Summer isn’t over yet and many of us will be hitting the road for a weekend or weeklong getaway. But most Canadians will be travelling close to home this year as many places are off limits outside of the country.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may still be restrictions on where you can travel. Regardless of whether you’re roughing it in the woods or staying in a hotel or cottage, there are a number of useful gadgets that can make the experience more enjoyable and safer. Here are a few worth considering:

Booster Pack

There’s nothing worse than your car battery going dead in the middle of nowhere. The MotoMaster Eliminator 750A Lithium-Ion Booster Pack and Power Bank ($149.99 at Canadian Tire) provides up to 20 jump starts on a single charge. It also has built-in flashlight with lights that also flash to warn any passing motorists if you’re stopped on the side of the road. And there’s a USB port that can be used to charge your phone or tablet. The booster pack is compact and can be easily stored in your glove compartment.

Keeping Things Warm and Cool

Sometimes you want things hot and other things cool. The Auto Trends 12V Car Food Warmer ($49.99 at Canadian Tire), which is about the size of a plastic lunch box kids had in the ’80s, can warm pre-cooked food up to 150 degrees Celsius on the go. If you have a baby and need to warm up milk or formula, there’s the Munchkin Travel Bottle Warmer ($24.97 at Walmart). It also comes with a timer that lights up at night. Both items plug into a car adapter.

It’s easy to forget to buy ice before a trip. Instead, you can buy the compact Koolatron P20 electric cooler ($149 at Home Depot). It keeps drinks and other items as cool as 5 degrees Celsius all the way to the cottage, which is handy if you don’t want to make any stops. The cooler can also be used to keep food warm up to 57 degrees Celsius. It plugs into your car adapter.

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Connecting Devices

If you’re going off the grid with family or friends, you can still stay connected to them with the goTenna Mesh ($186.97 at SportChek). Pair the device to your phone and you can send texts or your GPS locations when your cellular network reception becomes spotty. If you’re worried about privacy, your chats are encrypted.

Pocket-Sized Washing Machine

Sometimes you might need to wash something immediately or are camping and in need of some fresh clothes. The Scrubba Wash Bag ($68.50 at Lee Valley Tools) can clean a change of clothes in a few minutes. Add water and soap, rub the clothes against the silicone washboard in the bag, and rinse before hanging them to try.

Water Purification

Unsafe drinking water can be anywhere, which is why you should filter any natural water. The Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle ($99.95 at MEC) turns fresh water — which could be contaminated by animals or people — into clean water in a matter of seconds. All you have to do if fill the outer cup with water, push the inner press down (similar to a French press), and you have clean water ready to drink.

Portable Espresso Machine

When you’re on the go and can’t find a decent coffee place that serves espresso, you can make your own with the Minipresso portable espresso machine ($79.95 at MEC). It comes with a cup and scoop, but you have to supply the hot water and coffee grounds. The machine doesn’t require electricity or batteries. Just use the hand pump to brew a cup of espresso. The machine is ideal for camping and can be easily stowed away in your backpack.

Camping Lantern/Phone Charger

Sometimes an ordinary flashlight isn’t bright enough. That’s where the LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Camping Lantern and Phone Charger ($49.99 on Amazon.ca) comes in. This lantern inflates into a 15 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm cube and has a handy carrying strap. It can be used for camping, recreation, or emergencies. The lantern has five different brightness settings, it can be charged using the sun or a USB cable, and it also charges your phone or tablet.

Moving Forward

Wherever your travels take you this summer, some of the gadgets mentioned above can make your vacation more fun and convenient. Also, make sure your auto insurance coverage is adequate for your journey, and don’t forget to pack a travel insurance policy if you do leave your home province.

Note: the product prices listed are subject to change.

Craig Sebastiano

Craig Sebastiano is an award-winning writer and editor with more than a decade of experience in journalism, marketing, and communications. He’s written about a number of financial topics, including investing, real estate, robo-advisors, mortgages, credit cards, pensions, taxes, insurance, RRSPs, and TFSAs. Craig’s work has appeared in MoneySense, Morningstar, Benefits Canada, Advisor’s Edge, Job Postings, and Ryerson University Magazine. He has completed the Canadian Securities Course and is an avid do-it-yourself investor.

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