Riding into DC means our daily load is something like two cameras, a laptop, charger, a pair of walking shoes, rain jacket and various other folders, hard drives, clothes, books etc. for the daily content grind. Lately we’ve been totting a tripod around too. After a year of transporting everything from watermelons to reams of 800-900 letters across the city, the Mission Workshop‘s OG backpack, the Vandal, has been a real trooper. Backpacks and messenger bags are really a fickle product, and honestly while design is good, oftentimes no one really does usability testing for extended periods of time. With over a year’s experience under the flaps of this bag, we feel confident in giving you a good overview of this backpack’s features, and our wags of the finger and tips of the hat.
This thing is really, really well constructed. Seams are either covered with material or stitched on the inside, and the the outer shell construction is waterproof and has a really unique texture that is much more rip and tear resistant.
The bag is very simple, with two main pockets, and two outer pockets attached to that main compartment. Further attached to the front are two smaller pockets for phones, wallets, business cards and small items. We keep lens cloths, multi-tools and pens in ours.
The main compartment is going to be your go-to area. We can usually fit an slr bag, multiple cameras, shoes and clothes in that compartment. Even though its equally large enough and comfortable enough for a ton of books, beers, wine, gallons of milk, groceries, etc.
The zipper lining is kind of an issue, as it began to tear and disintegrate a few months ago. However, if you use the rolltop flap as a cover, stuff stays relatively dry. Again, I’ve seen thicker zipper liners, so this definitely could be improved.
This bag has taken quite a few car rammings, and honestly other than scraping damage, the material doesn’t continue to tear as time goes on. We talked to MW about repairs, and they’ve been more than willing for us to ship it back for some touch ups.
When you buy a messenger bag/backpack, buy one that suits your needs. The Mission Workshop is a nicely constructed bag- comfortable, breathable enough, but not over-padded or sluggish feeling. However, this bag is definitely designed for the minimalist.
The front smaller pockets are a little too compact to really carry anything substantial, and are definitely too flat. The second pocket that we use for chargers/locks is deep, but offers nothing in the way of inside organization (pen holders or smaller zipper compartments), and when the bag is full it’s difficult to stick your hand into the bulged out area to reach anything underneath. You definitely need to set this thing down when you want to grab anything.
In addition, we’re constantly worried about laptop storage because the front “laptop” pocket doesn’t have its own depth, so depending on how much your carrying in the main compartment, everything is being wedged toward the bottom of the bag at an angle. We’ve never gotten anything damaged before, but it’s just worrisome thinking about electronics getting squeezed against other stuff.
On the flipside, this bag is really really light at 4.4 lbs. considering its size and capabilities. However, if you’re not a messenger, or aren’t someone who is constantly pulling things in and out of the bag throughout the day, a better organized bag might suit your needs. In addition, because the bottom material is fairly thin, you absolutely can not pack this bag haphazardly, as even small random objects will quickly shift and dig into your back. With that said, if you hit the sweet spot with the packing, you’re in for a great ride, and you can easily shift the weight up and down your back for longer commutes.
Overall, this is a great sort of “big container” model of a bag. Simple, light, and as long you bring your own organization, a really well balanced and usability-tested product. The riding experience is great, with two sets of adjustability straps, and the capability of adding a waist strap for long hauls.
The Vandal is made in USA and available at several retailers across the country. Honestly just order it through MW’s website if you decide to nab it. Awesome customer service, quick shipping and an overall outstanding bag. At $259, consider your needs and wants before pulling the trigger, but at the end of the day, Ennui stands by the Vandal as a great go-to bag that carries a ton and offers a good intersection of comfort and space. However, if you’re looking a daily school bag, weekender or light travel container, the Vandal may be too simple for your needs.
A few more snaps at the flickr.