Transporting board games can be a hassle. The different sizes of boxes are sure to make hand-carrying a stack of games unstable, and dropping them may not only damage the boxes but it sure to create a huge mess if any happen to open. Putting them in a different box can be unwieldy, and most normal backpacks are far too small to hold more than a few smaller games, and certainly not any bigger ones. Add to this the need to also bring along smaller items like pens or decks of cards or dice or a snack and you can see things getting out of hand in a hurry.
Thankfully, Brooklyn-based company GeekOn! has come up with a solution to all of these problems: the Ultimate Boardgame Backpack. The company recently sent me a backpack to review, but the opionins expressed herein are my own.
Obviously, size matters here. A lot. A huge number of my games are in the now-ubiquitous 12×12 box, and this backpack has been build specifically to hold that size box with a generous main compartment that is 13.75 inches wide and 16.5 inches high. The compartment expands to 12.5 inches deep, so if you aren’t planning to fly with the backpack you can easily stack multiple 12×12 boxes flat on top of one another. Depending on how tall they are, you should be able to stick 5 or 6 games with this size box in that compartment. As you can see from the picture above, I was able to fit Above and Below, Camel Up, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Dead of Winter, and Five Tribes in there with no issues.
The main compartment is great, but on top of that is another compartment that is 4.5 inches tall and 7.25 inches deep. That’s big enough to comfortably fit both Sushi Go Party and Love Letter Premium, with room to spare. Or, if you want a even more small games as fillers for game night, take a look at the picture below.
Here, I’ve put the regular version of Sushi Go, Citadels, two copies of Happy Salmon, Set, Fluxx, Star Fluxx, and four regular decks of cards (two more decks are behind the Maverick and Firefly decks visible in the picture). And notice the grey container in the bottom left? That is the custom dice case and tray, which I’ll discuss in detail in a bit.
Along each side of the backpack are four smaller zippered pockers. Each is big enough to fit a smaller game like Sushi Go, Set, Fluxx(actually, two decks of Fluxx), or something similar.
The lower pocket on each side includes a built-in koozie to hold a beverage. Normal water bottles, cans, and glass beverage containers all fit nicely. Between the pockets and above the top pocket are a set of adjustable straps that can be used to secure a larger (but not thicker–my 64oz Hydroflask doesn’t come close to fitting) bottle, or the playmat case (more on that in a bit.)
Behind the main compartment is a padded laptop compartment. A smaller Mac or Chromebook will slide in easily. My 15.5 inch laptop, as you can see from the picture, seems at first to not fit. However, the floor of the top compartment is only velcroed in, and shares its velcro strip with the top of the laptop compartment. By loosening that, I was able to get my laptop in without issue. I don’t think anything much larger would fit, but as long as you don’t have a giant machine, you should be fine.
At the very top of the backpack is one more pocket. It’s made from strudy neoprene, and contains elastic webbing, making it the perfect place for your phone charger or other small electronic accessories.
That same top compartment could also hold your keys … except that the front straps has a special place for those. Because of course it does. The other strap has a holder for a pen, and both straps have a band above that (it’s the grey piece in the picture) for holding glasses.
The inside front panel of the main compartment has a two webbed, zippered pockets and one webbed pocket with an elastic top for holding small accessories, extra supplies, and snacks.
Finally, there’s a front pocket, perfect for holding books, notepads, rules, or anything else you want to stuff in there.
While a fully-loaded backpack is of course going to be heavy–there’s nothing GeekOn! can do to overcome physics or reduce the weight of all of that paper, plastic, and cardboard–the pack is designed to be comfortable. There are cushioned, moisture-wicking back panels, and the straps have the same moisture-wicking padding as well.
There is also a padding handle at the top to make simply lifting the bag more comfortable.
I only just got the backpack, and have only used it once so far to actually transport games, but from everything I can see it looks like this bag will last a long time. All of the seams are sealed and reinforced. The padding in the compartments is sewn into a nylon lining. The straps are all heavy nylon.
Best of all, everything about the backpack is waterproof, so if you need to take your games out in inclement weather, you can rest assured they’ll arrive safe and sound.
In addition to the backpack itself, GeekOn! has produced a line of accessories to add even more functionality to what is already an impressive design. Each of these accessories can be purchased separately, and many of them would be helpful for many gamers, even if you aren’t interested in the backpack.
Dice Case and Tray
The dice case and tray is made from very sturdy materials. The official website says the case can hold up to 30 dice, which is true if you use the included foam padding. I guess that’s nice if you’re the kind of person who spends money on dice and wants to keep them from touching each other or if they sound of dice rattling around in the case drives you crazy. But I’m more in the dice-as-commodity camp, so I pulled the foam out and just stuffed the thing full as as many dice as I could fit.
The bottom part of the case pulls off to become a great little dice tray. While the picture above of the top compartment of the backpack shows the case, I didn’t mention that it includes a set of straps specifically designed to hold the case securely in place.
Elastic Box Bands
If you have boxes of games that have been around the block or a few times, or if you’re like me and like to combine expansions with the main game, even if it means overfilling boxes a bit, these bands are great. Each comes in a set of 10, with five 8 inch straps and five 11 inch. The are made from nice sturdy elastic, slip on to your boxes with ease, and hold everything nice and secure. And unlike rubber bands, these won’t eat into the box or deteriorate over time.
If you have games like X-Wing: Miniatures that use playmats, you know that transporting them can be a hassle. With the playmat bag–or, officially, the Playmat Drybag of Doom–you can worry no more. This great nylon bag expands up to 36 inches. Once you get the playmat in there, you can roll down the top–great for smaller playmats–and then secure the straps, making the bag waterproof.
What’s even better is that you can open the bottom pocket on either side of the backpack and stick the playmat big in, then use those two straps on the side to secure it, making it simple to bring your playmat with you wherever you go.
When the bag gets heavy–and again, it absolutely will–you’ll want to take some of the weight off your shoulders, which you can do with the waist strap accessory. Both straps attach effortlessly to the backpack, and of course also include zipper pockets.
Quad-Mod Game Piece Module
Want to fit even more games in the backpack? Ditch those big boxes and all that empty space and put what you need in the Quad-Mod Game Piece Module. The Module opens out to four sections, each with four webbed pockets that in turn contain a webbed bag. In the photo above are all of the pieces needed to play (l-r) Five Tribes, Pandemic, Saloon Tycoon, and Ticket to Ride.
Once you have the pieces packed up, you can fold the outer wings in and place your boards on top. There’s plenty of padding along the edges of the case to protect them.
Then, zip the whole thing up into one easy-to-carry package.
Slip it into the backpack, and you’ve doubled the number of games you can carry. In fact, if you were to purchase three of these, you could easily transport twelve games in the main compartment of the backpack.
I am the person in my friend group with the most games, by many factors of ten. So, I host the vast majority of our game nights. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any use for the backpack. In fact, I was able to use it the day after it arrived.
The Boy Scouts of America has a Game Design merit badge, and hopefully it won’t be too much of a surprise to learn that I’m a counselor for it. This weekend, I offered to teach the class to a bunch of Scouts in our area, and I needed to take not only a selection of games, but also paperwork, some posters, and supplies for the boys to make their own game prototypes. Last year, this all went into several boxes, and required a few trips to my car. This year? So much easier.
As you can see from the image above, all of the games I needed for the class fit perfectly. What isn’t visible in the class are the prototyping supplies (paper, scissors, pens, tape, dice, cards, and wooden beads) that were great fits for the side and front pockets.
Here, the (very heavy) bag is ready to go. Remember I mentioned I had some posters I needed to take? They’re there, snug and secure, in the Playmat Drybag of Doom.
The other time I suspect I will find a use for the backpack will be when I go to GenCon in August. But that raises the question about flying with the backpack.
I definitely wouldn’t check the bag. It’s well padded, but no where near well padded enough to protect your games from the abuse they’ll get in checked luggage.
But can I carry it on? The short answer is yes: in its collapsed state, the bag is small enough to qualify as a carry-on. In fact, on their website, GeekOn! makes a point of showing that not only did they design the pack to airline specifications, but they even went so far as to send an employee to the airport to test the bag in those little stands airlines have to see if your bag will fit.
The big caveat there is “in its collapsed state.” The main compartment expands out to fit those 12×12 boxes, but can be collapsed down to only 8.5 inches deep. This will obviously limit the number of games that will fit, but that’s unavoidable given airline restrictions. It’s not ideal, and will force me to make some choices about when I bring back from GenCon, but it’ll still be a better solution than most.
The collapsed pack is also easier to store.
So, How Much Is This?
Keen on getting your own Ultimate Boardgame Backpack? Well, it isn’t cheap, but given the quality and utility of everything you’re getting, it isn’t overly expensive, either.
The Dice Case and Tray is $19.99, again from Amazon and GeekOn!. Amazon also has the Playmat Drybag of Doom is $24.99, and again, it’s the same price direct from GeekOn!. The Quad-Mod Gaming Module will set you back $39.99 at Amazon, and, you’re getting the picture now, the same at GeekOn!. The Elastic Bands are $29.99 on both sites.
Amazon does not appear to carry the Waiststrap, so you’ll need to get that from GeekOn! for $29.99.
The GeekOn! website has one other thing Amazon lacks: a Mega Bundle deal that will get you backpack, a set of elastic bands, the dice case and tray, the playmat bag, the waist strap, and the gaming module. It also includes the company’s Dragon Carabiner (which I haven’t mentioned yet because it’s the one part of the bundle they didn’t send me) for $299.99, which will save you $57.
One last quick note: the backpack is available in a variety of colors for both the outer shell and the inner lining. The same is true with the dice case.