Personal Mobility

The Movpak is real: a backpack that turns into an electric skateboard (hands-on)

It's exactly what it sounds like.

Sean Hollister/CNET
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Yes, you read that right: The Movpak is an electric skateboard that doubles as a pack for your belongings. Just pull a handle, and out pops a board that can travel up to 20 miles per hour, or up to 10 miles at a time.

And when I tried the Movpak on the sidewalks of San Francisco, I was surprised how easy it was to ride.

John Kim/CNET

See, the backpack doesn't disappear when you deploy the twin electric motors. It sits on the tail end of the board -- holding up to 35 liters of possessions while freeing up your body to keep balance as you carve up the sidewalk.

The actual board seems distressingly small at first, but when I planted my leg firmly against the big battery inside the backpack, the rigid support kept me from sliding off. Which is completely unlike my last few experiences with skateboards. (My poor tailbone.) You use a little wireless remote controller to speed up or slow down.

John Kim/CNET

So what's the catch? There are quite a few. First, it makes for a pretty heavy backpack: The Movpak weighs 17 pounds (7.7 kg) empty. That's actually lighter than a lot of electric scooters, but it could definitely take a toll on your back if you plan to strap it there. (Movpak has anticipated this: there's a pop-out handle so you can drag it like a wheeled suitcase.)

Second, the Movpak isn't for sale yet. It's an Indiegogo project looking for crowdfunding to help support the fledgling company. That means if you plop down $599 thinking you're getting a huge early-bird discount (it'll retail for $1,200, or about £840 or AU$1640 converted), there's a decent risk you'll lose all that cash if the company fails or can't produce the product.

Movpak actually tried and failed to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter a year and a half ago -- but Kickstarter refunds money if a goal isn't met. Indiegogo doesn't.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Third, Movpak doesn't seem as focused on the core backpack-plus-electric skateboard concept as it should be, if you ask me. The company says the Movpak will have headlights! Wireless charging for your phone! It'll double as a Bluetooth speaker! You can talk to Siri or Google Now while you ride! There'll be built-in GPS so you can track the board if it gets stolen! Movpak couldn't show me any of those additional features working when I asked.

You might well be thinking: "Why does Sean at CNET hate fun?"

But I don't. I'm just looking out for you, and hoping Movpak doesn't get distracted with all the additional gizmos. Because a backpack that turns into an electric skateboard is already plenty cool.