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My car, my office: Essential gadgets for the road warrior

Christopher Null | May 27, 2013
Commuting is tough. Working out of your car all day is tougher. From traveling salesmen to offsite service professionals to couriers, millions of people worldwide spend their nine-to-five hours behind the wheel. And they need to stay in touch--online, dialed in, and powered up--all day. That's not easy to do when you're constantly on the move.

Commuting is tough. Working out of your car all day is tougher. From traveling salesmen to offsite service professionals to couriers, millions of people worldwide spend their nine-to-five hours behind the wheel. And they need to stay in touch--online, dialed in, and powered up--all day. That's not easy to do when you're constantly on the move.

Allow us to show you how to remain a useful member of the information age even when your workdays can take you on trips of dozens or hundreds of miles.

Power

Few cell phones and far fewer laptops will get you through an entire day of serious work without being plugged in and recharged at some point along the way. Fortunately, your car is a mobile electricity generator. How best to get power out of your vehicle and into the gadgets that need it?

Many of today's automobiles feature USB ports, which are fine for recharging your phone. But if you want to charge your notebook (or even most tablets) you'll need something with more juice. Here are two options that give you a standard A/C adapter via your 12-volt cigarette lighter socket.

The first option is a small adapter that provides a self-contained three-prong outlet (and sometimes a bonus USB port, too). These adapters are near-commodity items now and can put out 100 to 200 watts of power (enough for almost any laptop) at a price of $20 or less. Dozens of variations on this theme exist, but don't expect these cheap adapters to last a lifetime (consider packing a spare).

"Staying connected to the Internet is key to remaining productive."

Keep in mind that higher-power devices (such as printers) can be a huge drain on your car's electrical system. "I've blown out two fuses trying to add juice for my gadgets," says Digital Media Strategist Kevin Lockett.

For these types of devices, you'll need to connect an industrial-strength inverter directly to your car's battery, as the cigarette lighter typically maxes out at around 200 watts. Tripp Lite has options that deliver up to 2400 watts, but you might need to consult with a custom installer for proper installation. Prices can range up to $500 or more.

Connectivity

Staying connected to the Internet is key to remaining productive whether you're at the office or on the road. Being in a car-based office gives you one advantage that others can't touch: If you're in an area and can't get a strong wireless signal, you can simply drive to somewhere else and try again.

Because you never know where the road will take you, savvy road warriors rely on multiple connectivity options. "When it comes to the Internet, I have a backup for everything," says Clayton Cohn, founder of Marketaction.com.

 

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