As someone who is "on the go" all too frequently, I've been trying to perfect the idea of "my office is in my backpack" for a while (always getting closer and closer but not quite there...). For a while, however, I never put any thought into the backpack itself. I survived on a series of free backpacks picked up at various conferences, which came in varying sizes and levels of quality. A few years back I finally started asking around for ideas on good bags, and got a few recommendations for Swiss Army backpacks. On a whim I stopped by a local drug store and was surprised to see they had a bunch of Swiss Army backpacks on clearance (discounted, discounted again, then half off), and ended up with the bag I've now used for a few years now for less than $30. It's huge and it's great. It's durable, it's comfortable, well organized and it carries a ton of stuff. But there's a downside too: it's huge (yes, I know I cited that as a positive as well). I once almost got thrown off a bus in a foreign country because of the size of the backpack (don't ask). Lately I've been also using a smaller bag (yes, another free conference one) which can suffice for shorter trips, but I'm keeping my eye on what else is out there. Apparently, some other folks are thinking about the modern backpack as well, so here are a few crowdfunding projects concerning backpacks for this week's awesome stuff
- First up is the Minaal ProTravel Carry-on backpack. Basically, some intrepid travelers designed the sort of backpack/carry-on bag that they've always wanted. It looks really nice if you do a lot of traveling. Well thought out if you're using it as both a bag for electronics gear and for clothes and stuff. Also, let's you hide the straps quickly and make it look more business-like in settings where a backpack might feel inappropriate. Also, their video (and campaign page) is fairly entertaining. Two lines from the campaign page that made me chuckle: "Pullers are suitable for right-handed & left-handed people. Ambidextrous people, no dice. We don't like your type around here" and "Other info you may be interested to know: the phone pocket is soft-lined. The cards and phone sit slightly lower than shown. There are around 4,000 species of frog known to man." Good to know.
Of course, nice bags don't come cheap. This one will set you back $229 via Kickstarter, though they claim it will eventually retail at over $300. Plenty of people think it's worth it, however, as the campaign zoomed quickly past its $30,000 goal and is around $140,000 as I type, with nearly three weeks to go.
- Next up is a bag that is targeting the very same market, and amazingly launched on the very same day, with the very same campaign time frame and the very same target market, but which has received a lot less attention, though, frankly, the SOOT Electropack seems like a more compelling offering (to me, at least). The key to understanding the SOOT is that it's modular. The full deal is basically two separate bags (a basic backpack and a separate messenger bag) that can each be used separately, or which combine easily into a megabag. They're also highlighting the fact that they're selling it with a 10,000mAh battery that slips into a small pocket to keep your devices charged. While I can be somewhat obsessive about battery power as well, this part isn't as interesting, since there are so many third party external battery packs out there (and I prefer ones that can also charge laptops). That said, the modular nature of the SOOT is a pretty cool selling feature -- especially if you find a bag that's really big to be both a positive and a negative, depending on the situation.
Again, even though it seems like a better option than the Minaal (which does look pretty damn nice as well) it just hasn't received as much attention. It's still just slightly under the $30,000 goal, though it'll certainly pass it before long. The bags aren't cheap, but they're less expensive than the Minaal (the combined version, without the battery pack, runs $179), and you can buy the separate pieces if you don't want the full combined bag.
- There are a few other "bags" on various crowdfunding sites right now, but none struck me as really unique or different from stuff that's already widely on the market. And then I came across the Pad Pouch backpack. Let me say upfront, that I don't think I'm the target market here, and I don't get it at all. It appears to be a backpack with a giant clear see-through pouch on the front where you can put a tablet to, um, express yourself? I think? It feels like it's targeted at younger folks (students, mainly), but it looks kind of a bit dorky in its current version -- but, again, perhaps actual students see it differently. I also find it somewhat amusing that they hype up their patent pending status (Kickstarter campaigns that play up their patents always set off alarm bells in my head), but then talk about how you can use this to put "free, copyrighted images from the internet" on your "shirt" this way (bonus question for copyright law professors to add to their next exam: would that be a copyright violation to display an image you found on the internet on your tablet while "wearing" the tablet?).
Perhaps I'm not actually the only one confused by all of this, as it hasn't yet found too many backers (only 11 as I type this), though it's only seeking a $5,000 target, so perhaps people will show up and buy it in the month or so left on this project. The folks who made this do get points for originality, though. Haven't seen anything quite like this before.
That's it for this week. Of course, there are lots of backpacks on the market already, outside of crowdfunding campaigns. I'd be curious to hear about what other sorts of backpacks people like using these days.