The SmartBackpack from AMPL will keep your gadgets optimally charged all day. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — Companies are throwing sensors into everything this year. Toothbrushes, cookie jars, mouth guards … you name it, and someone is trying to cram some sort of sensor into it. Next up is your backpack.
AMPL Labs’ upcoming SmartBackpack promises to keep your tech items safe and charged for days by combining “smartsensors” with battery packs woven into the fabric. The end result is a supercharging backpack that can tackle anything from an iPhone to a MacBook, allowing wearers to charge multiple devices on the go.
“We found that 85 percent of consumers worry about their devices running out of power at least once a week,” said AMPL’s David Migdal. “So we developed our SmartBackpack to address all their power needs.”
Everything for a couple weeks away, including transport. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Travel can be a chance to practice minimalism, or an opportunity to drive yourself nuts. What am I talking about? Luggage. You can pare down your essentials to fit in a carry-on – even if you’re away for a month – or you can throw in every item of clothing and every charger you have. The second approach will result in a broken back, and you’ll still find that you left something essential at home.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing technique so that I only take the bare minimum. And when I say “perfected,” I mean “struggled with.” But it works for me, and the principles can be applied even if you’re the kind of person who hires a boy to carry your trunks for you when you take a cruise on the Titanic.
So here’s the Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light, a roundup of strategies, product recommendations and other tips to make your next trip a breeze.
The BaseCamp is the family-size version of BioLite’s iPhone-charging camping stove. Like its little brother, the BaseCamp burns any fuel you find (wood is good) and uses the heat to power a USB charger and drive a fan. The fan pumps air into the fire and makes it burn hotter and faster. The BaseCamp version adds a grill on top for those off-the-grid BBQs. $300
Picard’s German-made Latthammer (or carpenter’s roofing hammer) is 600 grams of hot, hot nail-starting action. Slot a nail into the groove up top, whereupon it will be held in place by a magnet. Whack it against your target chunk of wood and the nail is started without ever putting your fleshy fingers in harm’s way. It even comes with a beautiful leather grip. €70
The dorkitudinal Lifelogger is an alway-on POV camera that looks like a Bluetooth headset, the large camera unit counterbalanced by a headband that wraps around from ear to ear. The eye-level mount means you always record what you’re looking at, but it also makes you look like you work in a call center. Available December. $249
TYLT's Energi Travel Charger 2K is a regular USB wall charger, only it packs a built-in 2,200mAh battery and comes in at the same price as most regular (battery-free) chargers. The fold-out prongs let it sleep safely in your bag until needed, and the colored LED indicators tells you how much is left in the tank. I wonder why all chargers aren't this clever. $30
Supermechanical’s Range thermometer looks as good as the beautiful (universal) app it works with. It’s a food-probe thermometer that comes in two models – one long and rounded, for sticking into cooking pots, and one short and sharp, for jabbing into meat. Both plug into your iPhone’s headphone socket, letting you set temperature alerts, check graphs and look up USDA temperature recommendations. $70
Satechi’s LightMate is what would happen if Jedis carried iPhones. The lightsaber-shaped emergency LED light can work as a lamp or, if you remove the “saber,” as a flashlight. It’s waterproof, is designed to smash car windows (for escape, not for burglary) and the (swappable) lithium-ion battery can be used to juice your iPhone via its USB port. $30
Imagine a sardine can made into a camera. Well done – you just imagined La Sardina, a plastic camera based on the classic sardine tin. Lomography's wide-angle shooter is so DIY it comes with a screwdriver to help customize it. The lo-fi Lomo film camera now comes in pretty versions with decorative skins, like this Bird of Paradise “dress.” Get ready for summer. $109
Photojojo’s Power Purse is a place to protect your phone and also provide portable power. It works like a regular clutch purse, only it has a secret 2,600mAh battery inside to recharge your iPhone on the go. We all have a friend who leaves the house with their iPhone at like 15 percent every frickin’ day. If that friend is into pink or polka dots, you should buy him/her this as a gift, if only for your own peace of mind. $49
This Tower of power extends outlets from the floor and puts them up by your desktop. It packs two 2.1A USB ports plus four regular power outlets with circuit breakers, and the base is weighted to stop it from tipping over. There’s even a little plastic mesh pocket to keep your iPad safe while it charges. $99
Cooking, charging, camera-ing and generally staying out-of-doors are the themes this week. But if you are stuck inside out of the sun, don’t worry – we have you covered too.
This week we get cooking with a gadget-charging camping stove and a slick, iPhone-friendly food thermometer. We also do DIY projects (without tenderizing our thumbs) with the German Latthammer, charge our flagging phones with a purse that packs a built-in battery, and record everything using the super-dorky Lifelogger camera. Is the sun shining? Yes it is!
Remember when the coolest brag for a gadget was that it was “credit card size”? Those times are back. The Revi Charger is a credit card-size iPhone charger with a built-in backup battery, and could really be just the thing in an emergency.
Sick of waiting for your iPhone to finish charging? By 2017, your iPhone could completely charge from 0% to 100% in just 5 minutes, in a portable, consumer-friendly package that will make long charging times a thing of the past.
The little BOLT Charger Battery is as clever as it is good looking. The USB wall-charger packs a backup battery into its tiny body, as body that leads its maker to call it the “The World’s Smallest Wall Charger + Battery Backup.”
I’m not sure how true that it, but who cares? It fits in your pocket and it’ll juice your iPhone twice, even without a wall to shove it into.
Ever “hefted” the standard North American iPhone charging cube in your hand and thought, “Boy, this thing would be way better if the prongs would fold up, and maybe if the thing could juice an iPad as well as my iPhone. And hey, why not make it black so I can lose it more easily too?”
Well, you’re not alone, because somebody at Scosche thought the exact same thing, and the superCUBE flip was born.
iQi Wireless Charger by Fone Salesman Category: Chargers Works With: iPhone 5/S Price: $21 plus ~$25 for charging pad
Wireless charging is a beautiful concept that fails to live up to its promise in reality. That’s not to say it’s unusable – far from it. I’d put wireless charging pads in the same place as Wi-Fi was some years back – useful when it works, but frustrating to get working properly.
The little iQi panel goes some way to fixing up the main problem of wireless charging on the iPhone. Because it’s not built in, you usually need a bulky case to pair with the charger itself. The iQi is so tiny it can be used with any case.
The Tylt Vu wireless charger looks like it would make a great iDevice stand, even if it didn’t have an induction charger hidden inside. The idea is that it not only charges your iPhone, but the shape of it means that the iPhone is always positioned in just the right spot to let the magnets do their thing, even if you just toss it into the cradle.
Back in the 1980s, and probably continuing into the 1990s, every neat gadget was shoehorned into a credit-card-shaped form factor. Magnifying glass? Credit-card-sized. Vinyl record de-duster? Credit-card-sized. And so on.
The Jumper Card continues this excellent heritage by putting a Lightning charger, a 30-pin dock connector and a microUSB charger into the same credit-card-sized package, ready to be slipped into your pocket. But not your wallet, because, like all “credit-card-sized” gadgets, this one is way too thick.