Metering is ON

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smart new traveling companions are practical and tech-savvy

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Toothpaste that won’t get tossed by the TSA. High-tech passport holders to protect your identity. Lighter weight luggage.

These are a few of the innovative products that were on display at the recent 2011 Travel Goods Show at McCormick Place, where 200-plus exhibitors touted their wares to retailers.

This annual showcase of items aimed at those on the go featured a slew of new gizmos — some so new, they’re not yet on store shelves or websites.

The improving economy translated into more interest in luxury goods than in previous years. In comic contrast: seemingly zillions of products aimed at thwarting bed bugs.

Here’s a look at some of the standouts.

Pat Terry is a locally based free-lance writer.

Beating baggage fees

Heys USA builds a touch-screen scale into the handle of business cases and carry-ons in its new Intus Collection. When the bag’s actual weight — quickly converted to pounds or kilograms — is reached, the screen displays the results electronically. Carry-ons start at $250. Online soon,

† Don’t want to shell out $7 for a bad airplane sandwich? Bring your own grub with Boleo’s Good to Go Lunch Set, combining insulated lunch bag, attached bottle clip and strap. Slip it over the handle of wheeled luggage — it’s not considered an extra bag. Convenient, too, on Amtrak or Megabus. Launches shortly,, $25.

† The “ultimate fanny pack” is a bandolier-like strap from Runnur that slings diagonally across your torso, holding a phone, sunglasses, credit cards, airplane/train/bus ticket, water bottle, camera and snacks. A carabineer lets you clip on your extras; $39,

Keeping clean

† Contaminated water can ruin any trip, from volunteering overseas with Habitat for Humanity to backpacking in southern Indiana. Hydro-Photon’s SteriPEN Freedom is a hand-held, rechargeable water purifier that destroys more than 99 percent of bacteria, viruses and protozoa with UV radiation. Its lifetime exceeds 8,000 16-ounce treatments. Available this summer;, $119.95.

† ArchTek’s unique Toothpaste Tablets don’t need water; just chew and brush. Because they’re tablets, not gel, they don’t require TSA scrutiny. An environmental plus: The tablet packaging is recyclable, keeping a potential 560,000 toothpaste tubes out of U.S. landfills annually;, $5.50 for 60 tablets.

† Whether you’re taking your phone, iPad or Kindle on a Wisconsin canoe trip or camel ride in the Sahara Desert, Hummingbird’s E-Case will protect touch-screen devices from sand, wind and water, while maintaining their use and voice functionality through a clear, PVC-free window;, $19.95 to $29.95, three sizes.

Convenience on the go

† Rolling two-wheeled bags just got easier with Club Glove’s clever new Train Reaction device. Slip the web-like plastic gizmo over the handle of one bag, then through the handle of a second. It links the two, no matter the size, and creates a balanced four-wheel unit that’s a breeze to roll;, $19.95.

† The Powerbag is a new concept from RFA Brands aimed at today’s fast-paced, mobile lifestyles. It can charge four electronic devices simultaneously and has a USB port and adapter on the outside. Built into the bag’s interior are connections for a micro USB, mini USB and Apple device (the main compartment holds a tablet-size machine but doesn’t charge). If you need your phone charged before the entire bag gets a jolt, the Powerbag can prioritize. Retail $179. RFA and Powerbag are new, so keep checking

Keep your child warm — and entertained — with Cabeau’s Travel BlanKid, a multipurpose blanket that converts to a backpack or travel pillow. Soft, plush polyester animal buddies include Makemba the Money, a Bonobo ape from the Congo; Lula the Ladybug, and Pailou the Giant Panda. Designed for children ages 3 to 8. Available in May;, $29.99.

† The new Crystal Clipa Collection, a line of highly polished handbag clips flaunting Swarovski crystals, double as bling-laden bracelets. Whether keeping your purse off the bathroom floor, clipping it to a cafe table or hanging it from your train or airline seat, the Crystal Clipa melds fashion with function;, $39.99.

High-tech protection

† How about a biometric locking device, a la James Bond, built into the handle of your new business case or carry-on bag? It’s another in the new Intus Collection from Heys USA. And your finger is the key: Swipe it across the lock to gain access to the contents of your luggage. Prices vary but a 17-inch, full-featured messenger bag will retail for around $385. Available soon;

† Several companies, including Chicago’s Travelon ( have come up with new passport holders, ID cases and wallets designed to block RFID identity theft. Newer passports and some credit/debit cards contain RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, which can be scanned at close range by potential thieves. While many travelers remain unaware of RFID data theft, a savvy young woman at PacSafe assured me it’s a serious problem, noting: “You can get RFID readers on Amazon cheap.” PacSafe has a new passport holder/wallet called RFIDsafe 50 that uses a nickel and copper element designed to block virtually all radio frequency transmissions, unlike the aluminum used in most shields;, $14.99.

Bugging out

Bedbug products were all over the show, including Nature’s Innovation’s Bed Bug Patrol Travel Spray Pen. The tiny device fits in purse, pocket, backpack, duffel or shaving kit. The all-natural bed-bug killer can be used to protect your bed, luggage and other belongings while you’re on the road and before you return home;, $5.95 or four-pack $19.95.

Pat Terry is a locally based free-lance writer.

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