A few years ago it would have been unusual to see a backpacker with a mobile phone, nowadays the iPhone vies for space with the laptop and the gadgets carried by tech savvy travellers would have amazed the old guard.
Many hostels have free wifi as well as plenty of sockets for charging your kit, small safes just big enough for a laptop are commonplace in the more modern hostels. The gadget revolution has reached the lowly backpacker; let’s take a look in the rucksack of our global traveller.
1. Digital Camera
Gone are the days of film, well almost, the digital camera is one thing we are almost certain to see in a backpack. Its ease of use and mostly compact size means a 7 Mega Pixel camera can be picked off the shelf for under two hundred bucks and it can take fantastic photos, perfect for the snap happy traveller.
With many travellers having a keen interest in photography the higher end models are also seen around although being more conspicuous means a tighter hold of the strap.
2. Mobile Phone
Now this is a very cool backpacking gadget – the solar charger!
ET phone home! No longer having to line up for the payphone, struggle with change and undecipherable instructions the mobile phone has freed the traveller from all that stress. Now anxious parents can check on little Johnny wherever the bugger might be, boyfriends can text at the most inappropriate moments and its easy to call home for more cash!
The iPhone and some smartphones almost replace several gadgets at once, with built in GPS, music and video capability, wifi Internet, digital cameras and office software to name just a few features. Prices are coming down for all of these hi tech devices and in a few years we will be probably have them welded to our hands.
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Work on the go? I don’t think so. More and more we see laptops being carted around by backpackers, some the size of the desks they lived on. Do they serve a useful function? Possibly, however you are most likely to see Facebook up on the screen rather than a spreadsheet and ripped DVD’s playing to the crowd in the dorm.
The latest incarnation is the Netbook, a dinky sized laptop for around $300 that has either Linux or Windows running on it and can be carried comfortably in a small shoulder bag or even a larger purse. These mini laptops offer the advantage of longer battery life and won’t put your back out carrying it around all day. Ideal for emails and web browsing expect to see many more of these on your next road trip.
4. Solar Charger
Love this one, environmentally friendly a solar charger with multiple adapters means lazing on the beach gives you the added ability to charge up your mobile phone and never be out of touch. A good eight hours is needed for a full charge but this little darling will get you out of trouble when you need that extra jolt of juice.
5. iPod Shuffle
Laptops and Netbooks are small and lightweight for easy portability
Smaller than a piece of chocolate this iconic gadget is perfect for the beach and noisy room mates snoring all night. It is unobtrusive and the charge lasts for hours of play. Some aftermarket companies have waterproofed it so you can go swimming with sounds as well. Don’t forget to go for the waterproof earphones or you may have a short and soggy experience.
6. Personal Video Player
Can’t be bothered with a laptop, these small devices store thousands of songs or hundreds of videos, Archos and Creative are the big players with some models having a browser and wifi capability. Makes long distance train and bus travel a synch, just don’t forget your solar charger.
Going hiking? Driving a hire car in a strange country? A GPS device is wonderful gadget, with maps for all of Western Europe you can set your destination and have a sexy voice guide you along the way. Be careful and avoid the usual problems of non existent roads or driving into rivers and if you are hiking remember to look in front of you for very large gaps!
8. Universal Translator
As seen on CSI New York! Just speak a phrase or say a few words into the Electronic Translator and immediately it is translated and played out on speaker. The top of the lien model from iTravel runs at about a $1000 USD and is way out of the budget of all but the most trust funded traveller. It is amazing though how the low priced models will effortlessly translate and enable you to communicate in places that before required the mime skills of Charlie Chaplin