Powering your laptop bag on the go, part 1 (the cable edition)

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to start looking at power options for your portable electronics. We’ll be looking at charging adapters and cables from Portapow, Nomad Goods and Anker, with others coming in future posts. In the next part of this post, we’ll look at battery packs.

There are lots of options, and we’ll only cover about a tenth of what’s in my various travel bags, but this will give you a reasonable starting point for most equipment.

Say Yes to cable(s)

Anywhere you go, you can find cheap cables, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be inexpensive. But in an airport or hotel, they’ll be pricey and may not perform. For this reason, I optimize my cable carry to cover any device I might want to bring along.

First, I carry PortaPow cables for any device I have. These are charge-only, high speed charging cables that provide a secure way to use public chargers. By bridging the data lines, they make the most of USB ports on computers, televisions, or any other device, while also blocking data access to your devices.

Note that PortaPow does make charge-and-sync cables. These are usually green-tipped, whereas the blocking devices are red-tipped.

If you want to use your existing cables but still charge fast and safe, try Portapow’s “Fast Charge + Data Block USB Adapter,” a small device that goes between your existing charging cable and the USB port you’re getting power from. It blocks data, as the name suggests, and you can use pretty much any USB cable with it.

I usually carry at least one lightning, one micro-USB, and one USB-C cable from this line. In addition to rapid charging of devices, these are great for quickly recharging a battery pack.

Second, regular charging cables, in case you need to move data, or if you want a sturdier cable.

I have two preferences here. First, Anker has two high-end cable lines, the Powerline and Powerline+ models. Powerline is advertised as having “bulletproof aramid fiber” whereas Powerline+ touts “fiber core, double nylon-braiding and precision laser welding.” They’re both sturdier than any OEM charging cable I’ve gotten for a phone. These cables have served me well, and by getting different colors for each type, I can easily tell what to plug in where.

The new preference I have is from Nomad Goods, a company that started on Kickstarter a few years back. They came out with new heavy duty cables a couple of months ago, including a Lightning cable, a 3-in-1 Micro-USB with captive USB-C and Lightning adapters (which work fine with iPhones), and their new Lightning Battery Cable, which incorporates a 2300mAh rechargeable battery in line with the lightning cable.

I carry the battery cable and 1-2 of the 3-in-1 cables with me. If someone at dinner or a meeting table needs to charge their iPhone, they don’t need to find a wall outlet or take one of my batteries. I just hand the cable over, they plug in, and they’re charging.

Nomad does regular sales (Black Friday was a good one, although not for my credit card), so if you sign up for their emails or follow them on social media, you’ll probably have a 10-20% coupon code soon enough.

Many of Nomad’s products are now found in Best Buy stores, including the cable series, while supplies last… so if you don’t want to wait for a shipment, you may be able to pick them up locally, or order through bestbuy.com, and get your rewards points from them too. Best Buy also has a buy-three-get-25%-off promo on mobile accessories, including the Nomad cables.

Who powers the powerers?

While you can use any of these cables with your laptop’s USB ports, and you can often find USB charging ports in the entertainment console or desk of your hotel room, you’ll probably want to have a powerful adapter on hand for those cases when you’re not near a USB port.

There are a wide range of options with adaptive fast charging for any modern device. We like Anker’s Powerport 2 (around $10.99) but you can get anywhere from 1-10 ports in their Powerport line. Look for blue or green ports if you need Qualcomm Quick Charge for your devices;  otherwise, these chargers will use PowerIQ technology to optimize your charge. 

Power your laptop too!

You can also get multi-purpose adapters, which may let you charge your laptop as well as 2 or more devices.

I use the 60W Anker Powerport 5 ($39.99) which supports up to 45W on USB-C (good enough for Macbook or Dell XPS 13), and the 75W iVoler charger ($41.99) which offers 60W on USB-C (useful for Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15 ultrabooks). Both of these have a long wall cord, which is great for connecting to outlets behind a desk or nightstand in a hotel. There are other options that plug directly into the wall, if that’s your preference.

If you want to put the laptop before the mobile device, I’ve also found the Finsix Dart and Zolt Laptop Charger Plus chargers to be a good way to go. Each uses interchangeable tips for the laptop, covering most devices, with one or more additional USB ports for your charging cables. With the Zolt, the 2 USB ports are on the wall wart, whereas the DART puts the single USB port inline on the cable. You can plug the cable in either way, putting the USB port either closer to the wall or closer to the laptop.

Finsix just announced their DART-C USB-C model, and a cable you can purchase for use with the original DART if you already own one and just want to upgrade to USB-C. These are on pre-order now, and I have the cable pre-ordered already.

So where do we go from here?

We’ll continue this topic in a couple of days, covering battery pack options. There are a few more interesting topics to poke into down the road a bit, including USB-PD, power meters, pass-through charging, USB-C “reverse” charging, and battery packs that can charge your laptop or help you get your car out of a snow bank.

What power devices can’t you travel without? Or what odd and wondrous power needs are you looking for a solution to? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


Disclosure: Most links above are Amazon affiliate links. The Nomad product links are directly to Nomad’s website; they don’t sell the newer items through Amazon yet. You can also find the Nomad products at many Best Buy stores or their website.

2 thoughts on “Powering your laptop bag on the go, part 1 (the cable edition)

  1. Pingback: Powering your laptop bag on the go, part 2 (the battery edition) #rsts11travel – rsts11travel

  2. Pingback: Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences) #CLUS #VMworld #vExpert #InteropITX – rsts11travel

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