Calling all digital nomads — you may not be wearing a dark suit, a tie and shiny shoes, but you’re out there with at least a full day of work to get done. Chances are that, more times than not, your workspace is a table at Starbucks, a hotel lobby couch or a client’s lunchroom. In other words, you labor where and when you can, without the kind of resources that a more office-bound employee can call upon.
As a result, your mobile gear has to be small, light and able to come through for you while making you look good. Regardless of whether it’s a Wi-Fi smart phone, a solar-powered battery or a portable printer, it has to get the job done without making you work up a sweat. After all, appearance counts for a lot these days.
Here are a dozen great gadgets that no self-respecting digital nomad will want to be without.
Print Shop to Go
Forget about waiting at a Kinkos to print out that hard-copy report. Planon’s Printstik PS910 is a go-anywhere print shop. At 1.5 pounds and powered by a lithium ion battery, the PS910 easily fits into a notebook bag, yet it can print from a smart phone, handheld or notebook, either through a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth. The US$300 printer uses thermal technology; a package of three rolls of thermal paper costs US$25. It means that you only get monochrome documents, but if you need a quick sales letter, a map or a proposal, this could be just the thing.
Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger
So much work, so few power outlets — it’s the nomad’s nightmare. Belkin’s Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger turns a single AC outlet into three, delivering electricity to you and those around you (sharing that outlet may get you good karma, or even a free latte). It also provides a pair of USB ports for charging phones, handhelds or media players. At 6 ounces, the Mini Surge Protector is worth its weight in batteries, and it rotates so that it won’t block the second outlet on the wall. The device costs US$25, but is well worth it — not the least because it carries a $75,000 warranty against damage from a power spike.
It may not be able to stop a coffee cup from tipping over, but Zagg’s InvisibleShield keyboard cover can keep a spill from turning into a digital disaster. Made of an ultrathin plastic film, the type-through cover keeps liquids, dust and who knows what else out of your notebook’s delicate keyboard. When it gets dirty, wipe it clean. The US$35 cover has been precision-cut for a wide variety of notebooks and comes with a lifetime guarantee not to scratch or wear out.
Lean, Green Machines
Solio Magnesium Edition and Voltaic Backpack
Why spend valuable work time searching in vain for an AC outlet when the sun can power your phone or other equipment? Solio’s Magnesium portable solar charger has three photovoltaic solar panels that slide out to provide up to 8 watts of power. It’s enough to provide 15 minutes of cell phone talk-time for every hour in the sun. Solio’s Magnesium charger comes with a USB tip and a coupon for another iGo power tip of your choice. If you’d rather simply power your backpack, you can go green for US$249 with Voltaic’s solar backpack. It puts out 4 watts of juice, has its own battery and comes with 11 power tips so it’s sure to fit your equipment.
Fellowes Monitor Filter
The Fellowes Monitor Filter is essential equipment for digital nomads trying to keep a secret. Regardless of whether it’s a spreadsheet for your company’s upcoming IPO or the private portion of a friend’s Facebook page, the filter will prevent those around you from seeing what’s on your screen. Only those looking straight at the screen can see anything, so digital Peeping Toms peering sideways over your shoulder will see only black. Available for 12.1- to 15.4-in. displays, the filter costs about US$35.
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