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Just like any other laptop bag…but with solar panels for power on the go.
We were ready to fall in love with the Voltaic Messenger. It’s made of recycled soda bottles, and it captures solar energy to charge your gadgets. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bag charging in even in the most overcast and foggy San Francisco weather. Unfortunately, the bag itself doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by its awesome solar tech.
An eternal quest for the perfect man-purse has left us with a motley collection of bags, backpacks, and satchels at home. All that bag experience has come in handy though. On the solar front, the Voltaic delivered. A battery pack soaks up the sun, and allows you to charge your devices when you need to. After spending a sunny day on our patio, the Voltaic was able to keep our iPhone running for several days of normal use. The bag’s battery pack was topped off each day during our normal commute to and from Mac|Life HQ.
Charging was a simple matter of selecting the correct output voltage—5V for iPhones and other gear that charges by USB—and plugging in a device. The included tip-set covers many brands of electronics, and a car charger socket will accept any car chargers you already have. For maximum flexibility, you can also charge one device from the battery pack, while another is connected directly to the solar panels’ output. The Messenger will fit a MacBook or MacBook Air, but the bag isn’t equipped to charge a laptop. However, Voltaic does offer a larger bag that will.
Unfortunately, the Voltaic Messenger feels like a bag designed by engineers. While it’s called Messenger, the bag was uncomfortable to wear on your back, messenger-style. The reinforced luggage-style corners dug into our back constantly, and the rigid bag takes up roughly the same amount of space whether empty or crammed full of gear. Aside from the solar panels, it looks like every freebie tradeshow bag ever made. The buckle to adjust the strap length while you’re wearing the bag—a crucial element of a true messenger bag—works for southpaws, but right-handers are out of luck. And the strap is not removable. Voltaic includes handy pass-through ports for headphones and other cables, but there’s no small pocket near the port inside the bag that’s the right size for an iPod or other small gadget, leaving our iPhone knocking around inside the large inner compartment.There are better-designed messenger bags on the market, but Voltaic’s solar cells and recycled materials are just enough to attract the green-minded.