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Since many of you will soon be traveling for the holidays, now is a good time to talk about travel accessories. Actually, one travel accessory; the power strip. In conversations about essential travel gear, I often surprise people when I tell them that I travel with a power strip. I understand their doubts. Power strips can be bulky, and outlets are everywhere. Why bother with it?
You should bother with it, because even though it isn’t sexy, the humble power strip might be the best travel accessory available.
Power strips stretch your charging capability
When Clarissa and I travel together we end up with a lot of devices to charge. We each have a phone and a laptop. That’s four plugs already. Add on the charger for the camera battery, additional devices that we use for video, and any battery packs we may have already drained, and we’re often using six to eight outlets at a time.
Instead of spreading everything out across multiple outlets in multiple rooms or spending all day swapping out devices to charge, a power strip can make short work out of charging multiple devices at once. I understand that not everyone carries as many electronics as we do, but I don’t think carrying multiple devices is that uncommon these days, especially if you’re traveling for work.
A good power strip protects your devices.
When you’re shopping for the right power strip for electronic devices, what you really want is a surge protector. In fact, for the rest of this article understand that a “good” power strip is actually a surge protector.
This device will prevent power spikes from damaging your devices. These spikes are drastic increases of power that only last a fraction of a second and can seriously damage your electronics. How can you tell the difference between a power strip with or without surge protection? Look on the packaging or on the device itself for an electric rating. A surge protector should indicate the max voltage it can handle from a spike, and will likely have a Joules rating.
Since power spikes can also cause electronics to spark, your surge protector can also prevent electrical fires. Usually a surge protector only costs a few bucks more than a power strip without it, and it’s well worth it. Seriously, don’t fry your electronics or burn a place down. That’s bad mojo.
Nothing makes you more popular at a busy airport.
When I flew back from my Mount Whitney experience, the airports were pretty crowded. When my laptop started to die, I pulled my power strip out of my carry on and asked a fellow traveler if he would be willing to give up the power outlet that was charging his phone if I let him use one of the outlets in my strip. He laughed at me, then agreed. In about five minutes strangers’ chargers occupied every additional outlet in my power strip except one, and another traveler asked me if I would trade that last outlet for a Red Bull.
Of course I said yes. I mean, I would have without the Red Bull, but everyone knows that I love caffeinating myself. I don’t like airports much, but something as simple as a power strip makes the experience a little better, and helping out fellow travelers is part of membership in the adventure community.
You don’t need anything fancy.
You want to make sure your power strip is/has a surge protector, but beyond that you don’t need anything special. Now there are tons of strips with USB and other features, but none of that is necessary. You can snag a two-pack on Amazon for $11 that will do everything that you need.
You probably already have one sitting in your house already, but I like having one set aside for travel purposes so that I don’t have to unplug anything before I leave on a trip.
It’s not glamorous, but it doesn’t need to be.
I know that discussions of travel accessories tend to lean more towards cool new gear and the like, but while this isn’t flashy or glamorous, it is incredibly helpful. Yes, it takes up space in your luggage, but I find it helpful enough to justify its spot. Plus, if you find yourself strapped for space on your return, your power strip is inexpensive enough that you can always donate it to a fellow traveler without worrying about the cost.
What it lacks in coolness factor, it makes up for with utility. In my experience, the humble power strip makes for one hell of a travel accessory, and I recommend making it part of your travel kit. I think you’ll be glad that you did!