Review: Voltaic Backpack

Solve your energy crisis with a pack made to charge your life (July 28th, 2006)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Voltaic Systems, Inc.

Price: $239.00 US

The Good

  • Portable Energy, Mutli-Purpose Bag. Uses the sun instead of your pocket change.

The Bad

  • None found to date.

Recently I received my monthly electric bill and my jaw fell to the floor, it was nearly double my cell phone bill. Now, in order to understand how excessive that is you must know that on a monthly basis I have a cell phone minute count in excess of 5,000 minutes. Electric-wise it was more than 2,000-kilowatt hours (kWh). What did it you ask? Computer equipment, and lighting for my reptiles.

This bill arrived in my hands upon my return from SolarFest, a festival of music and education based on sustainable living and the development of alternative sources of energy. During my time at the festival, I stumbled upon the vendor booth of the USA Solar Store, where I found the geeks dream bag, the Voltaic Backpack.

Solution to Large Electric Bills

The Voltaic Backpack is a creation by Voltaic Systems, who specializes in solar powered backpacks. Upon putting my hands on the bag at the booth I knew I had to have one, and not in a few days but right then and there. I had finally found a bag that stood hands above the twenty other laptop bags in my closest. Upon going through the bag with a fine tooth comb, I found very few features that Voltaic Systems didn't include. The front of the bag is encompassed with three solar powered panels. They supply power to the battery pack inside a second compartment, which in turn provides an adjustable 5, 6, or 7.2 volts of power to your devices. Another compartment provides space for all your geek needs, from pens, to a PDA, to business cards, as well as two larger compartments for adaptors and cables.

Great attention to detail

The well-designed main compartment provides three additional compartments sized to meet almost any need. The largest is a perfect fit for any 15" or 13" laptop in a protective sleeve. The remaining two pockets are great for your extra accessories. Even with the three compartments, plenty of space is left to store your day-to-day needs, whether that is schoolbooks or your portfolio. On the exterior of the bag, three more compartments are at your fingertips, one on the shoulder strap, and one on each hip. These pockets are great for a cell phone, digital camera, or iPod.

The small details really make this bag something special, one great example is the built in LED lights. So, if you are one of those computer geeks that never see the light of day, included with the bag is a standard AC and DC charger that allows charging the bag from a standard wall outlet or in your car. A light inside Voltaic's logo, shown in the small graphic, indicates the panels are charging. Lastly, the wire channels throughout the bag allow you to provide power to almost every location in the bag. These wire channels make it very easy to install other items into the bag.

Charge Your Life

What could I possible want installed into my bag, well think geeky here. I have already started modifications to mine, including an external wireless antenna for boosting WiFi signals, a laptop GPS adaptor, and last, but not least, an external cell phone antenna. Best of all you cannot see a single one of them. My only fear is what's going to happen the first time I try to take this bag through airport security.

A bag for all seasons

If you're not interested in a backpack style bag, Voltaic Systems makes three other bags including a standard laptop bag style and three different sizes of backpacks. An exciting new product that we can't tell you about yet, is on its way. Now I have not seen any of the other bags, but I have faith that they are all designed with the same commitment and dedication as the one I have.

Finally the real power to be your best

I will close this review with a single question that I am sure many you want answered: What can I power with this bag? The answer is simply almost every geek toy you have. So far I haven't found a single item in my arsenal that could not be plugged into this bag. Voltaic does say that it is not designed to power a laptop, yet I was able to run my Apple MacBook using the solar supply and extend my battery usage time by more then two hours. My assumption is that the bag is not meant to run laptops because the solar panels do not give off enough power to run a computer for an extended period of time, but they do provide more then enough power to add a few hours of usage to your system.

The bag includes eleven of the most common power adapters, including a car charger socket and USB adaptor. Even more are available online from Voltaic. It only weighs 3.5 pounds, which is about the same as most backpacks. It is 20" high x 10-15"wide x 7-10" deep (51cm high x 25-38cm wide x 18-25cm deep) and made with 840D nylon.

Better then anything else, the bag saves you money every day that you use the sun to charge your toys instead of your wall outlet.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Avery Chipka


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