Product Review: Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack Makes The Sun Your Power Outlet

by nessel on February 2, 2011

Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack

Let’s start this product review off with a quick one question test…

You see a guy walking down the street with a stuffed backpack.  As you look closer you notice the bag is filled with wires, a battery and a spooky red light is glowing from the back of the bag.

Which of the following do you do:

A. Call 911

B. Run The Other Way

C. Tackle the Guy And Scream To A Passerby “Tell My Wife I Love Her”

D. Ask the Guy How He Likes His Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack

If you answered D you are clearly on the cutting edge of all things hip, eco friendly and cool.

We first learned about the Voltaic line of solar bags and backpacks at the Consumer Electronics Show and we have now had a chance to spend a few weeks testing out the Converter Solar Backpack.  Is it time for Moms and Dads to ditch the diaper bag for a backpack that can charge your phones and music players by solar energy?

The Voltaic Solar Backpack Takes Eco-Friendly To A Whole New Level

Getting a backpack that is made out of recycled soda bottles is pretty eco hip.  I mean, keeping plastic bottles out of the landfill, how do you get more environmental friendly than that?  How about slapping two solar panels on the bag and turning your bag into a solar power generator?  This is exactly what the Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack promises.

In order to test out the Voltaic Bag we took it out for a test run in NYC -

Oscar people – feel free to write us in for Best Fire Special Effect after that Tour de Force.

What Exactly Do You Get In the Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack?

Solar Backpack Adapters

The better question might be what don’t you get?  The bag has two 2 watt solar panels mounted on the outside.  On the inside you have a 3,000mAh, 11 Watt hour capacity battery – to store the power generated from the sun.  To get the power out of the battery and into your phones, ipods and music players the bag comes with 12 different adapters and cables.  The battery has a USB jack on it, so if you have a device that can be charged by USB, you can charge it with this bag.

Can The Sun Really Provide Enough Power For All Your Calls?

The solar panels provide 4 Watts of power, so about 1 hour in the sun will equal 3 hours of talk time.  Remember, the bag has a battery in it, so as you wear the bag and walk around everyday you are slowly adding more charge to the  battery.  A fully charged battery provides 19 hours of talk time – so this should cover even the most talkative parents!  In our tests, the system worked without any problems.  You plug your phone into the battery and you have instant power.

The real key here is that you are getting an external 3,000 mAh battery, that just happens to accept charging from solar panels.  The battery is very similar to the New Trent External Battery that we reviewed and loved.  If you have the bag out in a few days of sunshine, you will probably fully charge the battery.   This means that even if you go days without sunshine, your battery will still have a full charge.  You on the other hand will probably start to go insane from lack of sunshine, but at least you will have power to call someone and tell them you are losing it.

Can This Bag Really Survive The Beating Kids (and Parents) Will Put On It?

This is Dad Does, so our real interest was to test if this bag could be used as a day backpack for parents.  What do Moms and Dads need to carry with them when they head out?  Just a few things like water, snacks, toys, clothes, books, maps, more toys,  hand sanitizer and a mega dose of aspirin (for the parents of course).   In addition to packing the bag full, the bag will be pushed, pulled,  place in unknown liquids, covered in sand, dropped in the mud, grabbed by sticky little hands and generally abused.

We were impressed by the durability of the bag and solar cells.  The solar cells can be wiped clean and have no problem getting wet.  They also did not scratch or break in our tests.  Everything can be taken out of the bag and the bag can be washed.  We had to return the bag we were testing, so we did not want to beat on it too much, but Voltaic sent us this video -

Clearly the solar cells are built to take a beating, which is great news for parents.

Powering Your Phone With Solar Energy Makes You Feel Like Less of a Loser

Let’s be honest, spending our lives walking around and talking, texting and checking our email on our cell phones all day is pretty pathetic.  However, using the power of the sun via a bag made out of plastic bottles, sure makes you feel a little better about yourself.   Seriously, it is cool to recharge your phones and iPods without ever plugging into the electric grid.

Don’t Want to Carry The Whole Bag?  Just Grab the Battery

Everything in the Voltaic Converter Backpack can be removed without any issue.  One trip in New York City we knew we were going to be taking the subway (not much sun down there), didn’t need to bring a whole backpack, but the batteries on the iPod were almost dead.  So we just pulled the external battery out of the bag and took it with us so we could power the iPod on the subway.

If You Are a Vampire, This is Not the Bag For You

This may sound ridiculously obvious, but the bag works best if you actually spend a good amount of time outside.   City dwellers who walk from place to place and families that camp, hike or play outside will love this bag.  On the other hand, if you tend to jump in your car and drive from one indoor place to another, this bag may not make as much sense.

A Great Bag With Some Minor Issues

Our biggest concern with the Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack is losing the little adapters that come with the bag. I am a Dad, if I go out with my two kids my goal is to return home with the same two kids – and that is often a challenge.   Trying to keep track of 12 adapters and cables, that might be too much for my overloaded brain.  Voltaic does give you a holder for the adapters and a pocket to put them in, so not sure what else Voltaic could do to solve this problem, but the adapters are small and I could easily see losing them.

The other issue is that the bag does not charge everything.  We could not get it to work with our iPad, but it may be possible with an additional adapter that Voltaic makes.  In addition, charging things like a DSLR camera can be tricky and require some additional cables and work arounds.

These are really minor issues and overall the bag works as advertised.  There is one potential deal breaker with the bag…

So, What is the Catch?

Solar power may be clean and eco-hip, but it is not cheap!  The Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack sells for $199.   For families on a tight budget, this can be a deal breaker.  Yes, you do save money on your electric bill if you use the solar charger, but it will taking a lot of recharging for you to make $199 back.

Conclusions on the Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack:

The Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack is one of those things you feel great about using.  The bag is made from soda bottles, your phone is powdered by the sun – you really feel like you are doing your small part to not completely destroy the planet before your kids can grow up.   We love that you can pull the battery out and take it with you and we were impressed by the durability of the solar cells.  We wish it cost $100 less, but at this point, paying a premium to get people thinking about real uses for solar energy is something we are happy to do.

More Information: Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack Sells for about $200.

Read More At the Voltaic Site

Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack Gets 4 D’s (scale of 1 to 5) -

4 D Rating - Well Done

Any Product That Receives 4 or 5 D’s is Dad Does Approved!

Dad Does Approved

FULL DISCLOSURE: We were sent The Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack to test out, and we are returning the bag. We were paid absolutely nothing for doing this review. We do not make any money if you decide to buy a Solar Backpack. Use Sunscreen. If you get a sun burn when trying to charge up your bag, don’t blame us, we told you to use sunscreen. This is a real review, by a real Dad!

Here is our complete rating chart -

Dad Does Rating System

Please leave us a comment below and let us know what you think! Thanks!

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  • Memme

    Did that guy at Voltaic really take a rubber mallet to the battery? Would’ve been cool to see a dog fetch the battery after he tossed it across the park.

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