Keep your MacBook powered for days with this smart backpack


Ampl backpack is all charged up. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 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.”

The Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light

Everything for a couple weeks away, including transport.
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.

Gadget roundup: The week’s best gear for travelers, campers and chefs


Get your weekend in gear

The week's best gadget announcements, rolled up into a nougaty gallery.

BioLite BaseCamp stove

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

The Latthammer

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

Lifelogger POV camera

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 Energi Travel Charger 2K

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

Range smart thermometer

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 LightMate

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


La Sardina Birds of Paradise DIY bundle

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

Power Purse

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

The Tower

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!