For a prolonged tour in the field, the little things matter just as much as the big things. And nothing is smaller or more easily forgettable than the lowly travel adapter. I picked mine up in an airport somewhere in Japan as an afterthought, like many travelers, once I got to my destination and realized I had no way to charge up my netbook.
The travel adapter seems inconsequential, but choosing the wrong one can be fatal. I got lucky, because the only one in stock turned out to be a workhorse, but horror stories abound of the unsuspecting graduate student plugging their vital equipment into a suspect outlet and frying a computer, blowing a critical sensor, or setting their shack on fire. Electricity is not to be taken lightly.
Odds are, your most valuable piece of equipment is your computer. On top of the simple cost of the machine, it’s probably loaded with data, possibly irreplaceable data. Yes, you should back up your data, but that’s a lame response to the poor kid whose computer and flash drive were destroyed by an overloaded circuit.
Which is why I like this little wonder. It’s expensive compared to the cheapest models (and depending on which country you buy it in) but packed with features. To start with, it’s universal on both ends, so you can connect any type of plug to any type of outlet, perfect for an international team working in another country. It also has a handy USB outlet, so you can charge up your peripherals without wasting a socket. It can handle 100V – 250V on either end, which covers most countries in which you’re likely to be, and the handy indicator light lets you know if the outlet is live. It also has a fuse to protect your essentials (and conveniently comes with a spare for when it does blow).
It’s bulky, but not as bulky as some other universal models. Because the UK plug is on the outside, it’s fairly awkward, no matter where you store it. It doesn’t support grounded outlets (though it will take grounded plugs). It’s also pretty easy to find, I’ve seen them in just about every international airport I’ve been.
Utility – 5/5 (a critical piece of kit, and one that will serve you where ever you go)
Durability – 5/5 (as tough as it needs to be)
Comfort – 5/5 (about as user friendly as it could possibly be)
Price – $
Statement of use: I’ve traveled around the world with this little piece, but have only used US, UK, and Australian appliances with it.