We’re well aware that there are a million and one articles out there on the topic of essential travel gadgets, and yet despite this we still feel we have something to add to this space. Rather than an exhaustive list of so called useful travel accessories that no traveller needs or could practically carry in their backpack, we’ve put together a stripped down list of only the very best.
Essential Travel Gadgets
These are all items that we actually carry with us and have tried and tested to exhaustion. Not only are they the best travel gadgets for backpackers, but they’re items that we’d recommend to anyone going overseas for any length of time. Here’s our list of electricals that are undeniably essential travel gadgets.
I’ve never really been what you’d call an everyday watch wearer (and considering I just made that phrase up, I’m not sure anyone is). But I have a couple of nice timepieces (which are now safely stored away) that I used to crack out every now and then if I was heading out for the evening, but they were more like items of jewellery than for serving any practical use.
The truth is, the rise of the smartphone killed any necessity I had for a watch, and even when I wore one I’d still use my phone to check the time out of habit. However, when you’re travelling to new places that you don’t know and aren’t completely confident about your security, you don’t want to be flashing an expensive smartphone, and even less a valuable Tag or Rolex.
So what’s the solution? A non-flashy watch of course. And when it comes to non-flashy watches, this classic stands out from the rest. The Casio-F91W is simple to operate, extremely reliable,water resistant, pretty cool looking in an old skool way, and yet so cheap that no one is ever going to attempt to steal it. The perfect travel watch and one of the very best travel gadgets for backpackers.
Whether it’s for something to do on long journeys, to keep you occupied while you’re chillaxing on the beach, or to get yourself to sleep at night after an exciting day, reading makes up part of most people’s travels. But no one wants to be dragging around a heavy library of hardbacks with them, or even a couple of paperbacks for that matter.
I’m a pretty prolific reader, and even to this day still attach some nostalgia to the feel, smell and romance of a physical paper book between my fingers. I once swore that I’d never get an ereader and persisted in buying “actual” books right up until we started travelling. But begrudgingly I have to admit, an ereader is the most practical solution and one of the most useful travel accessories if you love to read like me.
Sarah and I each have a Kindle, and though there are other ereaders available, we’d certainly recommend Kindles, largely because of the link to Amazon. It’s super simple to purchase and download books and they’re lightweight, easy on the eye (literally) and have great battery life.
We spend a lot of time listening to music, and because we both share similar musical tastes, it’s much more practical to listen to it on a speaker than on headphones. We’re not those people that blast it out during a bus journey or flight, but it’s definitely one of our essential travel gadgets for when we’re working in our hotel or apartment, at the beach or in the park.
While you definitely don’t want something massive that’s extremely heavy and bulky to carry around, there’s no point in having one if the sound quality isn’t good. Some of the smaller, cheaper ones you can purchase have a tinny quality to the sound, so it’s worth getting something substantial.
The UE Boom series are great as they’re designed for travel meaning they’re pretty indestructible. They’re even waterproof so you don’t have to worry about splashes when you’re at the beach or around the pool. Best of all the sound is great and the battery lasts for ages.
I tried travelling with a pair of headphones on a short trip to Sweden, but found them just too bulky and annoying. I didn’t want to put them in my bag in case they got beat up, which meant I had to wear them around my neck when we moved from place to place, which I hated.
Unlike with a speaker, earphones aren’t really worth spending a fortune on as they do tend to break, and because of their size are also easily lost. Finding the balance between good sound and reasonable cost is essential.
These earphones are my current favourites as they come with a range of interchangeable buds so you can find the perfect fit for your ears, they sound great and don’t break the bank either. They’re also durable and have lasted much longer than I would have expected.
This is one of the best travel gadgets for backpackers if you’re travelling with a friend or partner. Sarah and I like to listen to and watch things together on journeys either on our phones or on our tablet, so it’s the perfect solution.
Earphone splitters are also useful for when you go to museums which have expensive audio tours. The devices tend to have standard 3.5ml jacks which means you can take your own headphones and pay to hire a single audio guide rather than two.
We used to have a wire one, but it fell apart reasonably quickly at the connectors, so we opted for a solid version, which though there’s less flexibility, there’s also less opportunity for it to break.
Portable Charger Power Bank
There will come a time when you’re out and about and running low on juice but desperately need to charge your smartphone to find a location using Maps.me. Or so you can carry on listening to those tunes on that long boring bus journey. Or just to take a selfie of you on the beach to post to Insta.
Whatever, we’re not judging. The fact is that this one of the most useful travel accessories you’ll EVER get your hands on and could well end up saving your ass in many a situation.
We’ve been through a fair few of these as unfortunately some of the ones we’ve purchased haven’t lasted that long. We now travel with two, one large one with capacity for about 4 full phone charges, and one “lipstick” charger which will give one phone about a 70% re-up.
Surge Protecting Travel Adaptor
This is a newer addition to our essential travel gadgets and it’s an absolute necessity for us. Particularly as we travel with two laptops that would cost a small fortune to get fixed or replaced on the road, plus various other electrical gadgets, most listed here, which aren’t worth taking the risk with.
Even if it’s just your phone that you’re charging, you don’t want it to get frazzled by a sudden power surge, something that’s a not too uncommon occurrence in many of the countries we’ve visited.
This power adaptor comes with two plug sockets and four variable USB outlets that automatically identify whether the device you plug in charges fastest at 1.0A or 2.4A. At the wall end it has adaptors suitable for virtually every country in the world. Magic.
Multiple Charging Cables
Even though these electricals are the best of the best travel gadgets for backpackers, they’re essentially useless lumps of plastic without charge in them. We once met a girl in Colombia who literally had a day long meltdown when her phone charger got “borrowed” from her bed as it was the only one she had.
While I sympathised with the fact that it’s not nice when something of yours gets taken, I couldn’t help but wonder why you’d only have one charging cable? Cables are the easiest of things to misplace, and invariably they have short shelf lives when you travel.
We’ve tried all kinds of cables from the ones with metal casings to the retractable yo-yo style ones, both cheap and nasty and disproportionately expensive. They all break or get lost so the only solution is to get a good stock built up for when it happens.
We have at least 3 of each at all times and Amazon Basics are among the best quality we’ve come across. Oh and it’s a good idea to have at least one super long one because hotel and hostel designers consistently think it’s amusing to put plugs in the most inconvenient of locations.
Not gonna lie, I hate selfie sticks with a passion. But having said that, they’re undeniably one of the most useful travel accessories to have in your bag, particularly when you’re solo travelling or there’s no one around to take the perfect snap.
So despite my love hate relationship with these accessories that have been variously called the “wand of narcissism” and “a reason to despair of humanity”, I accept that they’re now considered one of the most essential travel gadgets.
We have tried a couple out including a jazzy bluetooth one, which despite the bonus of wirelessly pairing with your phone, was actually more of a pain than a benefit. So the one we now use is this very basic model which plugs into your headphone jack. Sometimes simple really is the best.
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