One universal truth when traveling: you will always need a way to carry whatever it is you need, whether it’s a sweater with pockets for all of your tech or a rolling suitcase for all of your books for game day. As someone who’s done a fair share of traveling and always wanting to have all of the necessary gear on hand, I’ve gone through my fair share of bags.
When I was last in the market for a new bag, a few people mentioned the Bag of Holding from ThinkGeek. It was praised for being durable, plain enough to be used at at the workplace, geeky enough to be recognized by true nerds, and having more than enough space for anything I’d need. When I took my first “real” librarian job in November 2013, I thought I’d replace my too small bag (one compartment for tech AND lunch? Not good) with something a bit beefier, so I bit the bullet and ordered a Bag of Holding.
Note: The writer and StickyBunton are in no way affiliated with ThinkGeek. All thoughts and beliefs written below are solely the opinion of the writer and may or may not be shared by other members of StickyBunton.
When I took the bag out of the shipping materials, I knew I’d love it. Everything about it screamed “I’m sturdy”, from the metal zippers and clasps to the denim-like canvas. The drab grey was a major selling point for me (as I planned to bring this to work), and the subtle d20 badge with “Bag of Holding” added that geeky touch that I love in a bag.
It also had more than enough compartments for what I needed; there’s a small compartment with a flap to hold pencils and the like, a slightly larger compartment (about the side of a notebook on it’s side), an even bigger compartment with a small pocket, and then main compartment with padding for a laptop. The smaller compartments can only be accessed by moving the main flap, which has a small pocket to hold small, quick-access things (it easily holds my 3DS and Gunnar glasses). There’s even a document pouch on the side facing you when you wear it.
Everything closes with either zippers or magnets, and again, it’s pretty sturdy.
I’ve said it multiple time already: the bag itself is pretty sturdy. Well, for the most part (“The Bad” for details). I didn’t start seeing holes (albeit small ones) in major areas until I broke the two year mark, and it hasn’t had a major exterior tear yet. Even the strap hasn’t broken yet, as it is securely connected and not rigged with little connectors.
One thing I love about this bag over some of the other geeky bags I’ve found: the interior is not coated in horrible plastic. So many bags I find are made from a decent material (nylon, canvas, denim), only to have an interior coated with plastic that eventually breaks and sheds over time. I can’t count the number of times I had to pick broken black plastic flakes from my tablet or 3DS every time I took them from my bag. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here.
The name “Bag of Holding” isn’t just a nod to a magical item in Dungeons and Dragons; this bag comes pretty close to the name! I’ve filled this with various loadouts based on the event, and I haven’t run into too many situations that I couldn’t at least get most, if not all, of what I needed in there. Early on in my Star Wars GMing time, I was able to fit every book I owned (i.e. every book released) until adding a third core rulebook and associated splatbooks made it unusable alone (thus my investment into a rolling suitcase). With conventions, I can toss in 2-3 games worth of materials and still have room left over (depending on the games, of course). I’ve hauled it with me for interviews (presentation materials, tablet, chromebook, pair of novels, and snacks), road trips (tons of tech, collection of books, card games), and even to work every day (loadout ranges from a few notebooks and a tablet to two meals, snacks, change of clothing, and enough tech to choke an elephant). I’ve even brought it along to blacksmithing classes (granted, as far away from the forge as possible), as it can carry a number of projects (i.e. I’ve hauled a bunch of knives in here; it’s still intact) as well as a few tools (hammers and protection supplies FTW!).
It’s a versatile bag, and I love it for that reason alone.
The durability also extends into washing/stain removal. I’ve lost count of the number of lunches that have spilled in this bag due to faulty containers (everything from Chinese leftovers to homemade curry) or things that have spilled onto it, and the bag has always cleaned up easily and nicely.
While not entirely waterproof, it is designed to protect things better than you’d think. On rainy days, I’d place my tech into an interior pocket, and I’d find them dry after walking the short bit to work. I’m not about to stand in a storm or drop this into a puddle, but hey, it’s a good bag!
While the bag is pretty sturdy, it’s not bulletproof by any means. Within my first three months, I somehow found myself popping the seam that contained the padding for laptops. Granted, it’s not a big tear, and it didn’t expand very far in the additional two years, but it did cause some concern as I was waiting for something else to go.
While there are many spaces, the two I had the most issues with were the document sleeve and the small pocket for pencils and the like.
The document sleeve is not big enough for standard 8.5×11 sheets, and is barely big deep enough to put an envelope in. In fact, I only use this sleeve when I know I am walking to the post office and don’t want to forget to mail something; once I put an envelope in it, it will stick out. It also doesn’t help that the magnets used to close this involve having a little nub and a pit to lock together, which makes sealing it entirely pointless. Last kicker: the magnet/clasp is under the canvas, which is great. . .until you wear it down. I’ve had it worn down to just lined fibers that are starting to tear (and who knows what’ll happen to the rest of the sleeve afterward), and the design probably hasn’t helped it.
As for the “pencil” pocket, it’s nigh-worthless for that. It has built-in sleeves for pencils and pens, as well as actual pockets for this sort of thing. Looking at them, I thought they were going to be exceedingly useful. Then I tried to put a writing utensil into that space.
Apparently, the pocket is too small for most pencils and pens, and the little elastic sleeves can only hold things so well (and there’s only two of them). The tiniest pocket is even too small for a business card, making it less than useless (unless you are carrying individual pieces of gum or something). I eventually gave up the idea of using these specific parts for what they were designed for, and just use that section as a catch-all for little things, like power cables, index cards, and a pencil case.
One major issue I’ve had has been coming up more recently: the metal clasp/buckle. I don’t know about most people, but when I wear a messenger bag, I wear the strap on the opposite shoulder from where the bag rests (i.e. right shoulder, left hip). Sadly, with the way the strap is designed, I have the metal clasp/buckle digging into my collarbone, which is a pain when my walk has gone from “across a parking lot” to “At least six blocks, can be a 3 mile hike depending on weather.” This has been getting more and more frustrating as the days go on, as I’m either making the bag ride too far up or dropping it too low to be properly comfortable for me. It’s more personal preference, but it is a deciding factor against buying a second one to replace this.
Overall, the Bag of Holding deserves a solid 4 buns, a thumbs up, and a +3 to all saving throws.
The bag could use a few minor improvements, but it’s solid, durable, and has actually lasted longer than most of the bags I’ve owned; I nearly destroyed my YakPak before my year in Japan was over, I demolished a “tactical attache” in four months, and the only everyday use bag I’ve owned that lasted beyond the six month mark without an issue was a Jansport backpack I bought when I entered college in 2003 (that is STILL a backup bag for every trip I take; just not presentable for work and backpacks aren’t that professional).
Any bag that can beat the two year mark without massive damage from my everyday use deserves a thumbs up. If the design issues (specifically that strap) didn’t bug me, I’d consider buying another one (or even moving up to the pvc-leather version and seeing how long that lasts), but alas, I need an alternative that won’t drive me crazy and won’t break the bank in the process. If I needed to buy a new bag today due to some outside catastrophe destroying the bag, I’d probably order another one to hold me off until I found something equally epic and made out of leather (I know leather will survive a forge, after all).
The Bag of Holding can be purchased from ThinkGeek for $49.99, unless you can snipe it on a really good sale or other discount (and there’s always some deal going on, so look out for it).