Eight incredibly useful tools for road warriors

Being mobile these days means more gear -- and more problems. Here's how to make things a bit easier.

When you're on the road, you can feel more like a juggler than a traveler: You've got your notebook, your smart phone, your camera, your GPS device, your MP3 player -- and all the power cords, USB drives and other gadgets that go with them.

And you still have to deal with some of travel's biggest annoyances: dropped cell phone calls in hotel rooms, faint Wi-Fi signals in airports, data files that vanish without a trace and power-sucking gadgets that invariably go dead just when you need them most.

Overwhelmed? Take heart -- adding a few key gadgets to your arsenal could help. The eight handy devices and services detailed below can help you charge, connect, boost and protect your array of mobile devices and the data they contain. With some of these you might find yourself carrying fewer cables, chargers and other travel detritus.

You may not want or need to carry all the gizmos discussed here -- after all, when you're on the road, less is more. Smart road warriors will assess their own needs and zero in on the most useful tools for them.

Charge it

"Simplify, simplify," said Thoreau. He was probably talking about the chargers that come with every gadget you carry.

There's no law that says you have to carry a different charger for each device or that it has to connect to 110-volt AC. In fact, as more gadgets require USB connections to sync data or download software, your laptop is becoming a universal charger. The only problem? Most laptops require 110-volt AC to charge themselves -- and have a limited number of USB ports for charging your other devices.

The ideal solution would be one charger that could draw power from as many different sources as possible and charge as many different devices as you carry. The ideal charger hasn't been manufactured yet, but there are a couple that come close:

VersaCharger Pro

The VersaCharger Pro from BoxWave connects to three power sources. It's available with a flip-out US or European-style AC plug (your choice) for 110 and 220 volts, a car cigarette-lighter connector and an optional short cable to convert the car connector to those small round airplane-seat power outlets that are supposed to be standard, but the airlines won't say when.

Output is a standard USB connector, so if your devices connect to and charge from Universal Serial Bus, you've already got the cable you need. If they don't, BoxWave also sells a miniSync cable with the proper connector. The VersaCharger Pro with airplane charger is US$35.20, and extra miniSync cables, if you need them, start at $14.95. Shipping, as you might expect, is extra.

iGo everywhere85

While the VersaCharger's 1-amp, 5.3-volt output is more than adequate to charge handheld devices, it won't do for laptops. For that, you need the iGo everywhere85 notebook power adapter from Mobility Electronics.

This small (4.8 by 2.7 by 0.9 in.), light (8 oz.) power brick is also a three-way device for AC/car/plane. It comes with the cables you need, including a neat retractable laptop connector cable, and a standard set of interchangeable connector tips.

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David DeJean

Computerworld

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