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Ten Useful Laptop Accessories

Our laptops are our lives, and over the last few years of living on the road, we’ve come up with a few accessories that are really important to us, and are really worth the weight and space. Here are our top ten, with reasons why.

1. Keyboard

We spend many, many hours on our laptops with research, managing our personal lives, writing our blogs and articles and books, and running our business. We’ve found that having a full-size keyboard is one of the most essential things we need.

We have found a small keyboard that is full-size but is very light and only about three inches wider than our laptops. We can’t figure out what kind of keyboard it is yet, since it’s not marked, but if anyone has any ideas, let us know! We use a plug-in keyboard rather than a wireless for several reasons – the weight of having to carry batteries, the expense of buying batteries, the annoyance of having to find them “on the road” (remember, we’re on bicycles), and because we found that the wireless simply doesn’t work very well for us in most of the situations we are in.

You can also find roll-up keyboards. We’ve been very interested in trying them, as the roll-up capability is great, as is the fact that they are impermeable to food and liquid spills. We have a few different roll-up keyboards listed in our Amazon store.

2. Mouse

We carry a Logitech corded mouse for the same reason as the keyboard. It’s better ergonomically, we save the annoyance of batteries, and it works better than a wireless mouse. We also found an Indestructible, washable, optical/ usb Mouse which looks absolutely wonderful for an on-the-road mouse. You can check it out in our Amazon store.

3. Mousepad (a few dollars)

This may seem frivolous to “weight weenies”, but we live on the road, and it gets really tiring having to maneuver the mouse for so many hours on a book (if we have one) or on a picnic table, or on some other dirty, uneven surface.

We doubled up and used a cutting board for a while, but invariably I’d be writing while Chelsea was cooking and needed the cutting board. Besides, the mouse pad is a lot more effective…and it’s low profile and weighs nothing.

4. USB hubs ($14)

I have only two USB ports on my laptop, and we juggled things constantly for several years until I got a powered USB hub in late 2006. I loved it, but I hated the extra power cord and the extra cords hanging around, never mind the annoyance of having to pack it up every time we changed locations.

Finally this last summer I got a small Targus ACH74US Ultra Mini USB 2.0 4-Port Hub (check it out in our Amazon store) that plugs into my USB port on my laptop. It’s extremely low profile, lightweight, and works well. I no longer need a powered USB since we aren’t running projectors or printers anymore, and I couldn’t be happier with my new hub.

5. Skype headphones ($45-50)

We haven’t used Skype much yet, and we haven’t done podcasts yet, but we will be, so Chelsea opted for a Logitech Premium Notebook Headset as a birthday gift. It comes in its own carry case (which is heavy, but we haven’t yet figured out how to reduce the weight and still protect it).

6. Mini-speakers

I got a pair of Sony mini speakers in late 2006 and we have loved them. They work on the laptop, and we can each plug them into our MP3 players. They do have a power adaptor which we use whenever possible, but they also run on triple-A batteries.

The sound is lot better than the laptop speakers, and we love using them for movies and playing music. In fact, we are thinking up a way of putting them on my trailer, attached to my MP3 player, with one speaker facing me and one facing Chelsea so we can listen to music while we ride on some of those long lonely car-less stretches.

7. Extension cord

This has saved our lives too many times to count. When we started this trip, it was the very first campsite the very first night that we realized we needed an extension cord. We had to wait till we passed through our town on the way up Florida to get one from home, but we’ve never been without it since.

We chose one that is really light, with four spots to plug things in. We can be charging two cell phones and have both laptops plugged and charging at one time, and alternate with the camera battery charger, and so on.

Another awesome function is the extra bit of length it gives us when we aren’t quite near enough to a plug. It becomes really important when the sun is directly on the electrical outlet in the campground, and we can’t quite reach our cords to the shade; or when we’re jockeying for space on an electrical outlet in a coffee shop.

8. 3-prong to 2-prong adapter

Very low-tech, but highly important. Many older coffee shops and homes still have only 2-prong outlets, and our laptop has a 3-prong plug, so we always carry our 3-prong to 2-prong adaptor in the messenger bag with the laptop.

9. Flash drive

We couldn’t live without our flash drives. Known as pen drives, jump drives, and thumb drives, these are like little mini hard drives that plug into your USB ports.

For many years now, we have used these to store all of our documents. When we want to quickly transfer information back and forth we use these. We use them to work on documents when we need to use another computer. We use them as our backup system.

Get a good one – don’t “cheap out” on these. You don’t want your mini-backup system to go bad on you when you’ve got so much on it.

We use the very highly rated Sandisk Cruzer, and very soon we’ll be getting the 8 gig version – Sandisk 8GB Cruzer Titanium USB 2.0 Flash Drive) from Amazon – it’s got U3 software which allows us to take our favorites, wallpaper, and so on with us when we work on another machine (like Internet cafes in Mexico and South America). This one even has Skype and anti-virus software pre-loaded. There’s also a 16 gig version – SanDisk SDCZ7-016G-A11 Ultra Cruzer Titanium Drive. Both of these are available in our Amazon store as well.

10. Network cable

A network cable was our latest addition to our stable of laptop accessories. When we work so closely together, it’s very handy to transfer music back and forth, and it’s handy to be able to access each other’s machines. There have also been times on our travels when we wanted to hook up to someone else’s computer, and this allows us to do so.