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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Includes powerbank/Bluetooth speaker, and solar charger
Hidden storage compartments for sensitive items
Tons of additional accessories and clever anti-theft features
Lackluster solar charger slow to charge
Provided lock is finicky and not very durable
The Solgaard Lifepack is a solid backpack for travelers complete with a multi-purpose solar-powered bank/speaker and anti-theft features, but ultimately it falls a bit short with some of the extra accessories.
The urban explorer and on-the-go adventurer is a demanding consumer when it comes to backpacks. Solgaard’s Lifepack is one of the increasing numbers of stylish bags that fit their needs. Complete with lots of clever anti-theft features and accessories to solve issues for travelers, the Lifepack brings lots of good to the table, but it’s not without its faults either. We spent some time testing it to see how it fared on our commute and all manner of urban environments.
One of the strongest points of the Lifepack is that it’s a great pack for everyday use. Examining the pack from the outside, you’ll find it has a clean, minimalist design with a mostly smooth exterior that doesn’t have the collection of front pockets, zippers, and straps other bags have. Some people might see that as a downside, but it bolsters Solgaard’s argument that this bag is designed with anti-theft measures in mind (elaborated more below). Sporting two side pockets (a bit on the small side) and two zippers to access the main compartments, the only other design element is the window to allow sunlight to reach the solar charger.
Inside the pack, you’ll unzip two main compartments. The largest one holds the bulk of the storage space, including the padded laptop sleeve (this is a laptop backpack after all). The sleeve itself is a decent size, fitting most 15-inch laptops easily, though when we tried a chunky 15-inch gaming laptop it was quite a tight squeeze. This could be an issue for those with beefier tech. Attached to the sleeve is another handy pocket that’s perfect for carrying some books, magazines, folders or other items you don’t want bent. On the side across from the sleeve, there are lots of little storage slots for chargers, pens, and other small accessories. Overall, the large compartment is great for what most users will need.
While some of these individual components aren’t the best on their own, they combine to make a device that we feel is worth the cost.
The second compartment is a bit smaller, but still a decent size. Inside are other small pockets and organizers for gear, but the outside of this slot lacks any storage. The battery pack sits at the top and is quite bulky, heavy and flops around when you’re accessing the space. If you choose not to use the battery pack, you can block off the hole with an attachable plate that comes with the bag, but that seems to defeat the purpose of purchasing the Lifepack in the first place.
As for comfort, the bag has beefy straps with lots of nice padding to soften the load on your shoulders, along with a back mesh to keep you cool and comfortable. One issue, however, is the weight. The bag itself weighs in at about 2 pounds, while the Solarbank adds another pound or so. This means that with nothing in the backpack to start, it’s already over 3 pounds, and adding in a laptop and all your gear can add up quickly. It’s not a deal breaker, but definitely something to consider if you like to travel light. Unlike most comparable backpacks, the Lifepack also lacks sternum straps, which could have been helpful for when the bag weighs you down.
Solgaard is big on pushing the anti-theft features of the bag which range from useful to lackluster. For starters, the pack is lined with anti-cut plastic that prevents access should someone attempt to slash their way in. There’s also a retractable combination lock included in the pack, allowing you to secure your bag if you need to leave it somewhere unattended.
Unfortunately, the lock feels a bit flimsy and setting the code isn’t the easiest. It also has a tendency to change itself, leaving you fumbling at attempts to guess how it reset itself. It’s nice as a free accessory, but we wouldn’t bank on it keeping your bag secured. There are also four hidden external pockets, one on each strap and two behind the mesh on the back where it rests against you while worn. These are quite small, but great for keeping cash, passports or other small sensitive items stashed away.
Easily the bag’s most prominent feature and selling point is the Solarbank. This clever device combines a 10,000 mAh battery pack, solar charger, and Bluetooth speaker into one convenient device (there’s also a cheaper option that lacks the speaker capabilities). Fully charged up, Solgaard claims it’ll hold about six charges for your average smartphone or play roughly 96 hours of continuous music.
During our testing, the solar-charging capabilities of the bank left much to be desired.
The basic concept here is that you place the Solarbank in the backpack’s slot, allowing it to charge from the sun while you walk around, giving you the juice your devices need, whenever you need it. During our testing, the solar-charging capabilities of the bank left much to be desired. After walking around for several hours, the device received only a minimal charge from the sun, and worked far better when left to sit in direct sunlight undisturbed. While there are lots of factors affecting solar charging, our experience was roughly an hour of sunshine gives you enough charge to fill about a quarter of your phone’s battery. That’s not nearly enough for dedicated travelers.
The device itself comes with a USB charging cable and an aux cord, which is definitely our preferred method of listening to music. The Solarbank’s Bluetooth capabilities do indeed work, but can be a bit wonky. We experienced some connectivity issues during testing, but that’ll vary based on interference. As for sound quality, it’s alright, but don’t expect it to be anything high-end. It’ll get the job done for most, and it has plenty of volume to be loud enough in any setting.
There are two USB ports on the side as well, though they cannot be used simultaneously to charge multiple devices. One nice feature is the ability to route the powerbank’s charger through the pack and out the side of one of the pockets, giving you quick and easy access to charge without having to unzip and remove anything.
Strictly looking at price, the Lifepack is on the higher end of the spectrum for laptop backpacks, but for good reason. With the added Solarbank and a plethora of other goodies, the Lifepack will run you $165 at MSRP for the model with the Solarbank or $195 for the one with the Solarbank Boombox. Taking the extras into consideration, the price seems fair.
There are some other “smart” backpacks that accomplish a similar job to the Lifepack, but few do it as well, or match all of the same features.
It's worth noting, however, that you could buy a portable solar charger, a battery pack, a Bluetooth speaker, and a cheaper backpack individually, but the Lifepack does a good job of combining everything into one convenient package that’s designed to work in sync.
There are some other “smart” backpacks that accomplish a similar job to the Lifepack, but few do it as well, or match all of the same features. One such competitor is Ghostek’s NRGsolar backpack. The Ghostek bag boasts a more powerful solar charger (meaning less time spent waiting for your bank to charge itself in sunlight), a larger capacity, larger powerbank (16,000 mAh), and it’s much cheaper at around $100. While we find the Lifepack to be a much better-looking bag, and the added ability of the Bluetooth speaker is nice, the price the Lifepack demands is on the high side. Ghostek’s offering is cerainly worth considering for those on a budget.
Want to take a look at some other options? Browse through our list of the best laptop backpacks on the market today.
A suitable all-in-one “smart” backpack.
All said and done, the Lifepack is an excellent answer to someone looking to snag a premium, all-in-one smart laptop backpack that’s bursting with extras and useful accessories. You get a decent powerbank with solar capabilities that doubles as a speaker, a lock and a quality bag that’s sturdy and built to last. While some of these individual components aren’t the best on their own, they combine to make a device that we feel is worth the cost.