11 Best Canvas Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Perfect For Travel
Witzman Men’s Vintage Canvas Rucksack

Witzman Men’s Vintage

This Witzman bag offers multiple carry options, quality materials & comes in various sizes.

Great for students
Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack

Kaukko Laptop/Outdoor

This Kaukko bag comes with a 15.6" laptop compartment and is made of quality 600D nylon.

Canvas backpacks are stylish, often inspired by vintage aesthetics, and very durable. Depending on the construction and design, they can be suitable for a variety of needs such as school, commuting, hiking, traveling, and carrying camera equipment.

Luckily, many of the best canvas backpacks are actually really affordable and offer modern features such as padded laptop compartments. Read on to find all of these features and more, with our pick of the best canvas backpacks.

Reasons Canvas Backpacks Are Great

Stylish

The matte, worn appearance of canvas has a distinctly vintage appeal, especially when paired with leather straps and metal buckles. Canvas backpacks have an old-school classiness to them, without skimping on durability.

For people who take their personal styling very seriously, a clunky nylon backpack just won't cut it. But a canvas backpack with thoughtful styling and practical features is ideal.

Durable

Thick canvas is extremely durable and extremely hard to tear or rip. It can withstand heavy wear and tear, as long as the straps and buckles are very securely sewn on.

Waterproof

Cotton canvas isn’t waterproof unless it has been treated or waxed. However, because it’s so thick and tightly woven, it takes a lot of water to soak through to the contents of the bag.


best canvas backpack

Types of Canvas Backpack

Laptop backpack

Canvas laptop bags have a sleeve, often padded, for safely carrying laptops. They’re often nestled into the main compartment, with room for larger items nestled next to it.

For canvas bags intended for carrying laptops, it’s recommended that they’re waterproofed, (if they’re not already) for extra protection for your device.

School backpack

Canvas backpacks make great bags for school, as they often have a loose, soft structure which flexibly accommodates books, food, and other essentials.

They will often feature a laptop or tablet sleeve, as well as an organizer compartment for pens, notepads, phones, etc.

Camera backpack

As we see further down the list, there are some great canvas camera backpacks, designed with dimensions especially for DSLR cameras and parts. They’ll often feature a removable insert for camera and gear.

The great thing about canvas is that it’s thick and water-resistant, and can be made totally waterproof very easily, protecting your photography gear.

Hiking backpack

The cool thing about canvas backpacks for hiking is that they’re easily washable if the bag does not feature any leather. You can submerge the whole thing into a tub of warm, soapy water and remove all traces of the hike.

What's more, you can waterproof the bag easily, with just a quick spray. Canvas hiking backpacks often feature a drawstring closure, as well as a flap for extra security. This means that the main compartment is expandable if you need it to be.

Sling backpack

Canvas sling backpacks are great bags for urban living, or during day trips where minimal items are to be packed. Many canvas sling backpacks are made with style in mind, as well as hands-free moveability.

There are countless colors and styles out there, great for young students or travelers with a sense of fun.


What To Look For In a Good Canvas Backpack

Material

100% cotton canvas backpacks are thick, sturdy, and very resistant to ripping. However, they’re much heavier than synthetic materials such as polyester.

Canvas leather offers breathability and comfort when carrying and are often lighter than cotton canvas. Be sure to check the weight, materials and consider what the primary use is for being bought.

Plenty of pockets

Look for a canvas backpack with enough pockets to cover all bases. You don’t want a backpack which turns out to be non-accommodating to all of the things you will need to carry over time.

Look for a large main compartment or two, multiple small internal pockets, secure outer pockets, and some open pockets for drink bottles, etc. It’s better to have a backpack with a couple of empty pockets than a backpack with nowhere to stash smaller items.

Size

Figure out what you'll be using your canvas backpack for, and consider the size accordingly. If you're planning on using it for zipping around the city with a few necessities in tow, go for a smaller backpack such as a canvas sling backpack (generally around 10 liters).

If you're commuting from work, to the gym and then home, find a larger one which can accommodate all of your gear without bursting at the seams (from 25-30 liters ).

Laptop compartments

So many people these days need to transport their laptop with them wherever they go, for school, work, travel, or even leisure. A padded, snug laptop compartment is essential for this.

It prevents the laptop from being knocked by internal and external forces, and it prevents it from tumbling loosely inside the bag with the other, potentially damaging items.

Secure closing mechanisms – buckles, roll top, drawstring

You don’t want your items falling out or stolen. This is where secure closures come in. The main compartment should always have a decent closure, either a flap-over top with buckles, a drawstring, or both.

Due to the old-school style of many canvas bags, they’re designed with vintage-style closures such as buckles as opposed to zips.

Interior lining

An interior lining will prevent the outer canvas being stained by spills and messes inside the bag. It also helps to keep items safe and protected.

Padded straps

Padded straps ensure comfort during wear. Otherwise, you risk having thin, hard straps digging into your shoulders as you travel or commute. Straps with padding, breathable fabrics, and adjustable tabs are common features for most modern canvas backpacks.


11 Canvas Backpacks Reviewed

1. P.K.U.VDSL - AUGUR SERIES Vintage Canvas Leather Backpack

P.K.U.VDSL - AUGUR SERIES Vintage Canvas Leather Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

School backpack, day bag

Capacity

19 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Coffee, army green, grey

Price Range

$

This is a super stylish looking canvas backpack for school, commuting, or even light adventuring. It has genuine leather trim, straps and zip tags. It doesn't have a laptop sleeve, but it does have a padded compartment for 13-inch tablets.

I think it's an ideal large canvas backpack for students who carry a lot of books and small devices. There are plenty of smaller pockets and a large main compartment for fitting in lots of stuff.

It's not waterproof, but some reviewers have noted that they've used a strong waterproof spray on the bag for great effect. I would recommend this to anyone who needs a bag for books, day trips, commuting without large devices, and even casual outdoor activities.

Pros

  • Thick canvas, and real leather trim and straps
  • Large capacity for many items
  • Lots of smaller pockets for safely storing smaller items
  • Adjustable, padded shoulder straps

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Doesn’t have a padded laptop compartment

2. Kavu Rope Bag

Kavu Rope Bag

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Sling backpack

Capacity

10.8 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Multiple color and pattern options

Price Range

$$

The Kavu rope bag is my top choice for the best canvas sling backpack, especially for people who like something colorful or creative. The Kavu rope bag comes in over 70 different color and pattern choices, definitely something for all tastes.

It's a bag for students, commuters, or day trippers who only need to carry small necessities. You can fit a phone, wallet, a spare clothing layer, food, and a tablet. It’s great for travelers roaming cities during the day. A small, stylish bag for kids and smaller adults.

Pros

  • Comes in many colors and patterns
  • Made from sturdy, good-quality cotton and strong ropes for straps
  • Internal and external zipped pockets for lots of storage
  • Comfortable sling design

Cons

  • Doesn’t fit a laptop

3. Kattee Men’s Leather Canvas Backpack

Kattee Men’s Leather Canvas Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Laptop backpack, school backpack, hiking backpack

Capacity

45 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Khaki, black, army green, grey

Price Range

$$

This is a great men's canvas backpack for tall guys on the go. A large canvas backpack, this model from Kattee combines hard-wearing canvas and genuine leather. It has flap-over, rucksack design with a large main compartment which fits clothes and books.

It does fit a 17-inch laptop in a special slot, but some customers have complained that it's not padded enough. There are lots of small interior and exterior compartments with buckles and zips to keep small items safe.

It’s great for guys who like a vintage aesthetic. I'd recommend this to guys who have a regular commute with a laptop, iPad, books, and various items. It would also be great for university students, or for shorter hiking trips in dry seasons.

Pros

  • Attractive canvas and leather rucksack design
  • Large capacity
  • Vintage aesthetic with messenger-back features such as flap and buckles
  • Lots of large and small compartments and pockets for storage

Cons

  • Not waterproof (but thick canvas takes a while to soak through, and you can use a waterproof spray)

4. Bluboon Canvas Vintage Backpack

Bluboon Canvas Vintage Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Laptop backpack, school backpack

Capacity

22.6 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Approx. 20 colour/pattern options

Price Range

$$

The Bluboon canvas vintage backpack is a great canvas backpack for girls, boys, men, and women thanks to the variety of colors and designs. There are florals, bold stripes, earthy plain colors, and bright colors.

It’s also a canvas drawstring backpack, as it has a drawstring closure to secure the main compartment, with a flap over the top. It has a dedicated pocket for a 15-inch laptop, and many small pockets on the inside and outside for storing lots of items. You could fit books, a laptop, a drink bottle, snacks, keys, wallet, and a phone easily.

For this reason, I'd absolutely recommend this to students and commuters as one of the best canvas laptop backpacks. Great for school, university, daily activities, and even days of exploring during travels.

Pros

  • Comes in a range of colors and designs to suit different tastes and usages
  • Special pocket for a 15-inch laptop
  • Roomy main compartment with internal pockets and small compartments
  • List Element

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Fasteners (buckles) are prone to breaking/wearing out

5. Witzman Men’s Vintage Canvas Rucksack

Witzman Men’s Vintage Canvas Rucksack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Laptop backpack, hiking backpack

Capacity

19-inch: 22.5 liters approx.
22-inch: 30 liters approx.

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Black, blue, brown, green

Price Range

$$$

This model by Witzman is a men's canvas backpack which can be used as a rucksack on the back, or a duffel bag worn with the removable strap over the shoulder, across the body, or carried by the side handle.

It comes in two different sizes, 19-inches and 22-inches, both with a large capacity and plenty of room for everything you need for school, work, college, or day trips. You could use this large canvas backpack for travelling if you travel reasonably light.

It has a special laptop compartment, so it's also great as a commuter bag or school bag, with extra room for gym gear or spare clothes. A very versatile bag with many possible uses for men.

Pros

  • Special laptop compartment
  • Can be used as a duffel bag, tote bag, or rucksack
  • Large capacity, with lots of large and small pockets
  • Comes in 2 sizes: 19-inch and 22-inch

Cons

  • Not waterproof

6. Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack

Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Laptop backpack, school backpack

Capacity

22 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Grey, red, black, green, blue (with different variations)

Price Range

$$

This laptop backpack is one of the best canvas backpacks for school, as it has padded back panels, a dedicated laptop compartment, and plenty of room for books, food, and smaller daily items.

It comes in a wide range of colors, such as bright red, pale blue, and earthy green. It also comes in different fabric choices such as canvas, linen, and nylon, with leather straps. You can also opt to buy the 2-piece option which comes with a separate zipped pouch which you can use as a wristlet or clutch.

The leather straps which close the flap-over external pockets give a vintage aesthetic to this highly practical backpack. Definitely a great pick for college and school students, commuters, and even overnight trips away over the weekend.

Pros

  • Padded back panels and shoulder straps
  • Laptop compartment for 18-inch laptop
  • The option of choosing a small extra bag to use as a wristlet or pouch

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Magnetized buckles can snap open or break if the bag is tightly packed

7. Gootium 21101 Specially High-Density Thick Canvas Backpack

Gootium 21101 Specially High-Density Thick Canvas Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

School backpack, hiking backpack, laptop backpack

Capacity

33 liters

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Army green, army camo, coffee

Price Range

$$

This is a really old-school looking backpack with a drawstring, flap-over closure, and a slouchy washed material. It doesn't have a padded laptop sleeve, but it definitely fits a 17-inch laptop comfortably, as well as lots of other items such as books, clothing, and small items.

There are external pockets with buckle closures and an internal pocket with a secure zip for valuable items. Definitely a backpack for school and college students, casual day and weekend trips, and light commuting. You can opt for the large canvas backpack or the regular size.

Pros

  • Washed, thick canvas for a soft feel and vintage aesthetic
  • Drawstring and flap-over closure for safely securing items
  • Large compartment, with outer pockets and a secure internal pocket

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Doesn’t have a dedicated laptop compartment or sleeve

8. Neatpack Versatile Canvas Sling Bag/Urban Backpack

Neatpack Versatile Canvas Sling Bag-Urban Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Sling backpack, school backpack

Capacity

Unknown capacity, but small capacity

Waterproof

No - Water resistant

Colour Options

Red, gray, black

Price Range

$$

This is a super-durable and well-made canvas sling backpack made from polyester canvas, with long-lasting zips. It has been designed to be comfortable to wear, with padded, breathable straps and back panels, and versatility of wear. It can be worn on your back, or on your front for safety when traveling.

While it's not quite a waterproof canvas backpack, it’s water resistant and will withstand a light rain shower. There are two securely-zipped pockets with phone pockets, tabs for pens, a key clip, and a secret RFID anti-theft pocket for valuables. The main compartment is big enough for a few books, a small laptop, or a tablet.

I would classify this as a small canvas backpack, and some customers have noted that it's smaller than they expected. It has a drink bottle holder and an external pocket for your cell phone and headphone slot. That's a lot of features for a small bag!

I would recommend this canvas backpacks for school, college, commuting, or sightseeing during travels.

Pros

  • Padded, breathable and ergonomic straps and back panels
  • Lots of secure pockets and pouches for small items and valuables
  • Tough, water-resistant canvas polyester and strong zips for durability
  • Can be worn on the front or the back

Cons

  • Smaller than it appears
  • Doesn’t fit a large laptop

9. Vancropak Student Canvas Backpack

Vancropak Student Canvas Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

School backpack, laptop backpack

Capacity

8.7 liters

Waterproof

No - Water resistant

Colour Options

Cyan, azure, pink, grey, green, black

Price Range

$

This backpack from Vancropak is affordable, neat-looking, and has lots of organizational pockets for storing pens, phones, and little notebooks. It’s advertised as having a laptop slot for laptops up to 15.6-inches, but some customers have complained that it’s actually far too small for a laptop, and would best suit a tablet.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the built-in USB charging port and charging cable, you just need to have your own portable charger. This is so you can give your phone a quick charge on the go. It also has an earphone hole at the top, so you can listen to tunes as you walk.

I recommend this as a great, affordable canvas backpack for school, for students who don't carry a laptop with them but do carry books, pens, a phone, and a few other small items.

Pros

  • Built-in charging port and charging cable
  • Water-resistant polyester canvas
  • Small, compact design with room for school or work essentials
  • Padded back and shoulder straps

Cons

  • Too small for a laptop (unless it’s a small one less than 12-inches)

10. S-Zone Waxed Canvas Waterproof Camera Backpack for DSLR/SLR Cameras

S-Zone Waxed Canvas Waterproof Camera Backpack for DSLR-SLR Cameras

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Camera backpack

Capacity

Unsure, but dimensions are 11.8 x 15.3 x 4.7 inches

Waterproof

No - Waterproof

Colour Options

Black, grey, khaki, army green

Price Range

$$

This is the best canvas camera backpack, as it is very versatile and can be adjusted to suit your needs. The camera insert is designed for DSLR cameras and accessories such as lenses. You can remove the camera insert, which is handy for when you want to use the backpack for non-camera related outings.

It’s also one of the best options for a waxed canvas backpack, as it offers waterproof protection as well as a cool, vintage-style aesthetic. It has a padded laptop compartment, and a large main compartment for storing camera gear, books, or other items.

A great pack for photographers, students, and commuters who carry a laptop with them. It could be great for people who work or study during the week, then go on day or overnight trips with their camera on the weekends.

Pros

  • Waterproof exterior (thanks to the waxed canvas)
  • Removable padded camera insert to keep camera and parts safe
  • Padded laptop compartment for laptops up to 15.6-inches
  • Vintage aesthetic with leather trim, flap-over design, and front pockets with buckles

Cons

  • Pockets have magnetic straps which tend to break or snap open, buckles would be better

11. Wowbox Messenger Satchel Bag for Men and Women

Wowbox Messenger Satchel Bag for Men and Women

Quick Look - Bag Features

Type of Backpack

Satchel bag, messenger bag, briefcase bag

Capacity

Unsure, comes in two sizes: 14 inches, 15.6 inches

Waterproof

No

Colour Options

Coffee, grey, green

Price Range

$$

This is a really smart choice for a canvas backpack for school, as it can be worn across the body, over the shoulder, or held in the hand. The versatility of wear comes from the detachable strap and the top handle. It has a beautiful, stylish design with a hard-wearing canvas body, and genuine leather flap-over and faux buckles (the buckles aren’t functional as the bag closes with magnetic tabs).

There are two exterior pockets with magnetic closures. The pockets themselves are great for easy-access storage, but the magnetic closures have come under fire for breaking or snapping open.

It has a padded laptop compartment for laptops up to 14-inches, with a velcro strap to keep the laptop safe and snug in the pocket. There are plenty of little interior pockets for pens, phones, and small items. It’s a super cool looking bag, made from high-quality materials.

Pros

  • Padded laptop compartment for laptops up to 14 inches
  • Detachable shoulder strap for wearing crossbody, or on the shoulder
  • Can be carried as a smart briefcase-style bag
  • Sophisticated, vintage style

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Magnetic clasps tend to break

History of Canvas Backpacks

Canvas bags were used by soldiers during the war (WWII) but were eventually pushed out in favor of nylon which was lighter. By the 1970s, nylon backpacks had almost completely taken over canvas backpacks in popularity.

In recent decades, the aesthetic of canvas and leather has seen the rise of the canvas backpack again. Thanks to poly-canvas, waxed canvas, and waterproof spray treatments, canvas is much more user-friendly than it used to be.

Visit this link for images and illustrations of very early canvas backpacks in the late 1800s.


What are canvas backpacks great for?

School & college

The forgiving nature of canvas when it comes to heavy books and general wear-and-tear makes it a great choice for school or college.

School bags do tend to get dirty and worn more easily, as they’re tossed onto the bus, dumped on the school field, and thrown into the corner for the weekend. You can submerge a cotton canvas backpack in water, wring it out, and leave it to dry over the weekend.

Work

Canvas laptop backpacks or briefcases are ideal for work, as they combine a smart aesthetic with practicality and durability. You can carry a laptop, food, and other items safely in a canvas satchel or backpack, without looking overly casual or leisurely.

Hiking

Canvas backpack are not the most common choice for hikers or outdoor adventurers. The weight of these bags is usually much more than polyester models making it unideal for long treks or hikes in nature. Many types of canvas backpacks can still work on short day hikes as they do offer high levels of durability and tear resistance.

Traveling/day tripping

Smaller canvas backpacks often have double closures with a drawstring and a flap-over with buckles. This is great for security as it's far harder to unbuckle clips and untie a drawstring than it is to unzip a single zipper. The durable nature of canvas makes it a good choice for day tripping, and traveling, as you're sure to be putting it through some hectic adventures.


How to Waterproof a Canvas Backpack

Use wax

This is a less-common method these days since we have sprays to do the job more quickly. You can melt the wax until liquid, and brush it onto the bag with a brush. Or, you can rub a hard block of wax over the bag until covered.

Use a waterproof spray

This is by far the easiest and fastest method to waterproof a canvas backpack. Buy a spray such as this one, and ensure your canvas bag is clean and dry before spraying. Spray the bag with enough product so that it’s wet but not soaked through. Leave to dry overnight, or for at least 6 hours and you're ready to go. (Other sprays might have different directions, but this is the general method).


How to Dye a Canvas Backpack

If you’re sick of the original hue of your canvas backpack, you may be able to dye it. Here are some basic steps taken from ritdye.com and a youtube video to help you.

  • 1
    Determine how much dye is needed by the weight of the item. As a general guideline, one sachet will dye up to two pounds of dry fabric.
  • 2
    Before dyeing, remove any visible stains on the garment. This will help achieve uniform color results when dyeing. Pre-wash item in warm, soapy water.
  • 3
    Wear rubber gloves to protect hands from getting stained and to insulate them when working with hot water. Cover area too.
  • 4
    Fill a stainless steel pot with enough water for the fabric to move freely. Cover pot and heat water on stove top to just below boiling (200 F° or greater).
  • 5
    If you are dyeing with Rit All-Purpose Dye: To enhance the color: (1) add one cup of salt when dyeing fabrics containing cotton, rayon, ramie or linen; (2) add one cup of vinegar when dyeing fabrics containing nylon, silk or wool. Add 1 teaspoon of dish detergent to help promote level dyeing.
  • 6
    When water begins to simmer, add dye and mix well.
  • 7
    Wet the item you are going to be dyeing and add it to the dyebath.
  • 8
    Keep temperature at a low simmer for the duration of your dyeing.
  • 9
    Stir slowly and continuously. The first 10 minutes are the most critical. Stirring helps to ensure an even color with no splotches.
  • 10
    Item can remain in dyebath from 10 minutes up to one hour. If dyeing polyester or a polyester cotton blend, keep the fabric in the dyebath for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the color takes fully. Nylon tends to dye very quickly and much darker than other fibers so the actual time needed in the dyebath is less.
  • 11
    When desired color is achieved, remove from dye bath. Fabric will look darker when wet and will dry lighter. Squeeze out excess dye.
  • 12
    If you are dyeing with Rit All-Purpose Dye or blends with Rit DyeMore that contain cotton, linen, rayon or ramie: To enhance the color and reduce color bleeding, use Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative immediately after dyeing and before washing, following these instructions.
  • 13
    Rinse in warm water and then gradually cool water until rinse water begins to run clear.
  • 14
    Wash in warm water with a mild detergent, rinse and dry.

How to Wash a Canvas Backpack

First of all, check the label for washing recommendations. If it says “machine washable”, then you can give it a gentle cycle in the washing machine. Remember to put the backpack in a laundry bag, and make sure every last item has been removed from the pockets. Select a cold wash, and use only a tiny amount of detergent, if any.

If you’re not 100% sure that your backpack has been washing machine-approved by the manufacturer, don’t risk it. (Backpacks with leather trim should not be put in the washing machine, for example).

In this case, you can either hand wash it in a basin, or simply sponge it down and use a brush to remove tough stains. Again, if the backpack has leather trim, don’t submerge it in water, use the sponge-down technique.

Here’s a quick guide to these two cleaning methods:

Hand-wash

Fill a large bucket or basin with warm water and a dash of gentle detergent. Submerge the backpack into the water and gently “scrunch” it in the water to encourage dirt and stains to be dislodged.

Gently massage the canvas for a few minutes before draining the water from the basin and refilling it with fresh, detergent-free water. Give the backpack a rinse under the clean water to remove detergent residue. Gently wring the bag out, and hang it up on a washing line to dry. Do not put a canvas backpack into the dryer as it may disrupt the shape.

Sponge-down

Wet a sponge or cloth and gently sponge and wipe any soiled areas of the backpack. For thick or caked-on stains, use an old toothbrush to gently scratch them away. Hang the bag to dry and air-out on the washing line.


Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I buy a canvas backpack at cheap prices?

Check with Amazon for sales and specials on canvas backpacks.

Are canvas backpacks durable?

Yes, if the stitching and closures are of a high quality. Thick canvas is a very durable material which withstands wear and tear very well. Look for canvas backpacks which have thick canvas and strong stitching/seams. The review sections are always a good place to find evidence of weak seams.

Are canvas backpacks good for school?

Absolutely. Most canvas backpacks are designed with a roomy main compartment for books and lunch, and many have a dedicated pocket or sleeve for laptops.

Are all canvas backpacks waterproof?

No, only canvas backpacks which have been treated with a waterproof treatment will be waterproof. However, thick canvas does take a while to soak through and would need a very heavy downpour. You can purchase a waterproof spray for your canvas backpack.


Conclusion

Canvas backpacks are stylish, durable, and can last a long time if cared for properly. Before buying a canvas backpack, consider your specific needs.

Do you need a small backpack for casual day tripping? A smart-looking satchel for work? A sturdy laptop backpack with room for school books? A large backpack for hiking? Once you’ve narrowed down the specifics, you can trawl our list for the best fit.


  • Updated October 8, 2019
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