hours (low gain) so your unlikely to run out on your long weekend. You might not even run out on your holiday.
  • Great Sound quality. This beats any other speakers of it size I’ve seen hands down.
  • Great build quality (Mine has taken many, many knocks and falls in its time and it sounds and works he same as day one.
  • Truly unplugged. You can now place it where-ever you want and beam your sound to it using Bluetooth from a capable mobile device.
  • Still an option to use a standard head phone jack wire to connect. So it’s compatible to any device with a head phone jack for playing audio.
  • The audio ports on the Minirig allow you to “daisy chain” as many Minirigs as you want for increased volume and sound quality. Hook a few up with your friends and you are all set for that outdoor party.
  • A subwoofer is available for this speaker to unleash the low-end of your sound.

The down sides:

  • Very expensive – At £139 pounds sterling the updated design increased over 50% in price since the Minirig first came out. This would make many potential buyers think twice.
  • Mono sound. You need 2 to get stereo.
  • There has been some bad feedback about the bad quality of the headphone jack cables delivered with the device.
  • Very good sound quality but it does get to sound a bit harsh when you push the volume towards its limits.

Alternatives:

Jawbone portable speaker

Jawbone portable speaker

 

1) The Jawbone portable speaker products are alternatives of note. They contain more blue tooth integration and are fairly loud portable contenders. The sound coming out of them is decent but not as clear as from the Minirig. The original jam box doesn’t fill a room as well.

3) Capture the full scene of your favourite moment with the Ricoh Theta 

Ricoh Theta

Ricoh Theta

Photographs are great mementos but they only capture a small part of what’s around you. With Ricoh’s Theta camera (E 299) one click captures the full 360 panorama around you. 2 Camera’s, one on the front and one on the back combined with nifty auto stitching in the device creates the automatic panorama’s. You can then pan through these panoramas in real-time and share to your content. It even supports 360 video recordings of up to 3 minutes. Unfortunately you don’t have a lot of control over how the image is captured. Although if you use your phone to capture the shots over wifi you are able to change the white balance and set the shutter speed or ISO in two available priority modes.  The device also has some time-lapse options which could open up some cool possibilities.  All and all this device won’t be a replacement of your primary camera but it would be a great addition to tell an immersive story.

With YouTube now starting the support 360 degrees pan-able video and virtual reality on its way. This type of interactive photography will surely become the next thing.

The upsides:

  • Easy to use.
  • Captures full 360 image in one click.
  • No post processing needed with stitching built-in.
  • Remote shutter capability and image transfer using your smart phone.
  • Stores GPS coordinates.
  • Cheapest option/easiest option for this type of imaging.
  • Very light at 100 grams and fits easily in your pocket

The Downsides:

  • Only 3 minutes max video recording time and we haven’t seen any videos longer than 15 seconds in the gallery on their website…
  • Not very high camera quality – especially the low light performance seems very grainy
  • Memory not expandable (no SD card slot) although internal 4GB is rated at 4000 pics or 40 mins of video.
  • Picture quality too low for printing and video quality not the best due to high-compression.

Alternatives:

There are a good few alternatives available or on their way in to market. The 2 notables, although a lot more expensive are:

1) The 360 camera  – 360 Video/photo capture in 3 lens waterproof body at $499.

2) The Panono –  way outside of affordable but great picture quality with 36 camera lenses (total of 72 Mega pixels. Added bonus that you can throw it in the air and it will take a picture at the highest point. Hugely expensive at EUR 1,499.

 

4) Cool yourself down with your personal Evaporating cooling FAN.

I’m sure most of us have been there at some stage, whether it was in a tent; a badly cooled office block; an overheating festival crowd; assorted Asian/African forms of transport; etc. There are plenty of examples where you would thank the god of your choice for a chance of some cool air blowing in your direction. There are plenty of battery operated fans around that will move the air but if the air temperature is too hot, they don’t do much for to cool you down. Enter the Handy Cooler. A Personal fan with evaporative cooling built-in.

The Original Handy Cooler fan pulls incoming air through a big water saturated sponge and then sends it out in your direction. This cools the air through evaporation of the water in the sponge. The device needs 4x AA batteries to do its thing and the sponge needs to be saturated with water after 30 mins to 2 hours runtime depending on the fan speed setting/operating conditions. This does mean you need to carry a small water container/bottle with you for it to do its thing, although a few millilitres of water is all it takes to refill so this need not be a big problem.  The Fan has a USB connector that allows you to use it with a pc, laptop or any device that can supply USB power which is great for those cramped hot spaces where you find yourself in front of your laptop/pc.

Handy cooler

My HandyCooler

The device can stand up on a desk and you can direct the airflow in a vertical radius of 90 degrees. And last but not least, you can safely add some aromatic oil to the sponge to help combat smell or disinfect the air.  It’s important to note that this device doesn’t do miracles for an entire space.  All reviews show that it can do a lot to cool one person that sits in its direct air flow, but it will not cool a space around you, so you will have to be intimate with any second person that you want to call beside yourself or buy a second one. This can of course be a good thing as well ;). The device costs were around $36.99 when it was last available on Amazon.

The upsides:

  • This device doesn’t just generate airflow, it generates COOL airflow.
  • With batteries and USB as power options, you should be covered for power in most situations
  • The device can be held in hand but can also stand on a flat surface.
  • The device can be used for up to 5 hours on a set of batteries.
  • Ones the sponge dries out you can still use it as a portable fan.

Downsides:

  • No adapter included to use the device on AC (mains) power.
  • You will need to carry a small water container with you (aprox 30 ml of water is required to saturate the sponge).
  • I was trying to get one from Amazon while writing this overview but I could only find very cheap competitor products that looked like direct knock offs of this design.

Alternatives:

1) Qumox has brought out a very cheap replica of this product. I haven’t found any reviews for this though so I can’t comment on its quality.

Where to get it:

On the HandyCooler site or on Amazon

5) Xeus flashlights –  The flashlights that last and don’t need to be charged.

If you are like me, you lost count of the number of cheap and likely Chinese made led lights you have bought, broken and thrown out over the years. They always seem to break when you need them most and suffer from all sorts of iffy jittery problems. This irritation prompted me to go on the hunt for something refreshing in a very dense saturated flashlight market.

Enter XEUS flashlights. A Kick-starter project by a USA based hobbyist that uses his cat as his product logo. A humorously badly produced product video where the cat enters to disturb the presentation (see aprox 3:40).  The product does have some very interesting edges though. The flashlight that they set out to produce are entirely sealed in the same plastics used for bullet proofing. Inside this seal there are a solar panel array that captures the light from the entire surface of the flashlight, a high powered capacitor and the led lights that they power.

Using a capacitor instead of batteries ensures that even with many years of use (or non use) there is no degeneration in the charge held inside the device. So it makes optimum use of it’s solar energy. Because the solar panels cover almost the entire surface of the flashlight it will even charge on cloudy days or with artificial lights. The fact that all the components are moulded in an airtight enclosure means that there is no corrosion on any of the parts inside, even if the product is left in water for years. To turn the light on, all that’s required is a simple magnet so not even the switch is a weekpoint in this design. At approximately USD $75.- they are not cheap but they do sound like an interesting alternative to the otherwise saturated flashlight market.

Upsides:

  • The fully moulded airtight construction should make these flashlights pretty much as indestructible as you can get
  • Using a capacitor instead of batteries greatly improves the flashlights shelf life.
  • Using a magnet to turn on the light is a smart move this means that not even the on off switch could break.
  • Use of an fully covering solar array makes this very easy to charge from any light available.
  • Environmentally friendly. The flashlight needs no external power source.

Downsides:

  • If anything goes wrong with the light there is no way to fix it.
  • The light comes with a strap but I wonder how well it will hold the light in place as it seems a smooth cylinder.
  • It’s by no means a tried and tested design (no third party reviews at the time of writing this review).
  • There is no way to top up the charge from an external power source.

Alternatives:

There are plenty of alternatives on the market but none that combine alternative energy sources with the fully moulded durability of the Xeus lights.

Where to get it:

At their kickstarter project