I finally made the decision to sell my beaded leather back quiver and replace it with a traditional medieval arrow bag. I purchased the back quiver but soon found my limited range of shoulder mobility meant I had difficulty drawing arrows. When I discovered arrow bags being sold on Ebay it sealed the decision and away went my back quiver to a buyer in Kansas.
I like the look and functionality of an arrow bag. I chose to go with a leather variant of the bag complete with a sewed in spacer ring The ring prevents the bag from collapsing in upon the arrows by keeping the mouth of the bag open. Another (historical) option was the use of a disc spacer. The spacer has 24 arrow holes that prevents arrow rattling and damaged fletchings by keeping them separate while encased in the bag. Based upon the samples recovered from the shipwreck of the Mary Rose they are usually crafted from thick leather. The spacer would exclude the use of broadheads or incendiary arrows but would be designed for type 16 arrowheads and most armor piercing bodkins.
In terms of functionality the top third of the bag has extra fabric above the spacer(ring) that lets you protect and secure the arrow nocks and fletchings while in transit. That extra fabric can be folded back and out of the way if one uses the bag as a quiver. I appreciate that feature as an urban archer - often I will walk to my woodland range through the suburbs. With my bow unstrung in a bow sack and arrows concealed in the arrow bag it offers privacy.
There is some variation on the bottom of the bags. Many examples seen in medieval art work appear to have open ended bottoms tied shut with string or leather laces. Prevailing thought is it enabled the archer to untie and remove arrows in bulk. The open bottom was probably originally designed with the use of a 24 holed spacer in mind but can also be found on bags with the spacer ring or no spacers at all.
The arrow bag also has a leather/cord strap that enables one to sling it over your back while in transit. That same strap can then be used to tie the bag to your belt or looped over your shoulder to use as a side quiver.
There are also examples in medieval art of arrow bags having a vertical belt loop attached to the side to facilitate wearing the bag horizontally across your lower back. You could then remove the arrows to the left or right based upon your shooting dexterity.
Often medieval art depicts the arrow bag laying at the feet of the archer who then has placed the arrows in his belt....essentially not using a quiver at all. The arrows are attached using a type of constrictor knot. As an arrow is withdrawn a tug downward on the girdle snugs the remaining arrows at the waist.
Another option placed the arrows standing upright in the ground within easy reach of the bowman. This was most likely used when the archer was in a defensive stationary position like a skirmish line or behind some kind of bulwark or temporary barricade. It enabled a quick nocking to facilitate a high rate of fire.
There is no doubt it was an individual choice as to how an archer would use the arrow bag and whether it was used as a proper quiver or for arrow transportation and protection. It also would depend upon the circumstances of the moment. Regardless of it`s intended use the arrow bag is a versatile piece of kit that explains why it was used for centuries and still remains relevant for the modern traditional archer.
Update- a January thaw meant I was able to take the bag out for some winter archery. I really like being able to enclose my arrows for transport and protection but also the ability to use as a quiver.