I purchased the Mission Workshop Vandal backpack last January, and had written an initial impression review on my personal site, (just) Riding Along. Considering that I have since put thousands of miles into the bag, and started writing here at Bike Rumor, I felt that it should be revisited to see how the bag is holding up.
Spoiler alert: It’s still awesome. Read all about it after the jump…
PS- I really wanted to have a photo of me riding with the bag for this review, but you would be surprised how difficult that is to arrange, especially given that I leave work on my bike in the dark now. So I went with that stock image from Mission Workshop’s site, which is ridiculously awesome.
First off, let me dispense with my original complaint that the bag lacked smaller, organizational pockets. They listened to consumer feedback and the new versions of the Vandal have two smaller pockets on the outside to address that issue.
So, my commute is rough. It is a bit more than eighteen miles of riding each way, mostly within the city limits of Los Angeles. Plus I spend about twenty-five minutes on the train, each way. All told, it takes me just under two hours. Considering the length of time, and varied time of day and proximity to the ocean, I need to remain pretty prepared. Therefore, at almost all times I carry the following:
- Capo rain cape
- Chrome Manifesto pouch which contains; spare tube, multi-tool, tire lever, spoke wrench, chain tool, first aid kit, etc.
- A notebook of stories, notes, to-do lists, etc.
- Manila envelope of important documents
- A book (this week it is Put Me Back On My Bike)
- Prototype Swrve silk scarf
- Kryptonite Evo Mini u-lock
- Planet Bike SuperFlash Stealth
- Toothpick holder
- Kiehl’s lip blam
- Classic Cycling Essentials Pista mustache wax
- Advil LiquiGels
- Topeak Road Morph pump
- Honey Stinger energy chews
- Bonk Breaker energy bar
- Canvas pouch which contains credit/membership/pass cards, flash drives, stamps, etc.
Most days I also carry the camera used to take that photo (a Lumix LX3; not so little, but not huge), a pair of jeans and change of socks/underpants, plus any gear that I may think I need or have already removed during my ride, like arm warmers, knee warmers (and/or jar of embrocation), toe warmers, Swrve Belgian cap, wind vest, knit gloves. There may or may not be a pair of shoes in there too.
The Load: That is just a lot of stuff. With most bags I have used, and most bags on the market for that matter, that amount of stuff leaves the bag feeling full and does not leave any room for surprises. Even the Vandal, in the ‘compact’ 1,800 cubic inch mode, is getting pretty full there, but is certainly not busting at the seams or anything. The ability to compartmentalize everything helps it feel less full than it really is. And the middle expansion pocket serves extremely well as the “dirty laundry” pocket.
That expansion pocket is where this bag truly shines, giving you another 2,200 cubic inches, for 4,000 total. Nothing ever gets left at work anymore. Beer, wine, gear, parts, shoes, groceries, wrapped presents; nothing. And the best part is, thanks to the internal frame and adjustable shoulder straps, no matter how much stuff you fill this bag with, it almost always feels exactly the same.
The Ride: Riding with it is a dream. It took a bit before I got the adjustments right, and got used to the way it moves with/against me. But now that I have, it always feels like an extension of me, like I am not wearing a bag at all. Only when really loaded up, or in the hardest out-of-the-saddle-in-the-drops sprint for a light do I notice it, and maybe a little bit the need for the optional waist belt. They say that the best cycling accessories are the ones that you can put on and forget about. By that criteria, this bag is among the best accessories I have used.
The Construction: It is probably a little silly of me to discuss the bag’s waterproofness (…waterproofitude?), since I have only had it in a handful of rainy situations here in Southern California. However, that construction does benefit those of us sans weather; it just will not stay dirty. If it does get anything on it, it wipes right off and you would never know it was ever there. It looks exactly like the day I got it, regardless of what I spill on it or what sprays up up on it from my rear tire.
The Anything Else: Lastly, it is worth noting that it also makes a great piece of luggage for shorter trips (or packing like a typical guy). I have used it for trips to San Francisco, Milwaukee and New York City, carrying all my stuff and even some of the wife’s, though she will never admit that.
Overall, I honestly love this bag, even a year later. I do not know how I would get thru my commute without it, and would repurchase it without a second thought. If you carry varying loads, or just want long haul comfort, this is the bag for you (or check out their medium sized Rambler!).
(4.5 out of 5, only because I wish I had the new version with extra pockets!)