Technology changes at lightning speed, continuously improving and progressing. Of course, not everything is based on cutting-edge technology and has a tendency to take a while to catch up. The bags we use to carry our daily needed items is one such thing that has been a bit stubborn responding to technology.
That is why smart backpacks are such a boon. This product is designed with the modern person in mind, providing special compartments to hold our electronics as well as various charging stations and organizational features. Still, figuring out which backpack best suits your needs can be as confusing as the technology it holds.
That is why we have put together a list of the 5 best smart backpacks as well as a couple honorable mentions, designating what each one is best at. We sincerely hope that our research will help you avoid possible mistakes and choose the really cool backpack that will serve you for years.
If you have no time to read: currerntly, the best smart backpack is Yorepek (review|price); the best inexpensive anti-theft backpack is Mancro (review|price); Ghostek (review|price) offers best built-in USB charger (power bank); and ECEEN (review|price) is good for hiking.
Best Smart Backpacks 2018
|Yorepek Extra LargeTravel Backpack||USB port, TSA friendly, headphone port||45 L|
|MATEIN Business Travel Backpack||USB port, anti-theft features, most comfortable||32 L|
|Mancro Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack||USB port, anti-RFID protection, budget-friendly||40 L|
|Ghostek NRGbag 2||power bank, 2+1 USB Ports, LED indicator||40 L|
|ECEEN External Frame Backpack||power bank, solar panel, LED camping light||18 L|
1. Yorepek Extra Large: Best Travel Smart Backpack
Yorepek is one of those companies which has recently formed due to the influx of innovative designs within the smart backpack market which allow fairly novice-level entry for anyone with access to a manufacturer. This has led to a mass proliferation of high-quality smart backpacks that cost half or less of what they would have only 2 years ago. Yorepek has only been around for a couple of years, but they have actually made it into numerous top-10 lists primarily because they see what their competition does and then makes it a point to go just a little bit further. As such, the Yorepek smart backpack takes the top or near-top spot for many different categories, and if it had come with a good battery pack would easily be in the running for our Editor’s Choice. As it stands, the Yorepek smart backpack is still the best travel smart backpack that we reviewed.
While the Yorepek may advertise the ability to store up to a 17” laptop, the compartment is designated for use with slim laptops. As such, if you have a larger laptop, then the fact that the Yorepek has the largest total capacity at 45 L does not make much difference when it still will not properly carry your laptop. Of course, if you do not have a larger laptop, than the sheer capacity as well as the more than 20 different compartments makes this great for those pack rats that carry everything with them where they go.
One thing that has become increasingly important in the smart backpack market is the ability for the backpack to travel well beyond a daily routine. More and more businessmen are expected to take care of work while traveling, and a backpack that is easy to travel with can be a godsend. While all backpacks are ostensibly designed for travel, some of them are better equipped to handle the unique demands of a modern world. Specifically, the Yorepek smart backpack is able to completely unfold at different angles in order to make it easier for authorities to search the contents without having to upend those same contents.
2. MATEIN Business Travel Backpack: Most Comfortable Backpack with USB Charging Port
Matein has sprouted up within the past couple years – with its legal founding being a little more than a year old – but it is riding that same wave that all of these other new manufacturers are riding. This is great for consumers who have seen the average price of a high-end smart backpack plummet while companies have to steadily compete with each other by adding more and more features. Matein also has the advantage of specializing exclusively in smart backpacks as well as utilizing the only online business model. This allows Matein to keep their overhead costs lower and pass those savings onto the consumer. Still, the thing that truly sets this smart backpack apart from the rest is how comfortable it is to wear.
Smart backpacks can be a bit tricky when designing for comfort primarily because they are made for a consumer that often prefers functionality. Whatever resources and comfort-focused features you might include in the design could likely have been focused instead on increasing the backpack’s functionality. Matein takes a different approach by refining the design of the inherent components of a smart backpack. For instance, all smart backpacks have various types of padding, but Matein made it a point to engineer the padding itself such that it provides superior airflow without sacrificing structural integrity. Even better, this design was used for all major padding used in the Matein – including the shoulder straps as well as the large laptop back pad. The top handle also features this ventilated padding which is one of the few areas where it does not stay in lock step with the competition regarding anti-theft measures.
By and large, the Matein offers a solid range of features, but there are some definite areas where one might wonder why it is not hit harder. For example, the Matein is only a little bit bigger than average at 32L and also lags behind many of the other models we saw with only 10 compartments, but this is actually by design.
Specifically, the additional capacity would only invite you to carry more gear with you when using the Matein which would inherently make it less comfortable due to having to carry more weight. In fact, this is actually the Matein travel smart backpack, and the company does offer larger models – though none of which would take the largest smart backpack spot on our list. Still, if you are looking for a light, travel smart backpack that can be worn all day without issue, then the Matein is a great option and also the most comfortable smart backpack we reviewed. This applies in a variety of settings too as the Matein is made of water-resistant polyester – though this is a far cry from waterproof.
3. Mancro Slim Laptop: Best Anti-Theft Smart Backpack
Mancro continues the trend of companies who have virtually sprouted up overnight following the decrease in cost required to manufacture high-quality smart backpacks. In fact, Mancro doubles this market opportunity up by utilizing and only online business model to bring down the company’s overhead costs and pass those savings onto their customers. While they do not necessarily make the least expensive smart backpack we saw, it is still a less expensive model – especially compared to the upper tiers of the market. Though Mancro may only have been founded a couple years ago, the company does at least specialize in high-end smart backpacks, ensuring that they provide the attention to detail and nuance necessary to make a great product. In this instance, the Mancro made an attempt to prevent you from being robbed – and it did a pretty good job too.
It is one thing to talk about being anti-theft and advertise it, but the actual requirements to call something “anti-theft” are fairly low. As such, you can never really be sure whether a bag which advertises being anti-theft has genuinely designed the product for those purposes or if it merely includes some features which can be cast in that light.
Outside of the anti-theft bent, the Mancro offers plenty of good features without too many major drawbacks but very little to actually get excited over. For example, the Mancro is not the largest smart backpack we saw – not by far – but it is still rather impressive with a capacity of 40 L. On top of that, the Mancro is further enhanced with over 14 compartments – as well as a laptop compartment which is large enough to fit a standard-sized 17” laptop unlike many of the other models on our list. The Macron uses a standard USB port – as opposed to a micro or mini – though the zippers are not the most durable. In an effort to offer a bit more convenience and comfort while traveling, the Macron also comes with a luggage strap. Of course, like many of the other products on our list, the Macron does not come with a battery pack which will increase the overall cost.
4. Ghostek NRGbag 2 Series Laptop Messenger Tech Backpack: Best Performing Smart Backpack
Unless you make it a point to keep up with the various trends in computing and peripheral devices, you can be excused from not knowing who Ghostek is. That said, you should definitely take notice now because this is easily one of the best brands of smart backpack manufacturers that we have encountered. Pretty much every quality of this product – as well as their other smart backpacks – is top-tier.
When judging smart backpacks the two most important factors to consider are the power bank and the storage capacity, and the Ghostek comes out on top with both of those. However, this smart backpack also offers a number of other nice design features, though it is not without its flaws. Still, it is by far the best performing smart backpack we saw.
In terms of storage capacity, the Ghostek NRGbag 2 wows once again. At 40L of total storage space, this smart backpack tops our list and is significantly larger than most of the other backpacks we reviewed. That said, it is the specialized laptop compartment which really pushes it over the top. While most smart backpacks can hold a laptop, only the Ghostek NRGbag 2 has separated compartment dedicated to that purpose.
When it comes to the USB ports, this is mostly a hit but with a minor miss. For one, the Ghostek features 3 USB ports. Even better, those ports are rated at 5V and 2.4A. This is the standard rating for modern devices while still being suitable for older devices that require a 5V and 1a port. The only issue is that the cover to the USB charge port is noted for being fairly flimsy. Even if you are careful, chances are it will break due to a cap that is a bit too tight. This leads to pulling too hard and ultimately pulling it off of the backpack altogether.
That said, the other build qualities of this backpack are fairly decent. The zippers are made entirely out of metal and feature a smooth action. You will not have to worry about them falling off like with some of the other smart backpacks we reviewed. On top of that, the polyester material is one of the more water resistant materials that smart backpacks are made out of.
Ergonomically, this backpack is okay, but not great. The shoulder straps are well-padded – which is a must. Though they feature a convex shape that may not be the most comfortable for everyone. On top of that, the back has little to no padding, and there is no ventilation if the backpack gets a bit warm while charging when worn.
Why we recommend Ghostek NRGbag 2 Series:
While there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best smart backpack, its primary role is to both carry your gear and serve as an on-the-go charging station. In this regard, the Ghostek NRGbag 2 is by far the best smart backpack on our list.
With 16000 mAh and stable circuitry, the power bank will charge for hours and has a great lifespan. The capacity is similarly impressive at 40L with a specialized laptop compartment measuring 15.6”.
While the external USB charging cap is a bit flimsy, the ports themselves are all rated at 5V and 2.4A. Moreover, the polyester material provides one of the more water resistant backpacks we saw while the metal zippers are durable and silky smooth.
5. ECEEN External Frame Backpack: Best Outdoor Smart Solar Charging Backpack
Despite only having been founded a decade ago, ECEEN is actually one of the older and more established companies on our list. ECEEN is definitely different than many of the other brands on our list in that they are not at all focused on making smart backpacks. While that is definitely many of the products in their lineup, the company actually has its roots in manufacturing small solar cells and portable power packs for charging smart devices.
That specialty is put on full display with the ECEEN External Frame Backpack. In fact, it might be more accurate to think of the ECEEN as a solar cell and power pack attached to a backpack considering the design of the ECEEN is focused in that direction. For instance, the power pack cannot be removed from the solar cell, and the actual charging recommendations suggest that you remove the solar cell/power pack combo from the backpack and lay it in direct sunlight when you are charging your devices – the same way you would if using an ECEEN solar cell on its own.
That said, the power bank itself does have a few issues which might lessen its value. For one, this power pack only holds a maximum of 2000mAh. This is by far the least amount on our list and is generally not sufficient to fully charge even a single smartphone. Even worse, the power pack is not made to charge a device while it is charging its own battery through the solar cells. This will cause the power pack to deplete its battery’s ions and cease to function over fairly quickly.
These next two backpacks are not truly in the same boat as the previous ones. Whether it is due to less than adequate wiring, a limited power bank, or substandard construction, they are often pilloried by many of the consumers that purchase them. That said, they are still better than average and are worth a look depending on what you need.
MOS Pack: Best Plug-In Smart Backpack
MOS is another brand that actually got its start through a successfully funded Kickstarter. Though, the first MOS products were actually a specially designed auxiliary cable and magnetic cable organizer followed by a smartphone kickstand. Still, last year the brand was able to successfully fund their MOS Pack Kickstarter.
As a backpack, this product is a bit hit-or-miss. For instance, the 600D nylon outer is actually one of the more durable materials that we saw. That said, nylon is not as water-resistant as polyester – regardless its tensile strength – so you will want to avoid carrying this uncovered through heavier rains. On the other hand, the stitching of this backpack is fairly substandard, and the straps are not at all durable. Even worse, the zippers also suffer from durability issues.
Thankfully, the MOS does come with a lifetime warranty, so if something goes wrong you will not have to pay out of pocket. Unfortunately, the company is only two people who outsource all of their manufacturing, so their customer service response time and reliability are spotty at best. Another spotty aspect about the MOS is its device compatibility as the backpacks USB ports do not recognize some of the newer models of a few manufacturer’s devices.
TYLT ENERGI Pro Powerbag Travel Backpack Charging Station: Largest Charge Smart Backpack
TYLT is another company that was founded fairly recently. Like some other brands on our list, TYLT also specializes more in smartphone and smart device accessories rather than smart backpacks. In fact, various types of smart device charges and automotive accessories are by far the bulk of their product lineup.
The ENERGI Pro Powerbag is actually TYLT’s only smart backpack product. That said, this backpack is so close to being a legitimate contender for some of the other top-tier products in this niche market. In this regard, the good and bad can be attributed to two areas of design: electronic and integration and product construction. The ENERGI Pro Powerbag is actually fairly respectable in the former category but sorely lacking in the latter.
Still, the main issue with the ENERGI Pro Powerbag is its durability. As good as the electronic integration may be, the backpack’s actual construction is equally suspect. As is common, this backpack’s zippers must be handled carefully or they will break. Even worse, the stitching on this backpack is substandard, and the straps are liable to come right off. This is even more concerning since the 30L capacity is one of the larger on our list and makes the likelihood of the straps coming off under a heavy load even greater.