Mission Workshop Sanction Backpack Review

by Ed Lau on March 15, 2012

Searching for a good looking laptop bag is like searching for good drivers in Richmond…they’re few and far between but they do exist. I’ve often wondered why it seems like all bags for carrying around your various technological devices look like they’re cut from the same roll of black nylon. I get it…it’s to make long-lasting products that will probably be at least somewhat weather resistant but can’t we get something a little different?

Mission Workshop out in San Francisco makes all kinds of durable, weatherproof gear for commuters, travelers and cyclists. Actually, most of their products seem to be geared toward cyclists, including sets of bike shoes but of course, riding a bike isn’t a requirement. They make a number of messenger bags and backpacks (as well as jackets) in several different sizes but since carrying a heavy load off just one shoulder isn’t very good for my back, I thought I’d try out one a Sanction rucksack.

While Mission Workshop’s focus clearly seems to be on making products that will last a long while (all products are guaranteed for a lifetime) as well as protect your stuff against the elements, I happen to really enjoy the classic look of many of their products. They’re cleanly designed with simple lines, understated, monochrome colors…other than the outlandish red/orange available for the messenger bags…and few bells or whistles. There aren’t any silly grommets, holes for headphones or cell phone pockets strewn about. Instead of cluttered, we get sleek and streamlined.

Speaking of well made, I’ve been using this bag for close to 4 months on a regular basis and it looks pretty close to when it was brand new. All Mission Workshop bags come with a lifetime warranty which covers any manufacturer defects but not regular wear and tear. However, the Sanction is very well made and shows little signs of wear. My only complain might be that the nylon material can be a little difficult to clean.

The Sanction is the smallest backpack Mission Workshop makes, measuring 12″ x 18″ x 5″ with 1000 cubic inches of storage space. There is a total of 6 compartments of various sizes. The main storage space runs the entire height of the bag, which makes for about enough space to stuff a folded up hoodie and maybe a couple other smaller objects like a camera, a book or a packed lunch.

While quite long, the bag isn’t very wide or deep. The material doesn’t have much give or stretch, which somewhat restricts what you can put in the bag. I had difficulty fitting a boxed lunch back there but this is a small bag, meant to carry just a few things for your daily commute.

The laptop sleeve opens up with a zipper along the top flap of the Sanction. It’s about the size of my 15″ Apple MacBook Pro but there’s probably enough room for a laptop of slightly larger dimensions. It might even be able to accommodate a 17″ laptop but the thickness of the pocket might not be able to handle some of the heftier ones.

The back of the sleeve (that rests against your back) is well protected. I can feel some semi-rigid plastic sewn in between the pocket and the light but adequate padding for extra shielding but only a thin layer stands between your laptop and whatever you choose to throw into the main compartment. This means if you have anything like keys or other scratchy objects in there, they could rub against your shiny laptop the wrong way. That’s unlikely since the nylon seems quite strong, like that tarp you’ve used for camping for the last 20 years, but still a little more protection for a $2000 gadget would be nice.

The front of the bag has 4 additional pockets, three smaller ones covered by the front flap, secured with weather resistant zippers and a larger one at the bottom with it’s own velcro.

While not very wide, one of the front pockets also runs the entire length of the bag, making it a good slot for your tablet. Unfortunately, there is no padding around this pocket so there isn’t much protection for that gorilla glass in the front and there isn’t much else that can think of that fits in here.

Two other zippered pockets in the front of the Sanction are considerably smaller and is probably good for smaller items like flash drives, USB cables or a small digital camera.

The front compartment lacks zippers and only has a Velcro flap keeping the elements at bay but it does the job well, keeping your laptop charger or other things you want to have handy dry. Holding things you want to have handy is probably exactly what the front compartment is for since the main pockets are protected by both their zippers and buckled straps. While this keeps your equipment secure, it can be a pain to open on the go. I also wish they didn’t go with Velcro. While convenient, opening a Velcro-ed flap in a quiet room feels like you’re disturbing everyone in the room.

At only 2.6 pounds, the Sanction is quite light, has a relatively narrow profile and sits flat on your back so moving around with it on feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. If you’re rather clumsy like I am, you don’t have to worry about knocking things over or smacking people in the face when it swings around.

The shoulder straps are wide but lightly padded. As I mentioned, there isn’t a whole lot of padding in the back either but fortunately, the Sanction is small enough that it still comfortable even when full. The buckle that attaches the two shoulder straps together is enough to carry the load easily but you can also get a waist strap from Mission Workshop for $30.

Since the Sanction is touted as an all-weather bag, I thought I’d test whether that means waterproof or water resistant.

In my not-very-scientific test, I stuffed a microfiber cloth into one of the smaller pockets, zipped it up and ran it under the sink for 5 minutes, making sure to run the tap over the seams and the zipper. The cloth should show any wet spots if any water got through.

That looks pretty waterproof to me. Notice the water beading and running off without soaking into the material.

No visible wet spots and the cloth is still dry to the touch. If it can handle being in my sink, it should be able to take a little rain easily.

The Mission Workshop Sanction has a few minor flaws but all around, it’s good looking, well made and built to handle the elements. It can be a little too small but if you find that to be the case, Mission Workshop makes two larger backpacks made to the same specs. Quality, of course, comes at a price and at $179, the Sanction isn’t cheap but well within the range of better quality laptop bags. The Booq bag I was using previously to haul my 15″ MacBook Pro was around the same price.

So if you’re looking for a new backpack that doesn’t look like a laptop bag, will last you a long time and protect your gear against Mother Nature, then you might be looking for a bag from Mission Workshop.

in Fashion,Tech and the Net

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

stilton cheese March 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm

That looks like a great bag. I personally swear by my messenger bag made by Timbuk2 it is fully waterproof and has great sectioning.


used tires March 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Good review. Yea, I never understood the fascination with black nylon for most gadget bags either. This looks like a fine product both in terms of appearance and build quality. I was never really one for flashy apparel so this is right up my alley for its low tone colors.



Catherine March 17, 2012 at 4:20 am

That looks like a great bag. The review looks cool. Thanks for the review.


Riot Points March 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Great review.

The bag definitely looks like one of quality, I might have to look into their two bigger sizes they offer. I was pretty impressed with the water test you performed, definitely makes it a perfect choice to protect your laptop and/or other valuables from rain (big issue I have with my current bag).


Sourish @ Iphone 4 jailbreak April 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm

tough and rugged. good for carrying your favorite gadgets


Local Classified Ads April 3, 2012 at 12:38 am

I want to buy this bag for my wildlife discovery.. I love safari and it will be helpful for me!


DP April 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Got this for commuting by bike, even in the rain. Excellent, even for the price. Put everything from my loaded Wenger bag including the laptop and it feels many pounds lighter. Distributes the weight perfectly, probably because it’s a little longer.


New Property Launch April 30, 2012 at 2:00 am

The problem with any bags good enough to protect our gadgets today is it’s too thick or heavy, and bulky. And most of these laptop bags are not really meant for asians since we are smaller in size.. then again we asians like to use big things, like BIG laptop screens…. totally defeating the purpose, haha.


Sourish @ Iphone 4 jailbreak June 1, 2012 at 8:59 am

i suppose its carrying some water repellent technology


Online Education Consultation June 19, 2012 at 5:06 am

Really I am impressed!!!
The bags are looking fantastic and made of good stuff. It can be used for multipurpose as there is lots of space to carry stuff like Laptops, Notepads, Mobile phones etc.Nice material and technology used…


Nate June 26, 2012 at 8:07 am

Quick question! I use a Booq Vyper M3 case for my Macbook Pro, it’s 1.4″ thick… Would this be troublesome to slide in and out of the laptop compartment?


Ed Lau July 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Sorry, can’t help since I don’t have that case. Send Booq an e-mail or message on Twitter.


Waterproofing New York December 21, 2012 at 5:25 am

This looks like a fine product both in terms of appearance and build quality. I was never really one for flashy apparel so this is right up my alley for its low tone colors.Would this be troublesome to slide in and out of the laptop compartment?


Waterproofing New York December 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

At very first i would like to thanks for the giving me response here.Thanks a lot for your nice share.


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