The open road calls. And between camping, leaf-peeping, and trying to sneak in a last "late summer" outing, you've got plenty of ways to answer. When you do, consider packing these road trip-friendly gadgets. They'll keep you safe, powered up, and connected (to whatever degree you want).
1. Thermoelectric Travel Cooler Bag
Why We Like It: Ice is heavy and it melts. Two problems you can avoid with this portable carrier, which keeps your favorite yummy snacks and tasty beverages cool by plugging into your car's 12V socket. It's got both carrying handles and an extendable pull-handle and wheels, especially handy when its four external pockets and 32-liter insulated interior are filled to the brim. And best of all, when you're not using it, you can fold it flat. Now would be a good time to take a picture of your traditional plastic ice bucket, before it's completely covered in cobwebs in the garage...
How Much: $150
Buy It: Visit Brookstone.com.
2. SuperTooth Crystal
Why We Like It: This sleek and sophisticated speakerphone is a breeze to set-up. Once paired (to just one or two phones at once), it'll automatically reconnect to your phone(s) when it recognizes that you're back in the car (from the door closing). It can stream music or give you turn-by-turn directions. But its raison d'etre is letting you chat it up hands-free for up to 20 hours. When not enabling your chit chat, its battery (which you can check in your iPhone's status bar) is good for a couple of months on standby.
How Much: $69
Buy It: Visit SuperToothStore.com.
3. Gorillatorch Flare 125
Why We Like It: Other flashlights can't hold a candle to this super-versatile torch. Its grippy legs and magnetic feet allow it to perch just about anywhere in, on, around, or under your car. It's water and drop resistant. It features six light output settings, including white and red, solid and strobe, and a powerful focused beam that projects up to 90 feet away. Whether it's for safety, repairs, peace of mind, or catching the attention of passersby, this is the flashlight to always keep in your car.
How Much: $35
Buy It: Visit Joby.com.
4. Tylt Y-Charge
Why We Like It: A striking departure from the standard boring, black dual USB car charger, these bold, colorful, Y-shaped adapters are visually stimulating and totally useful. They pack enough power to rejuice either one tablet or two smaller devices (think thirsty smartphones). They're currently available in Hudson/Tech on the Go retail stores in airports and will be available through the Tylt site, Urban Outfitters, and the Sprint online/retail stores by the start of next month.
How Much: $30
Pre-Order It: Visit Tylt.com.
5. Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot
Why We Like It: How many devices might you and your troupe like to collectively have online wherever your road trip takes you? This mobile hotspot offers WiFi for up to eight at once. It provides 3G speeds via Sprint's nationwide network. And it's the first mobile hotspot capable of connecting to two different kinds of (speedier) 4G networks. So not only can you stay connected for simple email, browsing, and social network updates, but also (where 4G service is available) more media-intensive stuff like video chatting, streaming audio, and watching movies.
How Much: $350 (before 2-year agreement and mail-in rebate)
Buy It: Visit Shop.Sprint.com.
6. Magellan RoadMate 5265T-LMB
Why We Like It: This 5-inch touch screen navigational wonder does more than just give directions. It offers landmark-based guidance (telling you to turn right at the upcoming gas station, rather than just voicing the street name), warns you of upcoming traffic cameras, and reroutes you based on free lifetime traffic alerts. It also features free lifetime map updates, help locating parking garages, and integrated AAA Tourbook info on hotels and restaurants. Among its other great convenient features, Quickspell speeds you along in entering addresses and Junction View displays realistic looking road signs to help ensure you're in the correct lane. Also, a new Bluetooth feature gives you a safe way to text a prewritten message that you're driving. Plus, this gadget offers peace of mind in the other direction with compatibility to Magellan's wireless back-up camera accessory ($150, sold and installed separately).
How Much: $300
Buy It: Visit MagellanGPS.com.
7. Satechi Bluetooth Multi-Media Remote Control
Why We Like It: Control-freak drivers may not like this gadget pick, but where is it written that they get to control the car's multimedia anyway? This wireless remote allows anyone in the car to play DJ with the iPhone or iPad. It can activate Siri. It can take group pics with the driver included—instead of having to frantically run into frame after setting a self-timer. And just to make it even more useful—especially for those road trips that happen to be business trips—it can be used with Macs as a presenter.
How Much: $40
Buy It: Visit Satechi.net.
Fodors.com Travel Technology Columnist Scott Tharler is an expert in gadgets, gambling, and travel. He's written four books, plus hundreds of mobile and wireless tips for Sony and PC World. In addition to his daily Discovery News gadget blog, you can find links to other gadget articles, social feeds and lists of his current favorite gadgets at about.me/gadgetfans.
Photo credits: 1. Brookstone; 2. SureSource LLC; 3. JOBY, Inc.; 4. TYLT; 5. Sprint.com; 6. MiTAC International Corporation; 7. Satechi Store