Heading out on the road? Don't forget some reserve power

Whether you're going across town or halfway across the world, no one wants to be stuck searching for an outlet. Luckily, you can bring your own reserve power.

Yesterday, Delta announced that it is extending in-flight Wi-Fi to several of its regional jets. This is good news to a lot of people. If, like me, you don't live near a major airline hub, regional jets can be a regular part of your flight itinerary. It's worth noting that "regional" is sometimes a euphuistic term – I've flown over nearly half the country a regional jet before.

This is another sign that in-flight Wi-Fi becomes more commonplace (most carriers now offer access on at least some of their planes). In fact, being on a Wi-Fi-free plane may be one of the last places where we can be in this country without Internet access (at least once New York is done adding cell coverage and Wi-Fi to the subway).

While we can find Internet access almost anywhere, we can't always find power everywhere. Apple may be leading the way in terms of minimizing device components to maximize battery size and many frequent travelers will have extra batteries to pop in (unless they're carrying Apple products), but anyone on the go can face the dread of having drained their mobile devices dry.

The situation is quite as bad as it once was (thanks to the proliferation of mobile technology). A decade ago, I can remember skulking around airports looking at every pillar and baseboard for a power outlet.

By contrast, during long wait recently in BWI airport (where I once skulked about looking for outlets), I was pleased to discover that all the Southwest gates now include seating dedicated to mobile device use in one of three forms: easy chairs with small tables holding outlets between them, counters with outlets and bar stools for charging and working, and some counters that seemed pretty much aimed at just charging devices (or working standing up if you're about 10 years old). All these charging stations also offered USB power outlets for charging devices like iPads and BlackBerries (though none of the ones I tried seemed to work). Other carriers, including Virgin America, are making similar upgrades.

Although this may sound like a minor upgrade, it has had a huge impact on almost all travelers - business, families, and students all lined up for them. And I do mean lined up. Clearly, these stations are a hit.

Unfortunately, not all public buildings are as accommodating, but that doesn't mean that we're at the mercy of airports, coffee shops, and such for emergency battery power. A lot of companies produce a range of external battery packs and charging options beyond the standard home and car power cables. Here's a quick list of some of options that are well worth considering if you'll be traveling soon for work, the holidays, or any other reason:

Know of a great reserve battery product I didn't mention? Have a horror story about running out of battery power? Let us know in the comments.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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