Virtually every week of my life I board a plane, and prior to doing so I face the same decision each time: which devices should I take? This quandary is easy to resolve if you’re not all that particular about your reading, exercise or other needs. For such people, a smartphone or tablet will take care of most everything you wouldn’t do with your laptop. But the more serious you get about some aspects of business travel, and particularly running and reading, the more it becomes impossible to go with just one gadget.
Quandary #1: Exercise
Exercise keeps me (mostly) sane while I’m on the road, and the right gadgetry makes it even more rewarding. And yet the same exercise equipment that keeps me fit also gives me fits as I’m starting to pack.
Why? Because while my iPhone comes stocked with apps to track my weight, jogs or rides, none of them are complete without solid GPS and a heart-rate monitor.
Sure, you can monitor your heart rate using the iPhone’s camera flash or simply by looking into the camera, but that doesn’t give you a continuous readout throughout a run. Real runners measure their heart rate with a dedicated strap that wirelessly connects to our Garmin or other watch.
See also: I Can Feel My Heart Beat (For The Very First Time)
Can you use such a strap with a smartphone? Yes, you can. But that also leaves you lugging around a relatively heavy phone, even if you strap it to your arm or belt it around your waist. I find both methods annoying because of the added weight and the difficulty of tracking splits, speed and more while running. I don’t want to have to contort my arm into bizarre positions in order to see my device’s screen while running.
As to those who protest that a smartphone serves double duty, given that it fuels a run or power-walk with music, I prefer to run without music or use an iPod Shuffle. Again, the emphasis for me, whether at home or on the road, is to trade off packing light for running light.
As such, the smartphone is out, and I’ve got a few more devices to stash in a bag.
I still struggle to bring my Garmin with me on short trips because of the cumbersome charging cable, which I either forget or blanch at having to pack. Ideally, exercise-watch manufacturers would standardize on a micro-USB charger, but that’s difficult because of the requirement for sweat resistance. A standardized cable would make taking my Garmin a no-brainer.
Quandary #2: Reading
I’ve covered this before, but I don’t know how anyone can read for long stretches of time on an iPad. (I presume the same is true of Android tablets, but don’t have one to compare.) As such, on every single trip I take—short or long—I bring my Kindle Paperwhite with me. I have three iPads and one Kindle Fire, but none of them ever leave my house. The Paperwhite, however, is my constant companion.
First and foremost, it’s amazingly easy on the eyes. On international flights I can read Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons for hours without my eyes taking the beating they get when I read on my other devices.
Equally important, no matter what the battery charge when I leave the house, it’s virtually guaranteed that my Paperwhite will keep going throughout my trip, no matter how long I read. My iPad can maybe go a day; the Paperwhite can keep me reading for weeks (if work ever allowed me to read that much).
Finally, my Kindle uses a standard micro-USB charging cable, whereas I’ve paid well over $100 on trips to replace my iPhone charging cables when I’ve inadvertently left one at home.
What Are Your Must-Pack Gadgets?
For most other needs, I’ve found my iPhone to be a very capable companion. Restaurant reservations? OpenTable on my phone. Need directions to Sullivan’s Bakery? Google Maps on my phone. And so on.
But for running and reading, I need a dedicated sports watch and a dedicated reader, and you may, too. It adds a little bulk and a little packing bother. But I find they’re worth it.
So I can get by on trips with my laptop, my iPhone, my heart-rate strap, my GPS watch, and my Kindle Paperwhite. Everything else stays home.
Having said that, I’m sure I’ve managed to offend someone above, and equally certain I’ve overlooked key travel needs you may have. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@mjasay).
Photos by Shutterstock and courtesy of Amazon and Garmin