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The only three gadgets I’ve needed in two years of continuous travel

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the most useful gadgets for traveling? Answer by Doug Walsh, writer, gamer, mountain biker, traveler.

In two years of continuous travel, the number-one gadget I’ve relied on has been an e-reader such as the Amazon Kindle. It’s not uncommon for me to read for two hours every day, and still get close to four weeks of battery life out of one of the e-ink Kindles. Another reason why the Kindle is so great, provided you get one with built-in 3G, is that you can buy a book from almost anywhere in the world. I finished a book laying in my tent one night in the Canadian Rockies, turned the 3G on, got a connection with the satellites high above, and bought a new book around midnight. In a forest. Of course, the 3G doesn’t work everywhere. I couldn’t get it to connect in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or in the Sahara desert. Oh well.

I also recommend a portable power source. I’m a huge fan of the Anker Astro series for the multiple USB outlets and the built-in LED flashlight. I’ve recharged my Garmin each night for five straight days without having to recharge our relatively medium-sized Anker Astro 2 (8500 mah). A portable power pack can be used to charge your phones, your e-reader, tablet, GPS—anything short of a laptop.

Finally: a smartphone. Though I traveled primarily without a phone for these past two years (I didn’t want the distraction, or the extra thing to have to charge), I was thrilled to pick one up for the time in Japan. From making hotel reservations, to navigating cities, to metro and train schedule apps, a smartphone is indispensable (particularly if you don’t know the language and are traveling someplace urban and well-developed, like Japan). There are many apps  that can help make your travel more efficient, more pleasant, and more informed. If you were thinking of leaving your phone behind because of international data rates, a no-contract T-Mobile plan on a simple Android phone can save you money in the long run. Or at least a few headaches.

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