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Lighten Up, Road Warriors


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

5 Targus 120 watt AC/DC adapter

Travel Connection Kit-World Pack 11-oz. $129

$99

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

GOOD-BYE iPOD

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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