The ingredients for an authentic far flung adventure include: an exotic location, many modes of transportation (bonus points if the roads are less-than-paved), and heaps of local cuisine (bonus points if you don’t know what you’re eating). But before you can let your hair down and enjoy, don’t forget to pack these gadgets; these are the things that will help you both enjoy, streamline, and journal the journey. Among the seven such products we’ve rounded up below, the shiny, new Olympus camera just happens to be one of several prizes in our incredible Taste of Vietnam Sweepstakes trip package. (Beyond the Olympus camera, the sweepstakes offers up a 10-day trip to Vietnam.) The other six will help ensure you’re tuned in and powered up, so you don’t miss a thing along the way.
1. Casio Pro Trek PRW2500
Why We Like It: Automatically calibrated up to six times a day, this multi-band atomic timepiece will keep you keenly aware of the precise time as you travel the world. But it’ll also display the temperature and atmospheric pressure, tell you your bearing, remember changes in altitude, and graph both moon and tidal info. It’s also tough and water-resistant to 200 meters. And its solar rechargeable battery can last from five to 23 months without further exposure to light, depending on the power saver settings. Wear it if you want to come off as a secret agent, meteorologist, very environmentally attuned traveler, or combination thereof.
How Much: $300
Buy It: Visit ShopCasio.com.
2. iTranslate app
Why We Like It: This free version of the popular translation app is loaded with features to help bridge the language gap in dozens of countries. It’ll recognize speech input in 16 languages and includes output voices for a handful more. So you can speak to your phone and have it speak back (in the desired language) and/or output text. For text to text translations, you (or someone you encounter in your travels) can type a phrase and it’ll automatically detect the language and translate it for you. The app also allows you to paste in text from your clipboard; see a history of translations; and save translations to your favorites, email, or tweet them. Inside the app, you can purchase additional voices and advanced features.
How Much: Free
3. Olympus PEN E-PM1
Why We Like It: This cool crossover camera blends many of the automatic features you’d expect in a compact with the manual control of an SLR. Its main body and included detachable lens are both relatively small as compared to a typical SLR, but not in a jeans front pocket-friendly way. It’s super speedy—Olympus claims it has the world’s fastest auto focus—and quickly recovers to capture additional shots. It shows you right on-screen how, as you make adjustments to the color saturation, background defocus, and other artsy effects, the shot will vary. It’s also very good in low-light, improved even further in near-dark conditions by the included flash that attaches on-the-fly to (or can be left out from) the accessory port. We don’t recommend the PENPAL Bluetooth Communication Unit ($80), which we tested with limited success. But it’s got some other advanced accessories that may be worthwhile. Although the panoramic function is tricky and disappointing, it’s packed with too many other smart, convenient, and advanced features to fully cover here. On the whole, they combine to make the PEN E-PM1—available in six colors—a strong choice when you’re ready to expand your digital travel photography horizons beyond the compact.
How Much: $400
Buy It: Visit OlympusAmerica.com.
4. GorillaPod Hybrid
Why We Like It: Although the original GorillaPod is still fine for smaller cameras, this Hybrid system can support three times the weight. That means it’s great for Micro Four Thirds cameras (like the aforementioned Olympus camera), as well as camcorders and super zooms. A clip that always stays connected to your camera makes it quick to attach/release to the super-bendy, rubberized, multi-jointed legs. Once those knobby legs are propped/wrapped securely, you can rotate and tilt the camera into position for that perfect shot.
How Much: $40
Buy It: Visit Joby.com.
5. Wicked Audio In-Ear Heist Earbuds
Why We Like It: For better or worse, earphones are a great way to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. For those times when you want to share your trip’s soundtrack, these buds feature a built-in jack. So you don’t have to fly solo. Your compadre can dial into your audio action. And if you need to take a call or go your separate musical ways, they can just as easily disconnect.
How Much: $30 retail (but $18 on Amazon)
Buy It: Visit Amazon.com.
6. myCharge Peak 6000
Why We Like It: This new rechargeable battery features built-in Apple and Micro-USB connectors, plus a full-size USB port. So you can charge tons of smartphones, tablets, and other devices, without worrying about losing random adapter tips along the way. To further its self-contained status, its fold-out prongs let you recharge the device itself by plugging it into an outlet. (Although it can power up multiple devices while plugged in, it can do so unplugged as well.) But given all this convenience and flexibility, what differentiates it most from other external power packs are its lingual skills: It can give vocal status alerts in four languages. Of course, you can always just get the power without the parlez.
How Much: $100
Buy It: Visit myCharge.com.
7. Conair Travel Smart All-in-One Adapter with USB
Why We Like It: This compact unit accepts the four most common plug configurations from around the world. With its built-in USB port, you can charge up to four mobile devices at once. (Although it doesn’t put out enough power for iPads.) Best of all, when plugging into far flung grids, it features protection from the kind of pesky electricity spikes that would otherwise fry your favorite gadgets. It’s definitely a handy adapter to bring along as you trot about the continents.
How Much: $30
Buy It: Visit Conair.com.
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: SureSource LLC; Sonico GmbH; Olympus America Inc.; JOBY, Inc.; Max Borges Agency; myCharge; CONAIR CORPORATION