For the past few months, I’ve been using the Mission Workshop Rhake VX backpack and it’s accompanied Capsule camera insert for travel, work, school, and everything in-between. These are my thoughts.
The moment you touch this pack, you notice the feel of the VX fabric. A form of ripstop nylon, VX blends abrasive durability and tear resistance with a lighter weight than it’s Cordura relatives. Oh, and it’s totally waterproof. It is more often seen on ultralight backpacks and bikepacking bags than a laptop bag with decidedly more urban intentions. This crossover from the backcountry scene into a more fashion-forward and every-day practical bag is welcome, in my opinion. I spend as much time road-tripping and bushwhacking for photos as I do mosey around cities, so having a bag that can handle both just fine is great.
The pack is clearly designed to keep one organized. The large main cavity has an additional sleeve to keep things separate. The dedicated laptop sleeve is separated, and large enough to fit my 2015 Macbook and charger. A front pocket is my most commonly used cavity, and the two compartmentalized pouches keep things like pens, a notebook, knife, and a multi-tool, and other small accouterments nicely organized. The pack even has a hidden mesh bottle holder that stretches to fit bottles of many sizes.
The rolltop main compartment is protected by an additional velcroed flap. The front pockets utilize Fidlock® buckles, a single-handed magnetic buckle to keep things tight. At first, they threw me off a bit, but operation became quite simple after a while. They are oddly satisfying if you’re into magnets. And you should really be into magnets.
Most of the time I spend with a backpack on is with a small hydration/camera pack or a larger, UL ski/hike pack. These packs are often designed for significant dynamic movement, like getting rattled around on a bike or slogging/flowing through the backcountry. This pack is not designed for such activities. With a lack of a hip belt, the Rhake tends to want to move upwards, which I noticed first while riding one of my favorite urban commuting lines that has a nice little kicker at the end.
While this pack is really comfortable, and the shoulder straps lie in the right places with the right firmness, I wouldn’t consider using it as an MTB camera pack or a ski pack. Light hiking? Walking around town? In the woods? Absolutely. But, once G forces come into play, I find I need a hip belt to keep things in place.
This feature of the pack, which Mission Workshop started making relatively recently as a companion for the Rhake really sets it apart as a dedicated “media” pack. The camera insert fits perfectly into the main compartment of the Rhake, leaving a bit of room for a windbreaker or a burrito on top. The camera insert itself is lined with fully modular dividers, using some sort of micro velcro (or magic) to change things up to suit your storage needs. I was able to fit my Nikon D600, charger and extra batteries, 3 prime lenses, my Contax G1, a few rolls of film, and a Polaroid Impulse with room to spare.
The camera insert opens from the top and the front, allowing quick access to either the body with an attached lens or your entire setup. I could easily fit a compact tripod in this insert as well. It’s padded quite well, and when coupled with the tough and waterproof VX-21 fabric, I would trust this pack in any conditions to keep my camera gear safe.
-Made in the USA with insane attention to detail
-Well thought out and organized design, obsessive even
-Modular camera insert makes it into a legitimate professional photographers bag
-Lifetime, no questions asked warranty
-Could be more ergonomic for gravity sports
-Big price tag ($455 USD) but the lifetime warranty sweetens the deal
All in all, this is a fantastic, durable and lightweight everyday pack with serious capabilities as a professional camera bag. It looks great in nearly any scenario, blending minimalist aesthetics with modern weatherproof technology. It’s made in the USA which is a big plus for many. Sure, it’s not the most capable bag to haul camera gear on a MTB ride or ski trip, which is a bummer, because the construction screams “take me to places where I’ll get wet and scrape stuff”, but that’s not really what the bag was intended to be in the first place. The sticker shock might be a lot for many, and rightfully so. But, you’re paying for state of the art construction made by people who live here and make a living wage, and it is designed to keep very expensive things safe. I’d recommend this to plenty of my photographer friends looking for a dedicated work pack, or really anyone who commutes with their electronics on the regular.
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