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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: ThinkGeek Bag of Holding

I decided to pick up one of these bags after my recent trip to run my Moria game, which involved, among other things, packing up my laptop and assorted game stuff and taking it to Virginia. I've been complaining to myself about my current lame computer bag (the freebie that came with the laptop, a real piece of junk), so I took a look around. Part of the problem is that my current laptop, a Sager 9262, is a beast. Nevertheless, I poked around and found this bag, which looked like just what the doctor ordered. Reviews were scarce, but at $50 I was willing to risk being disappointed. I ordered one last week, and it arrived today, despite Mother Nature's best efforts to stop delivery.

The bag arrived via UPS ground, well packaged and in perfect shape. Par for the course these days, but still worth mentioning. My initial impression is generally positive. The bag is made of fairly rugged gray canvas, with a black nylon shoulder strap, briefcase style handle, and trim. Nice neutral colors. The Bag of Holding logo is prominently displayed on the outside cover flap. There are lots of compartments, six total (I think). Starting from the back (dimensions are available via ThinkGeek):

A slim outer compartment closed with a magnetic snap suitable for holding a thin ream of documents. Nicely placed for a map or other quick access, but the closure is just a single snap, so I wouldn't trust it with anything valuable.

A padded laptop compartment. My monster laptop fits snugly, so I'm fairly certain this bag will hold most any laptop made. The padding is pretty thin, and doesn't cover the sides of the case, which is a bit disappointing. I may retrofit an additional strip of padding along the bottom of the case to supplement the poor protection offered there. The laptop compartment is closed with a zipper.

A cavernous compartment with an interior pocket. This is a huge amount of space, easily consuming the 3.5 D&D boxed set along with my laptop's huge power brick and standard-sized mouse with room to spare. This compartment is also zippered.

Another full width, slightly shorter compartment, also zippered. I managed to fit a full set of 1st edition books (Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, Monster Manuals I and II, and Fiend Folio) in this compartment.

An accessories compartment closed with a magnetic snap fastened flap. And by accessories compartment I mean 'good-sized women's purse.' There's easily room for a dice bag and miscellaneous junk, plus organizer pouches for cell phone, iPod, writing tools and other essentials.

Finally, there's a zippered outer pocket on the main flap (which covers all but the first document compartment and laptop slot. This pocket would be ideal for cell phone, documents, mints, cigarettes, or anything you need quick access to. Since it's zippered it's a bit more secure than the first compartment.

So how much does it hold? A LOT. I did a quick test and fit the following items:
  • Huge laptop
  • Laptop power brick (which is actually bigger than a brick)
  • Standard Mouse
  • 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, Monster Manuals I and II, and Fiend Folio
  • Three pads of paper (lined, graph, blank)
  • 3.5 edition D&D boxed set
  • Hefty dice bag
  • Flashlight
  • Sketch pad
  • A dozen pens and pencils
  • Cell phone
I had space left over. What I discovered was I could put more stuff into the bag than I was willing to carry.
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So far so good, but there are a few negatives I should mention too:
  • The two inch wide strap is unpadded, making for an uncomfortable fit with a heavy bag. Something I'll probably address.
  • The zippers seem a bit cheap, having a tendency to catch instead of sliding smoothly. We'll see if usage smooths them out.
  • The laptop compartment padding is very thin. I would have liked a bit more protection there.
  • Magnetic snaps on a computer bag? There were probably better choices available.
  • The organizers in the accessories compartment are all kind of stubby. There's no easy way to fit my mini-maglite in one.
  • It's not waterproof, something that I'll remedy with ScotchGuard.
Overall: I think this bag is a pretty good value based on initial impressions. It has a few flaws, and I haven't really field tested it yet, but I'm pretty happy with my purchase. The fact that I can put more stuff into it than I'm actually willing to carry is a testament to its capacity. Tentative thumbs up pending field testing.
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