We’ve all been there, be it in the backwoods or on the move during our daily routine: phone battery dying, critical info stored on said phone, not a charger in sight. In our increasingly connected existence, a dead phone can present real problems.

Enter St. Louis-based Melio Design and its solar-paneled JUICE backpack.

The JUICE is made for users on the go, from outdoor enthusiasts to metropolitan commuters to modern-day students. The 47-liter bag features large, 7-watt solar panels that connect to an internal 5,000mAh power bank intended for charging small electronics (phones, tablets, cameras, etc.). The design allows the battery to charge while the user wears the backpack outdoors, thus providing “juice” when a device needs refreshing. Creator Bob Miller calls it “peace of mind,” stating, “One doesn’t have to worry where a power supply is. You have it right there with you.”

Product Review-Meli JUICE Backpack

The JUICE is constructed with water-resistant REPREVE fabric made of 100-percent recycled plastic bottles, making it appealing to the eco-conscious. A rolltop closure and large back-panel zipper provide access to the main compartment, which is thoughtfully divided for laptop/tablet storage and easy organization (it’s also hydration bladder compatible). Weighing in at 4.2 pounds, it’s not the lightest of backpacks, but then again, the JUICE isn’t designed for the ultralight category; its additional weight is a function of its enhanced functionality.

We put the JUICE through its paces during the busy holiday season: shopping outings, commutes to and from the office, hikes and bike rides through local parks. The pack performed well in all applications, easily adapting to the comfort needs and body type of the user. The adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt kept it secure and steady during active pursuits, the latter disconnecting from the pack for more casual uses. The chest strap offers limited functionality, as it has no vertical adjustability, which could present problems for users of varying size and body type.

Getting detailed solar charging data on the lithium polymer battery proved difficult with the unpredictable weather we experienced in December. Online specs claim the battery should be fully charged in roughly six hours of exposure — faster for direct sunlight, slower for overcast/indirect sunlight. Once charged, the battery performed well, maxing out an iPhone 8 in a little over an hour via an Apple USB cable (5,000mAh is sufficient for about two full charges of an iPhone 8 or one full charge of an iPhone X). In its present design, JUICE users with USB-C devices would need a USB-to-USB-C adaptor. Future models will have updated circuitry to accommodate USB-C devices.

After using the JUICE, it’s clear the backpack has a place in our world of constant connectivity and charging needs. Comfortable fit, thoughtful design, user friendliness, and durability merge with the added functionality of renewable energy and charging on the go. That’s a winning combination in today’s outdoor scene. $400. meliodesign.com

Author: Nick Tilley is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.