The Bag of Holding (DMG pg.153) is an uncommon magic item and has a significantly greater volume than any of the pouches (or even all combined) of Heward's Handy Haversack (DMG pg.174), which is rare.

My confusion stems from the fact that, while the Bag of Holding is obviously superior to Heward's Handy Haversack, it's the more common item of the two. Why is that?

Some other info to consider:

In terms of fluff, the Bag is depicted as a simple satchel while the Haversack is depicted as a hiker's backpack with multiple straps and pouches. The Bag also has the disadvantage of looking similar to the Bag of Devouring. Regardless of contents, the Bag weighs 15 lbs. While the Haversack only weighs 5 (and I highly doubt 10 lbs. of difference is worth a difference of category in rarity, especially making the Haversack rarer when the bag holds approx. 8X more volume. To say nothing of weight.).

Other than that, they have the same rules regarding their extra-dimensional properties, interaction etc.

If your answer is not directly from official sources (ex: "we know this is a typo because of existing errata, found here"), please remember Good/Bad Subjective and back your answer with evidence and personal experience.


5 Answers 5


This is a combination of history and what appears to be a small but significant oversight. The advantage of the Haversack over the Bag has always been that the Haversack always has what you're looking for on top, as compared to the Bag which is a disordered bag of stuff that's harder to sift through the more it holds (and it can hold so much).

The designers appear to have retained this distinction in the items' described function, and then made it immaterial during development by copy-pasting the standard 5e item-interaction boilerplate into their descriptions without making any adjustments to implement the functional difference they kept in the descriptions. (Easy enough to do, since when you're doing the rules polishing on the Bag you're not thinking about the Haversack, and it all looks fine, right?)

Traditionally (I mean back in AD&D, since in 3.x this is likely the kind of thing DMs would just handwave away), digging through a Bag for an item wasn't feasible during combat, so the discovery of a Haversack was a significant upgrade in, well, handiness. The capacity difference meant neither was strictly superior, but each had different pros and cons (the marginal utility of being usable in combat making the Haversack especially desirable, but still not strictly superior in every way). But none of this was nailed down in rigid action-economy terms then — there was no such thing as strict action economy terminology, it was just how the items' descriptions said they worked. The rarity difference in the 5e items appears to reflect a design intent to limit access to the especially-desirable item usable at combat speeds; later negated by failing to implement this small but significant distinction during the development stage.

So it just seems to be an oversight. RAW, the Haversack is the clear loser. For many DMs, the question ends there (plus a bit of head-scratching at the designers). However, 5e DMs aren't bound by RAW and are encouraged to make 'fluff' matter in their games, if they so desire.

If you want to emulate the traditional utility of the Haversack, make Bags of Holding able to be interacted with using an action... but it takes multiple before the user finds what they're looking for. You can either nail this down (at which point you're into making house rules to taste to determine exact number of actions), or just say that it's only possible during non-combat time and handwave the exact time it takes. No matter how you implement it exactly, this will leave the Haversack as the true champion of handiness that's usable with a single action to get exactly what you want.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2018 at 5:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ One interesting way to make the BoH "worse" while still utile, would be to have every item in it represented by a card. Make a deck of these cards and if you want to pull something out in combat you draw a card. Maybe if you take a full action you can look at the top three and put them back on top, bottom or take them out as you like. As a bonus action you just grab a card and that's what you've pulled out. \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Jul 19, 2019 at 20:52

The DMG says (p135):

Rarity provides a rough measure of an item's power relative to other magic items.

However I have always assumed that the rarity of a magic item must be the product of this with how often it was made, otherwise why use these terms representing how often they are found rather than some term representing the measure of power directly.

A handy haversack (DMG p174) is a backpack, has a capacity of two side pouches of 20lbs/2 cubic feet and one central pouch of 80lbs/8 cubic feet, always weighs 5lbs. It takes an action to retrieve an item.

A bag of holding (DMG p153) is 2' in diameter and 4' deep on the outside, has a capacity of 500lbs/64 cubic feet and always weighs 15lbs. It takes an action to retrieve an item.


The haversack is more complex but holds less. It is easier to carry (it's a backpack rather than a big old sack) and weighs less. For both, despite the idea that the sack is just a jumble of stuff, it takes 1 action to retrieve an item.

I'd say the haversack is more complex but less powerful than the bag, despite it's better utility for an individual.

So overall, in difficulty to make, I'd say they seem pretty equal.

How many are made

People with the money or resources to have a magic item created to move stuff around tend to care more about the capacity rather than the utility for an individual.

So I'd say more bags of holding would have been made from the point of view of demand.

Overall rarity

  • Both as difficult to make
  • Both useful enough to be made in some quantity
  • More demand for bags of holding

Haversack: rare

Bag: uncommon

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent in-universe explanation. Sometimes something is just so darned useful, that regardless of how powerfully magical the item is, pretty much everyone is carrying one around. It might not be easy to make, but a wizard could make a lot of money churning out bags of holding and selling them to anyone who they cross paths with. \$\endgroup\$
    – zeel
    Oct 29, 2019 at 14:51

Alrighty, by RAW the haversack is inferior in every way.

but hear me out. from a realistic point of view, you cant just tote around a bag of holding. its 2 feet by 4 feet in size. its basically a big ol duffle bag.

a haversack however is a backpack, you just wear it on your back.

the bag of holding seems more or less like it was designed to be put on a pack animal or something along those lines. long term travel but not necessarily on your person all the time.

The picture they drew of it discredits that, but the picture also doesn't match the description ion the book. #oversight.

personally I would make them the same thing with the exception that a handy haversack lets you access it once per turn with a free action.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for pointing out size. For halflings and gnomes, especially those traveling on foot, carrying a 2X4-foot Bag of Holding is cumbersome, regardless of weight. Handy Haversack to the rescue! It also helps explain rarity, as there would simply be less demand. Many medium and large creatures would probably agree that the haversack is inferior in every way, so fewer of them would be made. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lechlerfan
    May 14, 2019 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even a full sized medium character should technically find a big ol duffle a little more cumbersome than a backpack. It doesnt describe the bag of holding as having any sort of straps or anything either. its just a bag. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drew Major
    May 15, 2019 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ All the answers that reference the 'quick access' feature of the Haversack seem to ignore the fact that it’s a backpack (in fairness, the DMG seems to ignore this fact too). And as anyone who has used a backpack will testify, there's really no easy way to get anything out of it without taking it off your back first (and, usually, setting it down on the ground so you can access the pockets). Unless the haversack has some unstated power that magics whatever you want into your hand, I would not expect somebody to be able to pull things out of it mid-combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – RickL
    Jun 28, 2021 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RickL there is no actual quick access aspect to the bag in RAW, only the very vague text that "the thing you are looking for is on top". Both require using an action. Anyone who uses a quicker than normal access to the item is essentially just trying to utilize that flavor text. Though honestly the side pouches are likely easily to access in combat if its anything similar to my hiking pack. and with the added feature of not needing tom search for the item, i think its totally logical that you could grab a potion and drink it as a free action from a haversack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drew Major
    Jun 28, 2021 at 19:33

The rarity is because one is for use by merchants and others storing large volumes of materials, the other is for use by travelers and adventurers who need to get to the contents in a hurry.

The 'always on top' rule means you find what you are looking for instantly with a HHH. The Bag of Holding doesn't have that language. If you are just transporting bulk goods or coins, sure, no problem. If you have a different list of 50 pieces of gear the normal backpacker will carry around with themselves, you aren't going to be able to drag what you want out of a Bag anywhere near as quickly.

So, for shoving loot into for dispersal later, or hauling around coins or rolls of silk or artwork, or bundled weapons, a BoH is basically a wagon you tie to your belt. An HHH is actually immediate and useful. The rarity is a non-issue. The HHH should actually be fairly common among adventurers and ranger-types, just not outside that number.

And BTW, if you want to transport coins, Ehlonna's Quiver is a better choice then either. If you count all the 'spears' as hollow staves, and the 'javelins' as hollow rods, figure ten coins to an inch. 18 rods x 3 feet = 48 feet, x 12 inches, x 10 coins to the inch = 5,760 coins in pouch 2, 6 staves x 6 feet x 12 inches x 10 coins to the inch = 4320 coins in pouch 3, for a total of 10,080 coins, or 500 pounds of coins in a quiver weighing 2 pounds. If you make the 60 arrows out of solid gold, you could shove even more wealth in one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your second paragraph is incorrect. Both require an action to retrieve an item, regardless of the HHH saying "...always magically on top." There is no instantly; both require, mechanically, the same amount of time. Hence, the question :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Jun 15, 2018 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack, though! I always recommend the tour and the faq to get oneself oriented! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Jun 15, 2018 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jason_c_0.. it says retrieve AN ITEM... not THE ITEM you are looking for. if you got 50 items in there you will spend an action retrieving one random item in the 50 in there...you have 1 in 50 chances of getting the item you want. This is how the rule has been written this is a sack to haul up stuff, not to use in combat \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2019 at 3:48

If you want to continue using All previous versions of what a bag of holding looked like (basically a large santa like burlap bag)..REF: DMG3.5 p248, DMG AD&D2nd P159, 0D&D Rule Cyclopedia P239" As stated in all previous versions the bag appears to be a normal cloth sack. The bag of holding is merely a normal bag that is magically enhanced. Don't use drawings in any books to determine rules or magic item effects. The artist picture in the DMG of the bag of holding is just a nice drawing - and does not reflect what the item is actually is in game terms. But you could decide it is what it looks like. BUT STILL the bag of holding will be pretty useless in combat.

Apart from that, the main advantage of the haversack over the bag of holding is as per the description of the bag of holding, "you retrieve an item with an action - and not the item you are looking for. That means if you have 1000 gp and a longsword, it is different enough from the rest of the content to be easily grabbed, but if you have 1000 gp, 5 rings, and 20 different types of potions, you will have to sift through your bag first to find the item then retrieve it. The stuff in the bag is as difficult to find specific items in it as if its content was strewn out on the floor in front of you.

In my games, I actually call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check to find a specific item in the stash, with the DC depending on how hard the item is to find to first find it. a bag of holding is not to be useful in combat, just to hold stuff and carry it around.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you support your claims by citing evidence? I don't think you're necessarily wrong, but you don't cite any text from 5e or past editions (or any designer statements) to support it. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 19, 2019 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ DMG V3.5 p248. " the bag appears to be a normal cloth sack 2feet by 4feet in diameter." \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2019 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly V2Blast meant “in the answer”. Comments are temporary; any support needed goes in the answer. (Also, you don’t need to write “edit: …”. There’s an edit history already built into the post.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2019 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok. My apologies for the badly written response. I was in a hurry and since I was dealing with the exact same question with my group, I felt I had to document what I found during my research of that ruling. I fixed my answer a lot and gave all references to all previous versions of the bag of holding but V4 (I have all D&D versions books published since 1983 and played all of them, but V4 as I hated that version.lol) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2019 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Adding some discussion of dealing with this in your group might help the answer too. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2019 at 18:29

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