Last updated on August 18, 2021
Bag of Holding | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
So, you need to travel with your cards, huh?
At the time of writing, the world is mostly indoors at home, and paper Magic is very much not a possibility. It’s not a place for traveling or going to your LGS to play some EDH. That may make you think, “Why have I clicked on this thing about backpacks?” Well, I can’t answer that question. I would love to, but I can’t answer for your decisions!
But I’m glad you’re here now. You see, the backpack, also known as the rucksack, the knapsack, or the back-appending device of storage, is a statement of style. It’s what separates your look from that of a simple mediator of card games to one of a resourceful mage, with all of the tools of the trade. And it takes preparation, skill, and determination to reach that point. However, preparation means time. Lots of time. So, in classic Draftsim fashion, I did all of the hard work for you!
Time to figure out what the backpack means. Welcome to “The Backpack: A Magic Case Study.”
So, what are we looking for? Let’s take a look.
I’ve come up with four basic requirements to evaluate these backpacks. That way, we can find the best backpack for you!
First of all, the criteria should already disqualify bags that are uncomfortable since there’s no way I’ll be recommending uncomfy backpacks to you! To find the best option, we need to find out what’s best for our needs. We need to go deeper. Far deeper.
Inception | Warner Bros.
I think that, more importantly, the backpacks need to have an array of these following factors. There needs to be a constant way of making sure that the backpacks are rated correctly. And so, that’s what will happen. Each backpack will be scrutinized, pushed to the edge, and put to the test!
The bag needs to be able to keep our cards safe, hold a high capacity of items, and be hard to open without its owner (you) realizing.
It needs to look cool and not scruffy, messy, or make you feel like you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. Or, if you want that, then we need to make sure you can consider that in your decision.
It needs to be comfy for you and your back so you don’t end up damaging it.
Got an EDH deck (or boxes of them) that you need to carry? What about a Modern tournament in which you need to keep your snacks, your water, and your decks, as well as the multiple journals in which you write your novellas about becoming the Magic: The Gathering equivalent of the main character of “The Queen’s Gambit”? Your backpack needs to be able to fulfil all of your needs!
Given that, here’s a summary of my picks:
To Back or Not to Pack
So, there are a few things that I want to go over before we start the real backpack reviews. Is a backpack the best solution for your Magic needs? Well, yes and no. Backpacks are always great, and they get the job done. They’re highly functional, and they work well outside of MTG. But is that the only option you have? Definitely not.
Here are a few “backpack” alternatives that may better suit your needs.
First, I want to show you the “Quiver” range of products. Quiver is really good if you want a piece of storage dedicated to securing your cards. In fact, they’re the top dogs in that regard, and their products are very highly rated among the community. Including reviewer veteran Tolarian Community College, who recently included it in his list of personal favorite products :
This may seem like your standard deck box, but like its namesake classical military equipment, the Quiver comes with a strap so you can carry up to 500 double sleeved cards in one box. It protects your cards, can be locked, and can store whole cubes or even a range of EDH decks.
I’d recommend this for those who make trips to and from their LGS but can’t carry around a huge amount of luggage. The sleek, lightweight Quiver is a force to be reckoned with in the CCG Community!
Not So Flat Stanley
For those who are able to carry and lug around a large contraption for their deck needs, the Stanley Removable Compartment Pro Organizer is near perfect! The dimensions of each compartment work perfectly with the size of our beloved cards, so this industrial case can really do wonders in making sure you can carry your cards around.
This case is also one of the best “value-for-money” products you can invest in for Magic. Clocking in at under $20, it’s a real bargain!
The Best Backpacks
So, there are a few different styles of backpack that are great for our needs. Some of them range from more stylish, and some more functional.
I think that there’s a specific type of bag that, while not the most fancy, is the best for making sure your decks stay protected, and nice and snug: the photography backpack.
These backpacks are really useful as they have compartments for camera gear like lenses and such. They’re sized perfectly for deck boxes, so they work really well for carrying a bunch of decks and extra stuff inside. They’re also usually heavy duty, so you don’t have to worry about the bag breaking or damaging the contents.
The Best Photography Backpack
The Chrome Niko F-Stop Pack is the hottest backpack I’ve ever seen, if I’m honest. Maybe it’s the ex-photography student in me talking, but this backpack is the best kept secret for GP Grinders, people who travel a lot and want to take everything with them. It’s got a load of compartments; Amazon reviews indicate that this can fit at least seven lenses, and with each lens being the size of a deck box, you won’t have to worry about storage.
It does command a hefty price tag so it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely the cream of the crop. It even has storage for laptops, so you can bring your laptop to events and secure it safely, for those who grind, or work remotely.
- Heavy Duty
- Lots of compartments
- Looks sweet
- A bit large for some
The Best Budget Photography Backpack
The Amazon Basics photography bag is pretty good for its budget price, and has the same compartments as our best backpack. But it hasn’t got anything frilly or any special features. This does seem like the best option for most people, because of the absolute value!
- Quite Compact
These backpacks are also good, so if you can’t afford the Niko F-Stop but want more than the Amazon Basics, these are for you.
- Lots of compartments
- Not as protective
- Suede, so can be damaged more easily
- Lots of compartments
- More protective
- Straps seem weaker
- Still seems damageable in comparison to other bags.
So, photography backpacks may be the best for Magic, but sometimes you’ll need one that’s more versatile. Here are a few backpacks to show you how to find a backpack that you like, that has what you want. It would be hard for me to review every backpack in the world, so we’ll have to make do.
This backpack is a no-no.
The Ultra-Pro Citadel is a backpack made for card game players. At first, it seems like everything you’d want in a backpack for Magic, but it has a few things about it that show that it’s incredibly overpriced for what it is:
- It’s bulky and uncomfortable. The bag is very thick, and so it could strain your back.
- It’s overpriced. You can get the same function in a cheaper photography bag.
- It looks bland. There are more stylish, better bags out there for the same price.
I think that all of the reviews on there are reviewing it in a vacuum, which is fine, I guess. But there’s better backpacks out there, including the photography backpacks named above. It has the “brand tax,” so it’s more expensive on that front too.
All in all, not the best in my opinion.
This Business Travel bag is your typical cheap backpack. They’re all right, but they’re not very sturdy, and they break easily if too much pressure is put on them. They’re good as a temporary fixup, especially for students, but they’re nothing special.
Honestly, you can do way better for that price if you’re just looking for a specific bag for Magic.
What I (the writer) Use
So, I’m a bit of a weird one. I’ve been a student until the start of the pandemic, so my bag was regularly tuned towards that. However, I do like pop/alt culture, so all of my bags have been, in Magic terms, flavor over function.
The backpack I currently use is this Zelda Hylian Shield one.
Now, it’s not great for Magic at all. I tend not to carry more than one deck in there as the shape is odd, and things can get stuck at the bottom of the bag. You don’t want a bag without a flat bottom.
The lack of compartments is also huge for this. I took a duffel bag with me to GP Birmingham because it was just better than having such a poor bag. I also think that the fact that I skimped on my backpack means that half of my college notes were probably destroyed.
My favorite backpack was this Deadpool convertible bag! I bought it at Midtown Comics on Times Square in 2017, and even though I’m not the biggest Deadpool fan, the bag was amazing. Sure, it’s no Niko F-Stop, but the bag looked amazing, lasted me a long time, and was highly protective. One time, I stashed a draft deck from a FNM in the small pockets in the front, and a year or two later I remembered it was in there, and they were still perfect. Would not recommend doing this, however.
The only reason it stopped working as intended was a week in Venice…
So, you have a backpack. How do you make sure you get longevity out of it? I’m sure most people know this, but I would’ve loved the advice when I was a bit younger and a bit more naive.
It’s kind of simple: Don’t do what I did throughout school. Stuffing things into your backpack to no end will weaken the seams on the straps, and carrying heavy loads without sufficient support will hurt your back.
Also, make sure your compartments are the right size for your boxes! Loose deck boxes can scuff the cards inside, and cause impact pressure on the boxes. Most backpacks with photography compartments have adjustable compartments with Velcro, so make sure to use them correctly.
Careful Study | Illustration by Scott M. Fischer
Make sure to put it away properly and keep it upright, as the bottom of your backpack is meant to take the most impact. Throwing it upside down or on the back will ruin it. The bottom usually has impact pads or something similar to make sure that the impact is only on the bottom.
Try to clean out the bottom of the bag’s inside whenever you can! And try not to throw wrappers back in there. It can make the bag really dirty and ruin the material, as well as damage the contents inside.
Furthermore, make sure your liquids are tightly kept and usually in another bag inside the backpack. It can be horrible when your bag is ruined due to water, and everything else that can leak. It could damage your bag to the point of needing a whole new one! So, be careful.
That’s all from me today! I hope you had a fun time learning about backpacks, and Magic. If you did, why not leave a comment? Do you agree? Do you have a backpack that you like? Is the existential horror of power creep getting to you too? Let me know down there!
If you did enjoy, check out the rest of the Draftsim blog! We write a bunch of stuff, all for keen readers like yourself. There’s an array of topics from deck guides to stuff like this to me complaining about stuff that has 0% relevance to Magic (see, basically every one of my pieces).
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Once again though, thank you for joining me. It’s been a great time, and I hope to see you again soon. Have a good one!
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