Review: Plugging in with the MOS Pack charging backpack

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The MOS Pack features a single cable that plugs into walls to charge all your devices simultaneously(Credit: Stanley Goodner/Gizmag)

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There's a growing number of bags that are designed to provide energy to devices while on the go. Many backpacks, such as the Poros Tetra, AMPL Labs backpack, and TYLT Energi+, embed a USB battery to tap into. Successfully funded on Kickstarter, the MOS Pack charging backpack takes a slightly different approach by incorporating the company's power extension solution instead. We recently had the opportunity to check out what it's like to load up and plug in MOS's modern backpack.

Design & durability

At first blush, the MOS Pack looks like a typical, well-made backpack. All the usual suspects are present: slightly curved shoulder straps, adjustable chest compression, tough nylon exterior, carry handle, YKK zippers, and pockets of varying sizes for your gear. There's nothing garish (logo included) about the MOS Pack. It doesn't scream "expensive tech inside" any more than it does "college books," "financial paperwork," or "spare clothes with snacks." Although subdued in appearance, the MOS Pack can complement attire from business casual to weekend wear. One could use this backpack with a full business suit, maybe. You'd likely need keen command of personal style.

With exterior dimensions of 18 x 12 x 5 in (45.7 x 30 x 12.7 cm) and weighing a little more than 2 lb (0.9 kg) when empty, the MOS Pack is considered a slim backpack. Most people should be able to fit in the daily urban essentials and a little more. As long as you're not one to carry in excess, the MOS Pack can make for an excellent weekend/travel backpack. It may not look like it can hold 20 L, but if you pack well you should get most of what you'd want in there (expect to bury and dig, however).

Considering the thin padding on the shoulder straps, the MOS Pack may not be so comfortable over time if it offered more volume to fill. But at least the straps are flush to the pack with carrying handle separate, as opposed to designs that incorporate the two. "Bridged" shoulder straps prevent loads from being carried high up on the back.

Little details stand out to make the MOS Pack a really cool bag. The bottom two inches of nylon are covered by a rubberized material, which helps to prevent scuffing/damage and water ingress when the MOS Pack is set on the ground. The same material is incorporated into the back panel, underneath breathable mesh padding.

This design is what helps the backpack maintain a firm – not stiff – shape in order to stand up on its own without collapsing. And if you balance the stored contents well, the MOS Pack won't tip or need to lean up against walls or furniture. There's other nice things too: a magnet embedded in one shoulder strap, pass-through loops on the other, long zipper pulls, fuzzy glasses pocket, and light padding throughout the interior.

But the standout feature of the MOS Pack is the cable management system along with the MOS Reach extension cord. The main/rear compartment has padded sleeves to accommodate (separately) a laptop and tablet, along with a smaller pouch ideal for a smartphone or USB battery pack. Two sleeves and two pairs of snapping flaps help to keep cables tidy as devices charge.

The MOS Reach sits at the bottom of the backpack, offering a single AC and dual USB ports (3-amp max combined output) for connections. So when you want to power devices, simply unzip the backpack's side zipper and plug the 3-foot (1 m) MOS Reach into a wall socket. You can charge all that you have with a single cable and without the fuss of finding where to put everything.

Extension cord aside, the MOS Pack is a well-made, functional piece of gear. All the seams are sewn together straight and true throughout, holding fast and showing no separation when tugged at. None missed or looped. The needle holes are a little large, which is fine since this is a backpack and not an article of clothing. All thread color matches that of the material, and we were hard-pressed to find any loose bits to pull free.

There's no frayed material (usually found around finished edges or where two separate materials meet), and we encountered very few thread ends that needed a snip and/or seal (gently melting with a heating element in order to prevent potential unraveling). But you can see where quality control had identified and taken care of many of these already.

The biggest concern about the MOS Pack is the notable lack of reinforced stitching, primarily where the shoulder straps meet the back. At least the carry handle has some extra. Based on this, it's recommended to keep loads light (10 lb or 4.5 kg and under), and to first pick up the backpack using the handle and not the straps. And not to swing too much. This makes putting on the MOS Pack a two-step process, which may not please all. But it will help towards longevity. There's no worse sound than the snapping of thread as you jerk a bag up to have seams ripple and tear apart.

Capacity & comfort

Aside from integrating a MOS Reach extension cord, the MOS Pack has a few other departures from your typical design. This backpack is divided into two compartments, with the main/rear one for laptop/tablet offering less space than the secondary/front. It provides a bit more organization and balance than just one opening for everything.

The rear compartment is deep enough to accommodate a laptop, tablet, and power brick(s), leaving the front as the assigned area to store everything else. The rear zippers run the entire vertical length of the MOS Pack, which makes cable management and access to the power sockets that much easier. Webbing keeps the halves from completely flopping open apart.

You can comfortably fit a laptop, tablet (we used the tablet-sized Solartab, shown in photos), elongated accessory (e.g. a USB battery pack), and associated cables all in the rear compartment. The snaps greatly help to keep cables tidy, so you can slide in the tech to charge on demand. All three of the pockets end a few inches above the bottom of the bag, allowing room for the MOS Reach as well as a power brick and its cable.

You're able to tuck things around without any undue overlap to press against the front compartment. The cable management sleeves are wide enough to pass most right-angle barrel tips and power cable ferrite beads up to half an inch in diameter.

If the two USB ports on the MOS Reach aren't enough, you can always use the wall socket to add more. Just make sure that adapter you get isn't wider than the Reach, and that the ports orient parallel towards the Reach's power plug. Otherwise, you'll end up with the difficulty of cables jamming into nylon walls.

A headphone grommet lets you snake USB cable(s) to the front compartment to charge whatever you might have there in a pocket. It takes a little wiggling to push most micro USB ends through. The top glasses pocket is big enough for large lenses, or even a rolled up scarf. The placement is such that the contents won't overlap with any other pockets.

Most of the storage space is in the front compartment, which unzips as a half-panel opening. When it comes to packing, you may want to keep gear below the zipper line. This way, you can have easy access to the pockets for pens and gadgets. The inside zippered pocket is large and thick enough to hold a standard 6-oz whiskey flask without having to cram. The elastic-rimmed pocket, underneath the grommet, is more ideal for skinnier and thinner smartphones – a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 barely fits by force and really tests the seams. Of these two pockets, the latter has conflicts of space, depending on how tall of a water bottle you own.

Many backpacks feature an outside pocket for easy access to water bottles when needed. The MOS Pack chooses to make it an interior pocket instead. The upside is that you don't ever have to worry about the backpack being wider than it feels, or that the bottle can accidentally fall out. The downside is that it takes up precious space. And even though this pocket is made of a waterproof material, it can create more work for cleaning up any accidental leak. There's less breathability, so make sure the material is good and dry. No one wants a moldy-smelling backpack.

The internal water bottle pocket proves difficult when the MOS Pack is filled with gear, especially if the bottle is slightly taller than the zipper opening is long. Insertion/extraction requires a slight tilt to clear the pocket's mesh netting. This tends to push into contents within the backpack. So handling a water bottle can be a two-handed operation, easiest once the MOS Pack has been set down first. It's certainly large enough to accommodate a wide-mouth, 18 oz Hydro Flask. We were able to fit in the JmGO View projector without any issue, too. But, as previously mentioned, this bottle pocket clips the upper gadget pocket inside the front compartment.

With the water bottle pocket occupied, we were able to stow a Riva S speaker (in its case), Plantronics BackBeat Sense headphones (also in its case), and the projector's wall adapter into the front compartment. This allowed access to the pockets, although a rolled-up sweater could have filled the available space nicely. If the MOS Pack would be used for books, the water bottle pocket would likely need to stay empty. There isn't a whole lot of room to do both, depending. And you wouldn't want to put too much in the front compartment, since it can end up cramping the MOS Pack's front zippered pockets.

The outside horizontal zipper pocket has the right amount of room for quick-grab and slim gear. The pen pockets inside it are a little larger than the ones in the front compartment, and are good for Wite-Out markers, highlighters, or even a wine bottle opener. A battery pack from the Ravean hoodie/vest fits perfectly in its middle pocket and is easy enough to extract, despite the fullness of the rest of the MOS Pack. Although you can fit in more odds and ends, anything settled at the bottom of this pocket ends up being harder to access. But it all depends on the overlap situation with the contents located in the front compartment.

The outside vertical zippered pocket? Stick to papers, pamphlets, business cards, or anything flat and flexible as such. It's pretty spacious, large enough for a hand to spread out past the wrist. But the more put away in the MOS Pack means less maneuverability with this front-most pocket. All in all, we were able to fit 14.6 lb (6.6 kg) worth of gear into the backpack. Effectively and comfortably filled, yet not to the point of inhibiting zipper movement or bulging the seams.

When it comes to carrying, the MOS Pack should be quite comfortable for most. Even though the shoulder straps don't have much padding (an upside is that it keeps the heat down), the width helps to evenly distribute the weight. The design is such that the straps circle the back of the neck to bear part of the load across the shoulders. These straps also angle out towards the chest and away from the throat, limiting that claustrophobic-choking sensation or any rubbing against skin. Those who are well-muscled/-endowed can appreciate how the straps hug the outer chest area around the shoulders, but without limiting arm movement.

Although the (non-removeable) compression strap offers several inches of vertical positioning, it feels unnecessary. Light enough loads (at least over shorter periods of carry time) don't need the extra support. Not just that, but tightening the compression strap leads to the outer parts of the shoulder straps to lift up. Part of the MOS Pack's weight is then directed to the front areas of the chest, as opposed to being smoothly spread out.

But at least all strap adjustments are easy to perform on the fly, without any sticking or slipping. The back padding is springy-soft, comfortable, and breathable enough. As with most snug-fitting backpacks, you can still expect to generate some heat and/or sweat over time.

The verdict

If you prefer to carry light and can appreciate function with a pinch of classic style, the MOS Pack backpack is definitely a bag to consider. Sure, one could just buy a MOS Reach and integrate it into an existing backpack after all sorts of cutting and stitching. But for a price of US$150, you're likely to enjoy better results that won't break the bank. The MOS Pack offers a clutter-free cable management system along with ample pockets and space for modern gear. Plugging a backpack into a wall socket isn't as strange as it might sound. And with all the tech tucked away safely inside to charge, you're far less likely to leave the house and forget any cables.

One thing to be mindful of is heat, as some devices run hotter than others while charging; the confined space within the MOS Pack can quickly raise temperatures. But if the backpack is parked against a wall to charge, ventilation is as simple as fully-opening the rear compartment. Those looking to power tech on-the-go can still do with the MOS Pack. Although there is no built-in USB battery pack, there's a perfectly-sized pocket to fit most, such as the MOS Reach Go. In many ways, this modular option is smart and more flexible over the long-term.

The biggest deal for some may be how the MOS Pack keeps a water bottle. It's not the easiest to access when there are other contents in the bag, even with two hands. But there is something to appreciate about visual symmetry and having all gear safe behind zippers. Personal preference will decide. Overall, the MOS Pack is a great choice for anyone looking for a comfortable, well-built, slim backpack for daily essentials (and a little more), with the perk of one-plug charging. The MOS Pack is available now in black, with the slate colorway open for pre-orders.

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