I was at a friend’s house recently, when another friend needed to charge her iPhone. Our host was a Samsung user, but she knew she could help. Like all of us, in her years of new phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, she had accumulated nearly every different type of charging cable, in various lengths and colors, which she brought out in a shoebox-sized plastic tub — a tangle of black and gray and white Lightning, micro-USB, and USB-C cables. She even had a 30-pin connector in there, from the first few years of iPhones, I guess in case someone showed up in a time machine.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We usually replace one piece of technology with another, but the cord it comes with always seems to remain, just in case. I used to bring my own version of this mess with me every time I traveled. My laptop, phone, Kindle, and a small bluetooth speaker all needed their own cables, one of which I would inevitably forget, leading me to buy … yet another cable.
But then I found Outdoor Technology’s Calamari Ultra. The brand is better known for making durable power banks and bluetooth audio for snowboarding and other outdoor activities, but when I got a speaker from them several years back, they tossed in the earlier version of this three-in-one connector cable. The newest iteration is even better: It has your standard male USB plug on one end. At the other are Lightning (for anything Apple), Micro USB (for most Android phones and other accessories like tablets and point-and-shoot cameras) and USB-C (used by the latest MacBooks and quickly becoming the new standard).
Anker, another excellent power bank manufacturer, makes a similar cable, but I trust Outdoor Tech and its deserved reputation in the adventure space. With most cables’ tendency to fray and break — especially cables used as often as I use this one — I need to know that the one I carry can stand up to anything. The Ultra has accompanied me to Machu Pichu, paddle boarding along the coast of Maine, and on multiple visits to see family in Detroit. On a road trip across the Everglades, l plugged the Ultra into the car dash’s USB connection to charge a power bank via Micro USB and seamlessly switched over to play music through my iPhone using the Lightning connector — without having to fumble in my bag for another cord.
With the Ultra, instead of traveling with three cords or digging through a box of 30, now I have only one. Well, two. I bought one that stays in my bag for travel and one that floats around the house.