Ok, I admit, this review has nothing to do with ultralight backpacking – I won’t even bother weighing the Vandal as I can say it’s heavy.. I’m talking almost Kajka heavy (well not really.. 2 kilos to be exact). My motivation for buying the Mission workshop Vandal backpack? I wanted an everyday backpack to replace my 5 different bags that I already had. I wanted the one backpack to “rule them all” sort of speak. I had a different bag and backpack for different occasions:

  1. for everyday walking around – usually messenger bag that was limited in size, my shoulders would get pretty tired carrying around the weight on one arm
  2. Gym bag – for that off chance that I might someday start going to the gym again. I this was a duffel bag
  3. A job bag – for when I want to bring my work computer home
  4. My travel suitcase – a samsonite carry-on that no matter how long i was gone for this was all I ever had
  5. Several “beach bags” – for those days when I wanted to head out to the beach, or some other spontaneous activity.

This is not to mention my several briefcases, non-used shoulder bags hiding in my closet, camera bags and so on.

My thought was that if I found a great do it all bag I could throw out all others.

Why the vandal:

I had been on the market for the “perfect” all around bag for quite sometime, there are certyainly better niche bags or backpacks on the market. For example minaal makes a great carry-on and travel bag. The samsonite carry-on that I have is perfect for travel. My duffel bag is great for the gym and so on. However, I was tired of having different bags for different reasons. After looking around I landed on Mission workshop because it’s expandable, meaning I am not limited in what I can use the bag for. It looks damn good, the design details are immaculate, and I can’t possibly use an ugly bag for my everyday, everywhere use. It is well built and made in the USA. On top of this I really wanted a backpack and not another messenger bag. My days of the teenie bopper messenger bags are behind me.

Resting before boarding my next flight.. 


Expandable from 29liters to 65liters (and everything in between – you don’t have to choose between just 29 and 65)

Well built and waterproof – This bag is built to last. I don’t know if it will last a life time and with the way I beat up shit, I imagine it won’t. I can say that I’m certainly not afraid of using it.

Internal frame

Six packing compartments

and of course – Guranteed forever. Though as I said, not sure it will last me that long

Everyday Use:

I find the vandal to be “close enough” to what I am looking for. It feels good on my back, it’s not hurting my shoulders the way messenger bags do, and I’ve already done a fair amount of travelling with just this bag. There is no problem fitting my computer and ipad in the lift up compartment. The two small pockets on the back is where I keep my wallet, telephone and keys, as well as any other Items that I need quick access to. I keep my gym clothes in the main large compartment or expandable compartment. When coming home I have on occasion even done some grocery shopping and maxed out the total size of the pack, which is BIG.

The Mission Workshop Vandal outside the Harlem cafe in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Where I find the bag lacking is a simple bottle net on the side like most camping backpacks now have. I found having to use a camelback or platypus to be a bit much. I just want a simple pouch that I can place a water bottle in.

I also have to ask the about the motivation behind not including a waist belt on this backpack. I could understand if mission workshop was a publicly traded company that has to keep gouging customers for money each quarter in-order to beat earnings expectations, but a small “local” San Francisco workshop? I would hope, and expect more. Considering this bag has a 65liter carry capacity I can say that the waist belt would be very much appreciated.

Just some ugly pictures of a beautiful pack. First picture you can see the two back pockets, second picture the opening from the side and third from the top


I took the Mission Workshop Vandal with me as my only bag to a weeklong trip to Ireland. At times I was missing the wheels of the Samsonite carry-on. But every-time I was jumping from one train to another, walking on gravel roads and having to just walk around town for hours on end (because of Dublin bus strike) – I was very happy to have brought the Vandal instead of a wheeled carry-on. I just had a lot more flexibility with a backpack. But again, where the backpack failed me was in not having the included waist belt. Walking hours on end with any backpack starts to be a chore when all the weight is centered on shoulders only.

While I don’t bring a lot with me on vacations, in fact my bag with camera gear, I never needed to open the backpack up. The 29liters was more than enough for me on this particular trip.

Everything I needed for a week in Ireland



I can confidently say that for me the Mission Workshop Vandal backpack is that one bag that I have been looking for. Looks good enough for everyday use, and big enough to do grocery shopping and go the gym. I have a few gripes about the waist belt not being included and no water bottle pouch. (granted while using a platypus bag is not my preferred manner to carry water, it is probably the most optimal). Also, because of the size of the bag and the limited opening of the bag, stuff tends to get lost within the pack. With that said, I am very happy with the backpack and can easily recommend it for anyone who is looking for that one backpack to “rule them all”

On a side note I hope Mission Workshop continue making their bags in the USA and don’t export to Bangladesh in order to save a few dollars. Sometimes the Unique selling point of a product is the pride in knowing that we are supporting a local workforce.

Packed from the side







Posted by Kenneth Shaw

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  1. Hi, thanks for the thoughts. How are you suspending the water reservoir inside the bag? I have one and there’s not really a tab or hook. Cheer.


    1. I kind of Jerry rigged the system. I have the water reservoir in the small outside pocket


      1. That’s a clever use of that pocket. Thanks! I have had this bag for 8 years now and recently found a second-hand hipbelt for it. Makes it a whole different bag when loaded heavy.

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