21 must-have gadgets of a road-warrior

Christmas is coming along very quickly and many partners of us geeks have hard time finding new gadgets and toys for us as gifts this Christmas so I wrote this column for the Imagazine (in Polish) this month and here's the English version of it. In case your loved one is asking you what to get you this holidays, send them over this link :-)

These are the 21 things essential for me when I travel with my Macbook Air and iPhone:
Gadgets

1. Portable 2.5" Hard Disk Drive (WD 1TB)

My Macbook Air has "only" 256GB of SSD space, so when I need to work in iMovie on my Productive! Show or want to backup my Air when on a longer business trip, this drive does the job perfectly.

2. VGA Adapter

I'm traveling and giving presentations on conferences and I'm always prepared when something goes wrong. Sometimes they don't have a dongle (Mini-Display Port - VGA) for my Air but I have it on me.

3. Audio Cable (retractable)

Whenever I'm renting a car, chances are it doesn't have a direct iPod/iPhone dock but it does have and AUX in jack input. That's why I'm using this handy retractable audio cable to connect my iPhone to the car radio system and listen to my audiobooks when driving a rented car.

Most of the cables I have in my set are retractable. I hate it when a cable does not retract. In my opinion they shouldn't be making non-retractable cables at all. But I guess that's just me.

4. Audio splitter

Whenever I'm traveling with my wife, we tend to watch the same movie or listen to the same music or audiobook, so this audio-splitter comes in handy to share audio experiences together :-)

5. LAN cable (retractable)

Many hotel rooms offer LAN cable Internet connection and either a very poor Wi-fi or hardly any Wi-fi at all. That's why I need this cable to connect to my laptop directly or to my Airport Express router (#10).

6. LAN USB Ethernet card

Macbook Air doesn't have a LAN network adapter built in and that's OK, but when I need to connect to the LAN directly, Apple's USB dongle comes in and does the job.

7. Logitech Nano VX mouse

Although I've been praising the Magic Mouse before, I finally settled with the Logitech Nano VX mouse. It's just better. The laser precision is more accurate and it's not a bluetooth mouse, so there is no lagging. My friend, Tomasz convinced me to get it years ago. I later forgot about it and now my CTO, Tomasz reminded me how cool it was and I got it back. Use it every day.

8. Universal USB Adapter

Many gadgets and devices (including the Android phones) use different variations of the USB plug. I have no clue why so many variations exist (mini-USB, micro-USB, ...) but they do. This adapter helps me connect to most of these.

9. USB Cable (retractable)

To make use of the above mentioned adapter (#8) I'm using this cable to connect standard USB port of my Macbook Air to the non-standard usb ports of the adapter.

10. Portable Wifi Router - Apple Airport Express

I'm always carrying it with me. As mentioned with the LAN cable, this thing helps me create my own, secure hot-spot in my hotel room. My Macbook Air, my iPhone, my wife's iPhone, our iPad... all of the devices we use are already configured to work with it, so the moment I plug it in to the LAN cable, all my i-Devices work beautifully... wirelessly. The router is small and is my perfect trip-companion.

On top of that, I'm traveling with two "plugs" for this router - the European one and the American/Japanese one. This way I just exchange the plugs without any adapter in between.

11. iPhone Cable (retractable)

I still need it to charge my iPhone and to transfer data quickly between the iPhone and the Mac. I can't understand why Apple didn't do a retractable cable and I had to buy a third-party replacement but I did and it works great.

12. The Glif

Great small invention that enables me to read news comfortably on the iPhone and works perfectly with a tripod to take pictures with the iPhone.

13. Tripod

This small portable tripod helps me take beautiful pictures with my iPhone and record video podcasts of my Productive! Show when I'm on the go.

14. World-traveller adapter and USB charger

I'm traveling a few times a year to Japan, USA and the UK. That's why I need this adapter. This way I can charge my devices anywhere in the world. As a bonus there is a USB plug there to directly charge my iPhone or iPad. The funny part is that I found this great adapter when browsing the MoMa museum store.

15. Macbook Air Charger

My new Macbook Air works more than 7 hours on a single charge. I get an impression that the previous Core2Duo model (now I have the i5 one) could last even longer. Up to 10 hours. Anyway, I can get a one-day charge on this thing but at night I still have to charge it and again I carry two adapters for it - one for Europe and one for USA/Japan.

16. HDMI Cable

That's my newest discovery. In the modern hotel rooms usually there are new flat-screens with HDMI input. With this short, 3-meter HDMI cable I can hook up my Macbook Air and watch the newest episodes of the TV shows and movies I rented through iTunes.

17. HDMI adapter

To actually connect my Macbook Air to the hotel-room flat TV screen I need this Mini-display-port-HDMI adapter from Hama. Works great and transfers both audio and video to the screen. Cool.

18. iPhone headphones

I listen to stuff all the time. Especially audiobooks. I need to have these with me at all times. My only complaint is that I still couldn't find retractable ones - does anyone make these? I'd buy them right away.

19. USB Car charger

On my iPhone I have two very cool apps - Navigon for the entire Europe and CoPilot Live for the entire USA. That's why when I'm renting a car I'm never lost. I hook up my iPhone to the car charger and put on the navigation app and I'm on my way! This is the smallest USB car charger I could find.

20. USB Hub + iPhone charger

Sometimes I need to hook up more USB devices to my Air and I have only 2 USB ports. This USB hub comes in handy and as a bonus it has an iPhone dock, so I don't have to use the iPhone cable here. Cool.

21. Card reader

Macbook Air has SD card slot which is good, but still many cameras support other standards like CF. When I want to transfer photos from friends who have these cameras, this adapter comes in and saves the day.

That's about it. I carry all of these 21 devices in a small pouch and carry them with me on every business trip. I've been trying to minimize the set as much as I could over the years and refine what goes in and I ended up with the list above. Hope it's helpful to anyone reading my blog :-)

Do you have any suggestions? Any devices I should/could know about to replace what I have here? Let me know in the comments :-) Merry Christmas and hope you'll find your iDevice under a Christmas tree!

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Sunday, December 18, 2011 (productivity)

Marcin
Dec 25, 2011 12:56
Good list

I wonder - how do you make your MBA last for 7 hours? Mine won't last longer than 4-5h while on WiFi with brightness set to 50%...

Michael Sliwinski
Dec 27, 2011 15:01
My i5 Macbook Air lasts about 5-6 hours on a single charge. I just have flash uninstalled (browse Flash in Chrome only), have very few apps open at a time and very few that launch on startup. That's it. My Core2duo Air used to last even up to 8 hours but the i5 drains my battery a little more. It's a 13" inch MBA.
pro-ductive-carstinator
Jan 27, 2012 01:26
Hi Michael, thanks for sharing :-)

http://www.hypershop.com/HyperThin-World-s-Thinnest-HDMI-Cable-s/192.htm
- Found a nice HDMI Cable not retracable but thin and much more space-saving than the competition.. Just in case you want to improve yours.

Might not fit to a superslim set of road gadgets, but for long trips a durable power pack can be handy. For quiet some time I am considering buying one of those myself. Reviews are quiet pleasing. Up to now my hang on improving minimalism keeps me away even so the Zagg could replace my USB on the go wall charger..

- http://www.zagg.com/accessories/zaggsparq.php
fires up 6.000 mAh and sports 2 usb ports
- http://www.hypershop.com/HyperJuice-iPad-Battery-Stand-s/178.htm
with a whopping 11k mAh

(Updated due to URL syntax error - Ouch, iPad is not for editing)

Michael Sliwinski
Jan 27, 2012 10:42
I wish all the cables were retractable - especially these slim HDMI could be! For a road warrior this is really important. I like the ZaggSparq but must check if it's available in Europe - I like the fact that Apple's devices can inter-change adapters for Europe/USA. Thanks for great resources and comment, pro-ductive-carstinator!