Published online at www.msn.ca's Travel section, March, 2010.
Whether you’re traipsing through the rain forest or lounging pool-side at an all-inclusive resort, you never know when an all-in-one, steel-cutting, nail-filing, egg-slicing, universal remote-channel-changing screwdriver could come in handy. Especially ones that come in a range of assorted colours.
Here are a few gadgets and accessories we think make for great traveling companions.
SteriPEN Portable Water Purifier
To avoid a nasty run-in with Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge, try out
this travel-friendly water purifier. The SteriPEN uses ultraviolet
light to purify water within seconds and make it safe to drink. When you
immerse the lamp in water, shortwave UV light technology eliminates
99.9 per cent of bacteria and viruses that cause water-borne illness. It
will purify half a litre of water in 48 seconds, and one litre in 90
seconds and will provide a hundred treatments through a single battery
life cycle. It’s a compact, portable water purifier and also comes with
an optional solar charging case for unlimited treatments.
$100 at Mountain Equipment Co-op
Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer
This travel-size toothbrush sanitizer looks like a mini-tanning bed for
our chomper cleaners. And it kind of works in the same way. Using a
germicidal UV bulb — the same technology used in hospitals — the
VIOlight sanitizer kills germs in seconds. You leave the toothbrush in a
small capsule — or its tanning bed — and a blue violet glow lets you
know the sanitizer is working. When it’s done turbo-cleaning the germs
six minutes later, you’re ready to brush.
$29.95 US violight.com
The Sony Reader Digital Book or the Kindle
If you tend to save the epic Russian magnum opuses like War and Peace
and Anna Karenina for your 13-hour plane rides or pool-side
entertainment, consider investing in an ebook like the Sony Reader or
the Kindle. Instead of lugging around trees on your vacation, these
compact, digital devices can store hundreds of books in a slim,
lightweight, portable device that mimics the readability of paper ink.
That means you get no screen glare from the tropical sun, and the
familiarity of printed paper. With the Kindle, you can download books
wirelessly in a matter of seconds in more than a hundred countries. The
Kindle holds 1,500 books.
Sony Reader Touch Edition $299; Kindle on Amazon $259
Available at sony.ca or amazon.ca
Quick Drying Towel
Ok, so this one has no bells and whistles, but good things come in
anti-bacterial packages, like the Adventure Towl Performance Sports
Towel. If your next vacation entails schlepping through the jungle,
paddling, camping or requires squishing a towel amongst two-month old
laundry and you’re not the “air dry” type of guy or gal, quick drying
towels are great options. Microfibres with anti-bacterial properties
help the towel dry quickly and keep bacteria-causing foul odours at bay.
The also fold up nicely in their own storage bags.
The Adventure Towl Performance Sports Towel ranges between $15.75 and
$23.00 depending on size.
Available at MEC
Global Talking Translator
For some reason, a lot of the electronic, talking translators on the
market cost more than the price of a small car — a sum of money we would
assume most travelers would prefer to spend on their actual vacation
rather than on a pocket-sized machine that you can’t talk back to and
speaks 500 languages, 495 of which you’ll never use. So we found an
electronic device that, at the time of writing, is selling for $49.99
and speaks 11 languages that should get you by just fine. Smaller than
most PDAs, this device contains 7,700 travel-related phrases. If you’re
too shy to speak the language yourself, just hold it up and let the
talking translator speak for you — just make sure you’ve selected the
right phrase or you may be inviting Juan Carlos over to your hotel
bathroom near the airport for suckling pig with your grandmother.
$49.99 at gadgetshack.com shipping and customs charges apply
Solio solar charger
Harness the power of the sun and let this energizing battery do more
than just give you an allover tan. The Solio solar charger can be
equally useful on a camping trip where you may be slumming it in the
woods, or a trip abroad, allowing you to forego buying an electricity
converter. It’s a small, but powerful portable gadget that fans out into
three solar panels and can charge cameras, cell phones, MP3 players and
GPS devices. Fully charged, it can provide up to 20 hours of music.
It’s an intelligent, useful gadget that is also sure to extend itself
beyond your travels and into the home.
$111 at MEC
Fisher Space Pen Co.’s pen that writes at any angle
Remember that Seinfeld episode when Jerry gets into an uncomfortable
exchange with his father’s neighbour over a pen that writes at any angle
and can even write in space? The one where, after Jerry marvels at its
utility and design, the neighbour offers it to him in the way you offer
to pick up the cheque? Well, the pen in question was the Fisher Space
Pen, which has also been displayed in the New York Museum of Art as an
example of outstanding industrial art. It’s the brand of choice for
undersea explorers, mountain climbers and ski teams — any kind of
They come in a variety of uses, including the Trekker, which comes with a
lanyard, the Fisher LED SpaceBeam, and the Check Guardian, which uses a
Cellu-Lock Ink Technology that bonds to the fibres of the paper and
protects information from being removed — great for protecting against
Prices range between $11 up to $150
Available at www.spacepen.ca
Swiss Army Knife’s Victorinox Flash 4G
If you can’t MacGyver your way into fashioning a hard drive out of a few
twigs from the forest floor, a stick of gum and chipmunk droppings,
consider the Victorinox Flash Swiss Army Knives. The utility knife
famous for its ability to slice, dice, chisel, hook, screw, open wine
and beer bottles, saw wood — pretty much everything short of baking a
pie — now comes with a removable USB flash drive, LED mini light and
retractable pen. In sum, the device has entered the 21st century.
It also comes in a Flight version without the Swiss Army Knife tools,
which means you can also carry it on the plane. The Victorinox Flash 4G
with knife is $62.50, the Flight version is $56.25. For retailers in
Canada, call 1-800-665-4095 or visit www.swissarmy.com
Flip UltraHD camcorder
This pocket-sized HD camcorder helps you travel light and capture your
vacation moments in stunning quality. It’s the size of a point-and-shoot
camera, but can record 120 minutes of high definition video on 8GB of
built-in memory. Sleek, portable gadgets like this one can help you
avoid looking like the hapless tourist weighed down by one too many
recording devices, and allow you to bring back those moments of Billy
being assaulted by fearless, mad pigeons and replay it over and over
Flip UltraHD, $249 available at Future Shop, Best Buy, Wal-Mart
The JOBY Gorillapod Camera Tripod
Its genius is in its utility. With arms that work like tentacles, this
flexible tripod can wrap itself around trees or fences so that you can
snap photos from any vantage point. It’s especially useful for the solo
traveler who always has to smile apologetically and solicit strangers to
shoot photos for them — an annoying necessity. The Gorillapod can bend
and rotate 360 degrees, has rubberized ring and foot grips for enhanced
stability, and secures the camera firmly in place with a lock ring.
Available at Kodak stores for $22