Last year I put together 25 of the coolest travel gadgets of 2012. The type of gadgets you wish Santa would stuff in your sock (not one of these 16 awkward gifts to avoid this Christmas) with a note that says, ‘Hey you bloody legend you, you deserve this. Now go have fun.’ This year, it’s happening all over again. Whether it’s a pragmatic, has that ‘Wow’ factor or is something you immediately can’t live without, here are 25 travel gadgets that Santa would rather keep for himself, if only you hadn’t been such a good boy this year.
1. Hookupz™ iPhone binocular adapter
Snap that birdie
Last year we featured the iPhone Lens Dial, which transforms you (and everybody else who has one) into a three-lens, phonography virtuoso. It’s longest lens was a 1.5x telephoto. Decent. The Hookupz™ iPhone binocular adapter by Carson Optical takes the zoominess to a new level with an adaptor which lets you connect your iPhone 5/5S to any full-sized (32mm-50mm objective lens) binocular to take pictures or video directly through the eyes of your verkykers. It comes with two interchangeable rubber rings that allow the adapter to fit most full-sized binoculars that have an outer eyepiece housing diameter between 40mm – 44mm. It’s perfect for birdwatchers (all kinds) a spot of holiday voyeurism and bedroom-window law enforcement.
Release fee: tbc
Find out more at Carson Optical
2. Trakdot Luggage Tracker
Never lose your bag again
Anyone who has spent half an hour thinking about the potential of geo-locating devices (and has also had an issue with lost bags an an airport) must have thought about this at some point. The Trakdot Luggage Tracker ensures that you know when your luggage has arrived, making you less susceptible to the tall tales that airport staff may tell you when your bag isn’t doing its loop on the reclaim belt. It features a GSM chip-equipped monitor which links up with an app on your phone. At any given time, you can pinpoint the location of your luggage. Because it uses GSM rather than battery-draining GPS, it can last up to two weeks on a new pair of AA batteries. Depending on your preferences, a text-message or email is sent to you confirming that your luggage has arrived.
Release fee: R610 (there is also a once-off activation fee and annual service fee of R223, 36)
Find out more at Trakdot
3. Mushroom GreenZero Wall Travel Charger
Smart charging for a struggling planet
Leaving something to charge overnight results in an overcharged device (according to manufacturers) and wasted energy. Eliminating both means you have a healthier device and also something to talk about when Christmas dinner conversation turns to the environment and someone asks you what you did to save the pandas this year. By stopping your device from charging once it’s full, the Mushroom GreenZero Wall Travel Charger reduces energy and battery waste by giving you zero standby consumption. Currently, it’s only available as a conventional two-pin or US plug (but can be paired with an adaptor) and is compatible with any device that features USB charging.
Release fee: R172
Find out more at Bracketron
4. Vodafone Booster Brolly
The brolly to make you jolly
This is only a prototype due for sale in the UK, but as the chicken said to the hens when pointing at an ostrich egg, ‘I’m not disparaging, I’m just pointing out what is being done elsewhere’. In other words, somebody local needs to get on this. It’s the perfect gadget for any festival-goer / rain-dancer / incessant Tweeter. The Vodafone Booster Brolly an umbrella designed by the European networking giant that not only offers to keep you dry, it will also charge your phone fully in under three hours (so it claims) and give you a 3G signal boost. It features a carbon-fibre handle that contains an eco-friendly mobile phone charger, powered by a series of 12 lightweight amorphous silicon triple-junction solar cells built into the double-layered canopy bit. Oh yes, and it also features a handy LED torch in case you find yourself compelled to tweet about how much fun it is to wander around in the rain at night.
Release fee: tbc
Find out more on the Vodafone blog
6. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC29 QuietPoint Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Ninjas for your ears
When it comes to noice-cancelling headphones, Audio Technica is the industry’s silent assassin. Its latest offering, the ATH-ANC9, won a CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award. It cancels up to 87% of ambient noise (I imagine the other 13% is the sound made by mother-in-laws, which I’m sure they’re working on a frequency for) and offers an outstanding combination of performance, value, comfort and portability. It delivers exceptional sound with powerful bass, a natural midrange, detailed treble and precise imaging in an immersive soundfield. It also has a detachable cord, enabling its use as cordless noise-cancelling headphones. Like all QuietPoint models, its audio functions even if the batteries run down.
Release fee: R860
Find out more at Audio Technica
7. Hammacher Schlemmer’s Packable Walking Stick
Move over grandpa
Seems walking sticks aren’t just for the old anymore. The Packable Walking Stick does more than just keep you upright. Besides collapsing and packing away into a nylon case less than 30 cm long. It opens telescopically to 1,2 metres and features a removable knob that has a built-in compass and conceals a thread to mount your camera, turning it into a convenient monopod for impromptu picture-taking. It’s perfect for hiking and even for the urban traveller looking to cover a lot of city ground in a short space of time (and who doesn’t mind being judged by locals).
Release fee: R408
Find out more at Hammacher
9. G-form Xtreme iPad / iPhone case
Hulk no smash
The G-form Extreme iPad / iPhone case is one tough cookie. It’s all down to the integrated Reactive Protection Technology (RTP), which hardens upon impact, making it almost indestrucbile. In fact, scrap the almost, I saw a dude put a Smartie inside one, hit it with a hammer, take it out completely unscathed and then eat it (the last bit was just for fun). In case you’re wondering, yes a Smartie is more delicate than a phone or tablet. If that doesn’t convince you, it has also survived a 100 000 metre fall from space (watch the video) and won the Best Gadget at the Getaway Show this year. ‘Nuff said.
Release fee: R720
Find out more at G-form
11. Apex HD+ Snow Goggle
High definition, now
Sharing the thrills and spills of a skiing holiday takes on a whole new meaning with the Apex HD+. It is a Full HD video snow goggle with WiFi for live streaming to smartphones and tablets. With the camera lens positioned just above the eyes, the Apex captures true POV footage of everything you see. It features an adjustable camera lens with 30 degrees of tilt to dial in the best camera angle for your stance whether you snowboard, ski, or ride a snowmobile. You can download the the free Liquid Image app for iOS and Android and stream live view, view your photos and videos and use your smartphone as a remote control to activate the camera.
Release fee: R4 100.00
Find out more at Liquid Image
12. Google Glass
WWGD (what would Google do)
You’ve no doubt heard of Google Glass by now. It’s still limited to the developer crowd (the geeks that get the cool stuff before we do) but it’s already turning into a game changer that has the potential to alter travel – and life – as we know it (read: the future of travel looks exciting and stupid). These smart glasses push the boundaries of wearable technology by allowing owners to perform actions such as answer emails, take pictures, and translate text hands-free—all viewable on a micro-display. Searching Google while wearing the glasses is simple – just press and hold the touch pad and ask it. Walking around New York and want to know how tall the Empire State Building? It’s 443 metres. Google says so. Basically, you’re now your own tour guide. Want to know where to get a coffee? You guessed it. Actually, why am I telling you all this, when I can show, like Google would …
Release fee: R15 400
Find out more at Google Glass
First-world problem solver
In a clear case of what happens when you take the saying ‘food for thought’ too literally, Hapi has invented something completely useless to most of earth’s population. It’s a fork that counts each bite you take, tracks your average meal time, the number of bites per serving and the number of bites per meal. Using this information, it determines if you were overspeeding (the technical term for bringing the fork to your mouth too quickly). After each meal it syncs with a smartphone or computer app to track your eating habits. The idea (in case you haven’t figured it out) is to help you lose weight – if you’re shoveling food into your mouth too quickly, you’re more likely to overeat because you won’t feel yourself getting full. I wouldn’t be surprised, but ultimately saddened, to learn that it also posts Instagram pictures of your food, #calories.
Release fee: R1 020
Find out more at Hapi
15. Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Day Pack
Too big for its boots
This backpack packs down to the size of a keychain and weighs just 68 grams. Put it in your pocket, purse or luggage and you have an emergency backpack for wet clothes, more luggage (invariable when travelling with a girlfriend). Its simple, streamlined design makes it light and low-profile and the siliconised Cordura material gives it strength and durability. It’s perfect as a summit pack, or to carry groceries when on foot or on a bike.
Release fee: R299
Find out more at Cape Union Mart
17. Magneto pop-up lantern
The Magneto pop-up lantern is compact, good looking and functional. Three things our gear editor reckons is a must-have for a great travel light. Perfect for camping, hiking or to leave at your holiday home the Magneto pop up lantern folds down to the size of a small packet of peanuts and pops up into a bigger coffee cup-sized lantern.
Release fee: R89, 95
Find out more about the Magneto pop-up lantern here
18. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
I’ve purposefully steered clear of tablets and smartphones. There are so many out there and like anything that’s reaching market saturation, it’s all down to personal preference. However, when it comes to eReaders the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite shows that execution is just as important, if not more, as inundating a device with shiny things. The sixth generation model Kindle hasn’t jumped leaps and bounds from the previous version, it has simply been tweaked to provide a polished experience, the most important of which is reduced eye strain. It features 2GB on board storage, a 212 ppi resolution, a 25% faster processor and weighs 206 grams. The only downside is, it is rather expensive.
Release fee: R1 800
Find out more at Amazon
19. Power Monkey Explorer
Juiced up and ready to go
We travel with electronic devices more and more – GPS, cellphone, tablet, camera – and everything needs juice to work. The Power Monkey Explorer is just the guy for the job. It’s small and lightweight and can fire up your gadgets when no electricity outlet is available. It can be powered up in three different ways – solar power, USB port on your computer or plugged into the mains.
Release fee: R900
Find out more about the Power Monkey Explorer here
20. Balanzza Truco Travel Utility Carry On
Three in one, son
Balanzza loves luggage. They love it so much, they’ve turned one suitcase into three. The Balanzza Truco Travel Utility Carry On breaks down into three parts, making it easy to separate clothing and electronics while keeping them all together at the same time. The ability to organise your stuff gives travelling tech-heads extra flexibility, especially when prioritizing what you want to carry on.
Release fee: R2 000
Find out more at Balanzza
21. Hi-Fun Call Me Gloves
Talk to the hand
Yes, it’s borderline ridiculous to have an actual phone conversation with your hand (see main image) but if you give it some thought, these Bluetooth-enabled gloves could save your digits from turning into little pink popsicles when you need to answer your phone in the cold. The Hi-Fun gloves double as Bluetooth headsets (handsets?) with the speaker built into the thumb and the mic in the pinky. Pairing is simple, the button is built into the top of the glove, along with a button to end the call.
Release fee: R680
Find out more at Hi-Fun
22. Samsung 840 Pro Series SSD
Solid state drives are a must for the frequent traveller. Upgrading your main drive on a computer, especially a laptop, is not for the faint of heart. But Samsung‘s blazing fast, very dependable 840 Pro solid-state drive makes it worth it. Whether you’re on a Windows PC, Mac or Other, upgrading a traditional hard drive to an SSD means faster startups, quicker file transfers, a quieter machine and peace of mind the get-up and go traveller.
Release fee: R1 500
Find out more at Samsung
23. SpareOne Emergency Mobile Phone
One call to rule them all
The SpareOne Emergency Mobile Phone is the world’s only emergency mobile phone powered by a single AA Battery. The battery keeps its charge for up to 15 years and it can make emergency calls without a SIM card. With up to 10 hours of talk time you can use it for an entire trip or simply to have a really long chat to the emergency operator, should you so wish to kill some time while waiting for the rescue chopper. It’s waterproof, can withstand extreme temperatures and has a built-in flashlight. It’s basically MacGyver with a little battery.
Release fee: R850
Find out more at SpareOne
24. Everki Versa Premium checkpoint-friendly laptop backpack
Checkpoint crushing carry on
There are few things more daunting than running the gauntlet of airport security, it’s the ultimate test of human evolution (read: how airport security can save the human race). Aside from being tough as nails, featuring heavy-duty zips and a water resistant , ballistic-nylon (what is that, even?) outer shell, the Everki Versa Premium checkpoint-friendly laptop backpack has more pockets than you can hide a wholesale box of gum in. However, the Versa’s crowning glory is that you do not need to remove your laptop from it when passing through airport security. Simply unzip and lay completely flat for airport X-ray machines. This allows you to leave everything inside the Versa, which can help speed up those long security lines and put you firmly in front of the Homo erectus timeline.
Release fee: R2 000
Find out more at Everki
25. The world’s smallest roadworthy car
Take a ‘little’ road trip
This one is more ridiculous than cool. But, like last year’s exorbitantly priced flying Dr. Octopus Jetlev 200, it’s worth a mention. Someone, somewhere in the world (the United States of ‘Merica) has built the world’s smallest roadworthy car. It’s 63.5 cm high, 65.41 cm wide and 126.47 cm long. Most importantly, you can’t fit any luggage in it, so if you’re going on a road trip, it’s going to have to be the clothes-on-back type. It has been created with all the specs in accordance with the licence required to be driven on public roads with a speed limit of 40 km/h. The question is, ‘Just because it can, does it mean it should? Here’s the video below.
Release fee: tbc
Find out more about the world’s smallest roadworthy car here