By Louis Senecal updated on 04/11/2011
Mission Workshop is a company in San Francisco that designs and makes messenger bags and backpacks (and apparel too). All of their products are proudly made in America. They sent me over a Rambler backpack to try out and this thing is a beast (a good beast). I have a Swiss gear backpack that I have used for years. It does a really good job holding stuff, but the major problem is that its wicked heavy before you even put anything in it. Not so with the Rambler.
The first thing you are going to notice about the Rambler is the build quality. It’s sturdy and it looks great. When you first look at the Mission Workshop website, the bags appear to be designed for bikers, whether that is for a messenger profession or someone who uses one as a primary mode of transportation. But don’t let that fool you, because this bag can be used by anyone, for anything.
Let me just say that I tested this bag out as an everyday Joe. My focus was to see how well it worked around town for my various needs. Two other areas that I did want to try it out with were travel and for hiking. Unfortunately I did not have any business or pleasure trips to go on, and it’s still a little too cold for me to go hiking. But this reviewer knows that this bag can be used for quite a few things. So I have Googled and found a few other reviews so you could get other people perspectives on it. I think that’s important. Links are at the end.
First, let me give you a tour of the bag. The bag itself has a carbon fiber reinforced internal frame. There are a total of four pockets in this guy.
1-There is a large weatherproof compartment that is directly behind your back. You access this via the roll top flap. The flap itself is what covers the access. There is no zipper here.
The roll top flap can be used in two configurations. Either with the provided clip and use it with the flap over the bag. Or if you want it out of your way, roll the flap, which seals off the opening, and secure it with another smaller flap and Velcro. I think you would use it is based on personal preference as well as what and how much you are carrying. If you are carrying a lot in the cargo compartment, you would be rolling the flap up anyway.
2-There is a middle expandable cargo compartment. There are two levels of water resistant zippers that secure this. Upon opening this area, there are adjustable load straps on either side that can be unclipped. Again, it depends on whether you want top use them and what you are hauling.
3-There is an outer weatherproof section as well which is accessed via another water resistant zipper. The space goes all the way to the bottom of the bag.
4-There is a smaller accessory pocket on the outside. It’s big enough to fit a few small things in.
One of the main tests I used this bag was to walk to the library with my son to do some research for a school project. We loaded it up with a 15” laptop, my iPad, and some books and notebooks. I had some smaller items such as my reading glasses and a flashlight (it was almost dark out). My glasses fit in the accessory compartment, but that was just about it. I put the flashlight in one of the main compartments. If I had put all this stuff in my Swiss bag, I would already be feeling the uncomfortable weight before I left my driveway. I had a total opposite experience with the Rambler. The bag was not heavy AND it was very comfortable. This is also the first backpack I have used where the cross strap on the front actually fit and did not bother me. I did not have any issues enroute on foot to the library. The bag managed its load well and there was no inconsistency in the comfort. The same comments apply to walking back home. The only thing that I found it did not handle well was the 15” laptop. While his laptop was secured in the bag, it was too big for me to get back out of Rambler space. It went in but it did not want to come out. I held the laptop and my son held the bag, and the rest is common sense on how the laptop came out.
I had placed the laptop in the weatherproof compartment that is next to your back. A smaller laptop would be a better suited option here, especially if you are planning on going through a TSA checkpoint at an airport. (But if you are just talking about the weight of my 15’ computer, the bag handled admirably).
On subsequent uses though, I did place the laptop in the middle cargo compartment. It fit fine there and I had no issues getting it in or out.
I did try it just going to the local coffee shop with my iPad and some accessories. While this is a medium size bag, I felt this purpose alone was overkill and it was just too much bag for me.
The middle compartment can be used as is, meaning in a tight closed manner. As you can see in my pictures, you can also use it in a very expandable mode. This is one of the main features that adds that extra versatility and value to this bag.
I think this bag would be a great overnight bag. Throw your clothes in the middle compartment and the rest of your gear in the others. If you are traveling to the city for a couple days for example, take your clothes out at your hotel and you can then use this while roaming the streets of the concrete jungle. On a side note, If your job requires you to transport legal sized documents (files, folders etc), this bag handles them with no problem.
I read some of the other reviews also and everyone seems to like this bag. There is one thing that some people wished for, and I am one of them. This bag only has one small accessory pocket. I personally do not need loads of these, but I would not have minded a few more of them on the outside. I am not sure why there are not more, but I figure there was a reason in that design.
**Here is a tip if you are using this bag and have lots of small stuff like I do. I use a small cloth bag that keeps all my cords, power bricks, memory cards etc organized and on one spot. You can then place this bag in the backpack.
I could use this bag for 95% of what I use a bag for. It’s too big for me personally just to go to the coffee shop, but I know a lot of other uses that I could use this for, especially when the weather here gets warmer.
If you use this bag now, put a comment below on how you use this and what you use it for.
Specs and Features
-Two weatherproof compartments
-Large Roll-Top Pocket
-Expanding cargo compartment
-An external accessory pocket
-Water-resistant urethane coated zippers
-Rugged internal frame
-Compact Measures - 13'' x 19'' x 5''
1,350 cu. in. / 22 L / 5 Gallons
-Expanded Measures - 13'' x 19'' x 10''
2,700 cu. in. / 44 L / 10 Gallons
-expandable from 1350 to 2700 cu. in
3.7lbs / 1.65Kg
$239.00 (Lifetime Warranty and Multiple Color choices)
Other Rambler Reviews on the web:
-From Gear Patrol
-From Ceramic Confessions
-Via the Mission Workshop Review Section