Not the normal thing for us here on LR, but I’m always looking for ways to add value for our listeners, and one popped up at GP Dallas. Brian from Piratelab.com approached me at the GP and offered to give me one of their messenger bags. After working out the details, I set it up so that we would get two bags, which I will review here, and then give them away to LR Patrons. As you may know, I take seriously the things I recommend on the show. Since I hadn’t actually used the bags before, we agreed that I’d do a review of them on here.
I warned Brian that I would be writing an actual review, not an advertisement, and that if he sent me crappy bags he would get a crappy review.
By way of background: I love bags and backpacks. I have hiked for most of my life, and the gear you take hiking can have a big effect on your enjoyment of the activity. This also applies to travel, which I do for more weekends out of the year than the ones I’m home for. I own five backpacks and two or three shoulder bags, and I always research out what I buy before I pay.
I’ve even visited the factory of my favorite bag maker, which happens to be based here in Seattle.
I don’t think this makes me an industry expert on bags, but lets just say I’m an educated enthusiast on the subject.
Piratelab sent us two bags: the small card case and the large card case, both in black. I requested black for the bags because I knew I was going to give them away and didn’t want to presume that whomever received them has the same aesthetic tendencies that I do. That said, they are available with a bunch of designs on the front ranging from bearded-elf-guy-leaning-against-a-rock, zombie-with-an-arrow-through-his-throat, some solid colors, and even artwork which resembles but isn’t quite the same as the From the Vaults version of Balance made by Magic artist Randy Gallegos.
The outer material is a polyester fabric that looks reasonably tough and was surprisingly well constructed. There are plenty of smaller companies with aims similar to those of Piratelab who have great marketing but then just outsource the building of the product overseas and end up with a crappy product. While these bags are made in China, they have clearly made sure that they meet a reasonable measure of quality. Now, these wouldn’t hold up to some of my other bags as far as quality goes, those bags are meant to be used every single day for years. They also cost a good deal more than these bags.
These are more for the weekend warrior, and for that purpose, they are quite well made.
Piratelab claims that the material is water resistant, but I didn’t test it myself.
There are some nice touches here as well with the zippers, buckles, and handle. The buckles and attachment points are all metal, which is nice. The handle is thick rubber, but has vents in case you end up holding for a while. The shoulder strap has a wider section for comfort. It’s clear a lot of thought went into designing this bag. The zipper pulls even have little Piratelab logos on them.
Whatever your preference, the inside looks the same on all the bags: a removable blue foam insert made to organize your Magic stuff. The insert feels dense and tough, but without being heavy—a great combination when you are trying to protect your valuable cards but also carry them around all day. The insert looks to be custom made for Magic stuff, as it fits deckboxes perfectly and I even jammed a fatpack box in there as well just to see if it would fit.
The space inside has apparently been designed such that you figure out the way it works best for you. You can put bare cards in the slots—the bag comes with foam dividers—or you can put deckboxes with your Commander decks in there or whatever. There is a long slot on the left side for dice, life pads, counters, etc.
As you can see, the small case can hold quite a lot. The way I have it set up for the photo above, it could easily hold three deckboxes (each capable of a Commander deck), another large deck box, twelve (or more) booster packs (drafto), and still tons of room on the left for miscellaneous stuff or even more cards.
Back Pocket of Small Card Case
On the back of the case there is more storage. This area is relatively flat, so you could put a trade binder, life pad, maybe even a folded up playmat back here. There are also some pen-holders here, which is handy since you always need pens at a Magic tournament.
I really like the size of the small card case, it seemed perfect for most Magic players going to a weekend-long tournament.
If you happen to be the person with ten Commander decks, or a card dealer looking to move a lot of product, or maybe just a binder grinder looking to trade all weekend, the large case may suit you better.
First off, the large is is huge.
Piratelab Large Card Case in Black
It can hold a TON of stuff! You’ll certainly never find yourself without your favorite deck if you carry this beast with you to a tournament.
Interior of Large Card Case
By my count, you could jam a full *twelve* Constructed deckboxes into this thing, and still have the two slots on the right free for whatever else you need! I wanted to try out what it would feel like with twelve decks in it, but I realized that I don’t own twelve Magic decks. This thing is a tank, and will hold as many decks as you reasonably could need at a tournament.
Back Interior of Large Card Case
One nice touch on the Large Case is that loop you see near the bottom of the back part of the back interior of the case. That is a velcro-style loop that can hold a rolled-up playmat. You can also see the padded shoulder strap in this photo; probably necessary if you end up filling this up with all of your decks.
I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality of construction and the thoughtful design that went into these bags. Most gamer-bags I have looked into have been total trash which sent me running back to my computer bags and backpacks to carry my cards. But these seemed well made, and well thought out.
They aren’t the best made bags I’ve seen, but they are the best made gamer-specific bags I’ve seen.
If I was in the market for a bag to carry my Magic gear, I’d definitely consider a piratelab bag. For me, the small size seems perfect. It’s not too small, and it holds plenty of decks and supplies for how I play the game.