Anyone who’s ever rushed to get out the door in the morning has probably left home with a dead or dying smartphone. It’s not fun, but it happens. You don’t always have time to run back home for a charger or battery pack. It’s all part of the digital lifestyle, right? Wrong! Thanks to the Powerbag ($129.99, link), you may never have to endure that experience again.
The Powerbag is more or less exactly what it sounds like – a backpack that can charge your gadgets. Ful has cleverly and discretely built a battery pack and cable system into the bag, enabling you to charge your gadgets while walking down the street or riding the bus, and provides the necessary cables for charging almost any gadget. In this review, I’ll be taking a look at their standard model casual backpack.
This isn’t the most stylish backpack in the world, but it does a great job of serving its specific purpose – charging gadgets on the go. The battery securely locks in to the front section of the bag (out of sight), and can easily be swapped out with another battery or removed for charging.
While the bag does come with the necessary cables built-in to charge most devices (MicroUSB, Mini-USB, and Apple 30-pin), all of these connections are restricted to a single small pouch on the side of the pack. This means the built-in connections are basically only useful for charging small devices such as smartphones or Bluetooth headsets, but not larger devices like the iPad.
Ful partially compensates for this by including an extra USB port you can insert any cable you like into, but restricting the built-in cables to a single pocket seems like a bad move, especially considering that there is no built-in cable to service the bag’s dedicated iPad/tablet compartment.
At first glance, the Powerbag looks like a comfortable backpack. Unfortunately, it has very little ventilation, and the straps are not well-padded. It also does not include a yoke for balancing weight between your shoulders. In essence, while the Powerbag will be comfortable for a short trip, it may not be comfortable over long periods of time.
The Powerbag is among the bulkier backpacks out there, but it does provide a ton of storage. The bag features three separate main compartments – a slit-type compartment on the side for stashing your laptop (up to 16-inches), a main compartment for storing miscellaneous items, and a front organizer compartment with a dedicated iPad pocket.
There are a lot of great organization features included in the pack. I was able to find a slot, slit, or compartment to put just about everything in, from pens, to business cards, to USB sticks, cables and chargers. The side compartment that the cables feed into is also an excellent place to securely store small electronic items such as an iPod, smartphone or headset.
Unfortunately, the laptop slot was a bit worrying to me – it’s slightly padded on either side, but it provides no real way to secure your laptop and keep it from sliding around. I also didn’t feel it was padded well enough to protect from impact.
From a durability standpoint, the Powerbag couldn’t get much better. It’s made of incredibly tough double-stitched nylon, has a reinforced rubber bottom, and features remarkably durable, easy-to-slide, and well-built zippers. I can say with confidence that the Powerbag is a backpack that should last you quite a while, even with some rough handling.
The model of Powerbag that I reviewed includes a 3000mAh battery – enough to provide almost two full charges for an iPhone 4S, or about two-thirds of a charge for the iPad. The bag can also be purchased with larger 6000mAh or 9000mAh batteries, and you can carry multiple batteries around to quickly swap out when your power is low.
You can easily check the battery levels by pressing a small button on the front of your bag (which can also be used to turn the battery on or off), and the battery is smart enough to stop charging if your device is full, and doesn’t seem to have any problem with vampire drain.
Charging the bag is also extremely easy. You can either plug the entire backpack directly into the wall using the included power adapter, or you can remove the battery pack itself to charge while the backpack rests elsewhere.
While the Powerbag is certainly a convenient item to have around, and definitely serves its own utilitarian purpose, I felt as though the design issues with the bag, and it’s lack of proper ventilation and ergonomics, took significantly away from the experience. Fortunately, the company is already working on a new line of bags to help address these concerns.
Rating & Conclusion
For its convenience, durability, and excellent storage management, contrasted with its design and comfort-related weaknesses, I award the Powerbag a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a great bag for certain types of use, but could certainly benefit from a bit of rethinking.
For more information, or to purchase a Powerbag direct from the manufacturer ($140), head on over the Ful’s Powerbag site on the web. The bag is also available on Amazon for $129.99 (link). You can also purchase the upgraded Deluxe model with a bigger battery and an extra pocket for the same price ($129.99, Amazon).
In addition to this backpack, Ful also offers sling and messenger-style packs at varying prices.
- Built-in 3000mAh battery
- Includes built-in cables for charging most devices and an extra USB port
- Dedicated side-loading laptop slot
- Dedicated iPad slot
- Durable, excellent build quality
- A bit pricy ($140)
- Not much to look at
- Built-in cables are limited to a single small side pocket
- Comfort, ventilation and ergonomics could use some work
- Laptop compartment doesn’t fully secure your laptop