Mission Workshop has created the Highlander of Backpacks, the one bag to rule them all.
When you think of luxury bags, what do you think about? When I did a quick poll, I was given names like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Kate Spade, and Coach. Interestingly, these names were provided by both men and women and all tended to be female-centric brands. Why is it that when men become interested in bags, they are negatively labeled hipsters or their bags are belittled as European Man Bags or murses? As a lover of tech bags and camping bags, I have grown to love multiple offerings from Maxpedition and TYLT and the Energizer Powerkeep Pro Solar. Wanting something better, ritzier, water-resistant, and more EDC, I turned to Mission Workshop and had a love-at-first-sight moment with their Rhake: VX backpack. Made in America, with a logo that looks like a double helix on its side, I think the bag and I share common DNA.
Unless you have been living off-grid, you have likely heard of the rain/flooding in the midwest. Traveling to and from work with my iPad Pro 10.5,” spiral notebooks and work documents, inside of my T1 Veho Messenger bag, I was saddened to arrive with wet paper. Despite an umbrella, despite parking close to the building, and despite clutching my bag close to my chest, the contents of my bag became quite damp. To protect my iPad Pro, I chose to wrap it inside of a Walmart sack, before placing it inside of the bag. Frustrated with the rain, my fear and ire abated when the Rhake VX arrived. Upon first impression, the 3 pounds 4 ounces slate bag with black accent/buckles/straps did not disappoint. The bag reminded me of thick tarp or luxury tent material and further added to the weather-resistant concept. I loved the grey on black design and the incorporation of the easy-access Fidlock magnetic buckles (more on this below). If you do not know much about Nylon, you may think that they are all made the same. If you have ever purchased and experienced stormy conditions, while staying inside of an economy tent, you already know the fallacy of the above statement. Mission Workshop upgraded the VX backpack from the typical 500d (denier) nylon to one of the “most advanced textiles in the world with virtually unmatched abrasion, tear and weather resistance per gram weight,” the VX-21 diamond ripstop fabric.
Gripping the upper 6-inches wide by 1-inch thick carry handle, with internal rubberized tube enhanced grip, I placed the 13 inches wide by 21 1/2 inches tall backpack face-down. There were two thick padded shoulder straps, which measured 3 1/8 inches wide by 19 1/2 inches long. Each of the straps attached obliquely along the top and then to a 1-inch wide webbing strap along the bottom. The adjustable strap attached along the base of the bag via a triangular grey fabric wedge measuring 2 1/2 inches by 3 inches by 4 1/4 inches (attachment point to the bag). I was impressed with the build of the straps, with the secure attachment points, and tight stitching. Each of the shoulder straps had a 7 3/4 inches tall by 1-inch wide Arkiv rail, with 1-inch wide chest strap and secure buckle. The adjustable chest straps can slide up and down the shoulder strap, just behind the Arkiv rails. At the top of each of the Arkiv rails, you will find a 3/4 inches wide velcro loop attachment point for accessory pouches (available online). Each of the distal ends of the shoulder straps curved outward toward the triangular attachment point and fit nicely against the lower abdomen.
The black-colored backing of the backpack provided the same moisture-wicking, padded, material as the inner surface of the shoulder straps. The trapezoidal lumbar pad, measured 7-inches tall at the edges and 5 3/4 inches tall in the middle by 9 3/4 inches wide at the top and 8-inches wide at the bottom. Unlike the upper thoracic/trapezius pads, the lower lumbar pad was not attached but at the side margins. I loved that nothing on this bag was left to chance or oversight; instead of leaving the lower pad alone, they chose to utilize the pad as an accessory luggage handle. If you have a rolling cart/bag, you can place the handle into the lower lumber pad and then grip the upper handle to offload some of the weight. If you look toward your left (right shoulder strap), you will find 10 3/4 inches long zipper with water-resistant track. When zipped up, the layer remained water resistant; when unzipped you will find an elastic mesh water bottle holder. Shove the elastic bag back into the pocket, zip it back up for concealed protection. The opposite side of the bag had a similar water-resistant zipper but the 17 3/4 inches zipper opened into a 16 inches tall by 11 inches wide padded, water-resistant, chamber. This seemed to run nearly the entire length of the laptop bag and provided a quick/concealed storage point for my 15-inch MacBook Pro.
The front of the backpack screamed symmetry, which was quite alluring. The left and right pockets were linked by magnetic quick-access Fidlock latches, which were easily opened with a single pull of the small pull tab. Akin to a fidget cube, I could not stop playing with the magnetic latches, as they were incredibly neat. Lifting up on the tiny pull tabs, to disengage the latch, the magnet separated from the metallic base. This setup allowed for single hand operation to open and close the latches. The magnetic latch flawlessly gripped the metallic base and created an amazingly secure connection point. Each of the dual 7 inches wide by 12 inches tall pockets extended about 1 inch over the zipper to add to the overall water-resistance.
The right side pocket (toward your left) was surrounded by approximately 22 inches of zipper, with dual zippers, each with a paracord style pull. Inside of the left pocket, you will find an internal zippered pouch inside the flap, two zippered pouches on the opposite side, and pockets behind each of the pouches. Opening the flap, I found a 2 1/2 inches long paracord strap with a metallic hook, which served perfectly as a key keeper. Behind this, you will find the dual pouches mentioned above, with posterior pockets. The upper pouch measured 4 5/8 inches wide by 3 3/8 inches tall and was lined with mesh along the outside and nylon posteriorly. Behind this pouch, you will find a pocket with similar dimensions, which was lined on both sides by water-resistant nylon. Located 3/4 inches below the upper pouch, I found a 4 3/4 inches wide by 4 1/4 inches tall lower pouch. Behind this pouch, Mission Workshop added two partitioned compartments, a larger 3 1/2 inches wide by 4 1/4 inches tall pocket and a 1 1/8 inches wide by 4 1/4 inches tall pen pocket. Lastly, the outer flap contained a single 9 93/4 inches long by 4 3/4 inches wide mesh-lined pocket. These administrative pockets would work perfectly for keys, wallet, smartphone, pen, business cards, etc.
Returning to the front of the backpack, I turned my attention to the opposite side pouch. Similar to the one described above, the left side pouch had dual zippers with paracord zipper pulls. Unlike the C-shaped zipper of the administrative pockets, this pocket had an “L-shaped” 14 1/2 inches long zipper. The 6 inches wide by 10 inches tall pouch was lined with nylon and would house a standard water bottle, a medium sized spiral notebook or perhaps a Nalgene bottle, if the bag was not alrady overly stuffed.
Located above and below the two pouches, you will find solitary 9 3/4 inches water-resistant zippers. The lower zipper bordered a 5 1/2 inches tall by 9 3/4 inches wide pouch, which was perfect for the MacBook charging brick, retractable iPad charging brick, and lightning cables. If the pack was already loaded down, this compartment was rather crowded and more difficult to access. Just north of the admin pouches, you will find an 11 inches long by 1 3/4 inches wide nylon flap covering the upper 9 3/4 inches long water-resistant zipper. The flap provided the first line of defense and the water-resistant zipper provided a second layer of defense, protecting a 10 inches wide by 11 inches tall iPad pouch.
To access the main compartment, you will need to pull the 9 1/2 inches wide by 4 5/8 inches tall panel towards the front of the backpack and separate the 2 inches wide velcro that attached the panel. You will not be able to enter into this cavity easily/stealthily as the velcro is quite secure and loud. Because the inner layer is rolled and secured with velcro, it is much more difficult for water to find its way inside of this bag. Along the upper edge of the water resistant flap, I found a 1-inch by 1-inch inch loop of nylon webbing that served as a lock point for the main compartment. Just above the upper carry handle, there was a 5-inches long by 1-inch wide strap, with a metallic hook. This metallic hook slid nicely over the roll-compartment, into the nylon hoop and added an extra layer of security for the main compartment. If desired you could remove the upper lock completely, as it was attached via velcro to a metallic loop on the backpack.
With the upper pouch unrolled, the 3 pounds, 4.5-ounce, backpack measured 29 3/4 inches tall. The internal main pouch measured 20 inches tall by approximately 12 inches wide. Similar to nylon lunch bags, the top seven inches of the rolling flap accordioned inward. If you desire faster or stealthier access to your bag, you can fold the lower 4 3/4 inches tall by 9 1/2 inches wide flap upward. On the inside of the flap, you will find two 4 1/8 inches tall by 1 1/2 inches wide hook style velcro strips. I was pleased to find that the velcro aligned beautifully with the 1 7/8 inches wide by 8 7/8 inches long loop velcro on the other flap of the bag. In this configuration, you can loop the metal clasp over the top of the bag roll and secure the hook into the nylon loop of fabric. I was excited when I realized that I had the ability to cover the velcro. Since I take my bags into meetings, this setup drastically reduced the noise when removing contents. Not as secure as the main configuration, this would be the ideal setup for students, when already indoors. Once your work was finished for the day, you could detach the velcro flap, roll the top down, affix the velcro flap to the loop on the bag and then secure the entire setup with the outer metallic loop/lock. I absolutely loved that the velcro configuration provided both an outdoor water-resistant and indoor easy-access mode.
This bag provided numerous positives to include one last bonus pocket inside the main compartment. Along the back of the bag, I found a twelve inches long zipper that opened into a thin 18-inches tall pocket. This bonus pocket was perhaps the most water resistant of the entire bag. I have tested/utilized many backpacks, messenger style bags, satchels over the past few years. The Mission Workshop Rhake City Pack pulled to the front of the herd. The bag provided two admin pouches, a lower pocket, a side fold-out water bottle holder and a few other hidden pockets. The shoulder straps, with moisture-wicking material, were comfortable, and the sliding chest strap drastically helped to reduce shoulder fatigue. With a bag of this size, I missed the option for an abdominal strap. They could have added metallic or plastic buckles to the bottom of the shoulder straps or to the lower edge of the side of the bag. Mission Workshop could have then sold accessory waist clips for those who desired the additional support. This was not a deal breaker because it would be quite difficult to make this bag any more exceptional.
The padded lumbar and thoracic supports were comfortable and allowed for long term utility with less fatigue. I liked the hidden lumbar pockets, which could theoretically be used for concealed carry if desired. I liked that the designer thought about a luggage strap and that they considered utility and water-resistance with the main compartment velcro layers. The left-sided administrative pouch could have used a few more organizational pockets or pen holders, but it worked well for a small lined spiral notebook. I loved that the right-sided administrative pouch utilized the flap as another zippered pouch. I would have liked a small pocket just inside the flap on the left side for a pen or other writing utensil. The iPad Pocket, with water-resistant nylon flap was easily accessible and well placed. The bottom pouch, just below the admin pockets, worked well for my MacBook Pro 2015 Magnetic charger. However, when I added two pairs of boxer briefs, two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, a light wind-breaker, a pair of khakis and my travel toiletries bag, this pocket was harder to utilize. The 22 Liter backpack would be perfect for an overnight trip and was actually quite comfortable, loaded down with my MacBook Pro 2015, inside UAG MacBook case, iPad Pro 10.5” and a few spiral notebooks.
I loved that this backpack did not suffer from compartment bloat. When I went to CES 2017, I took a generic backpack that had pockets galore. I think I spent more time searching for things hidden in the compartments than actually enjoying them. The Mission Workshop Rhake City Pack was concise, to the point, and maintained an urban feel. If I had a single complaint, it was that the nylon is loud. If you have ever worn Frogg Toggs or rain pants/rain gear, you know that you will not be sneaking up on anybody. Available in three colors (White VX, Black VX, and Slate VX), you can choose the color pattern that fits your lifestyle best. As your needs change, you can add a variety of accessory pouches. For the camera lover, add the Capsule, for the every-day-carry-a-holic, you can add a tool roll.
If you desire a Made-In-America, Warrantied-for-Life, backpack that was built-to-endure, look no further than the Rhake VX Pack from Mission Workshop.