Sometimes it seems like the search for the perfect travel backpack is neverending. Even if you've found a great bag that you love, styles change, gear wears out or gets damaged in transit, and your body changes. So, to aid you in this eternal quest, we recently got the opportunity to try out a new Mission Workshop bag on a few of our recent trips. We tested out a multi-pouch, weatherproof, expandable backpack, named the Vandal. How did the Vandal stack up in our tests? Keep reading to find out.
The Vandal is an expandable, multipocket backpack made in the style of a bicycle messenger bag. It's constructed of waterproof materials, complimented by zippers protected by additional slick, waterproof urethane, to help keep the rain away from your gear. The Vandal is versatile, it can shrink down when you need a small bag, and expand both upwards and outwards when you need its extra space (65 liters at max.) The bag also has a front pocket designed to hold up to a 17 inch laptop, so you won't have to leave your electronics at home when you head on the road.
In order to give the Vandal a proper test, we submitted it to three tests: a two-person weekend roadtrip, a single person weekend trip, and some home-grown weather tests. In the first test, we used it as the our only bag (for two people) on a weekend trip around the Olympic Peninsula, to test its ability to organize. Secondly, I used it as my primary bag on a weekend trip to Portland to compare its ease-of-use for a single traveler to our first test. Lastly, since we didn't encounter any inclement weather on our trips, I submitted the bag to some simple tests to see how well it would handle heavy water and stains.
At its smallest (1800 cubic inches, or 29 liters), the Vandal is still a decent sized bag. It is easily big enough for one person to take a week-long trip. Without expanding it at all, I was able to pack five t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, a 13" Macbook, toiletries, and associated laptop gear. To handle our trip with two people, we had to expand it a bit, but still not to its full size of 4000 cubic inches (65 liters.) That flexibility is handy, because a short trip doesn't require a full-on round-the-world sized bag. This ability would also be useful on trips where you want to start light, but plan on bringing back lots of souvenirs. Plus, it's nice to not have to shell out the money (or store) multiple bags.
If you've ever worn a backpack for an extended period of time, you know the aches and pains that they can cause. A well-balanced and designed bag can help to defer and minimize the aches, although I doubt any bag can completely prevent them. The Vandal definitely does its part, as it was designed with comfort in mind; I found the wide, padded straps and the padded back enjoyable to wear, even when it was loaded heavily with two people's gear.
Made of a hardy, waterproof material, structured by a lightweight frame, and sealed by urethane-lined zippers, the Vandal is a bag that ought to be able to stand up to just about any weather and abused you can throw at it. The build quality is solid and the straps and buckles are more sturdy than I've seen in many bags. You can tug on them with all your might without worrying about shattering the plastic. In our traveling tests, we never encountered any truly harsh conditions (although the trunk of my car is quite a mess.) So, instead, I subjected the bag to a homemade series of liquid tests, to test both how waterproof and stain-proof it truly is. First, I doused the front of the bag with a few cups of water. All of it rolled off, uneventfully. The inside was completely dry. Then, in the same place on the front, I selflessly sacrificed a cup of coffee to see how well it would resist the stain. Again, the liquid rolled off and left the bag dry. No coffee color stuck to the light grey material, although some coffee smell did. Last, I decided to test the bottom of the bag, which is made of a more rough material to see how well it would protect your belongings against a southernly liquid attack. I hosed the bottom for a few seconds at full blast, and once again, the insides stayed dry. An impressive result, although I'd still avoid puddles.
Because of the backpack's expandability, comfortable straps and back, weatherproof materials, and excellent build quality, I think that the Vandal is a great option for travelers looking for a single bag to rely on for both short and long trips. But, this isn't a bag without its drawbacks. The fact that it is very difficult to use with use with organizers was frustrating when trying to travel and pack for more than one person (or for one person who likes to compartmentalize their clothes.) Perhaps when Mission Workshop releases their own line of organizers, they can help to rectify the issue. However, if you're comfortable with co-mingling your shirts and pants, I don't think you will have many issues with the Vandal. Overall, this would be an excellent bag for most travelers, especially ones who don't want to keep extra gear around the house for different types of trips.
You can buy the Vandal directly from Mission workshop for $279.