Published December 27, 2009
In your family and circle of friends you no doubt know someone who’s germaphobic.
I bet you’ve also got a buddy or cousin who’s forgetful, another who’s anxious, yet another who’s careless, and at least one with a lousy sense of direction. For better or worse, all of these people travel.
These gifts are for them.
Best Gadget for a Germaphobe: Verilux Pocket-Sized Germ Eliminating Light, $69.95
Listen up, because this’ll be on the final: Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light lets you see germs. UV-C light lets you kill them. Both of these lights glow a gentle blue and one or the other is at the heart of some not-so-gently marketed portable gadgets. Products with UV lights are frequently described as employing the “same technology” used by forensic experts to see microorganisms. Likewise, UV-C lights are said to use the same technology hospitals use to sterilize equipment. And for that matter, UV-C light is the same technology my corner nail salon uses to sanitize its manicuring instruments.
I’m just saying.
For germ detectives, online retailer Travelsmith sells a “personal germ finder” whose UV light makes contaminants visible to the human eye. But what do you do once you spot the little critters? Well, you could bust out your antibacterial spray and wipes, but it would be more fun to wave a Verilux UV-C Sanitizing Wand, which when held over a surface for 20 seconds would kill up to 99.9% of the germs lurking there. According to Verilux, the UV-C light would sterilize “biological pollutants including viruses, bacteria, mold, and dust mites by penetrating their cell membranes, destroying their DNA, and dismantling their reproductive capabilities.”
Since this wand begins to approximate the size and shape of a cricket bat, the germaphobe in your life might find the Verilux Pocket Sized Germ Eliminating Light handier for travel. At 4 ½” x 1 2/3” x 1" and packing a rechargeable 2-hour battery,the light emitted by the unit covers a smaller surface area than the bigger wand, but possesses the same take-down power. Hold it 3” above a plane seat armrest, hotel bedspread or other surface for 20 seconds and the germicidal UV-C light will go to work. The best thing about this gadget, though, is its whimsical design. At the touch of a button, the plastic strip with the embedded UV-C light clicks out of the unit like a switchblade. Which is also handy, because if you’re going to render germs infertile and destroy their DNA, you might as well intimidate them first.
Best Gadget for a Forgetful Traveler: Brookstone’s Twist Light Emergency Flashlight, $25
What’s worse than finding no flashlight in your glove compartment or camping gear? Finding a flashlight with dead batteries. Sure, it can happen to any of us, but it’s more likely to happen to the scatterbrains in your life. For them, the Twist Light offers a twist – no batteries. Grip the chunky rubberized ring at the flashlight’s base and twist it clockwise-counterclockwise, like a pepper mill. It sounds like a pepper mill, too. Do this for 30 seconds and you’ll get five minutes of light. If the light begins to dim you can give it a few twists to keep it going or switch it off and “charge” it again. You won’t need to replace the light emitting diodes (LEDs) unless the total time you shine the flashlight exceeds the 11.5 years or 100,000 hours the LEDs last.
Best Gadget for Nervous Nellies: GE Personal Security Door Stop Alarm, $12.99
The problem with motion-detecting doorknob alarms is that many of them, once hung on the inside knob of a hotel room, might go off if a confused guest mistakenly jiggles the outside handle or if a jolly conventioneer stumbles too close to the door at 3:30 a.m. For your nervous traveler, the GE 50246 Door Stop Alarmis a more stable “intruder alert” device. Basically it’s a pressure-activated wedge equipped with a 120 decibel alarm. Place it on the floor just inside your hotel room door. If an intruder tries to enter, the bottom of the door will hit the wedge and trigger the alarm. A customer reviewer suggests that if you want to “arm” the wedge while you’re out of your room, leaving some space between the wedge and the door will permit you to reach in from the outside and shut it off. The 11 x 6 x 3-1/2 inch, 4 oz unit takes a 9-volt battery that’s best unscrewed from its compartment before flying.
Best Virtual Breadcrumbs for the Lost Traveler: Bushnell BackTrack Handheld GPS $79.99
Handheld GPS devices have come a long way in recent years. Golfers use them to gauge the shape of the green from different angles and hikers can track their routes, entering hundreds of waypoints in some cases. The catch is that many of these devices require map updates (sometimes for a subscription fee) or are full of complicated buttons and settings. For the traveler in your life who struggles with gadgets as well as with finding his way back to trailheads, hotels, rental cars, or anyplace else, the Bushnell Backtrack may be what he needs.
No bigger than a stopwatch, the BackTrack has two buttons and a few simple steps. There’s no mapping, no subscription, and two AAA batteries power it for about 20 hours. Turn it on, let the unit acquire a satellite connection, select one of three waypoint-storing memory slots, and mark your current location. So if your friend parked his rental car in a huge lot he’d mark his location and at that point could switch off the unit to save power. Later on, when he was lost on the outskirts of the parking lot, he’d switch the unit back on, let it re-acquire a satellite and the BackTrack would help him backtrack to the car. The digital face would display an arrow for him to follow, as well as the number of yards remaining to his vehicle. The yardage would count down until he got to the car, at which point arrows would enthusiastically appear all around the dial. Though before that point, the product manual suggests that “when the display shows that you are getting close to a marked location, you will often be able to just look up and see your destination at that point.” Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
Best Gadget for Stowing Gadgets: Foxfire Ultimate 22-Pocket Vest, $45
If a special someone you know is easily distracted to the point of carelessness, it’s quite possible he’ll have an issue keeping track of his valuables on the road. Enter theFoxfire Ultimate 22-Pocket Vest, available from online retailers and, oddly, throughout Walt Disney World, which is where I got mine. I can assure you there are 22 pockets – seven on the left, ten on the right, two in the back, and three on the inside. The “safest” pockets are the inside ones – two that shut with Velcro, one with a zipper – as well as a very secure Velcro-fastening one on the right front. At the airport, stowing your phone, MP3, and other metal valuables in these sealed pockets and placing the vest on the security belt is a safer bet than the little grey buckets, which are essentially candy dishes for savvy thieves. Beyond the airport, the vest is an on-the-ground organizer, and while some of the pockets-within-pockets can confuse its wearer into thinking stuff is missing, it’s all in there, and it’ll be the gift that keeps on giving well after the trip.