Three products for the road

Here are three products great for use when traveling this summer.

A great little portable espresso machine

The MInispresso is a clever little gadget that makes espresso one cup at a time. It requires no electricity and is completely portable, perfect for hotel rooms and on vacation. The device used to sell for close to $150, but is now retailing for $60. It’s well-constructed, beautifully finished and works with little effort. It travels as one compact unit that disassembles to provide all the parts needed, including its own espresso cup. To use, simply fill the basket with ground coffee, add boiling or very hot water to the large cup on the other end, screw together and push the plunger about a dozen times. The water is forced under pressure through the grounds and the resulting espresso slowly fills up the cup, crema and all. The Minispresso is smaller than a coffee mug and tucks into the corner of a suitcase or briefcase. Highly recommended. It’s available on Amazon from the manufacturer at the new low price or here.


Solartab portable charger

I’ve tried many solar powered products and solar power sources, but they typically looked like home made contraptions that rarely delivered what was promised. But this one is different. Solartab is the first product I’ve tried that is convenient to use, attractive, and has a large enough and efficient solar panel to make solar charging practical. Solartab is actually a combination solar panel and 13,000 mAh lithium ion battery. The battery can be charged by sunlight or by the included USB adapter.

Solartab will charge up to two devices, including smartphones and tablets, connected to the device’s two USB ports. The product is about the same size and weight as a 9.7-inch iPad and, like the iPad, has a fold-over black vinyl cover that protects the panel and can be used to prop the panel up when charging. A half day facing out the window charged it about 30%. Outdoors I was able to charge it more than halfway in about 3-4 hours. Solartab is packaged in an appropriately designed minimalist box made from recycled cardboard. The instructions could be much more detailed, but otherwise it’s a fine product. $129 from the company’s website.


Libratone portable speaker

Get to your hotel and enjoy some music. The Libratone is about the size of a paperback book, solidly constructed, and nicely finished. It’s an unusual design, consisting of an inner housing with a snap-on silicone band that runs around its perimeter. It can be customized to add a carrying strap or smaller loop for holding or hanging. It’s designed to be water-resistance, making it perfect for the beach or at a pool, and it looks like it can withstand lots of abuse.

Sound quality benefits from its size and multiple drivers. It provides a rich, if somewhat bass sound, but not so boomy that it’s hard to listen to as on some speakers. Its response is tunable using its free app. Settings allow you to adjust for preset curves for voice or various kinds of music, and tie in a second speaker for stereo. Battery life is rated at more than 12 hours, and the speaker works with apps for both iOS and Android.

What’s noticeable about this product is its attractive design and the quality of construction and finish, yet it’s priced competitively and sounds better than other speakers costing the same or more.  If you buy the speakers at, you have 30 days of use. A pre-paid return label is included in the box, so if you’re unsatisfied, you can ship it back, at no cost either way. The speakers are available now for $199.






by Phil Baker