I don't know why Mission Workshop chose the name Vandal for this backpack. It’s built so strongly that the only thing likely to break is your back, after loading it up. It swallows 30 litres initially but can swell like a bullfrog’s throat to accommodate a super-sized 65. I used it to carry all my kit to Eurobike for the week, including laptop and riding kit, and with ample space for all the show loot I could get hold of.
Mission Workshop are a relatively new company from San Francisco's Mission District (hence the Mission bit in their name) who are putting genuine design flair back into courier bags. The guys behind Mission Workshop aren't new to the scene, however; they were behind Chrome bags back in the mid '90's before they sold the brand. Now they are back with a strong line up of product and solid collaborations with the hippest bike shops as flagship stores in San Francisco, New York, Paris and London. The last time I remember being as excited as this about bags was back in the ’90s lusting over multi-coloured Timbuk2 messenger bags.
Like I say, the Vandal’s capacity is vast: 65 litres is enough to stow away a small trolley's worth of groceries. Yet it’s no so big that you can’t manhandle it onto your back, and once it’s there the internal frame and luscious padding keep the bag well positioned for cycling even when it’s stuffed to the brim. You just look a bit like a cycling tortoise!
The bag is divided into three fully weatherproof main compartments, with fold down flaps and waterproof zips. Anything stashed in these areas stays bone dry. The fourth compartment in the middle is the expander chamber. It has only a urethane-coated waterproof zipper to keep out the elements, which is enough for all but the soggiest of days.
Each of the three main compartments is accessed from the top of a bag, like a big envelope on end. You can put a lot of stuff in these compartments – laptop, gym kit, folders – before you need to expand the fourth. When you do, and the bag swells like bellows, the flap closest to your back turns into a roll top to ensure water can’t get in. There are two zip pockets in the front of the backpack, good for knickknacks and your pocket trash. The only things I missed were a pocket on the shoulder strap for a phone or radio, and the ability to fit a hydration bladder inside the bag.
The adjustable padded straps allow you to fine-tune how the bag sits on your back, while the optional (and removable) waist belt makes carrying heavy or awkward loads a bit more stable. A semi-rigid frame maintains the bag’s shape, and the generous padding keeps it comfortable if a little sweaty on your back. It feels lovely and warm when it is on but like the winds of Siberia when you take it off after a hack across town.
In use, this bag is… large. If you are after one big bag for any load, up to and including holiday luggage, you are looking in the right direction. The Vandal’s build quality is exceptional. Even if the zips were to fail, you have buckles as backup. This bag is designed for rugged use. You could throw it around, drop it, drag it, spill beer on it, take it out in the worst winter weather and on sunny days, and it’ll be fine.
The Vandal is an immense bag that can turn into an enormous bag! It’s handmade in America from quality materials, and this is what you’re paying for: a well-made bag that will last a very long time. The Vandal does have a smaller sibling called the Rambler, with all the features except the two front pockets. Its capacity is a more carryable 22 litres, expandable to 44.
A hardworking, rugged, expandable backpack that can be small enough to take to work and large enough to take on holiday.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Mission Workshop Vandal
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"The meat and potatoes of this bag is that you can carry anything from meat to potatoes and all food groups in between, in a weatherproof and flawlessly constructed example of what is rapidly setting the urban backpack standard."
This bag can also be used by vegetarians.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* 3 weatherproof compartments
* 2 external accessory pockets
* Expanding cargo compartment
* Messenger bag durability
* Water-resistant urethane coated zippers
* Rugged internal frame
* Made in America with a lifetime warranty
* Comes in a variety of colours
Compact Measures - 15'' x 21'' x 6''
1,800 cu. in. / 30 L / 6.75 Gallons
Expanded Measures - 15'' x 21'' x 12''
4,000 cu. in. / 65 L / 15 Gallons
Weight: 4.4lbs / 2Kg
This bag is built to last. Hand made to a very high quality.
This bag is comfortable, even when loaded up with your worldly possessions. The down side is that it is sweaty having so much padding against your back. The other downer is that before you put anything in this portable tardis, making a bag this strong means more material is used and this back pack weighs in at a sturdy 2kg.
Hand made with quality materials and built tough.
Building something to be used every day and be super durable means adding material or using the uber expensive stuff used for the space program. This bag tops the scales at 2kg.
If I were Greg from Master Chef I would describe this bag as "wearing a hug". The semi rigid frame and plush padding make this a very comfy bag to wear. But all that contact with the padding makes it very sweaty.
The initial hit from the high price will be like a karate chop to your wallet. But this bag will last for years.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
This bag has been around Europe and used for a multitude of carrying duties on and off the bike and still looks brand new.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality is top notch. It is comfortable and can swallow up an enormous amount of kit. It is available in a range of colours.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It is sweaty. It is expensive.
Did you enjoy using the product? yeah
Would you consider buying the product? probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? not to my fair weather friends
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 180 Weight: 80
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Giant CFR pro. Old school carbon converted to fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 fixed. Shorter cafe racer
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back