I've been traveling lately, and last week I posted 10 Guerilla Airline Travel Tips for the Geek-Minded Person. Next week I'm going to Seattle for the week and I really prefer to pack as light as possible. There's lots of tips on the net on how to squish your clothes (I use SpaceBags) and what luggage to use (I like half-sized wheeled totes) but what's really interesting to me is what gadgets and electronic equipment to pack that gives me the most functionality in the least space.
Here's what I'm packing for next week's trip:
Monster 4 Outlet Mini Power Strip - Ordinarily I dislike Monster's stuff because its's so expensive, but this little gem is only $12. Paul Mooney gave me one of these and I love it. It's got four-outlets and a small extension core. The cord wraps around and it plugs into itself for storage. As Paul says, "When you're at the airport and you're looking for a plug, you're pushy. If you show up with one of these, you'll make three new friends!" They're amazingly useful when plugged into those lamps with outlets at the hotel.
Kensington 33117 International All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter - I love this plug. We took it all over Africa and Europe and it hasn't failed me yet. It even has a spare fuse inside. This plug is all-in-one with no pieces to lose. The plug tips are all stored inside and slide in and out. Use it along with the mini-power strip above and suddenly you've got four US power plugs. It doesn't convert voltage, but most electronic device adapters will convert voltage for you.
Maxtor 250 GB OneTouch 4 Mini Portable Hard Drive - I've recently started doing all my presentations using Virtual Machines on this little drive. It's a great drive because it doesn't require external power, rather it uses a double USB cable to draw power. I have six VMs on this drive.
Kensington K33197 120W Auto/Air Ultra Portable Notebook PC Power Adapter - This has replaced all my power bricks. It powers my PSP, iPod, anything USB, nearly any notebook, phone, digital camera. It'll even charge one high-power (laptop) and one low-power (phone) device at once with the Y-adapter. The brick is also about half the size of whatever came with your laptop. It's creepy small.
USB 2.0 A/Mini-B Cable (Black)- You literally can't have enough tiny USB cables. They are good for charging things, tethering with your SmartPhone for Internet access, or connecting to a portable hard drive. I keep at least four in my bag.
Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator - There just isn't a better GPS for your dollar than the Garmin Nuvi 250. I paid twice this and it was still worth it. The feature I like the most is that it speaks the street names using text-to-speech. The interface is clean and easy to use, and it has a mode for walking/hiking which is great around unknown cities. As an aside, it's got an SD Card slot, supports Audible audio-books, it's a passable MP3 player. It also charges via Tiny USB!
Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 Win USB - Don't listen to the low Amazon Reviews on this one. The early drivers sucked and the LifeCam software is a little "meh." However, the secret to this webcam is a Driver Only install. I use it in 64-bit Vista and do 640x480 high-res video calls with the family whenever I'm on the road, using the Skype Hi-Res Hack.
Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 - I've tried every little notebook mouse/usb dongle combo there is. Some have hidden USB receivers, some recess in the bottom, etc. This mouse has both a dongle, but also bluetooth. I've left the dongle at home and I just have to turn this mouse on and since I paired it once with my laptop, it just works. One less thing to sweat. Plus, it's a presenter mouse, so you just flip it over and it has a laser pointer, on screen magnifier, and Presentation Forward/Back buttons. It lets me move more freely when presenting, and my recent Mix presentation was better for it.
HTC S620 PDA Black Smartphone (Unlocked, Intl. Version) - I've got an HTC Excalibur unlocked phone that's hooked up to Cingular/AT&T. The best think I ever did was turn on unlimited data. Now I can use "Internet Sharing" with Windows Mobile. I can "tether" the laptop and the SmartPhone with two clicks, using either Bluetooth or USB (I use USB as it charges the phone also) and I've got pretty decent speed Internet (25k/sec) pretty much anywhere largish in the US. When I find a Wi-Fi hotspot that wants to charge me money, bam, I bust out the phone. I've found myself using public Wi-Fi less and less, as it's really dodgy in both reliability and speed, and just going with the slower, but always available AT&T Edge network. Both Gmail and Outlook notice when they are on slow connections and will adjust. Also, I don't need to carry around (or pay for) a Network Aircard for the laptop.
Amazon Kindle - It's official, I loves my Amazon Kindle (my review). Sure, it's ugly. But it works. I don't have to sync it. I hate having one more thing to sync to some other thing. If it works wirelessly and I don't have to push any buttons, I like it. The Kindle delivers me the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post, every day (or week, for Newsweek) and it just works. I've added a 2gig SD Card and put all my Audible books on it. I've got a dozen books, many free. The one caveat so far, I have had the battery run down over a few day period and the battery go dead when the wireless has been left on and constantly updates blogs, so I've started turning it all the way off at night and charging it like a cell phone. However, with wireless off, it'll go for 1000+ page turns before running down, plus it'll trickle charge from tiny USB.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.