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Tech Tips: Key Tech to Make Nomadic Life Easier

Since you can only carry so much stuff, nomadic life can be carefree and easy. But the stuff that you do pack, especially tech gear, needs to work well and make your life as painless as possible. The tech you deem essential versus a luxury depends on the work you do on the road, where you travel, and how frequently you need to repack and move. Here are a few items that make nomadic life technologically a little bit smoother.

Working on the road means sacrifice. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

Quick Tips

Every nomad has a few tech tricks up her sleeve. Metal cables withstand the rigours of travel better than plastic, and having an extra on hand can save the day until you’re near a store again. Noise-cancelling earbuds, like those from Etymotic, come recommended. Duplication takes up too much weight, but an extra pair of earbuds is useful. Bring a power strip so you can charge everything with just one international plug adapter.

HDMI Streaming Stick

Nomadic life means sacrificing comforts like big TV screens in favour of watching movies on your tablet or even your phone. What luxury, though, when you’ve secured a house sitting gig with a large television and a cuddly couch to curl up on. But what happens when you sit down to discover there’s no subscription to Netflix, Amazon or any of your other services?

No need to revert to your laptop if you keep the Roku Streaming Stick, a $50 finger-sized device, in your bag. Insert the stick into the TV’s HDMI port, link to wifi, and you have access to all the same subscription and free services you watch from your laptop or tablet -- Netflix, Google Play, YouTube, Crackle, Reuters TV, Canal Latino, AlJazeera and hundreds more. While Roku comes with a remote, just download the free app to turn your phone into a remote, so there’s even less to pack. It’s so tiny, though, be sure you don’t leave it behind when it’s time to move on.

Use Roku to watch what you want on someone else’s big screen. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net


Another great tool for watching TV on the go through your laptop or tablet is a VPN. The Opera browser has a built-in VPN which disguises the country you’re in as well as protects your banking and credit card data. It’s wise to have a few VPNs on your devices for use on public wifi, since not every VPN works in every country. TunnelBear is effective, cute and easy to use. It gives you 500 MB of free data per month, with an extra 1 GB if you post a tweet.

Portable Second Monitor

Depending on the work you do, a second monitor can make you so much more efficient. A tablet will work if you just want the second screen to view a different window or program, but if you’re working with a big spreadsheet or a design project you might want more. The ASUS MB168B is currently billed as “the world’s slimmest and lightest USB monitor”. Connect it via just one cable to your laptop and your work space grows by another 15.6 inches. It adds just 800 grams to your bag and comes with a protective case which doubles as a stand.

A light second screen is the only kind for a nomad. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

Portable Battery

Unless your phone is brand new, it likely doesn’t hold a charge for a full day of use. Portable batteries are becoming an almost essential addition to a day bag. If size matters, consider the tiny Travel Card. It’s the size and thickness of three credit cards stacked together and has built-in cables. It only gives your phone an extra 30 to 50% charge, but you won’t even notice you’re carrying it. Still small but more powerful are the Mophie Powerstation models which provide multiple charges and can charge two devices at the same time. Or, try the ZILU Smart Power; it’s as small as a fun-sized chocolate bar and can charge a phone once or maybe twice before it needs recharging itself. The RavPower Bank can charge both your phone and your tablet.

Using your phone constantly sucks the battery. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

Leef Mobile Memory

You’re out on the adventure of a lifetime and your phone or your GoPro tells you its full. Again. You could start weeding through old photos trying to remember what you’ve backed up or deciding what can be deleted to make room. Or, just copy your data onto a Leef Mobile Memory stick. The small Leef iBridge 3 Mobile Memory, for example, has a curved lightning connector which works on iphones and ipads. The USB 3.1 on the other end fits both Apple and non-Apple computers, making it easy to transfer files across platforms too. Store your music and movies on the Leef device to save space on your phone or tablet. You can even capture photos and videos directly onto it.

Mobile Hotspots

Reliable and private internet is essential for almost all nomads. Putting a local SIM card in your unlocked phone will create one, but will drain your battery and can only connect a couple devices at a time. You might prefer a dedicated device. Pick one based on your personal needs -- speed, size, battery life, convenience or cost. Good options include the Huawei E5786S, the Netgear Unite Explore 815S, and the GlocalMe G3. Use the data package or a local SIM card depending on cost and ease of access.

Kobo E-reader

While Kindle is popular, some Amazon competitors have great products -- perhaps try a Kobo Aura H2O instead. You guessed it by the name -- this Kobo is waterproof for up to an hour in two metres of water, so if you drop it in the pool, ocean or bathtub there’s no need to panic. You can read your book in comfort in direct sunlight thanks to the anti-glare display. It’s even possible to keep the charger buried at the bottom of your bag because the Kobo Aura H2O can go weeks without a charge. There’s 8 GB of storage too; that's about 6000 books.

Schlepping your Stuff

Padded protective cases take up too much space in a nomad’s bag. Unless you’re very accident-prone or regularly rattling around in donkey carts, better to keep your tech gear slim and light. Your laptop, tablet, camera and other gear will likely receive adequate protection from the main bag you keep them in if you remember to pack them tight and treat your bag with care. Put a piece of clothing in the bottom of your bag for a bit of extra protection.

If you’re travelling in high humidity, it can be useful to store your gear in a lightweight dry bag. But there’s no need for a thick rubber pouch; Muji, for example, makes a thin nylon bag which will keep tech safe from a rainstorm or accidental splash. Keep some silica gel packets inside too to draw moisture out of your gear.

What do you bring in your bag? Did you start with some tech gear that you initially thought was essential, but ended up leaving it behind because it wasn’t as useful as you thought? We’d love to hear your recommendations. Looking for more? Too Many Adapters is a great resource for travel tech information.

Author Bio

Johanna Read

Johanna Read is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food and responsible tourism. She travels to four to six continents annually, and especially likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. She writes freelance for publications like USA Today, Fodor’s and Canadian Traveller. Follow her on social media (Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna). Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.

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