The road warrior's essential mobile toolkit

If you spend more time with your smartphone and tablet than a computer, here's what you should have with you

road warrior toolkit introduction (2015 edition)

Tools for life on the road

You can do amazing stuff via smartphones and tablets, even when not in your office. But to tap their capabilities to the max, you'll need to pack peripherals. The following are my picks for what you need for your iOS and Android devices.

road warrior toolkit chargers and cables

Charger block and charge/sync cables

When traveling, bring one charge/sync cable for each device -- you never know when you need to juice more than one simultaneously. Retractable cables can save space, but they tend to break easily, so using rubber bands to corral traditional cables is a better idea.

In my backpack, I keep three charging/sync cables: one Lightning, one Dock, and one MicroUSB. That way, I can charge any device I may have -- as well as help out someone else who's in a pinch no matter what device they use.

Also bring a charger block that can power two devices; many do only one device, so you need more outlets and chargers. Be sure it supports tablets' higher wattage requirements on at least one port. If you rent cars a lot, get a second charger block that plugs into a cigarette lighter port. I like PowerGen's dual-port USB wall charger ($20) and its car charger ($30) due to their compact size, nice design, and reasonable prices.

I also now carry a portable rechargeable charger. You charge these via a USB cable, and thus have power ready should you not be near a wall outlet, such as on one of the many airlines and airport lobbies not yet providing in-seat power or at a conference room. I like the $18 PNY BD5200, which charges both tablets and smartphones (many of these portable chargers handle smartphones only). I also like the $39 credit-card-size TravelCard, but note that it doesn't charge tablets.

road warrior toolkit tablet cases

Protective cases, sleeves, and covers for tablets

Many kinds of protectors are available: sleeves, portfolios, cases, and covers. Choose one based on aesthetics and your usage patterns -- sleeves need to go somewhere while you work and are best suited as protection while in transit, for example.

I prefer the combination of a separate screen cover like the $39 Apple Smart Cover and a case, such as the $35 Speck Products' SmartShell, because I can put aside the cover while holding the iPad, reducing its weight. You won't find such magnetic covers for Android tablets, so your best option is a case designed for your specific model, such as the $60 Samsung Book Cover. (I'm not a fan of screen films, as they're typically messy and not durable.)

If you're a keyboarder, the $100 Logitech Ultrathin Case does a great job both as a keyboard and as a cover for your iPad. The company makes versions for various iPad models. It's hard to find an equivalent product in the Android universe, due to all the device differences, but Samsung makes a similar $150 keyboard cover for its Galaxy Tab S 10.1, which is the best Android tablet available today.

road warrior toolkit networking and Bluetooth

Networking and Bluetooth gear

The $100 HooToo TripMate Elite TM04 is great for hotels that don't have Wi-Fi but that have Ethernet jacks or charge per Wi-Fi device. Use it to connect all your devices via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. It can charge your smartphone or tablet as well, thanks to its rechargeable battery. Oh, and it can connect to USB storage devices, making them into wirelessly available "personal cloud" devices. What a useful combo!

Speaking of useful, the $25 Motorola Keylink is inspired. The Bluetooth key fob can find your misplaced smartphone or tablet -- and your mobile device can find the Keylink if you misplace your keys. With some Android devices running the new Lollipop OS, it can automatically unlock those devices rather than require a password.

road warrior toolkit audio cables

Audio cable

Although more and more cars support Bluetooth audio streaming or have a USB port for connecting a smartphone to a stereo, many -- especially rental cars -- do not. But they have an auxiliary port, so carry around a standard 3mm audio cable. You'll also want it when watching a movie on a hotel or other older TV via a VGA cable.

If you travel with a companion frequently, consider getting an audio splitter so that you can watch the same movie from one tablet.

road warrior toolkit audio headsets and speakers

Headphones and earbuds

For long plane rides, you'll no doubt want to listen to music or movies on your mobile device. Get a pair of good headphones if you travel a lot; unlike earbuds, they cut out a lot of the engine and cabin noise. I especially appreciate my $300 Bose QuietComfort 25 when going cross-country or overseas, although it's pricey and a bit bulky.

The rest of the time, keep a pair of good earbuds handy. Klipsch's R6i ($100) has very nice in-canal earbuds, with great sound. Though not as awesome in terms of audio quality, Apple's EarPods ($29) fit nicely if, like me, you don't like the kind of earbuds that insert into your ear canal.

Finally, if your travel involves long stays, you might invest in a portable Bluetooth speaker for those evenings in corporate housing or long-stay hotels. I really like the sound of the $200 Logitech Ulitmate Ears Boom, which comes in a variety of colors -- some so vibrant that you're not likely to leave it behind by accident.

road warrior toolkit video

Presentation gear

An iPad or iPhone is a great presentation device, thanks to the Keynote app and iOS's video-out and screen mirroring. You'll need a VGA adapter or HDMI adapter cable -- probably one of each. If you travel a lot, carry a $99 Apple TV for wireless presentations via HDMI displays, plus Kanex's $60 ATV Pro VGA adapter.

Some Android devices support video-out, through a MicroHDMI or MHL-enabled MicroUSB port, via an HDMI cable or MHL cable. Samsung has a MicroUSB-to-VGA adapter, as does iKross, as well as a MiniHDMI-to-VGA adapter. Too bad there's no widely supported Apple TV-like option yet, but maybe Google's Chromecast will get there this year.

road warrior toolkit camera gear

Camera gear

The iPhone and Android smartphones have become most people's digicams, thanks to their quality cameras. But SLRs remain critical for pros and many amateurs -- who like to transfer their photos to smartphones or tablets for image editing or simply to upload to Facebook or Flickr. Consider a phone-mountable SLR like the $500 Sony DSC-QX10.

Some Android devices come with MicroSD slots to ease such transfers. Otherwise, you'll need a MicroUSB cable that works with your camera or a card reader adapter to use various media cards.

For iPhones and iPads, you'll need an SD or MicroUSB adapter. For Lightning devices, Apple offers a separate SD card reader and MicroUSB adapter ($29 each). Apple's $29 Camera Connection Kit provides both for the old Dock connector. 

road warrior toolkit Bluetooth keyboards

Bluetooth keyboard

Some people hate the onscreen keyboard of a tablet or find it suffices for only short bursts of typing. The answer to that is a Bluetooth keyboard. You can use any Bluetooth keyboard with an iOS or Android device, but you'll prefer one designed for your OS to get its specific keys.

I like Logitech's $70 Tablet Keyboard (available for iOS and for Android). Many users love the $100 Zagg Keyboard Case for iPad. The $100 Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover also has fans raving, with versions for the iPad Mini, iPad Air, and older iPads. Then there's the well-regarded $100 Logitech KeyFolio Thin X3, with models for the iPad Air and iPad Air 2. It's sleek, and the iPad Air 2 model has a backlit keyboard. All these keyboards protect both the keys and your iPad's screen, and all work as a stand.

road warrior toolkit specialty devices

Specialty mobile hardware

People in certain professions can take advantage of specialty hardware for their work. iOS devices have the widest range of such options.

The Square Credit Card Reader lets retailers take card payments almost anywhere, from farmers markets to concerts. The magnetic-stripe-only version is free, but a chip-and-PIN version will be available this spring for $29. And the Epson Mobilink P60 lets retailers print receipts via Bluetooth. The $100 Automatic tracks your mileage, driving routes, and gas costs.

There's a wide range of iPad add-ons for musicians, from 1K Muktimedia's iRig MIDI connector to K&M's iPad holder for music stands. Ben Harvell's "Make Music with Your iPad" book tours the options.

Physicians and nurses might want AliveCor's Heart Monitor (which transmits its readings to an iPhone), the Withings blood pressure monitor, or the AgaMatrix glucose monitor.

road warrior toolkit home equipment

Mobile gear for home and office

When you are back at the office or at home, you'll no doubt still use your mobile devices. You'll want some mobile tools there, too.

Charging blocks are handy, but I also have installed Cooper Industries' $36 TR7745W USB-equipped power outlets near my desk and entryway for easy charging for my -- and my visitors' -- devices.

Lantronix's xPrintServer lets any iOS device print to almost any printer on the network. There are three models: small office/department ($150), home ($100), and large office ($200). There's also a $150 version for Google Cloud Print used by Android and Chrome OS, but be warned it can work only with one Google account, so it's not ideal in a multi-user environment.

You'll want an Apple TV ($99), Roku 3 ($99), or Chromecast ($35) to stream to your TV from, of course.

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