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We Test it: The Travel Humidifier

September 20, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228037

Each month, Field Test columnist and contributing editor Jenna Schnuer tries out gadgets and services designed to simplify life on the road.

Headaches. Dry eyes. Dry skin. Sinus infection. These things happen. Do they happen to you? If you spend any time in hotels, your answer is yes, right? (If it’s not, do you drink olive oil with your breakfast?) Anyway, my answer is yes. From the headaches right on through to the allergies. Oh, so much fun. There’s no greater feeling than heading into a business meeting with a headache starting to pulse between your eyes. As it’s not really practical to tote around a full-sized humidifier in my carry-on, I was pretty pleased when I saw Satechi’s USB Portable Humidifier. (With the pleased level falling somewhat closer to ooh, I found a $5 bill, than say, winning $10 on a lottery scratch-off card.) The size of a tennis ball, the $29.99 unit seemed like it might be worth toting along to stave off at least some of the how-dry-I-am issues that crop up in hotels.

Satechi’s promise: Relief. They promised that once fit atop a water bottle or glass, the unit would create a “soothing environment” and relief from “cold, cough, and flu systems, itchy dry skin, congested sinuses, chapped lips, and headaches by adding moisture to dry air.” So, you know, basic humidifier tasks. But this is a wee unit. How much could it do?

Our reality: Turns out, it can do pretty well (though I’m happy to report I did not have to test it out on the flu). The unit shoots out a pretty reasonable stream of mist for a full eight hours—and then turns itself off. The humidifier uses about an ounce of water per hour so I kept my water bottle filled up and moved the unit with me to my desk while I worked or my night table while I slept to ensure the mist kept me comfy, not the rest of the room. At night, the blue bulbs inside of the unit turn the water into a not-quite nightlight. On the box, they call it a “mood light” (though I’m not quite sure what mood they’re going for with that blue). I was worried the light would bug me at night—I like a dark room—but it’s not that bright. A nice side benefit: I found the slightly-louder-than-silent noise the humidifier emits pretty relaxing.

#insert related here#

My main quibble: the directions on the box say “screw to tighten (with compatible water bottle)” but the screw bit was too wide for the 16.9 oz. water bottles I tried. Turns out, unless you’re an Evian drinker, it’s more a rest-the-unit-on-top-of-the-water-bottle setup. So, you can’t secure that sucker onto the bottle. Since the humidifier is powered by USB, that’s a little nerve-wracking if you decide to use your computer as the power source. I wasn’t too keen on leaving an uncapped bottle of water near my computer. So I plugged the USB into an adapter so that I could use a wall outlet. (That is until I had a better idea: I plugged it into the waterproof solar charger I tested a few months ago.

Through their publicist, Satechi says it was a challenge for them to create a universal fit for most water bottles. “Since we wanted to market this product to the whole world, we decided to go with the Evian bottle style, which is more common in Europe and Asia. Right now, we are working on a new version that can fit most bottles in the USA, and we are confident on finding a solution to this problem.” 

If the unit cost a bundle, I’d probably say hold off until they fix the water bottle issue. But for $29.99? Go ahead and get misty.

Now if only Satechi offered a product to help with headaches caused by other people. Too much to ask?