There's less than one month of summer left and many of you have yet to take a vacation. Might we suggest a road trip? Whether you head out to see Wally World or the world's biggest ball of twine, many challenges await you along the way. Between lousy truck-stop food, random mattresses left in the road, bickering children and your significant other taking over the climate controls like some sort of tin-pot dictator, there's plenty of nonsense to deal with. So, we've gathered a list of some gadgets that might make your life easier, safer and more entertaining on the road. Follow the jump to check out our official Autoblog End-of-Summer Road Trip Gadget Guide.
Garmin Nüvi 1390T
Men know that you know that you can never stop for directions – and maps are just so 12th Century BC – so GPS is a must to help you find your way. If your car doesn't have built-in nav already, or if you aren't running one of the myriad GPS apps available for for your smartphone, you might want to look at a good portable GPS unit like the Garmin Nüvi 1390T. It features a 4.3-inch widescreen display, ecoRouting to help pick the most fuel-efficient path, a public transit mode, plus a great text-to-speech system that speaks street names so you can keep your eyes on the supermodel in the red Ferrari 308 zooming up beside you. The 1390T also has Bluetooth hands-free calling, a real-time traffic receiver and even offers pedestrian navigation with the optional CityXplorer maps. Its MSRP is $399.99, but you'll find it much cheaper at places like Amazon right now.
Dragging along all of your connector cables can create a terrible mess. Instead, take a look at the Scosche flipSYNC. It's a clever, compact keychain USB charger with sync cables for Blackberries or iPhones/iPods. The top and bottom twist out to reveal the handy, albeit short, connectors. Basically, you'll never have to worry about forgetting your charger again. You can get either the USBMM model with both Mini and Micro USB connections, or the IPUSBM model with the iPhone/iPod connectors. Each uses a fast USB 2.0 connection and costs $19.99. They're available at Scosche.com and Best Buy.
Moshi Lifestyle Voice Control Bluetooth Car Speakerphone
Now that so many states have outlawed handheld phone use by drivers, hands-free devices are must-have gadgets. One of the best is the Moshi Lifestyle Voice Control Bluetooth Car Speakerphone. It's a pretty straightforward (if unimaginative and lengthy) name for a very intuitive and functional device. The Moshi actually understands 13 different voice commands right out of the box, all triggered by uttering, "Hello Moshi." A full charge gets you about 7 hours of talk time, but the visor-mounted gadget can be plugged into your car's power port for recharging on the go. Available at Moshilifestyle.com for $79.99.
Wagan Twin USB/DC Cup Holder Adapter
With all of the phones and electronic gadgets you'll be toting along, you'll need to consider which cables and chargers to bring as well. An outlet extender of some sort is going to be a must for more in-car power port availability. We'd opt for one like the Wagan Twin USB/DC Cup Holder Adapter. It turns one outlet into two USB ports and two DC car adapter outlets. It's shaped to fit in a cupholder, but also uses an extension cord to bring the power wherever it's needed in the car. The Wagan Twin costs $19.95 and is available at retailers like Amazon.
Griffin PowerDuo Reserve
Another convenient power option is the new Griffin PowerDuo Reserve. Our Gadling siblings swear by it, saying it's the first truly interesting and innovative power product the've seen in a long time. The PowerDuo Reserve includes an AC charger (the PowerBlock Reserve), a DC/car charger (the PowerJolt Reserve) and a 500mAh ipod/iPhone battery pack (the Reserve Battery). Of course the battery docks easily with either charger, making recharging it a snap. Together, the three components let you charge your devices at home, in the car or in the air. The package retails for $59.99, or you can get the Reserve Battery separately for $19.99. Available at Amazon.com and other outlets. More info at Garmin.com.
Wagan Mobile Office Thermo Fridge
There are dozens of good refrigerated coolers/warmers on the market, but we like the Wagan Mobile Office Thermo Fridge. Not only can it cool at least 15 cans to 40 degrees below cabin temperature, it also fits nicely between the seats of your minivan, crossover or SUV, has a padded armrest, side storage to hold your myriad gadgets, 2 cup holders, and can warm foods to 140 degrees. What puts the Wagan fridge over the top, however, is its expandable cover tray, which can hold items like a laptop or portable DVD player. It retails for $129.95 at outlets like Amazon.com.
Stadium Pal and Gal
Imbibing all those hot and cold beverages brings up another issue for road warriors: What to do when you have to go? Restroom stops can be dicey affairs - depending on where you are, they can be rare, and once you find one, it might be filthy mess that makes you regret stopping in the first place. Plus, you lose valuable time. The Stadium Pal and Gal are here to help. Sports fans might be familiar with these portable urinals, which use a catheter and collection bag that straps to your calf. It's a discreet solution that lets you answer nature's call without ever slowing down. Available for men and women, the kits cost around $29.95. More info is available at Stadiumpal.com.
Coloud Marvel Comics headphones
Another fun diversion if your car lacks a video entertainment system is a good old-fashioned game. We tend to prefer simple games that you can play for hours, but that don't require hours to play. For us, card games are where it's at and (ahem) one reigns supreme: UNO. It's a) fun, b) inclusive, c) easy to pack and d) easy to explain to newcomers. Available from Mattel at retailers all over the place, UNO may be the best travel game ever.
Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight/Watertight .9
In addition to a simple tool roll with a few basic hand tools, every car should be packed with a basic first aid kit. They're cheap, easy to store and you never know when you're going to need one. A good basic example is the Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight/Watertight .9. As its name indicates, it's lightweight and waterproof. For $36.00, one can be yours via Adventure Medical Kits or online retailers such as Amazon.com.
Clean, potable water isn't always readily available on the road, and the last thing you want is to get waylaid with a case of Montezuma's Revenge. Filters with replaceable cartridges can handle particulate matter but aren't as effective against bacteria, so this new SteriPEN water purifier is a great innovation. The SteriPEN Traveler uses ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect water (just as your municipality most likely does). To use it, you just turn on the SteriPEN, remove the protective cap and place it in a cup or bottle of water. It's claimed to clean up to one liter of water at a time in under one minute. The cost? $59.95 and it's available at steripen.com and retailers like Amazon.com.
Joby Gorillatorch Flare
A great flashlight is just as important as a first aid kit, so we suggest the Joby Gorillatorch Flare. Looking like an invader out of War of the Worlds, the Gorillatorch has legs made of infinitely-adjustable spheres that can be twisted to keep it balanced on nearly any surface. Perfect for when you don't have a helper to hold the light exactly where you need it, the Gorillatorch can be wrapped around a sideview mirror when fixing a flat, set up like an emergency flare if you're stranded roadside, and even stuck to a metal surface thanks to its magnetic feet. Settings include low, medium, high or flashing white light and steady or flashing red light. It's sold for $34.95 at Joby.com.
SylvanSport Go trailer - Click above for high-res image gallery
Finally, should the amount of gear you're hauling exceed your vehicle's capacity, you might want to consider acquiring a trailer. The coolest one we've seen in a long time is the SylvanSport Go. This unique camping and travel trailer is lightweight at 800 pounds, but it packs a wallop nonetheless. The SylvanSport Go is reconfigurable to accommodate a wide variety of playthings and can even be used as a pop-up camper. Think of it as the Swiss Army knife of trailers. Take a look at the gallery and you'll see what we mean. Price is $5,995.00. For more info and a great video of the Go in action, visit sylvansport.com.