Living in the connected world and using smart-phones, tablets and laptops on the move, the chances are that one of your continued thoughts is where is the next charger? Where can I plug in? Help – I’m down to 20%! This is the market that TYLT with the Energi+ backpack seeks to address. The tech bag has space for a laptop, tablet and a myriad of other pockets but its crowning glory is a huge 10,400mAh battery that snakes cables to the pockets and lets you charge your tech on the go.
The Bags Layout
The Energi+ has three large pockets and a number of smaller internal and external pockets and sections. The large sections are a laptop section that can take laptops of up to 15 inches and that holds the battery and cable directors. This pocket opens all the way to the base of the bag so that the laptop can be flat and TSA compliant.
In front of the laptop compartment is a tablet pocket. This pocket is entirely lined with a light blue velvet to keep your tablet padded and cleans the screen at the same time. Rather than opening all the way like the laptop pocket this pocket opens up one side and the top.
Moving forward again at the top of the bag is a velvet lined pocket with a removable crush proof section edging with two internal compartments one of which is phone sized and one of which is designed for sunglasses.
Moving down below the crush proof pocket is the main non-specific pocket. This pocket is odd – the zips open up the whole way but it has folding sides so is restricted to about 45 degrees opening. I didn’t find it natural to use with the bag upright or laid on its back but it sort of works for either. Inside TYLT have included a fabric removable triangular case that fits into the bottom of the pocket. This is designed for cables and I found it large enough to fit my laptops’ brick and charging cables and a convenient way to keep them together. The sides of the pocket are lined with a number of smaller pockets. Some have netting, some see through fabric and some solid fabric. I was able to find good places for chargers, a mifi, cables, headset and all the other associated things I carry around with me.
In addition the outside of the bag is sprinkled with smaller pockets and features. One headphone pocket in a strap. A document pocket in the front flap. A small velvet pocket for an iPod in the front flap. Two vertical zipped pockets. A novel water bottle pocket with a net pocket inside it that comes out to hold the water bottle. A metal loop on one of the straps for a smaller carabine.
Finally the strap has a NFC tag built into it that can be used to trigger Tasker. This is an interesting and cool addition to a bag but I wasn’t able to find much day-to-day use for it.
Just by hearing the name of the TYLT Energi+ you can get an idea as to what it biggest selling point is – it’s a mobile charging point. The main laptop section of the bag has an elastic pocket the perfect size for the huge 10400mAh battery included. Around the pocket are a number of elastic loops that let the three included USB cables be threaded throughout the pocket and into all the other parts of the bag. A cable can be threaded to the top crush proof pocket, the tablet pocket, the main cable pocket or out through the straps to whatever device you are holding.
In theory all devices can be kept topped up throughout the day and in practice it works very well for most things. I found it most useful for devices I rarely removed from the bag, like the mifi that once switched on goes all day and my Kindle that I only use when waiting. Other devices can be similarly kept charged on standby, ready for use.
The two big problems were the laptop and my phone. The laptop because it cannot be charged via USB and the phone because I am always getting it in and out. The laptop issue is one that is difficult to solve in the short-term. There are some computers that can charge via USB – most commonly a HP Chromebook, Apple’s new MacBook and the new Pixel, but for now most laptops on the market still require a mains plug for charging.
The phone problem is solvable with a little work. I refer to my phone so much that having it inside the bag and charging is not a realistic idea. If I use the cable that snakes outside the bag I am very worried about bending the cable when I put the phone away in my pocket. The best solution I have found to this is an external battery case. I use the phone normally and recharge via a battery case. Once charge, I remove the case and recharge it in the bag whilst using the phone on its internal battery. It is a solution that I found worked well for me.
The Energi+has one feature I have never seen in a bag before – a hidden water bottle pocket. Unzip the pocket and inside is a net pouch with an elastic top. The water bottle goes into the pouch and hangs off the back of the bag. It’s a nice idea. It keeps the pouch hidden when not in use and gives more flexibility, but unfortunately the bottle bounces bounces up and down with every step taken because it is dangling from the bag. This might be okay as an occasional extra pocket but as I always carry a water bottle it got annoying very fast.
One of the first questions about a bag is how comfortable it is to carry. I found the Energi+ reasonably comfortable but not as good as I had hoped. The lack of a chest strap made tightening the straps enough to be comfortable difficult. See that wonderful thick blue padding at the top of the straps? It looks great and feels very thick and luxuriant, but when I put the bag on no matter how much or little I tightened the straps that padding never touched my shoulders and was useless. The Energi+ is not built for long distance, long-term carrying.
The bag does have a nice and well padded handle with a soft underside that is secure and stitched in at the top, so carrying it by hand or transferring it is viable. The main straps have decent padding on most of their length and are somewhat breathable as is the contoured back which wicks sweat away and lets in a certain amount of airflow. The back also has an integrated sleeve which allows a trolley handle to be put through it – frequent fliers will find this very convenient.
Size External: Width: 13.5 in (34 cm) / Height: 19.5 in (49 cm)
Capacity: 1450 cubic inches or 23 litres
Weight: 2kg – empty but including the battery and cable
Colour: Black with grey and blue accents
Material : Poly nylon material
Laptop pocket dimensions : 10.5″ x 15.5″ 1.5″
Input voltage: 5v 2Amps Micro USB
Output voltage: 4.75V – 5.25V at 4.1Amp
Capacity: 10,400 mAh
Charge time: 7-8 hours from flat
Output: Two 1 Amp USB and One 2.1 Amp USB port
The Energi+ has no audio component. The battery has no speakers or microphone in it. The product is accessible to those with hyperacusis as well as anyone with a hearing impairment, including deaf users. When heavily loaded the straps do creak slightly and if you use its water bottle pocket that could make a tapping noise in time with walking but overall the level of noise is very low. There is velcro on the strap over the top of the laptop pocket but nowhere else on the bag.
Touch and texture
The Energi+ is made from two different textured materials. The vast majority of the bag, including all the external areas is made from a water-resistant dense weaved nylon. This is black in most places but has some light blue accents. It has a distinct slightly rough texture to it as a result of its dense weave but this is unlikely to bother most people although it might affect those with very sensitive skin.
The second material is all internal in the tablet pocket and the crush proof pocket. This is a light blue velvet that feels very soft on the skin and is designed to keep your tablet, phone or sunglasses cocooned and protected.
Both the materials are nylon derivatives. If you have a nylon allergy the Energi+ is not the bag for you.
Ease of Use
Most bags take a little time to set up and get comfortable with – this should go in this pocket, this in this and so on. The Energi+’s 13 pockets make this more of a need than normal and the running of cables to pockets and deciding what goes where is another complication. Once I had set everything up and gotten things sorted for myself it was simple to use, but this bag will take far more setup time than most.
A caveat on the charging – the bag is great at charging things inside itself. It is not good at charging things as they are used. Some things like a mifi can work from inside the bag but in most cases trying to use something whist it is being charged is very problematic.
The TYLT Energi+ is a very good example of a product that tries to specialize for a particular niche and does so superbly, but by doing so it excludes some potential users. This is a bag for those who carry around electronics and only electronics. There is no space for books or any significant paperwork and forget trying to bring lunch or use it as an overnight bag. If you are paperless and want the perfect mobile office bag or are looking for a dedicated tech travel bag and will not be doing a huge amount of walking, this might well be it. It can keep you on the go, online and working or relaxing throughout a long day and will do so in style.
The TYLT Energi+ Backpack was released in June 2014. The review is based on a sample kindly provided by TYLT.