Cardinal Photo 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Our top travel accessories

Cardinal Photo 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Our top travel accessories

We're entering holiday gift season, and if you're like me, there are always a couple people that are hard to shop for. So I wanted to pass along my top travel and photo accessories, in case one of them would help fill the bill. Some are awesome for just about anyone who travels, and others are especially useful for photographers:

  1. : This is still my number one choice for a travel accessory -- but updated to have an RFID-blocking pocket for additional security. I never leave for a trip involving airplanes without my ScotteVest. It has two huge benefits in these days of heightened security and crowded planes. First, you can put all your small items into it and put it on the conveyor belt when going through security, making it quicker, less stressful (especially if you have TSA pre-check!), and much less likely you'll leave something behind at a checkpoint (I speak from experience here). Second, once on the plane, you can stash your bag in the overhead and simply keep the vest with you. It has pockets for your phone, tablet, headphones, and even a nice one for a small camera. Now that many airlines have started putting hooks on the back of their seats, it serves like a mini-closet for me when I travel. I've even started keeping a crushable in a pocket so I'd have it if I needed a pillow or some warmth. Slit pockets on the outside are ideal for passport checks, or travel binoculars once you've arrived. There are a few models (including one with sleeves), but the basic one I have works very well for me and is worth the or the .

  2. : A good headlamp is amazingly versatile. Aside from the obvious use of helping you walk back to your hotel after dark, it is key in power outages, underlit hotel rooms, or even for reading small-print menus. The great thing about the Petzl Zipka is that the cord retracts so it can live in a purse or pocket easily. . Even if you're not traveling, it is ideal for reading fine-print menus in dark restaurants.

  3. (or custom-fit battery sleeve): There are plenty of external power sources for smartphones on the market, but this one by Tylt is the best-designed I've ever seen. It is about the same shape and size as a modern smartphone, and has integrated microUSB and Apple iPhone cables. That means you can attach it to your phone while your phone is in your pocket or even while you are using the phone. , but it is the best you can buy. Tylt also makesexcellent "slide-on” external battery cases for the , , , , or. I take one of those when I need even more juice for long days running the GPS & mapping software.

  4. : I've owned and used quite a few different bluetooth and other wireless speakers, but the UE Boom is one of the best-sounding and most-versatile. Whether you simply want some tunes on the road, or you need to accompany your slideshows with music, it is well-suited to the task. It also makes a great speaker for playing bird songs.
    Version 2 of the speaker has been enhanced to be waterproof, making it even more perfect for travel. The speakers are designed to be updated over the air -- as is the companion mobile application. .

  5. PacSafe : By now you've probably realized I'm a bit obsessive about my travel gear. My travel wallet is no exception. I've tried out quite a few while looking for one that could store my passport, odd-sized international currency, credit cards, and was safe from electronic scanning (especially important with the various new chips in passports and credit cards). There was only one that fit the bill and still fit in my pants pocket. The . I'll admit I don't carry it around at home, as I don't need my passport then, but I am never without it when traveling overseas (technically, one should carry their passport with them when traveling abroad, and this is by far the easiest way). The wallet also has a small zippered compartment where I can keep international SIM cards and any medicine I need while on long flights. The wallet has been so popular in our family that I needed to buy our daughter her own so we could both have one when traveling overseas.

  6. : It is increasingly clear that room safes in hotels aren't always secure. They can be opened by employees, and even hacked. So it is exciting that Master Lock has introduced an inexpensive (< $20) and lightweight personal vault. Of course it locks, but more importantly, it features a locking cable that you can loop around something hard to move. So you can stash your cash, passport, travel documents, or even a smartphone somewhere that you can feel confident that it will still be there when you get back. For those traveling off the beaten path, where they don't have the option of a hotel or room safe, this goodie is even more important! 

  7. : If you're looking to turn your photography (or other hobby) into a business -- or if you already have a business phone line and just want to save money -- ObiTalk can save you some serious money. It painlessly gateways a Google Voice number (or other VOIP number) to your existing phone line. I've been piloting the use of an Obi200 here at our home office, and have been very pleased. Over time we plan to migrate our two business phone lines (that together cost us nearly $1,000 / year) over to free Google Voice numbers using an

  8. : I've tried a wide variety of sandals over the years, and these are by far my favorite for travel. The closed-toe makes them useable in a wide variety of situations (with or without socks), while the quick on/off capability makes them perfect for security checks, onboard planes, or even for countries where politeness dictates that shoes come off frequently. When I travel to Africa or Asia, these are often the only shoes I bring (which is a great way to save weight when packing!).

  9. : A lot of photo travel is by road. If you're one of those that shortens those trips by keeping your foot on the accelerator, a radar (and red-light camera) detector can be a real help. Frequent readers will remember that the Escort Max won my radar detector shoot out last year. The only feature it lacked that its competitor Valentine had was directional sensing. Now, Escort has added directional arrows with the new "360" version. I plan to repeat my field test with the new unit during my annual trek to CES in January, but if you want to get a headstart you can pre-order the Escort Max 360 for shipment December 3rd.

  10. : This is probably the coolest item on the list. For the first time there is a thermal infrared camera that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. FLIR has brought its Lepton thermal sensor to your smartphone. Combined using FLIR's MSX technology with the output of its RGB camera, you can get heat signatures of just about anything in the environment. It records still images, videos, and panoramas. You can recolor the images afterwards, which makes for some very interesting creative efforts. You can get a or a for about $250 from B&H. If you want to save some money and have an iPhone 5 or 5s, you can .