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jan 21 2011

Top 10 hottest new travel gadgets

Click the image to launch the slide show. (Courtesy Innex)

The Consumer Electronics Show, which takes Vegas by storm each January, could be summed up this year in three words: Smaller, Greener, Glitzier. During the 6-day event, more than 100,000 exhibitors showcased the future of televisions, computers, phones, and personal entertainment technology.

We were on the scene to scout out the best new wares for travelers. From come-hither cameras to the mother of all gadget chargers, these devices are certain to make any journey that much sweeter. Not all of these products are on the market yet, but you'll want to keep your eyes open for this gear.

Click here to see the slide show!

Click "continue reading" below to see the full list.

Lady GaGa's Camera Sunglasses: sunglasses that moonlight as a camera

The concept of fashion photography gets a makeover with Polaroid's new GL20 Camera Sunglasses. Part of the Grey Label line introduced at CES by the Fem Fatal of Fashion herself, Lady GaGa will be repping them while you will be wearing them, hopefully sometime soon. These glasses go beyond GaGa cool into a Bond-like netherworld of possibility. Users can instantly capture or upload photos with the built-in camera and then display the image they just took on the glasses' LCD screens for others to see. The sunglasses contain a camera and 1.5-inch organic light-emitting diode screens that can grab and display images and video as well as store them on a chip in the earpiece of the glasses and transfer them to a computer via USB. Call it Instant Artistry; call it Fashion with a Pun.

Get it: It will be awhile until you will be putting these glasses on and playing Gotcha! They are still in prototype and do not have a launch date yet. Keep an eye out for Lady GaGa. When she gets her pair, you can get yours. For more information, visit Polaroid.com.

Walkin' Bag: the carry-on that doubles as a lawn chair and a desk

Finally! A carry-on that doubles as a lawn chair! We don't know what took the luggage industry so long. Not only does this do-it-all case fit a week's worth of clothing, it moonlights as a chair—or a desk. Stuck in a terminal full of cancelled flights? Turn the seat into a desk and start typing away (or simply unfold the seat, lean back, and relax). Finally, it's a four-wheel spinner so the bag practically flies down the pathway. The frame comes apart from the bag for easy storage and stuffing and the whole thing can hold the weight of a 300-pound person without concern for cracking. The only thing we don't like? It's hard to find outside the Website.

Get it: $170 (with seat). Purchase through Walkinbag.com.

Innex ElectroHUB: the device that charges all of your gadgets at once…wirelessly

Innex ElectroHUB is one of the most genius travel devices we encountered at CES. The item is a wireless charger that lets you juice a half dozen electronic gadgets at once (no more multiple sets of cords to bulk up your luggage and lose in strange rooms!). Here's how it works: you plug ElectroHub into the wall, place up to six devices on the 6-by-9-inch surface and wait for them to charge. The hub works with everything from mobile phones to e-readers to game controllers and provides a full charge within standard time frames. The rub is that you'll need to swap ElectroHUB batteries into your devices before they'll work with the wireless charger. The hub weighs about 11 ounces.

Get it: $39, including a set of ElectroHUB batteries (additional batteries cost $10 per set). The device is set to launch later this year. For more information, visit Innexinc.com.

ZAGGmate: a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad

ZAGGmate might be this year's winner when it comes to iPad accessories. The sleek protective case doubles as a keypad and…well, a desk for quick notations on the go. The case comes NASA-style with aircraft-grade aluminum for protection and an attractive, high gloss finish. Open the case and the top section doubles as a hinge stand for holding the iPad at a comfortable viewing angle while the Bluetooth keyboard on the bottom section allows for easy QWERTY typing. Downside: ZAGGmate charges separately and does not double as a charger for the iPad. The case with keyboard adds nearly 13 ounces to the iPad but only about 1/4 inch in depth.

Get it: $99 for ZAGGmate with keyboard. The device can be found at chain electronics stores and departments. For more information visit Zagg.com.

ChicBuds: a thumb-sized boombox

While ChicBuds have been around this year as cartoon-colored retractable ear buds that can attach to a key ring or hole in your MP3, CES brought the next generation of darling sound servers: the ChicBoom Keychain Speakers. These thumb-sized boom boxes keep keys and music in place while wowing the room with surprisingly decent sound output (the speakers give 2-watts of amplification; a single charge offers four hours of quality sound). Choose the a little blue box with leopard sidings, the heart-shaped speaker or the bubblegum pink speaker ball that looks like a sugarcoated jawbreaker. A built-in rechargeable battery plugs into your computer and allows you to juice up while listening to you iTunes library in some far away hotel room. The items connect to just about any listening device.

Get it: $29.99. For more information, visit Chicbuds.com.

Earthmate: a handheld GPS and text-messaging unit that works where cell phones don't

Planning on doing any backwoods hiking, mountain-climbing or safaris in the near future? If so, you should seriously consider adding the new Earthmate by Delorme to your travel wish list. Not only does the palm-sized item hold a sensitive GPS system, it also delivers one-way email messaging. What makes this gadget so special is that it works by satellite, which means that you can use it even when cell phone service is non-existent. Other features include barometric altimeter readings, NOAA nautical charts, aerial imagery, and topographical maps. Naturally, Earthmate can be powered by the sun when other forms of energy are unavailable.

Get it: Earthmate PN series start at $299. For more information visit Delorme.com.

PlaySport Video Camera: the video cam that can't be broken

Kodak's new PlaySport Video Camera won Innovation awards this year at CES as a hot and handy camera that goes practically anywhere you go. The rugged, durable and pocketsize HD video camera has a special appetite for adventure. It is waterproof up to 10 feet, can be dropped up to 4 feet, and features a full 1080p HD video and 5 MP still capture all with autofocus, an electronic image stabilization, and built-in software with a USB cable output so as quickly as you shoot you can edit and share on Twitter, YouTube and Face Book through a 3-step sharing button. An edit window on the camera makes it easy to trim, add voice over, or mash-up your creations. Record up to 10 hours of HD video with an expandable SD/SDHC card slot (up to 32 GB). The bad? It does not come in puce. You'll have to make do with black, red, green, white and aqua. Compatible with Mac and PC.

Get it: $179 when it comes out this spring. For more information, visit Kodak.com.

iPower: a solar iPhone charger

Mi Suny is trying to save the world one iPhone at a time. The candy-colored portable iPower3 (for iPhone 3 series) and iPower 4 chargers use the sun to keep your iPhone in juice so you never have to go for too long with a dead phone. The iPhone fits glove-like into the hard shell case and then can be worn as single unit with a cord around the neck exposing the backside solar panel to the sun for ongoing charges. The front display of the phone remains exposed for calling, surfing and accessing apps. The downside? It takes about 8 hours to get a full charge from sunlight alone, but if you are in a hurry and nowhere near a plug, two hours of direct solar exposure will give you 30 minutes of talk time on a 3G network.

Get it: Starting at about $100, buy Mi Suny through the website of the UK-based company: Misuny.com.

Neoprene Laptop/iPad Case: a laptop case that's stylish and durable

Built's neon neoprene designs insure that wherever you're going, your computer and your iPad can go with you in style. For your computer, we love the padded, featherweight Laptop Tote Bag, which looks more like a purse and holds computers with ease while two deep inside pockets store chargers, gadgets and keys. Roomy to the bone you can add folders, notebooks and guidebooks. For iPads, we recommend the Neoprene Envelope. The Scuba Blue Envelope provides stylish protection for the precious pad with form-fitting design and graceful curves to keep it secure. The interior pocket is perfect for storing an adapter, phone or keys and the soft inner lining helps prevent scratches and bumps from jolts.

Get it: $60-70 for the Laptop Tote Bag, $40 for the Neoprene Envelope for iPads. For more information, visit Builtny.com.

Protect and Play iPhone Case: a high-impact shell for your iPhone

The Pelican i1015 case looks like the kind of thing that would allow you to take your iPhone, iTouch or iPod into battle and never miss a tune or a call. OK, you can't take it swimming with you, but your gadgets will go just about everywhere else in this bomb shelter of a carrying case. The high-impact, heat- and chemical-resistant polymer shell maintains a decorative edge—kind of a mini-suitcase look—while the clear coating allows you to watch videos if you want. An earpiece connector peeks through the plastic casing so you can listen to music as you go without the usual worries of dropping or losing your device, or exposing it to the elements. Downside? It's a bit clunky and does not fit easily into a purse. But it slips into a beach bag with the greatest of ease. It also fits Blackberry Curve, Storm, and Pearl; the G1 by T-Mobile; and the Nokia 5800, E63, E71, E75, N78 and N79.

Get it: $38.80 at Pelican.com.

—By Lark Ellen Gould

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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