You’d be right if you looked at the title of this article and immediately asked “What in the wide world of sports is a “Tactical backpack?”, and you wouldn’t be alone – I know I did! MobileEdge has made a lot of backpacks for various purposes, including school bags, extra-armored bags for Alienware laptops, briefcases, duffles, and much, much more. Now they are trying their hand at the loonies like me, who insist on making the TSA agents’ eyes bug out with the amount of electronics we carry with us. Behold, the CORE Gaming Tactical Laptop Backpack 17.3″ by Mobile Edge!
If there’s anything this industry likes to butter us up with, it’s laptop bags. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I have over a dozen of them at my fingertips at any given time – I donate them to the local children’s hospital on the regular. They range in quality wildly, and I have a few more that I’ve reviewed or gotten that are at the top tier. It’ll make for a great comparative analysis for this review, as each of them have their own pros and cons. Let’s get down to brass tacks.
First and likely the most obvious statement, this backpack is roomy. Able to hold up to a 17.3” laptop (which, if you carry one that size, I’ve gotta ask how your back is feeling these days), the backpack is built to accommodate a plethora of anything you can throw at it, as we’ll soon discover. I’m carrying a 15” laptop these days, but on any given trip I’m also carrying a monster of a camera, extra batteries, charging equipment, a mini-tripod, my Steamdeck, a controller, a mouse, and entirely too much more. Could this thing handle all that? Yeah, it can – and with space to spare.
Throwing the word “tactical” on something gives me hives. I did my stint in the military and despite being assigned to a combat unit, we rarely referred to anything as “tactical”. Frankly, the only “tactical” gear I had was my webbed gear to hold my equipment. It was only until companies like Under Armour started using it extensively that it recursively made its way back into military jargon. Now anything from shirts to pens to flashlights to pants with entirely too many pockets are referred to as “tactical”. Just the same, some companies took it a different direction, instead using that word to mean “rugged”. I was ready to crucify this bag for being “tacti-cool”, but I’m happy to say I’ve got better news to report.
The CORE Gaming Tactical Backpack is made from ballistic nylon. Like my tactical webbed gear, there is some thought about pocket and storage placement. On the pack are two large MOLLE side pouches, and in front, two smaller ones. If you don’t like that configuration, you are welcome to move those pouches – just like a webbed belt. Or you can remove them entirely. Or you can swap in any other MOLLE pouch to carry whatever else you might possibly want. With this mount system, the sky’s the limit. There are ten loops midline where you can move those pouches, or you can use them for anything pen-shaped. Usually pens, really. That said, I do own a tungsten-tipped pen capable of breaking car glass, so that at least looks the part, right?
On the outside of the two outer pockets are two horizontal loops. These are great for attaching things (the double-stitched reinforcement is appreciated), but beyond attaching velcro things to it (of which I have a surprising amount!) I’m not finding the purpose.
One thing I do want to talk about is the velcro. Velcro is one of those things that is somewhat ubiquitous. Everyone has a good idea what velcro looks and operates like. They’re wrong. There are MANY varieties of velcro, and they range from cheap crap to something you could practically use to rappel from – these are thankfully the latter. Anything I attached here stayed put. Looking at the pouches again, all of these have that same quality velcro to keep them closed. And yes, Mobile Edge’s own CORE Power Portable Laptop Charger fits in them nicely, routing power throughout the entire pack.
At the very bottom sides of the bag are two more straps with clips. You’d need to run these through something to hold whatever it is in place, but it’s another way you can sling something like a hat or an umbrella.
Heading around to the back we have two shoulder straps, obviously – it’d hardly be a backpack without them. These have a light amount of padding from top to bottom and are heavily reinforced. They are double-stitched and reinforced on the edges, and have a midline cross-panel over the straps that are also double-stitched and reinforced. At the top is a D-ring with a heavy reinforcement, as they are meant to be an attach point for things like water bottles and the like. Down in the middle lies a pair of carabiners with a full latch system rather than a simple piece of metal for a close gate. These carry that same weight-bearing thick reinforcement, so you can feel secure about hanging something from it. There’s a similar reinforcement point at the bottom where the straps from the bottom link in. Even if it’s rarely used by anyone, we see similar reinforcements and stitching on the mid-chest buckle system.
There’s something mid-back that I’d not seen before, and until I put the bag to use, I didn’t find out what it was for. A thick elastic band, emblazoned with the Mobile Edge logo, sits mid-back with no discernable purpose…at least until you get tired of carrying the bag. This strap will go around the pull arms of your luggage, securing the backpack to it so you can pull both together as a single unit. I did a quick check of my inventory and this is the only bag I’ve ever owned that has this feature. This is one of those moments where you don’t know how much you appreciate something until you have it.
At the top and bottom of the rear of the bag are two large sets of thick pads, covered with a breathable mesh. Since this is an area that tends to soak up heat like a sponge, this is a step up from the solid pads on my other bags. They both have a split in the middle for airflow, which beats out my Alienware bag – that thing seems to have a solid chunk of space heater in it.
The top of the bag has a semi-solid clamshell-style bonnet, secured at both corners with a squeeze-latch. The inside is ballistic nylon, which clues you into the overall purposes: repelling water, and durability. This shell keeps the zippered portions of the bag, namely the storage compartments, free from water. While Texas continues to be hotter and drier than the surface of the sun, some parts of the country have endured record amounts of rain in recent months. When I was stationed in Florida, storms tended to happen with zero notice, dump buckets on top of your head, and then disappear without warning. Having that clamshell closed could be the difference between being alright and having a losing argument with your manufacturer’s warranty department about water damage.
If you are stuck in a particularly rough downpour, there’s a surprise lying at the bottom of the backpack. Inside a zipper and held in place by a clip is a secondary rain slicker to go over the bag. Between the clamshell and this rain slicker, I’d feel comfortable putting my bag in the shower! Just like the strap to hold it to your luggage, this is another one of those things that you simply don’t know you need until you need it. I do like that it’s also not permanently attached, meaning you can unclip it, dry it, and then clip it back in once it’s ready to go again.
The zipper portion is, sadly, the first to fail on entirely too many bags. It makes sense, as it’s also the part that sees the most use. Here we see the same red heavy reinforcement on both sides of the zipper teeth, but more importantly, they are nestled inside of a sort of gusset channel. This alleviates ALL of the pressure on the zipper, meaning you won’t be putting any tension on it when opening or closing it. Frankly, it’s the simple gusset design that cheaper bags are missing, and I’m very glad to see it here. There’s also a rolled edge with extra stitching between the gusset and the body of the bag – just another way the pressure stays off the zipper. The zipper pull is paracord with a heavy flared plastic tip, complete with three grip nubs, making it easy to pull – even if that’s unnecessary, given all they’ve done to alleviate pressure on it.
The inside of the first storage chamber is, as is the rest of the body, ballistic nylon. If you are unfamiliar with the material, it’s nearly impossible to cut, scratch, rip, or otherwise damage it. The largest compartment, the portion for your laptop, is able to hold a 17.3” laptop. At the very bottom of the bag are padded bumps, meant to keep the laptop off the bottom of the bag. This helps should you set down the bag too hard, as it won’t directly impact the bottom of the laptop. It also means if you drop the laptop in too quickly, it won’t strike bottom either. It’s another one of those features that is unique to this bag, and one I didn’t know I needed until now. It just makes sense.
Most bags nowadays have a smaller pouch, meant for a reading device like a Kindle or an iPad. They are usually just a small sewn pocket, but here the Mobile Edge team has taken the time to line the entirety of it with a soft microfiber. If you don’t have a case on your device, as is often the case with devices with hardened glass, this will keep it safe. It’s a nice touch in a long line of them.
At the top of this compartment and running through to the other compartment is a red gusseted opening. On the other side lies a simple bungee loop as well as one with a plastic toggle ran through a loop of elastic. These are options for looping through a variety of cases, devices, and the like. If you are inclined, it’s a good way to hang your phone, with the port allowing access for a cable for headphones, charging cables, or whatever else.
The secondary compartment, one I affectionately refer to as the junk drawer, is the catch-all for all of the rest of the things you’ll carry on your journey. Per normal, there’s a large compartment for things like your laptop’s charging brick, your Steam Deck, a controller, headphones, and the like. Interestingly, there’s another separate compartment here, separated by a semi-solid panel. This panel has a small zipper section up top for smaller things like cables and adapters. Below that lies another netted compartment with an elastic band. I used this for my HDMI cables and the others that won’t cooperate with a good winding. At the top front of the inside of this compartment is a small zippered pouch made of ballistic nylon. This little pouch is where I kept my USB dongle for my copy of DaVinci Resolve, but it can easily contain a credit card, ID, and the like, though it’s too small for a wallet – just small stuff here.
At the outside front of the bag lies the last storage pouch. Two full depth (from the midline to the bottom) mesh pouches lie on one side, and half-height ones on the other, containing all of the rest of whatever smaller things you need to carry. You can also just drop them into the pouch if it doesn’t need secondary containment.
If you are a specs sort of person, or want to ask “How many PlayStation 5s or Xbox Series Xs can I put in this thing?” well, the answer looks like about 4 including cables and a controller for each, though I don’t have four of them to test. You’ll find the specs of the bag below:
Overall weight: 4.1 lbs.
Overall size: 14.5” x 19.5” x 9”
Laptop compartment: 11.8″ x 16.3″ x 1.9″
At least inside mine, that last pouch carried one of the best features of this entire bag – the warranty. The Mobile Edge CORE Gaming Tactical Backpack carries a full lifetime replacement warranty. If there is any defect in material or workmanship (which is to say, not accidental damage, misuse, improper care, or alteration), they’ll replace the bag at no cost to you. If that wasn’t enough, registering the bag also grants you an immediate 15% discount on your next purchase, a sneak preview of upcoming products, and the ability to pick up additional savings that you won’t find on the website anywhere. It’s a nice bonus on top of an already awesome warranty, and one I always appreciate as it shows that the company is standing by their product.
You might ask how much this ultimate gamer’s backpack costs. I was surprised that the price is $149. Bags from the likes of Solo New York, Timbuk2, the Acer Predator bag, Razer’s Rogue, and many more fly into the $150 to $200, with quite a few headed north from there. Sure, there are cheaper bags, but you’ll find, as I have, that the features fall off quickly commensurate with the price drop. $149 really is the right price for a bag of this size and quality.
Frankly, I’ve spent a month with this bag, traveled with it twice, and loaded it full of photography and gaming gear several times and I just can’t come up with anything bad to say about it. It holds my massive Black Magic 6K Pro camera (and cage), lens (separated, and in its protective case, of course), my Wireless II audio capture devices and charger, my spare battery packs, my mini-tripod, my laptop and overly-large power brick, my Steamdeck, several USB-C chargers, a small portable light, a controller, my portable laptop battery, earbuds and case, and more, and still had room to spare.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
Mobile Edge CORE Gaming Tactical Backpack
Designed to take a beating, but with an aggressive price, the Mobile Edge CORE Gaming Tactical Backpack lives up to its name. Full to bursting with features that make sense, this bag will keep your most precious gear safe so you can focus more on gaming and less on armor.