Sat Nav Smartphone: 6 Hacks Travellers Need To Know

Exploring a new country used to be a euphemism for “getting lost.” Today, it’s easy to maintain your course thanks to your smartphone. By opening Google Maps or any other navigation app, you can plot your route and arrive with time to spare. Although this might be less exciting and adventurous, it does negate the inevitable awkward conversations with locals. How do you say “where’s the nearest tube stop,” again?

Still, turning your handset into a makeshift satellite navigation system isn’t as straightforward as it appears. It’s a walk in the park at home, but it’s a different story abroad. After all, your phone might not be optimised for travelling. If it isn’t, you could pay a flat fee in foreign roaming charges, and they’re not cheap. Also, don’t forget about the lack of WiFi in far-flung places. Not everywhere is a big city with the most recent, up to date amenities.

To use your smartphone as a sat-nav abroad, you’ve got to think about the common issues to prepare it beforehand. There are plenty of ways to do it, but the easiest and less stressful methods are underneath. Follow these tips and your phone will be a Godsend on any trip regardless of the location.

Turn On Data Roaming

The first step is to switch on data roaming in your settings. This feature is the thing that stops your phone from working abroad as it does at home. Flick it from “off” to “on” and you’ll instantly connect to the local phone supplier. As long as you have signal, your mobile data should work as per usual, meaning you can open Google Maps without having to register for WiFi.

Playing around with your device is a simple way to find what you are looking for if you haven’t done it before. However, it’s also a surefire way to change settings that you want to keep the same, which is potentially problematic. Because every handset is different, it’s essential to Google yours and follow expert advice from bloggers and websites. The likes of Which? always have excellent troubleshooting posts. However, if you’re searching for varied information, this Gadget Cover article is perfect.

After all, you never know the consequences of turning on the data roaming function on your mobile. So, it’s good to listen to or read expert advice in case you need to perform an essential task that you’re unaware of, no matter how easy it sounds.

Switch Phone Supplier

The reason you might want to research data roaming is the price. When you go abroad, the rates sometimes double and triple, costing you a fortune if you use your phone a lot. Considering you’re going to be in new locations the majority of the time, it’s safe to say you will want to keep your phone handy to ensure you don’t get lost. While switching suppliers can be a hassle some job, it’s also necessary if yours doesn’t let you use your plan abroad as it does at home.

That’s the key – to make sure your package is inclusive regardless of your location. 3 is a company that’s well-known for this, but they aren’t the only ones. Smarty are also happy to help you turn your phone into a sat-nav on your travels. Plus, a Smarty SIM only data plan means you don’t have to overspend if you don’t have any intentions to send messages. Alternatively, it’s not hard to pick up a cheap, local SIM when you arrive and top it up with cash when it runs out of money.

Whichever option is the most suitable is fine. Just make sure you understand the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.

Plan Your Trip In Advance

Sometimes, it’s not easy to use your phone even when you have enough data or a local SIM. Depending on the service, a handset can be about as much help as a chocolate fireguard! When you’re in the middle of a huge city and don’t know where to turn, it can be scary and daunting. Therefore, it’s imperative to plan your trip when you have a signal and internet connection.

That way, you can keep the street names in your head and memorise the route. If your memory isn’t what it was, there’s nothing wrong with writing down the journey in the ‘notes’ section of your phone. Then, you can cross-reference your location with Google Maps and the ‘notes’ app. However, it isn’t always necessary. A cool feature of Maps is that it keeps the blue line visible if you’ve recently planned your route. So, it might guide you from A to B regardless of whether the app is online or offline.

At least with prior planning, you can prevent poor performance once you leave the hostel or hotel.

Stop Off For WiFi

The fantastic thing about modern countries is that WiFi is everywhere. Whether it’s a coffee shop or a park square, there is usually a connection to piggyback off and re-evaluate. By doing this, you can decide whether you’re on the right track, and plan new journeys if you’ve got time to spare. Let’s face it – it’s not as if you won’t want a drink and a bite to eat at some point during the day.

However, public WiFi is riskier than it appears. Because it’s not private, hackers can access the server and see everything you’re doing. You might not think this is a big deal when you’re on Google Maps, but it is when they can continue spying after you log out. Who knows what they’ll see when you’re back at the digs checking your budget or purchasing stuff online. Thankfully, a VPN will ping your IP address across several locations so that nobody knows where you are, or what connection you’re using.

As a result, you won’t be a target as hackers won’t notice that your connection is public. VPNs cost a couple of pounds per month, depending on the company, so it’s a tool worth considering if you plan on using public WiFi regularly.

Purge Your Data

Whatever application you use, there is usually an option that lets you download the map offline. By doing this, you can bring it up and plan your journeys accordingly. There’s no need for an internet connection; as long as you have your phone, it’s ready to use as a sat-nav. This Keep Go list of the best navigation apps for travelling should come in handy at some point.

Unfortunately, it’s not a feasible option for lots of travellers as there is never enough free storage on modern phones. Most of them are packed with “essential” apps that you won’t want to uninstall, which means downloading a map is off the agenda. After all, they take up big chunks of storage space. But, if you’re ready to purge your data, you could have a safety net for any destination on the planet. All it takes is to be logical and less uptight about your apps. Do you use it often? If you don’t, then it can go and free up room.

Even if you do rely on an application, it might not have to be on your smartphone. Tablets are mobile devices with much more memory, making them perfect alternatives. A tip: segment your apps. Then, you can keep the travel stuff on your phone and the banking ones on your iPad.

Rely On GPS

Please don’t read through this and assume that you’re up a proverbial creek without a paddle. Just because none of these hacks applies to you at the moment doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. Sure, switching supplier is difficult when you’re stuck with a long-term contract, and a local SIM won’t work if the handset is locked. Of course, deleting apps isn’t going to work if you already have the bare minimum on your mobile.

Still, GPS is a feature of all modern phones, and it has nothing to do with any of the above. As long as you have navigation software on your phone, which you should with Google Maps, the GPS will show you where you are and where to go next. Press the small arrow button at the bottom of the page and wait for a blue, pulsing dot to appear. Okay, it won’t advise you on stuff such as which bus or train to catch, but it will get you to the station. Once you are there, you can ask for help as most transport links employ English-speakers.

So, no matter how lost you think you are, GPS on your phone will always point you in the right direction. It’s a lifesaver.

Is There Anything Else?

Yes. A battery pack isn’t a feature of satellite navigation systems, but yours won’t work if it doesn’t have power. Therefore, you will want to carry a fully-charged remote charger in case your phone runs out of juice. It’s not funny how many travellers forget to take one and then can’t rely on the last resort: GPS.

How is Technology Helping Make Travelling More Convenient?

Whether we can’t get enough of technology or we find that it’s the enemy of the new world, there’s no denying that it has changed how the world works. Today, technology makes everything easily accessible with just a click of a button in any field or industry and traveling and tourism is no different.

Who doesn’t love to travel? Any seasoned traveler will tell you that taking a trip heals the soul and ignites the passion of loving life. If you follow any Instagram travel account, you will witness an abundance of stunning photos all around the globe. And that’s just the thing. Technology, social media, and smartphones have made travelling so simple that it’s easy to document every step you take. We uncover the ways technology has made traveling more convenient.

It Makes Booking Easy

Anything can be booked online these days; with an array of websites and apps at our disposal, it’s a wonder we’re not traveling every weekend! Nowadays, you can easily book a suitable hotel room, your flight tickets, and even your airport parking spot for when you leave your car. All bookings are fast, affordable, and can be amended any time you please; according to the folks at Parkos.com, you can get the best deals just by booking online that has up to a 24-hours cancellation option, free of charge. You can even book your tours, concerts, or events you wish to attend at your destination online.

It’s Makes Traveling Affordable

Because we have access to anything online, we can also compare prices throughout the many online booking platforms. You can compare different flight fees, hotel rooms, and transportation options. It’s also a chance to make use of last-minute deals on some websites. Many of these platforms aim at providing you the cheapest way to travel.

It’s Easier to Plan a Trip

Long gone are the days when you had to find brochures or buy heavy guide books on the destination you’d like to visit. Now, there are blogs, travel websites, or even social media accounts dedicated to providing in-depth reviews and guides on many destinations. You can easily look up whichever country you’d like to visit, and you’ll find out where to stay, what to eat, what mannerisms to adopt, what their culture is like, how to move around, and so on. This helps you drastically in planning your itinerary down to the last detail.

It Allows You to Always Be Connected

As mentioned above, there are a lot of travel Instagram accounts where travelers post fun information and gorgeous pictures daily. Using a smartphone while traveling has made it easier to take instant pictures, capture beautiful moments, and post immediately. You can also film something interesting in real-time and allow your friends to live vicariously through you. Always being connected is also great to keep in touch with your loved ones; you’ll be able to contact them through video chat or phone calls even when you’re miles away! We’ve got to hand it to technology for keeping us in the loop.

It’s Eco-Friendly

If used right, using technology can be extremely environment-friendly. Basically, it means you’ll use less paper or documents and will only use virtual, digital, and online documents through your smartphone or tablet. No need any more for paper airplane tickets as everything can be digital. You can check-in online, have e-tickets, and online reservation e-mails. This, of course, saves a lot of hassle of carrying around documents that you might lose, and it saves the environment!

It Provides Instant Finds

Even with all the planning, there are times when we’re in a new city, and we need something urgent like a ride or a bite to eat. A ton of apps were created to establish a smoother trip for you and your travel buddies. You can easily look up sightseeing options close to you, nearby must-try restaurants; you can navigate yourself to wherever you want with online maps, or even book yourself a car for transportation. Everything is made easy.

You Can Even Work

For business travelers, it’s often a hassle to stay in touch with business back home. However, technology has made it super easy to always stay connected with your work, no matter where you go. You can travel the globe attending conferences, meetings, or any business-related event and bring your work with you. It’s like you’ve never left your office; you can catch up on emails, make video conference calls, and follow-up on any task.

Travelling is now one of the easiest things you can do thanks to technology. The world is just at our fingertips as we have access to anything from online bookings, travel guides, connecting with our loved ones, or even our work. Our world may feel like it’s too large, but the digital age has made it not only accessible but tiny and easily explored as well.

These Are the Top Brand Watches in the World

As is the case with most products on the market, not all models and types of watches are of the same quality and prestige. Top brands always combine only the most impressive craftsmanship with the utmost style and aesthetics. The results are breathtakingly beautiful watches, with unbelievable prices. In this article, we will go over several of the top brand pieces available. Moreover you can also find online shops in different countries like if you want to find watch shop in Japan you can easily check just on click.

Audemars Piguet

This company was established in 1875 by Edward-Auguste Piguet and Jules-Louis Audemars. They make 36,000 amazing timepieces each year, and their watch movements are used by both Tiffany & Co and Bulgari. The luxury watch brand is credited for making the first steel luxury sports piece in the world, which was the Royal Oak in 1972. Then in 1993, they made the first oversized watch, the Royal Oak Offshore. As you can see, this brand loves to set standards in the industry.

 

Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest manufacturers of expensive luxury watches in the world. The company was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in Geneva, Switzerland, all the way back in 1755. The brand of fine watches is one of the members of the Richemont Group, and their products truly reflect their centuries old heritage. Their craftsmen utilize precise detailing alongside the traditional shapes and styling of them, and they are truly unique. Many famous and legendary historical figures have worn their models, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Harry Truman, and Pope Pius IX.

Patek Philippe

Patek Phillipe & Co is a Swizz luxury brand that was founded in 1851, and their forte is dealing with rather complicated mechanics and a traditional style. These watches are some of the biggest status symbols available, and throughout history, many members of royalty have worn their pieces. They are true art, and their inspiringly classic and unique designs are well recognized around the world. The brand is very consistent with their marketing and promotional campaigns, and are as famous as ever.

Blancpain

This brand is a subsidiary of the Swatch Group, and like most high-end brands, they were found centuries ago, in 1735. They have gone under major developments and their growth was thriving during the whole of the 19th century. They are constantly updating and modernizingtheir production, and tend to come up with major innovationswith their great watches. The company has a wide range of different types, including both minimalistic and elaborately pieces.

Rolex

Rolex is arguably the most identifiable brand of luxury watches. The manufacturer is an internationally acclaimed and coveted by the society as a status symbol, and the watch to have if you make it big. Their timeless form and function are legendary, and they have been ever present in popular culture. This British brand is always represented with the consistently classic designs they come up with. Forbes recognizes the product maker on their list of the most powerful global brands in the world. In addition, Rolex is the largest luxury watch brand when it comes to numbers, as they produce 2,000 pieces each day.

Best travel hair dryers for different types of hair

Its not easy keeping your hair in check while you travel, am I right?

Best travel hair dryersYou have your own routine when it comes to taming your hair and travel often messes up that routine (and your hair-do!)

Its not always practical to carry around your beloved hair-dryer that you use back home, and its confusing as hell to pick the right travel hair dryer for your crazy curls or untameable locks!

So I’ve put together what I think are the best travel hair dryers of 2020.

My best travel hair dryers

These are the latest and greatest travel blow dryers that are portable and travel friendly in one way or another. I will keep this list updated as I conduct more travel hair dryer reviews.

I’ve included travel blow dryers of different features, sizes and budgets so you have a good range to pick from.

Powerful – Remington PRO Ultra lightweight

First I have to mention my favourite at the moment. This beast packs an impressive 2300 watt motor which means its hot and powerful! It gets up to temperature instantly and has a number of speed and heat settings. If you’re like me you’re constantly playing around with the controls for different parts of your hair and different levels of moisture.

Best travel blow dryersOne of the greatest things about this is it weighs so little! Seriously its so light it that it adds hardly any weight to your luggage whether you’re packing a full suitcase or just a carry on. While the handle doesn’t fold like some of the best travel hair dryers its weight and power make up for it massively.

Its also very quiet thanks to its high quality fan which means it wont wake up the entire building like some cheap blow dryers do. In fact its so quiet its up to 50 quieter than standard Remington models. Full product details are here.

Its often hard to reach sockets when you’re travelling, sometimes the electrical outlet isn’t anywhere near a mirror or bathroom, but this hair dryer has an extra long cable which I found so useful!

I especially liked the “cool shot” feature which essentially means you can cut off the heat instantly by holding down a button on the handle.

This gives a quick sharp blast of cold air to your hair which helps set it in place. Let go of the button and you’re instantly back to hot air. I’ve never owned a blow dryer that could do this before and was sceptical it would make a difference but I have to say it really does seem to work.

Lastly one very cool feature that makes it extra useful for travel is the Ionic conditioner which essentially ionises the air as its blasted out, this helps dry your hair quicker, perfect for speeding up your preparation for the day or a big night out in a new city!

  • Lightweight yet salon quality
  • Quiet yet powerful
  • Great features and controls

Check here for the latest price

 


Best controls – Beurer Style Pro HC25UK a

This one features in my best travel hair dryer list for a number of reasons. I’m fussy when it comes to features and either love a dryer or don’t get on with it almost instantly. I’m happy to say this little beauty was a dream to try out on one of our recent trips.

best travel hair dryerIts lightweight without feeling to flimsy, weighing more than the Remington but definitely less than a standard hair dryer I use at home.

The folding handle means you can fit this blow dryer in to an even smaller space. Its a shame it doesn’t come with a little bag to keep it and the cable neatly together but its easy to wrap the cable around the device to keep it all snug and tidy in your suitcase.

Read the full product details here.

It has a 1600 watt output which while lower than the Remington is still a respectable amount for a travel hair dryer.

One of the neatest features is you can use it in countries that are 110V rather than 240V.

So this is places like North America, Taiwan, Panama, Honduras and Barbados. All you need to do is adjust the voltage control on the bottom of the device with something like a knife or screwdriver, or in my case I used the handle of my nail clippers.

There’s 2 heat levels and 2 fan speeds so a bit less control than the Remington but enough to get the job done. There’s also a cold setting of course but this is a normal on / off switch rather than “cold shot”. So not quite so easy to control but what you lose in controls you gain in portability. I found the controls to be quite fiddly when compared to more expensive hair dryers, so you get what you pay for!

Still this is a great little blow dryer, perfect for travel, powerful enough to get the job done and reduces the need for a power converter which is super handy. You will still need a plug adapter though as it usually comes with a UK plug.

  • Super portable with a folding handle
  • Works with both 110v and 240v
  • Lightweight
  • Great durable build quality

Check for the latest prices here


Best results – Dyson Supersonic™ Fuchsia Hair Dryer

Could this be the best hair dryer in the world? Well its certainly touted as one and the price would suggest so. Still I was very excited to be able to review this as Dyson is a name you come to expect with high quality products.

This hair dry looks nothing like any of the others and there’s good reason for that. The Supersonic uses Dyson’s own “digital motor” technology which means the motor is actually in the handle. The rest of the dryer is shaped to suck in air and blast it out towards you with precision. Because the motor is out of the way there’s no need for a suction filter to stop wayward hairs getting sucked in an creating that awful burning smell you sometimes get with blow dryers.

Best hair dryers for vacation

It certainly looks futuristic and I love the pink accents too.

It is by no means the lightest of the hair dryers I’m reviewing. a full 0.7kg in weight which is fairly bulky but its compact size means it’ll take up less space in your suitcase. The added weight is all thanks to the advanced technology built inside. Even though it weighed more it actually felt lighter.

I know that sounds odd but its all to do with the shape. Standard dryers feel front heavy so you tend to lean them back in your hand to compensate. With the Dyson hair dryer its perfectly balanced so you’ll find you hold it slightly differently.

And wow it really does kick out some air with that tech too. A very different motor whine compared to a normal hair dryer, its one of the quietest hair dryers I tested but that little fan is spinning some 110,000 times a minute!

Read all the product features and prices here.

Because of its shape and the way you hold it I found the controls were a little bit more fiddly than they maybe could have been. Controls are usually where you’d place your thumb but with this hair dyer the buttons are a lot smaller so you find yourself hunting around for them.  I’m sure I would get used to it in time.

This was the only travel hair dryers I reviewed that came with its own travel carry case and I loved that!

Its great to keep the nozzles and device all in one handy carry case so I’m not hunting around for them in my bag. It also helped to keep the cord nice and neat.

The attachments were some of the best I’ve ever tried too. I even let my girlfriends have a go with a few that suited their hair types. The diffuser was fantastic for my curls and considering the power output of this thing it did one of the best jobs, almost salon quality I’d say. The “Smoothing nozzle” was great for my friend’s long straight hair while the “Styling concentrator” did just that, focussing the blast of hot air at just the right section of hair.

There’s 3 speed settings and 4 heat settings with precise temperatures at each. a huge 100C at the top level which I never dared go near with my hair, 80C which is “regular” while the lower levels are for gentle drying and what they call “constant cold” which is really 28C.

Its the first dryer I’ve used where I was told to ignore the wattage which is 1600W. The heat and air throughput was fair better than blow dryers that use another 600 watts or more.

It has the Ionic conditioner built in of course and feels very solid, rugged and portable. Definitely the best hair dryer I’ve tried in a long time but with a price tag to match.

  • Very quiet and VERY powerful
  • Futuristic design and amazing build quality
  • Great range of controls
  • Comes with a travel bag!
  • Balances very well in your hand
  • Expensive but worth every penny!

For the latest price check here


Yours Professional Hair Dryer 2300W LED Temperature Display

Here’s a brand I hadn’t heard of before but was offered a review of and was pleasantly surprised!

Yours Professional Hair Dryer 2300WFirstly you can’t fail to notice the temperature digital LED display on the side of the hair dryer. For the OCD in me this was great to see. Depending on the thickness and wetness of your hair you should adjust the temperature to avoid over-drying.

There’s 3 heat settings on this dryer and 2 fan speeds. I found myself using only the lower 2 heat settings the most and adjusting fan speed up and down depending on where I was drying and how wet my hair was. Occasionally I’d check to see what the temperature was too, OK I got a little obsessed with that! Its like living in the future!!!

See the full product description here.

While this doesn’t have a foldable handle it is very lightweight and small compared to salon quality hair dryers, yet it still packs an awesome punch with a 2300 watt motor which means quicker drying times. Essential when you’re travelling!

One of the greatest features was its super long cable at a whopping 3 metres!

This was brilliant for using almost anywhere in my hotel room even if the socket was miles away from the mirror (why do hotels do that!?!). There’s also a handy loop at the base of the handle which I used a few times during my travels.

While its not a brand I’ve used before I’ll certainly be considering in the future.

  • Powerful yet small
  • Futuristic temperature display
  • Great controls
  • Very long power cable which is perfect for travel!

Check the latest price here


BaByliss Travel 2000W Hair Dryer

I’ve long been a fan of BaByliss products, having owned one of their larger hair dryers for years. They are known for producing good quality reliable hair dryers so I was keen to see what their travel baby could do.

BaByliss Travel 2000WFirstly a mention about power, I really wasn’t expecting such awesome power from such a small and compact hair dryer. Its build for portability but sure does pack some heat! A whopping 2100 watts which is a lot for a device of this size.

It also has an iconic conditioner which is a must really. It dries my hair in no time and helps to tame my wayward curls, no mean feat I can tell you. It also has a temperature control sensor keeping it at a steady 70C on full power. More than enough to get the job done quickly.

This baby BaByliss hair dryer has 3 heat controls and 2 speed controls, I actually rarely used the top 2 heat controls as the lowest setting was enough for me. I found the controls a little fiddly at times which may be why I didn’t use them all that much. But its so powerful that my hair was dry in no time and it really wasn’t an issue.

You can see more produce details here.

The “Curl enhancing large diffuser” was quite impressive. I usually don’t get on with diffusers as they have a habit of falling off the hair dryer. This is often because the plastic contracts with the heat loses grip on the diffuser. Not so with this little hair dryer.

This is probably the first travel hair dryer I’ve used that never let me down with the diffuser.

Good budget hair dryer

With its folding handle and super light weight body (Just 0.4kg) it felt so small and easy to carry. While the cable isn’t particularly long (1.9m) it did the job and for its size delivered a lot more than I expected.

BaByliss sure do know how to make a good hair dryer!

  • Super powerful for its size
  • Very travel friendly, lightweight and portable
  • A diffuser that actually stays on
  • Great build quality you’d expect from Babyliss

Check the latest prices here


Budget hair dryer – Red Hot Benross Compact 1200W

Maybe it was the “cool red” colour that made me try this one. Maybe it was the budget price (Around £10 in the UK). Either way I was keen to see what all the fuss was about with the Benross travel dryer.

cheapest hair dryer for travelThis is definitely in the “budget” category as you wont find all the bells and whistles of the hair dryers I’ve mentioned above. Still if you’re looking for something super simple and small then this is worth checking out.

Its one of the lightest hair dryers I’ve tested weighing little over 0.4kg which is partly thanks to its small size and partly the shorter power cable at 1.75 metres. Either way its very compact and light which is great for any trip overseas. It definitely wont be using up much of your baggage allowance.

Its so small at just 12cm by 16cm by 18cm, perfect if you’ve just got a carry-on case or small backpack.

With 1200 watts of power its considerably less than some hair dryers but still gets the job done. I find with under-powered hair dryers I have to move them around more aggressively. Less power doesn’t mean less heat, it usually means less wind so keeping it still for longer could over-dry your hair.

You can view the product in more detail here.

There’s 2 speed settings on this and no heat settings. So this is really is your basic model, but it functioned just fine and once you get used to its heat and air flow it does a decent enough job.

One great feature is its dual-voltage, just grab a penny and switch it from 240v to 110v. This really is a great little trick to have as it means it’ll work perfectly in whatever country you visit.

Cheapest travel hair dryer

One interesting quirk is that it has a built in over-heat safety system which you’re likely to encounter sooner or later. Because its less powerful it takes longer to dry your hair. This means after around 2 minutes the hair dryer will become quite hot and eventually shut down to avoid overheating. Its actually a good thing as it’ll last longer, you just need to wait a few seconds before you can turn it back on and continue.

  • The lightest and smallest
  • very cheap price with basic functions
  • Dual voltage for use in any country

Check out the latest prices here


More of the best travel blow dryers added soon

I’ll be reviewing more over the next few months and will add the best of them to this list. If you recommend any particular model do share it with me in the comments below.

What to read now?

Why not check out my Travel beauty essentials list or my useful packing tips for beach holidays.

TEP Wireless rental

Product review: Mobile wifi while you travel with TEP…

I’ll be the first to admit my life is well and truly plugged in to the internet. Or more accurately it’s wirelessly connected to it. I couldn’t live without my smartphone, my laptop, my tablet and a whole host of other wireless ready devices. For me a big part of why I travel is because I love to collect the memories and I’m sure you probably love to take photos and videos while you’re on the road and share them with your friends back home. Wifi in hostels and hotels is now a must for many and I’m definitely one of them! But what do you do when you’re not at your hotel? You can get a local SIM card for your phone but this can often be a hassle and often impossible if your smartphone is locked to your phone network back home. Thankfully there’s a rather smart solution that we’ve been invited to test out.

TEP Wireless

wifi dongle rentalTheir premise is pretty simple. Rent a device from TEP Wireless for the duration of your trip that gives you a wifi access point to connect to. The device has a SIM card already in it for the destinations you’re travelling to. You just turn it on and connect up to 5 devices to it at any one time. There’s no need to get SIMs for all your devices or worry about when you’ll next be near a wifi hotspot. You’ll have an internet connection in your pocket whenever you’re out and about. Perfect if you’re blogging on a train, or sharing photos with your friends while you wander around a beautiful temple. Maybe at a festival in some foreign country or exploring the streets of a city you’ve always wanted to visit. So we put it to the test while out and about.

What you get

Once you’ve placed your order the device will arrive in the post. All boxed up and contained within a toughened pouch to keep it safe. Inside I found a small black device made by HUAWEI, this is the mobile wifi device which is pretty simple to use. Just push the power button and it gets to work, connecting to a mobile phone network and creating a wifi network for you to connect to. In the pack there’s also a spare battery, a USB cable and a mains power charger, mine came with adapters for the countries I was visiting. There’s also some instructions from TEP and a handy returns envelope that’s pre-paid.

Using the device

There’s just one button on the wifi device so it’s pretty straight forward what I had to do to get it working. Push the power button and wait patiently for it to start up. There’s 4 icons on its display that light up when things are happening. One for the mobile signal strength, one for wifi enabled, one for battery and another which is an icon of an envelope, presumably to do with the device getting a text message which shouldn’t happen during normal use. Just a standard feature of the device.

When I first turned the device on it only worked for about a minute before the device seemed to shut down, a flashing battery light indicating the battery clearly needed charging. I tried the spare battery and had the same issue, I thought this was unusual and eventually discovered the device goes in to standby mode when not in use. A flashing battery light lets you know its still operating. This wasn’t made very clear so if your device does this its probably just on standby. Each battery offers about 5 hours of wifi use which may not sound much but this device is designed to be used when no other wifi connection is available. With 2 batteries giving you 10 hours that should be more than enough between access to charging points. You can also power it straight from your laptop for a quick boost.

TEP Wireless product review

Connecting to the device is super-easy. Just browse for wifi networks on your phone, tablet or laptop. The wifi network name is on a sticker on the back of the device. Enter the password that’s also there and you’ll soon be connected. You can then open up a browser or an app and start using the internet. Very simple and it could easily handle 5 devices no problem. One issue I had was that there was no way to tell how fast a mobile connection you had. When I first tried it there was clearly no 3G signal as browsing was very slow. So be warned if you’re out in rural areas where mobile transmitters are few and far between, you may get slow or potentially non-existent browsing speeds. In urban areas I found 3G without a problem. This isn’t a limitation of the device, I’d have the same problem with my mobile phone.

One thing I would highly recommend is shutting down any apps on your laptop that you know connect to the internet. Just use one app at a time. So if you want to surf the net be sure that things like Skype, DropBox, Mail and software update checkers are all disabled. Otherwise these apps will all try to connect at once and slow down your browsing experience massively. They’ll also munch through your data allowance like there’s no tomorrow! When you place your order you can choose between 100MB allowance per day, more than enough for most people, or unlimited data, perfect for those that need to work and access the internet a lot.

Conclusion

TEP Wireless rental

TEP Wireless is a great end-to-end service. Very easy to order my rental for the country I wanted and easy to extend my rental period if I wanted to by simply contacting TEP customer service. The device worked almost perfectly out of the box, if it wasn’t for the need to charge the batteries before I left. Out on the road I was really impressed how well it handled multiple devices and without any need for me to set things up, other than to connect the devices via wifi. Connection speeds were great in urban areas but patchy elsewhere, to be expected for a mobile network signal. Returning the device is easy too, just pop it in the pre-paid envelope and post it back or you can even drop it off at designated points. In the UK this is Heathrow airport and Paddington Station in London.

I’d recommend TEP Wireless if you have an addiction to staying connected when you’re travelling, I know I do. It’s a lot easier than getting multiple SIM cards and offers internet access for those non-mobile devices like laptops, cameras and tablets. Great for long train journeys and easy access when you’re out an about.

You can find more information at tepwireless.com and you can also chat to them on Twitter and Facebook if you need any assistance. It’s a pretty simple service to understand and considering the connectivity it gives you, it’s pretty good value for money.

Guerrilla Backpack Daypack and laptop-Bag

Review of the Guerrilla backpack and daypack

Article written by Randy Kalp. Photos by Bethany Salvon.

Guerrilla Backpack Daypack and laptop-BagLet’s be honest, I am a traveler who does very minimal day hikes. So why then would I take a pack designed for the backcountry to Europe’s concrete jungles? Well, it’s simple really, I had no other choice, until San Francisco-based Guerrilla Packs came on the scene and introduced the world’s first and only adventure packs.

Spend a few hours in your local outdoor store and you’ll find a dozen bags, most if not all, lacking the full-spectrum design needed for the modern traveler.  You’ll likely find one backpack that does this and another that does that, but no one pack that does it all. Guerrilla Packs Voltij fills this void perfectly by melding the best qualities of hiking backpacks with intuitive features designed for the globetrotting traveler who takes their electronics with them.

Front view of Voltij without detachable dayback. Rear View of the Voltij showing full adjustable Tech-Fit system.

First and foremost, the Voltij fits like dream. Because it’s fully adjustable, I was able to tweak the pack easily to fit my body. The aluminum internal frame is covered with diamond

Guerrilla Daypack

patterned non-rip industrial light weight polyester and nylon. The Voltij features three loading points—top, front and bottom—and is H20 hydration pack compatible. And because the company operates on a factory direct model with a few select retailers, they are able to sell their packs for up to 50 percent below market rates.  The Voltij, for example, costs $149, which is like getting a Cadillac for the price of a Yugo.

The expandable and detachable Cadet daypack with built in laptop sleeve (Note: The laptop sleeve in this bag is separate from the Tracker, shown below.

 

The detachable Tracker Laptop bag. This bag has clips so that it can clip into the Voltij (not the daypack) and stay in place and it also comes with a shoulder strap so you can take it with you seperately.

Guerrilla Laptop Bag review

Like many of the bags in Guerrilla Pack’s Adventure Line, the 65 liter Voltij is a hybrid backpack, meaning it breaks down into several different and independent products, kind of like a Swiss Army knife for your back. For example, the internal frame backpack is 55 liters; however, an easily detachable 10 liter daypack—the Cadet—gives you some extra packing space while functioning as an expanding daypack that features a padded laptop sleeve and an organization pocket. It also features hanging clips on the shoulder straps that enable the bag to be clipped to the shoulder straps of the Voltij while you are wearing it – making it a perfect combination for travel days. Additionally, the Voltij also comes equipped with the Tracker, a padded laptop sleeve located inside the pack, which can be removed with the snap of a buckle and used as an independent shoulder messenger bag.

Guerrilla BackpackOne of my biggest gripes with hiking backpacks is the lack of pockets. I loved them on my replica Michael Jackson jacket in the 1980s and I need them on my bags and luggage. I’m happy to report that the Voltij as well as its amigos, the Cadet and Tracker, are loaded with lots of pockets. The Voltij features intuitive pockets that range from small to large, making it easy to carry everything from your passport to sleeping bag.

Fully functional thermometer and compass are included on the waist belt of the backpack. They are removable and  come with a clasp so you can attach them to any other bag in the set or even your belt loops. The Voltij system comes with the rainfly so you don’t have to buy it extra!

Guerrilla Thermometer and Compass

And if all these aforementioned features weren’t enough, Guerrilla Packs out does itself by including a removable compass and thermometer on the hip strap as well as rainfly that tucks nicely into its own pocket on the bottom of the bag (this pocket, even with the rainfly in it, could also double as a great stash spot for valuables).

After spending time with the Voltij, I couldn’t agree more with Guerrilla Packs assessment that it is the “backpackers backpack.” The company has successfully created a pack that is viable for backcountry hiking as well as world travel, subsequently bringing the backpack into the 21st century.

Guerrilla Backpack blogger reviewGuerrilla Backpack

Randy shown with the Voltij. Detachable dayback comes with clips so that it can be worn 2 ways – attached to the bag (photo 1) or clipped onto the front straps of the main pack (photo 2) for a hands-free system that saves your shoulders two sets of backpack straps)