8 Amazing Smart Backpacks Every Buyer is Talking About

Smart Backpacks

If the type of technology we carry with us every day is always changing, then our backpacks should change to match these needs too. A smart backpack is a resourceful way to simultaneously transport and charge your laptop or smartphone. They’ve also got plenty of other useful tricks like built-in speakers, anti-theft zippers, and solar panels. Check out our picks for the best smart backpacks.

What Are the Best Smart Backpacks in 2019?

1. Best Anti-Theft Backpack: Korin ClickPack Pro

Pros:

  • Anti-theft zippers and cable lock
  • Modular organizer compartments
  • USB charge-out port
Cons:

  • Limited storage capacity
  • Not fully water resistant
  • Flimsy water bottle holder

The Korin ClickPack Pro Smart Backpack is designed from the ground up to safely caddy your valuable electronics without leaving them vulnerable to thieves and pickpockets.

Its standout feature is its anti-theft design, as all of its zippers are either hidden or reinforced. Its main clamshell compartment has a TSA-approved combo lock that secures its zippers in place.

It also has a thin metal wire that can snap into the lock and act as a tether if you need to walk away from your bag. Its only other pocket is a hidden rear quick-access compartment that sits against your back.

The main compartment is filled with helpful organizer pockets like its padded 15-inch laptop compartment, which also has a separate tablet sleeve. There is a zippered pocket to place a power bank, which has a USB cable that passes through to the bottom of its right shoulder strap for easy mobile charging.

This compartment also has two velcro pouches for storing cables or toiletries. With more pockets yet unmentioned, you may not be surprised to find that this leaves little room for bulk storage.

At only 17.7 x 11.8 x 6.3 inches, this backpack is fairly compact even for a daypack. That makes for a calculated 21L of storage, which isn’t quite enough for a weekend trip or even a long hike. The fold-out water bottle holder is quite flimsy so your water bottle will probably end up taking up space in your main compartment as well.

The ClickPack Pro’s slash-resistant material is durable and lightweight but it is not particularly water-resistant. The bag comes with a fold-up rain cover but this is one of the least “smart” additions to this so-called smart backpack.

The ClickPack Pro offers some great tools for deterring petty theft but don’t peg this bag for a one-trick pony. Its clever compartmentalization and durable design make it a solid choice for any techie commuter.

  • 2. Best Backpack with Charger: Ghostek NRGbag 2

    Pros:

    • 3 USB charge-out ports
    • 40L storage capacity
    • Built-in 16,000mAh battery
    Cons:

    • Not fully water-resistant
    • Stiff shoulder straps
    • Flimsy external USB port

    The Ghostek NRGbag 2 is a stylish backpack that can deliver power to a whole bag full of electronics thanks to its three USB charge-out ports and 16,000mAh battery.

    Out of all the smart backpacks I reviewed, only this bag and the Voltaic Systems Array actually come with a portable battery pack. The power bank clips into a pocket in the NRGbag2’s main compartment and powers three USB ports ⁠— two internal and one external. The external port is a little flimsy but it is still a nice feature.

    The bag has an integrated power button on the strap and an external charge-in port so you can recharge the battery without removing it from the bag. This MicroUSB port is somewhat prominent but has a cover.

    The NRGbag2’s main compartment has a padded laptop compartment that holds laptops with 15.6-inch screens or smaller. It makes up the bulk of the bag’s 40L storage capacity, though there is also a fairly deep front pocket. Cooler yet, there is a hidden anti-theft compartment that sits between your back and the bag.

    The NRGbag2 feels fairly durable although it could certainly be more water-resistant than it is. If you’re going to bother to cover the charge-in port, why not do the same for the charge-out port?

    This nitpick aside, the Ghostek NRGbag2 is one of the best smart backpacks for those who constantly run batteries dry.

    3. Best All-Around Smart Backpack: Lifepack Hustle

    Pros:

    • Retractable cable lock
    • USB charge out-port
    • Stylish design
    Cons:

    • Limited storage capacity
    • Only one compartment
    • Mediocre stitching

    Nothing says high-tech like the gentle curves and featureless surfaces of the Lifepack Hustle. If Apple made a backpack, it might look and work a little like this.

    The Hustle is made of premium material and has a padded base that helps the bag stand up on its own. The EVA back feels plush and the straps are nicely padded. The only detail that risks being a long-term failure point is the stitching, which won’t hold up well to abuse.

    The Hustle smart backpack is 11.6 x 17.7 x 6 inches and has a single 18L compartment. This compartment has a couple of organizer pockets, including a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve. It is supposed to fit laptops up to 15 inches but it feels a little tight for non-ultrabooks.

    The pack has an internal side mesh pocket to put a separate power bank so it can easily connect to the bag’s USB charge-out port. This USB port comes out at the base of the strap for easy charging on the go.

    This isn’t the only smart feature of this backpack though, as the Hustle also has a hidden passport pocket which sits flush with your back when you are wearing it. The main compartment is reinforced against theft as well, as it has a retractable cable lock that connects to the top flap’s buckle.

    The Lifepack Hustle is a solid option for a mid-sized daypack, whose USB charging capabilities and anti-theft features make it ideal for an urban commute.

    4. Best Laptop Backpack: Targus CityLite Pro

    Pros:

    • Stylish anti-theft design
    • Lots of compartments
    • USB charge-out port
    Cons:

    • So-so materials
    • Limited storage capacity
    • Laptop sleeve is tight

    The Targus CityLite Pro is a versatile commuter backpack that can pull double duty as both a backpack and a briefcase. I guess you can call it a briefpack.

    It has a sleek and stylish design that is appropriate for the office. It has a minimalist style and it holds its own form so it will stand up even when underpacked. All of its zippers are angled towards your back, giving them an extra layer of tamper resistance while traveling.

    Its main compartment unzips all the way down to easily reach items at the bottom. Ihas a laptop sleeve that holds laptops up to 15 inches in size. it is padded with Targus’ DOME shock-distribution system, which is great for reducing impact damage from drops as long as your laptop fits the tight sleeve.

    The main compartment also has a number of smaller internal pockets. One is a zippered RFID-blocking compartment. You can leave credit cards or mobile devices in here to prevent remote hacking attempts but keep in mind you won’t receive calls if you do put your phone in there.

    There is another internal pocket to house a power bank, which can then connect to a built-in USB charge out port on the exterior of the backpack. It is handy for charging your phone on the go.

    The CityLite Pro has a smaller front compartment with a removable lattice of elastic bands for easy storage. It also has a small side pocket and a hidden passport pocket on the rear as well.

    The shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. They have a sternum strap and safety whistle for added utility. However, you also have the option to tuck them away and use the fold-out side handle to carry this bag more like the briefpack it is.

    The only downside of this bag is that its outer material isn’t particularly rugged, nor is it adequately waterproof to wear out in a storm. If you don’t plan to take it along on a backpack trip, then the CityLite Pro should have no problem meeting the needs of a techie on the go.

    5. Best Cheap Smart Backpack: Matein

    Pros:

    • Low price tag
    • USB charge-out port
    • Lots of compartments
    Cons:

    • No padding on the bottom of the bag
    • Not fully water-resistant
    • Finicky zippers

    The Matein Smart Backpack might not have as many bells and whistles as some of the other options out there but its low price makes it the best smart backpack on a budget.

    At 18 x 12 x 7.8 inches, it offers enough storage to carry a weekend’s worth of supplies or approximately two classes worth of undergrad engineering textbooks. Most of this is delegated to the main compartment, which has plenty of room for bulky items. It also has a pocket to put a power bank so you can power the bag’s built-in USB charge out port.

    Behind this is a dedicated laptop compartment with padded pockets for a 15.6-inch laptop and a tablet. The bottom isn’t padded like the sides, though, which can be dangerous. The front pocket has lots of organizers to store smaller items. There are also two side mesh water bottle pockets and a hidden rear passport pocket.

    The Matein Backpack is fairly sturdy considering the price but it is noticeably less rugged than backpacks made from more expensive materials. It still withstands rough use pretty well but it certainly isn’t as water resistant. The zippers are lockable but somewhat finicky if you use them often enough.

    While there are certainly smarter pieces of luggage out there, they aren’t necessarily smarter ways to spend your money. The Matein Smart Backpack proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune for a functional backpack with a battery.

    6. Best Light-Up Backpack: Flypak Trendsetter

    Pros:

    • Built-in LED light and USB port
    • Anti-theft zippers
    • Waterproof design
    Cons:

    • Requires a battery with 2 USB ports
    • Only one compartment
    • Limited storage capacity

    The Flypak Trendsetter is an all-around excellent smart backpack because of its unique design and LED light feature.

    Its main compartment has a roll top with a sturdy hook to keep it sealed in transit. This compartment has a padded laptop sleeve that is large enough to fit a small laptop or a tablet. I was unable to obtain an exact figure but a 15.6-inch laptop seems like it would be difficult to pack.

    Part of the reason that this is the case is that roll top compartments don’t open very wide, making it hard to get at items at the bottom of the pack. Thankfully, this pack has a set of hidden zippers on the rear to easily access the depths of your bag.

    For having just one compartment, it isn’t particularly large. With external dimensions of 17 x 3 x 13 inches, the bag has an estimated 10L of internal storage, making it better as a lightweight daypack than a camping backpack.

    The feature that makes the Trendsetter a smart backpack is its built-in LED light, which can be customized with a free companion app. It needs to be powered by a separate portable power bank which is not included. You can also plug your power bank into the bag’s USB charge-out port so you can easily charge your phone while you use it.

    The light might seem like a gimmick but it can actually be quite handy for increasing visibility while walking or biking at night. Plus it does look pretty cool. Unfortunately, it has a separate USB cable from the USB port so you need a power bank with two USB ports to get the full out of this bag.

    The Trendsetter’s roll top design and water-repellant coating make it safe to use in the rain. The USB port is covered by your back so it won’t get wet unless it sits in a puddle.

    Its shoulder straps are nicely padded and include a sternum strap for improved weight distribution. If you are looking for a compact smart backpack for city commutes, then the Trendsetter is a great option.

    7. Best Solar Backpack: Voltaic Systems Array

    Pros:

    • 3 built-in solar panels
    • Included 24,000mAh power bank
    • Lots of compartments
    Cons:

    • High price tag
    • Heavy and bulky
    • Weird USB charge-out port placement

    The Array Backpack from Voltaic Systems is both a rugged daypack and a heavy-duty portable power source thanks to its three built-in solar panels.

    This is no gimmick — the Array has three high-quality monocrystalline solar panels that harness the energy of the sun to deliver a charge to USB-compatible devices like smartphones, DSLR camera batteries, and newer MacBooks.

    The backpack comes with a 24,000mAh battery pack, which has a high enough capacity to charge most smartphones up to seven times. It is easy to connect to a solar panel from its special pocket but it also comes with an AC adapter so you can charge it before a big trip. It comes with a universal charging cable that has pretty much every laptop charger attachment available.

    It has a USB charge out port on the front of the straps, which is a strange but effective place to put it. The straps are decently padded and have a sternum strap to evenly distribute your load.

    As for storage, the Voltaic Systems Array has four main compartments. One is a dedicated laptop sleeve that’s large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop. It has padding on both sides.

    The main compartment has the most storage as well as several internal organizer pockets. There are several side compartments and a water bottle pocket. The front-most pocket is where the included battery pack plugs into the bag’s solar panels.

    All in all, it only adds up to about 25L of storage but this is pretty decent for daily use. Its dimensions are 19 x 11 x 7 inches. Its solar panels may draw looks on your urban commute, but when you need to get off the grid while keeping your devices charged up, there isn’t a backpack you’d rather have than this one.

    8. Best Speaker Backpack: Super Real Business

    Pros:

    • Removable 15W speakers
    • Built-in battery
    • USB charge-out port
    Cons:

    • Battery life could be better
    • Distorts at max volume
    • Limited storage capacity

    The Super Real Business Backpack is a large and stylish bag that is made all the more practical by its zip-out Bluetooth speaker.

    At 8.2 x 17.7 x 15.3 inches, this backpack has plenty of storage space across its various compartments. The bag’s main compartment has a laptop sleeve that holds most 15-inch laptops.

    There are many organizer pockets scattered across its main compartment and its small front compartment. This bag also has two water bottle pockets though they are fairly shallow.

    The housing for the speaker looks like one last pocket, but it just a strip of fabric that can be unrolled to reveal the 15W speaker cluster. In terms of audio quality, the speaker is pretty decent. It has two tweeters and a subwoofer to deliver a full spectrum of sound. It does clip if you bring it to max volume, though.

    It plays from Bluetooth or aux and can be zipped out of the backpack and used independently of the bag. The back of the speaker is where you’ll find the power button, power status LEDs, and a USB charge-out port. The speaker only gets about four hours of playback time off one charge. It will surely get less if you use some of that power to charge other devices too.

    The backpack has comfy padded straps plus a hip belt and sternum strap to help distribute heavy loads. Even if you take the smart features out of the equation, the Super Real Business backpack is a reliable luggage option. Add it back in and you’ve got an awesome overall value.

    How We Rate Our Picks

    While there a lot of high-tech features that you might find on a smart backpack, there is no definite feature that distinguishes the smart backpack from a traditional one. That’s because this is a new design space for manufacturers.

    Backpack designers are still fine-tuning the smart features that consumers want in a pack, so you probably won’t find a backpack that does it all just yet. After all, what’s smart on one backpack isn’t so smart on another.

    For instance, a solar panel might only be worth carrying when you’re away from power outlets, and a set of built-in speakers might weigh you down if you need to pack a bag for travel.

    That’s why we selected the best smart backpacks using a wide set of criteria. This way, you can focus on what you need out of a smart backpack. After all, the smart backpack with the highest capacity isn’t going to be the one with the most features, and it certainly won’t be the best on a budget.

    There are however, some universal aspects that are crucial to consider, such as storage space, and comfortable straps. They also have to have water-resistant material, lest you allow your expensive devices to get soaked beneath some low-quality cover.

    How We Got Here

    The most interesting aspect of the smart backpack’s evolution is that it has emerged organically in response to what employees and students need the most. Its conception likely stems back to the early 2000s when backpacks just started edging their way into the executive environment.

    In a WSJ article on backpacks in corporate settings, Roopal Patel, the senior vice president at Saks Fifth Avenue traces the growth of the backpack industry back to the practical needs of the average employee.

    Backpacks left briefcases in the 20th century because they made it much easier to pack along and access everything one needs for the day. With that in mind, it only makes sense to see backpacks retrofitted for a more tech-oriented use. After all, I don’t see messenger bags making a comeback anytime soon.

 

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