We share a lot of cool gadgets around here, but there are a few tech essentials we think should be in every geek's laptop bag. Here are the 9 coolest (and most useful) gadgets you should always have with you.
Photo remixed from an original by Kagaya.
9. Cable Shorteners
One of the biggest annoyances the travelling geek encounters is a tornado of tangled cables in her backpack. If you need to neatly organise your cables, grab some cable shorteners like the stylish, cheap Applecores. MacBook users will also love the Quirky PowerCurl wrapper for their AC adaptor (though make sure you're wrapping that cord correctly), and a simple binder clip makes a dandy headphone wrapper for the travelling music junkie.
8. A Space-Saving Wallet
Traditional wallets are big and bulky, and if yours is starting to (literally) burn a hole in your pocket, you have a few alternatives that can save you some space. You can go with something basic like the Storus Smart Clip or go with a wallet that combines itself with one of your other gadgets: like the wallet/notepad Pocket Briefcase, or wallet/iPhone case Cupcase. If you've got a bit more to spend, the BookBook is a very nice wallet/iPhone case combo as well.
7. A Thumb Drive For Your Key Chain
Thumb drives are great for all sorts of things. Whether you're carrying around a suite of portable apps or a full-fledged privacy toolkit, you probably carry one or two thumb drives with you at all times. Most thumb drives are pretty bulky though and can easily get lost if you don't have them on your keys. We love the LaCie iamaKey thumb drive: it's sturdy, thin, and fits right on your keychain with your other keys. Not to mention they're pretty cheap.
6. Touch Screen-Friendly Gloves
Using your smartphone or iPod can be near impossible during winter. While we're heading into summer now, consider investing in some capacitive gloves for next year. These gloves will let you use that touchscreen without sacrificing your hands to winter's bite. Many of these gloves look a little silly, but we're big fans of Agloves, and you can always make your own with a bit of conductive thread, if buying them doesn't suit you (though they're pretty inexpensive).
5. Mini USB Cables
While those cable shorteners can handle the long USB cables in your backpack, you can save yourself the hassle in a few cases by picking up these great mini cables from Griffin. They come in a few different popular flavours of USB (including one compatible with iOS devices), and are only a few inches long, so you can charge and sync on the go without any cable wrangling.
4. Lenses That Power Up Your Phone's Camera
The best camera is the one you have with you, and while you can carry an extra camera around with you, smartphone cameras have gotten good enough to use in most cases. However, if you want to make them a little better without carrying your DSLR with you everywhere, Photojojo has a trio of pretty awesome camera lenses that attach to your smartphone, including a 2x telephoto lens, a 180-degree fisheye lens and a 0.68x wide-angle lens you can also use for macro shots. And, while you're at it, you can brush up on a few tips to make sure you're getting the best possible photos out of that smartphone.
3. An Emergency Battery Charger
Nothing runs on good ol' AA batteries anymore, which means if you get caught in a bind and run out of battery, you have to plug your device into a wall. When you don't have a wall, there's the HyperJuice battery, which you can plug into your laptop, smartphone or other device to give it another charge.
You can also grab something like the Mophie case for your smartphone, which contains a built-in extended battery to keep power flowing to your device.
2. A 3G Or 4G Hotspot
Wi-Fi is nearly everywhere you go these days, but you don't want to rely on it for data connectivity — after all, there seems to be some law of physics that says it's never there when you need it most. If you've jailbroken your iPhone, you can use MyWi to tether it, or tether your Android phone with PDANet. Of course, tethering has its downsides, so be aware of those before you go that route.
1. The Grid-It Organiser
Arguably one of our favourite go bag accessories is the Grid-It organiser. It's essentially a woven grid of elastic bands that let you hold anything from cables to pens to phones to pretty much anything else on the above list. They come in all different shapes and sizes, some of which even include a little sleeve for your tablet or netbook. And, as it doesn't have any pockets designed for any one product, you can figure out a layout that works for your specific hodgepodge of cables and devices.
Many of these products can be found pretty cheaply on sites like staticICE, so be sure to do some Googling to find the best price before you buy.