Stuff I Like: Mission Workshop Vandal

For years, I’d been using a small collection of regular, over-the-shoulder messenger bags for the majority of my urban riding (read: commuting and riding to the library, liquor store, grocery store, bike shop, and bars).

That is, when I wasn’t avoiding them altogether by using one or the other of my on-the-bike bags. But let’s face it: there are times when having to put a bag on your bike and take it off repeatedly–that is, when riding in the city (or what passes for a city around here)–is just a pain in the ass.

After a season of ever-worsening shoulder pain from carrying too-heavy, overstuffed messenger bags, I gave in and started hunting for a proper, cycling-specific backpack. I considered a few–and then considered them a bit more–and finally settled on a Mission Workshop Vandal in charcoal.


(Apologies for the crappy photo: the iPhone 3GS can only do so much; or perhaps it’s me).

I doubt I’ll ever buy another cycling-specific backpack, for the following reasons:

  • This one has just about everything I could ever need: a couple of small pockets, three larger sleeve pockets, a huge expandable main compartment, a thin and light stiffening sheet, and well-built straps with the right adjustment points.
  • It’s as waterproof as you’re going to get without wearing a dry bag. Even the small outer pockets with vertical zippers are impervious to the rain, sleet, snow, and slush that I’ve ridden through with this thing.
  • Heavy-duty doesn’t begin to describe it. I’ve been using it almost daily for an entire year, and it still looks basically new. Dirt brushes off.
  • When you have a backpack this good, you only need one.
  • It’s a good thing you only need one, because it’s not inexpensive.

From a design point of view, it’s missing only two things: a shoulder-strap mounted pocket for my iPhone and a D-ring on the other shoulder strap for my keys.

Besides my daily commuting gear (clothes, lunch, laptop sometimes, lock, toolkit), I’ve carried bike frames and wheels, cases of beer, entire loads of groceries, enough stuff for multi-day trips via plane, train, and automobile, and probably something else that I’m forgetting. Basically, if you can pick it up, there’s probably a way to carry it with this backpack.

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series: Stuff I Like. These are unsolicited reviews of things that I use and like. In the unlikely event that anyone gives me something to review, I’ll make sure to let you know.

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