No matter how far technology advances, we’re always looking for a way to make traveling easier, more fun, or more comfortable. Every year, a whole wave of travel gadgets hits the market promising to do just that, and 2018 was no exception.
For the purposes of this award, we sought out gadgets that aim to solve a travel problem and came up with a long list of products that vary in price, size, and use case. We evaluated each one based on usefulness, value, durability, and whether or not it solves the problem it claims to solve. The following products earned top marks across all categories.
Editor’s note: For the latest version of this story, see The Best New Travel Tech 2019.
Gold: Steam Clip
The smallest and most affordable of all the products we reviewed, the Steam Clip took gold, not just for being the most innovative travel gadget to come out this year, but also because it’s one that every traveler can make use of. This 3D-printed gadget is a portable hook that lets you hang your garments in your hotel bathroom to let the steam from your shower release wrinkles. It’s designed to hold every type of hanger (even those awkward ball-shaped ones you’ll find at some hotels).
In addition to using the Steam Clip to steam your wrinkled clothes, you can also use it in other common travel situations. With a design that hooks onto just about anything, the Steam Clip can come in handy whether you need to hang your jacket in a bathroom stall or keep your bag off a dirty restaurant floor. It can also be used as a bottle opener, a thread and tag cutter, and a smartphone stand. Because it’s so inexpensive, there’s no reason not to keep the Steam Clip in your carry-on when you travel, especially if you often travel for business. It’s light, it’s cheap, and you never know when it will come in handy.
Silver: myCharge AdventureUltra
External batteries have become an essential tool for travelers as technology becomes a more integral part of our lives, but often they’re just not powerful enough to do the job. In comes the AdventureUltra, a super charger that’s taking home the silver. With 134000mAh, this external battery is strong enough to power a 32-inch LED television for up to three hours. On top of that, it has two USB ports and one AC power port.
This is a great external battery for most of your devices, but note that it won’t be able to charge larger electronics that require more than 45 watts. Basically, it can charge your MacBook Air, but not your MacBook Pro. Still, it’s a powerful charger that can be used on a multi-day camping trip or as a backup during long travel days. It’s a little bit heavy, but durable enough to stand up to the elements. If you’re unsure whether you’ll have access to power wherever you’re going, the AdventureUltra is a powerful external battery you can count on to keep your phone and other small devices charged.
Bronze: Ricoh Theta V
In third place, we’ve selected a 360-degree camera that makes things easy. The Ricoh Theta V is the perfect way to capture your travels from all angles with the click of a button. Lightweight, slim, and incredibly easy to use, this is a great starter camera for anyone who wants to experiment with 360-degree photography without sacrificing image quality. It can shoot video in 4K, and images come out crisp and clear. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable 360 cameras available right now. Between the price, portability, and ease of use, this camera will change how you take photographs.
Finalist: Spot X
For peace of mind on remote hikes, the Spot X is a two-way communication device that lets you text your family and friends and lets them text you back without relying on a cell phone network. With a mobile plan that starts at $14.95 per month, every Spot X comes with its own phone number that will help you stay in touch even when you’re off the grid. The device even features an SOS button that will send your coordinates to the closest emergency rescue teams.
This new eye mask assists upright sleepers in coach class. With sturdy straps designed to be secured to the headrest of an airplane seat, Seatdreamzzz holds your head in place while shutting out light. Made of thick and comfortable material, this new sleep solution for long flights is sturdy and works well to support your head while you try to sleep.
Finalist: Nima Peanut Sensor
For travelers with peanut allergies, the Nima Peanut Sensor is a useful tool to help you test food for trace amounts of peanuts. You insert a small amount of food into the test capsule, and within a few moments the sensor can tell you if any peanuts were present.
Finalist: SiOnyx Aurora
The SiOnyx Aurora is a night-vision camera that shoots in color and produces photos and videos that are surprisingly high-quality considering its small and portable size. Not just a gimmick, this camera is also a great action camera that’s water-resistant and sturdy. It’s the perfect companion to capture moments on a camping trip or any other occasion where low light might be an issue.
Finalist: LARQ Bottle
For a water bottle that purifies on the go, try the LARQ Bottle. It uses UV light to eliminate bacteria and viruses from your water, without affecting taste. It’s a stylish bottle with a minimalistic design. The UV light is located in the cap, which is rechargeable and automatically turns on every two hours, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to purify your drinking water.
Finalist: Osmo Mobile
To prevent shaky videos, the Osmo Mobile is a stabilizer built for your phone. For anyone who uses their phone to film video while traveling, this is a great way to take smoother and more cinematic-looking videos. With a long-lasting battery that charges your phone on the go, a high-performing gimbal mechanism, and a sturdy build, this is one of the best stabilizers you can buy for your phone.
Finalist: Skyroam Solis
With the Skyroam Solis, travelers don’t have to worry about searching for Wi-Fi—instead, they can take it with them. Taking the guesswork out of traveling, this hotspot is reliable and portable. On top of that, the Solis also doubles as an external battery so you can charge your phone while you browse the web. If you are only traveling for a short period of time, you can rent the Solis instead of buying it.
Finalist: HP Sprocket
The HP Sprocket is a pocket-size photo printer that does more than just print photos straight from your phone. It also incorporates augmented reality into every photo, so you can even print videos. Using the app, hover your phone over the photo and you’ll not only see your videos play back, but also information about where the photograph was taken. It’s a fun gadget for enriching your travel memories.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Editors’ Choice Product Awards 2018
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Travel Shoes for Men
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Travel Shoes for Women
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Travel Pillow
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Carry-on Bag
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Packing Accessory
- Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Travel Backpack
Editor’s Note: Some products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.