Portable Light on Your FLAP

Last year, Timbuk2 used scraps and words of inspiration to produce a bag for 2008 Pop!Tech annual conference that explored scarcity and abundance. The bags were then up-cycled to the non-profit Peace Games. Our work with Pop!Tech and Peace Games inspired us to pay more attention to scarcity and abundance in San Francisco and a few months later, we created Timbuk2′s Bag Recycling Program. Since our recycling program launched in April, we’ve recycled 106 bags. Learn more about how you can recycle your Timbuk2 bag here.

Back to Pop!Tech . . . This year, we’re producing an enlightening bag for the 2009 Pop!Tech conference in October. We’re working with the folks at Pop!Tech and The Portable Light Project to create a solar powered LED light that’s disguised as a messenger bag. The project is called Flexible Light and Power (FLAP).

The Flexible Light and Power (FLAP) bag.

Why are we doing this? Because portable light is a HUGE issue in much of the developing world and we think we have a partial solution.

We’ve stipulated that the FLAP product must be modular, durable, affordable, and highly highly effective. As a result, FLAP is pushing us to re-think how we make all our bags.

Should the flap really be sewn to the bag or should you be able to remove it? For project FLAP, you can rip the flap on and off to your heart’s content. The flap is attached by velcro and contains all the business; the solar panel, the LED light, and a mini USB port for charging popular gadgets like cellphones. So people can use the portable light and USB port with our without the bag. No judgments. Meet the FLAP designers in the video below.

Will this bag work where people really need portable light? We shall see . . . This week our friend Erik Hersman, the amazing man behind AfriGadget, is testing FLAP prototypes in Ghana at Maker Faire. Follow Erik’s trip to Ghana on Twitter.com/WhiteAfrican and see more photos of the FLAP project here.

DIY Kit for Maker Faire Africa
T2 team assembling the FLAP kits for Erik’s trip to Ghana.

This is just the beginning. More prototypes are being sent around the world and we’ll post feedback, photos, and inspiration as it rolls in. Pop!Tech is blogging about FLAP too. Stay tuned!

FLAP Bag project, part 1 from PopTech on Vimeo.


  1. Lindsey says:

    holy crap, that sounds incredible if it can be put to use effectively. Good luck!

  2. sylver says:

    wow… i wonder how is the electricity going to be stored… capacitor?? really looking forward to it…

    good luck to everyone involved in the project…

  3. Pablo says:

    @sylver: you’re close – they store the electricity in a *flux* capacitor!

  4. MArk Crocker says:

    I am on my way to Congo (DRC) in a couple of weeks and i know that our African partner would definitely benefit from this technology. He lives in the war affected area of E Congo, and often deals with power shortages. Is there a way to get another couple prototypes to test this ‘on the ground’?

    … are they for sale yet?

    • Lizzy says:

      Mark. Yes! They are on sale. But unfortunately they are only on sale at PopTech. The bags are $100 each. If you’re super interested and think you coudl bring it to Congo with you (amazing), lets find a way to get you one.

  5. Brown Johnson says:

    I’d like to buy a number of the bags for the key creators and animators at Nickelodeon Animation Studio. It could be an amazing gift for them. A lot of them ride their bikes to work in sunny California.

    How do I order them?

    818 736 3043

  6. Sonia says:

    Wow. What a great idea. I was looking at the PDA fill-out form for the bags and I would love to order a couple but there is no way I can meet that minimum order of 200. I currently do environmental studies at university and I believe this totally suits my field and next year I will be doing some fieldwork with little electricity. Do you know how long it usually takes for an order to reach the minimum? Thanks, I left my email.

    • Lizzy says:

      Oninyx – YOU don’t have to fill the minimum, we do. So if you want 2 or 3 units, that’s totally fine. We just have to group all the small orders together and place one big order. Make sense? Apologies for the confusion. I’ll email you at oninyx@gmail.com to follow up in more detail.

  7. Kellie Barlow says:

    I’m an architecture student at USC working on my undergraduate thesis project.
    I have been researching both Portable Light’s reading mats and your initiative, but want to get a hold of one of the basic Portable Light kits to continue my research on this exciting technology and new applications in areas of need. I’m hoping to build on the work that your groups have made!

    Who can I contact to learn more in depth details about your process, and acquire a Portable light kit?

  8. Mark W. says:

    This is a really amazing invention. The most abundant energy source is the sun (and the energy is free).


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