Voltage Valet Travel Alarm Clock

As a frequent international travelers know, you cannot count on having a clock in hotels outside the US. Travel clocks are a dime-a-dozen, but the 2TS has one feature that makes it indispensable in my travels.

When I am time-shifted and my sleep patters are thrown, its important to be able to glance at a clock. The simple act of reaching to activate a backlight is enough to bring me to full consciousness, making it harder to get back to sleep. Reaching for my phone is worse; I’m likely to be distracted by messages that have piled up on the lock screen.

That’s where the T2S comes in. When you set the alarm, the LCD display remains constantly illuminated. With this unit, all I have to do is glance at it. If it’s still nighttime, I can easily drift back into slumber.

The light is just bright enough to make it readable, and dim enough that you can sleep facing it. It is powered by 3 AAA batteries, which the manufacturer says should last for 6 months of daily use. I use it far less than that, and replace the batteries once a year as a precaution.

I never leave the US without this clock!

-- Chris Adamson  

Voltage Valet 2TS LCD Travel Alarm Clock

Available from Amazon

3-Outlet AC Adapter

I travel for work with some combination of laptop, video camera, phone, tablet, audio recorder. For all their improvements, one thing that remains true when traveling with electronics is that they need power, whether constantly or occasionally in the form of a battery charge. Hotels or hostels (or, for that matter, a guest room at your cousin’s house or AirB&B host) don’t always have handy outlets for you to hook up a computer, a phone, a tablet, and a camera battery charger. Combining functions (for instance, using a smart phone as camera, computer and book reader) is admirable, good, and increasingly practical — but doesn’t work in every context for every person.

That’s why I used to often travel with a regular household multi-tap outlet, and then a cute wrap-around miniature one, which I thought and think is a great invention. However, I’ve recently upgraded — some would say down- or side-graded — to a smaller, lighter, cheaper multi-tap. It costs $8 (with free add-on-item shipping from Amazon), and weighs 90g vs. 165g for the four-outlet one it supplants for one-bag travel. Orange may be ugly, but it’s harder to forget. And with a multi-tap, no matter what kind, you can be a minor hero at a crowded airport by letting a few others charge up *their* laptops or phones when the too-few AC outlets are full: I’ve never been turned down when asking politely to share the wall, nor turned down someone who wants to use one of the outlets.

At coffee shops and other places with long-abused outlets, too, I find the sturdy 3-prong connection gives me a connection less likely to slip out of the wall. I also bring along a 3-to-2 prong “cheater,” for the increasingly rare times that only 2-prongs are available. With that, and a spare AC USB charger attached, I can avoid most minor charging hassles.

Two small caveats: 1) This doesn’t get you much *away* from the wall, so there’s only one spot for a fat wall wart; 2) compared to my wrap-around one, I now have 3 outlets rather than 4, but I find I can live with this just fine.

-- Timothy Lord  

3-Outlet Heavy-Duty Grounding Adapter

Available from Amazon

Chantal Stainless Steel Travel Mug

I have been using the Chantal travel mug for 6 months. The attribute that set it apart is that you can drink the liquid anywhere around the rim. Most, if not all, travel mugs have a single exit for the liquid. It is dishwasher safe, easy to disassemble and keeps the liquid at a consistent temperature for a long time.

-- Wayne Biermann  

Chantal Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Available from Amazon

Tabletote Plus

I’m an independent musician who does a lot of touring, and in order to turn a profit I have to travel light. I use a small table on stage for my equipment, but I often travel by plane so every pound and inch counts. Many times I’ve been foraging through a club before the show trying to find some kind of table because it’s often not feasible for me to bring my own.

For this purpose I recently purchased the Tabletote Plus, a table I can travel with that’s extremely light and entirely collapsible.

– The telescoping legs and attachments store underneath the table surface and can easily be stored in my backpack with plenty of space left over. I’ve never seen a table this tall fit into such a tight package. (Sharpie for size reference)


– The maximum height is 30″ which almost reaches my waist. They also have a taller version but this works for what I need it for.

– It even comes with little attachments for my beer and smartphone, as well as clips for holding up notes if I wanted.

– The cost won’t break the bank.

– The table is made entirely from plastic, the website says it can hold up to 18lbs, but I’d stay under 15lbs to be safe. On the plus side it makes it extremely light for traveling.

Tabletote Plus

Available from Amazon

pStyle Female Urination Device

I have used the pStyle female urination device for over two years. Initially you might think it is gross but I think it is fantastic and I’ll explain why. If you are a guy you have no right to judge or snicker since you don’t have to completely drop your pants to pee while out in the wilderness.The pStyle is a plastic trough that allows girls to pee standing up without dropping their pants.

I carry mine in a little mesh bag with a small squirt bottle of water for rinsing. I keep it in one of the side water bottle pouches on my backpack and one in my glove box.

  1. Before you say this is gross, remember urine is sterile (unless you have some nasty infection).
  2. Imagine not having to drop your pants to pee in the jungle, avoiding getting your butt bitten by insects in the process.
  3. You don’t have to go on a trek to find cover as far away just to pee. In many places cover doesn’t exist.
  4. They come in a rainbow of colors.
  5. You don’t need toilet paper to pee. When done you just pull it forward and out if your pants and it acts like a squeegee. Then you simply rinse with the little water bottle and put away. Your fingers never touch the pee or any nasty bits.
  6. Imagine not having to hold it for long periods for lack of privacy.
  7. You will finally really know how easy guys have it.
  8. You can now tell people “I just don’t pee, I pstyle!” Or “I’m stylin with my pstyle!”
  9. Two years ago a woman I was with on an Amazon trip fell in the river, pants down, trying to pee off the side of the boat. All could have been avoided with the pstyle.
  10. I’ve been doing field work/trips for a long time and just want to make you aware of a product I find very useful and wish I had discovered sooner.
  11. I have researched other types and styles of these devices and I think this is the best. Don’t bother with the other kinds (Go-girl, lady j, etc). They are too soft and flexible so you practically have to drop your pant to get them in place and use them anyway. For me its a p-style or nothing.

I am completely serious about how much I like the pstyle. I have given one to my sister and other field biologist friends and while skeptical at first, they love it after trying it in the field.

-- Margy Green  


Available from Amazon

5-Port USB Rapid Charger

On a recent vacation, my family brought along three mobile phones, an iPad, and two Kindles. Normally, we’d have plugged multiple chargers into all the available outlets in the hotel room. But this time I set up my Photive 25 Watt 5-Port USB Desktop Rapid Charger on the desk and it served as our central charging station. It’s convenient because the charging unit (attached to a 5 ft power cord) sits on a desk or table, so you can easily plug USB cables into it.

Each of the five ports is “intelligent,” which means it delivers the right amount of current to the device connected to it. All ports are rated at 2.1A.

It doesn’t have an LED to indicate that it is on, which I consider a feature, because I don’t like LEDs when I sleep.

When I’m not traveling, I use this as my desktop device charger.

The only reason I’d stop using it would be if I replaced it with the 50 Watt 6-Port USB Desktop Rapid Charger ($27).



-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Photive 25 Watt 5 Port USB Desktop Rapid Charger

Available from Amazon

Nite Ize Gear Tie

I saw these in a trekking shop in Kathmandu last March, then found the 6″ version here in Japan when I returned. I’ve tried any number of rubber bands, cheap twist ties, and clamps in an attempt to organize all the cords and cables for the electronics gear I travel with and nothing has come close to the convenience and heavy-duty feel of these rubberized gear ties. I immediately ordered an assortment pack of 3″, 6″, and 12″ ties in various colors. Since they hold their shape so well they can be used as makeshift phone and tablet stands, as well.

-- Steve Shucart  

Nite Ize Gear Tie – Assorted 16 Pack

Available from Amazon

Pick Pocket Proof Pants

Pants? A Cool Tools pants review? What could be so cool or notable about pants?

Nothing. Unless they are Pick Pocket Proof Pants by Clothing Arts.

The headline of these is that if you travel and are worried about pickpockets… these will protect you. A zipper and a button closure over the zipper on all the pockets. Things in your pockets just stay inside, so your phone won’t edge up and be left in a cab. Doing a handstand? Your change stays in.

But beyond that they are just brilliant pants. Truly well made, well constructed, comfortable can be moved in easily. And furthermore they laced with Teflon so you can’t stain them… even if you are a slob.

These pants will be your go to lower body covering garment of choice. Enjoy them and keep what should be in your pockets… in your pockets.

-- Matthew Stillman  

Manufactured by Clothing Arts

Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug

I bought my first Zojirushi stainless steel mug as a Christmas gift for my wife. She likes to take a lot of coffee with her to work for the day, typically filling both a travel mug and a thermos. I was looking for something that would keep a couple of servings of coffee hot for a long time, but would be easier to drink from than a traditional thermos. I came across this product, with extremely good reviews, and decided to get one for her to try.

After several months of daily use, my wife adores this travel mug. The finish is very durable; my wife’s mug looks like new after months of use. The lid both seals and locks into place when closed, and, when engaged, a secondary locking mechanism prevents the lid from being opened. This is ideal, allowing the user to put the mug into a bag without worrying it will pop open on its own. The lid can be disassembled into component pieces for easy cleaning. The only time the mug leaked was after a complete disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly. After re-orienting an incorrectly installed gasket, the integrity of the seal was restored.

Recently, when my wife was on spring break, I borrowed her Zojirushi to take to work. I was astounded with the performance of this mug and, frankly, jealous. The Zojirushi mug kept my coffee piping hot for over eight hours. I was so impressed, a bought a second mug for myself, which I now use daily.

A variety of colors are available, from the basic black and stainless finishes to blue, pink, and gold. This mug is available in two sizes, 12 and 16 ounces. The diameter of the mug is the same, so the sizes share the same lid, but the 16oz size is taller. The Zojirushi mug is on the expensive side, but I believe the quality more than justifies the price.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG Stainless Steel Mug, 16-Ounce

Available from Amazon

Kikkerland Universal Travel Adapter

I live on one side of the planet and work on the other. When I go on or come off work, I’m a couple of days in transit, meaning that 1) I need to charge my gadgets and 2) I need to be able to use a variety of outlets when I do it.

I’ve gone through a bunch of international adapters over the last few years. The cheap ones break or quit working. The pricier ones are clunky, and invariably get lost or stolen (everybody needs one, not everybody has one, and if you leave yours somewhere for two seconds somebody will walk off with it, guaranteed). All of them take up too much space in the bag.

I haven’t been using the Kikkerland UL03-A long — only a couple of months now, and I love it. I’m not alone: two of my co-workers saw it and immediately demanded to know what it was and where I got it. It doesn’t take three-prong plugs, only two-prong, but its design is pure genius. It’s not a wall wart. It’s surprisingly flat, and long. You pull it into two pieces and use its various bits to make an adaptor that will fit your socket. It works well and frees up tons of space in your bag. Great if you like to travel light.

Another in this design seems to be the Road Warrior, imported from Japan. I haven’t used one, but it does the same thing.

-- David Hines  

Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter

Available from Amazon