Lighten Up, Road Warriors

How to keep all your electronic gizmos to under 10 pounds

The older I get, the more every business trip seems to tax my shoulders and back. Looking at my typical travel gear, it's no wonder. My Dell (DELL ) D600 laptop, extra battery, and adapter plug alone weigh about 10 pounds. Add in a book, papers, movie DVDs, my Samsung cellular phone, iPod (AAPL ) music player, Canon (CAJ ) EOS Digital Rebel camera, Bose headphones, and more cords, adapters, and chargers needed to make the trip enjoyable, and you can see why a lot of people hate to travel. That's why in planning a trip to Europe earlier this year, I decided to see if I could slash the weight of my gear from 25 pounds to 10. I hunted, online and in stores, for light, easy-to-use stuff that didn't trade weight for costs higher than my original gear. Altogether, I got good results -- and would recommend the equipment.

I decided to ditch my 10-pound, $2,200 Dell laptop, which I used mainly to get to e-mail behind the corporate firewall. I first opted for palmOne's (PLMO ) 6-oz. Treo 600 handheld phone-organizer that could do double duty: I could get rid of my phone and easily send and receive e-mail, since McGraw-Hill, BusinessWeek's parent, offers Good Technology's wireless e-mail service. All I had to do was make sure my carrier, AT&T Wireless (AWE ), supported data roaming overseas -- and it did.

Then I began to worry. Could I go on the road for 18 days with just the Treo's tiny keyboard? Back on the hunt, I found Sharp's (SHCAY ) Actius MM20P. Weighing an amazing 2.6 pounds, with a 10-inch screen, the $1,600 machine could serve as a good travel PC. I could work in Word (MSFT ) or Excel and, because the Actius had built-in Wi-Fi, I could access my Yahoo! (YHOO ) e-mail account to forward information to colleagues or my own work e-mail account, while using the Treo to send shorter messages directly. (I also carried Apple AirPort Express with AirTunes, which allowed me to set up a Wi-Fi hot spot anywhere.) Better yet, the Actius came with a dock I could leave at the office. Connect the dock by USB to your primary computer, and the Actius' 20-gigabyte hard drive can serve as an external storage device. The downside? There's no internal DVD-ROM drive.

How to keep all your electronic gizmos to under 10 pounds

1 Treo 600 6 oz. $199
2 Archos AV400 Pocket Video Recorder 9.88 oz. $499
3 Sharp Actius MM20P 2.6 lb. $1,600
4 Logitech V500 Mouse $60

Targus 120 watt AC/DC adapter

Travel Connection Kit-World Pack




6 Airport Express with AirTunes 6.7 oz. $128
7 Plantronics M3500 Bluetooth Adapter 9-oz. $150
8 HP Deskjet 450 4.6-lb. $350
9 Palm Tungsten T5 5.1 oz. $399
10 Sony Cybershot DSC-T1 6.3 oz. $550


That led me to my second big decision -- going without my iPod. I decided to address my entertainment needs by using Archos' AV400 pocket video recorder. With the hard-drive player, I recorded MADtv and Nip/Tuck episodes off my TiVo (TIVO ) for long plane and train rides. My stress levels kicked up a notch, however, when I discovered I couldn't transfer my music library to the device. I had been saving much of my catalog in the Apple iTunes' proprietary AAC format, which wasn't supported by Archos. So I had to rerecord a few CDs in the MP3 format.

My biggest headaches came with the decision to use Sony's (SNE ) ultracool Cyber-shot DSC-T1 5 megapixel digital camera. As thin as a few credit cards stacked together and weighing just 6.3 ounces, it seemed a good replacement for the bulkier, 2.5-pound Canon. But I was put off by the Cybershot's lack of a regular viewfinder. Worse, I discovered after getting home that quite a few pictures were blurry despite the relatively fast shutter speed. Perhaps the camera was so small that tiny shakes of my hand led to fuzzy photos.

A good option for those who need a travel printer: the HP (HPQ ) Deskjet 450. Equipped with BlueTooth wireless communications and weighing just 4.6 pounds, it was compact enough to carry and could easily pair with the Sharp Actius using a BlueTooth adapter.

I turned to Targus for my final weight-savers. The Targus World Pack Travel Connection kit comes with every power and landline phone adapter. I added the company's 11-oz. Universal Auto/Air Notebook Power Adapter kit and got rid of all my other cords except those for the Treo 600. Then I loaded all the gear in a lightweight notebook case.

So how did I do? Total weight: 10.2 pounds, and just 5.63 pounds if I left the printer home. Total cost: $3,357, or $3,107 without the printer. While not cheap, it still cost less than my regular gear. I'll trade a thinner wallet for a lighter load any day.

By Cliff Edwards

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