Recommended Travel Gear

Last updated: January 2015

I’ve been basically living out of a carry-on for ten years, and learned to live with just bare essentials. I also obsessively analyze product reviews for my more sober work over at, so I’ve got a more than few strong opinions about what is the best gear. Voilà my recommendations for tipsy roaming/living. The links allow me to whore myself to that dear, convenient Amazon; for those in the United States, purchasing anything on their site after clicking these links will help make this website a slightly less unprofitable time drain.

The Absolute Best Tiny Bluetooth Speaker for Bringing the Party Anywhere

The UE Boom is small enough to slide into a coat pocket, and loud enough to power a beach party. It’s lovely to be able to carry one when I’m headed anywhere with no/dubious music. We’re recommending the UE Boom over at after it came out on top of our meta-review of results from European and American consumer testing organizations and reviews of everything on the market from audiophile and tech sites.

A $10 USB Battery

It’s surprising to me how few people carry these, when running out of juice is such a universal and often catastrophic experience. We rely on our mobile devices to find our way, find people, recall information — they’re particularly a lifeline when traveling. Thus, the need for an extra battery.

There are much more expensive USB batteries out there, but they tend to die too. A good friend who is an electronics product designer tells me that it doesn’t matter to much which one you buy, as this is a product whose reliability tends to be random, even at the top end (where there are often in any case low-end batteries re-branded and in a different casing). Your battery may stop performing as well after a month, or six months, or several years. Thus his advice: just go for a cheap one and hope for the best.

The Soltech NeoGen STS-EX2600 2600mAh has the highest customer rating on Amazon as of this writing1January 2015; you can check the latest such filtered list ranked by average reviews with this link. for smaller USB external batteries under $10, and has a one-year warranty. It’s pocket-sized and costs a fifth as much as its high-end competitors, making those others hardly worth the inherent risk in this type of product.

My Favorite Language Learning Books

For a communicative approach that provides immediately useful skills, the Teach Yourself Language series is great (I explain why in my language learning article). Grammar is approached as a practical tool for better communication, not as a literary/mathematical house of horrors. See the linguistics menu above for the rest of TP’s recommendations for hacking languages.

Communal, Squirty Wine Drinking: The Catalans’ Porró

OK, this isn’t travel gear, but it’s important, as I fear some of you dear readers may still be drinking wine from glasses. Shame! Civilized, social pot smoking involves passing the joint; why should wine be any different? Take a cue from the refined, squirty Catalans, and make your next dinner party that much more interesting. The article explains exactly how to aim the porró at your mouth without it touching your lips. If you’re looking for a porró in the states, note that it’s sold under its Spanish name, porrón. This is the best-looking and most well-reviewed option on Amazon; if you’re ever in Catalonia pick one up for slightly cheaper at any kitchenware shop.

Communal, Squirty Wine Drinking on the Go: The Spaniards’ Bota

The porró may be the funnest wine drinking implement ever, but it’s bit unweildy to carry around. The Spanish solution for picnic/pasture/street drinking is the bota (or bot, in Catalan), a leather drink sack. You drink from a bota in the same way as a porró, by holding it aloft and squirting it in the direction of your mouth.  Some modern versions like this one are lined with latex on the inside, for those who like to squirt finer wines and are worried that leather would affect the taste. When storing it, keep a small amount of cognac inside to keep it flexible, and don’t let it sit out for too long in the sun. There are other options, but the Rothko two-liter bota is the one that I would buy if I were in the USA, as it has the best average review score, and comes in various sizes for decent prices.

Notes   [ + ]

1. January 2015; you can check the latest such filtered list ranked by average reviews with this link.

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