Mission Workshop opened its doors in 2009, but the founders boast some of the more impressive resumes out there. It’s led by Bart Kyzar and Mark Falvai who co-founded Chrome Industries with their friend Doug Hudson in 1994. They’re early designers of the rugged/technical lifestyle aesthetic that has become one of the major sub-cultures of the industry lately. Even today, Mark still designs and sews every new prototype himself. Mission Workshop’s apparel division is headed by Jeff Roberts, the former CEO of Massif Mountain Gear, which manufactures apparel for every government agency you could think of.
Mission Workshop values quality above all else, focusing on making small batches of American made products. They first launched with the Vandal backpack which is still extremely popular today. Over the last few years they’ve began expanding their line of bags to include a full line of pouches and accessories to attach to their proprietary Arkiv system.
The Rhake launched in 2018, available in HT500 and Cordura fabrics. It’s their most organizer-friendly bag yet, featuring multiple pockets and organization in a way that their previous bags hadn’t attempted. It’s only been around for about a year but Mission Workshop constantly likes to update designs, trying to cater to the customer. This lead to the release of the Rhake in an alternative VX-21 material, adding more durability and weather resistance with a more technical look.
|Capacity||1350 cu. in.||22L|
Quality and Comfort
Mission Workshop hasn’t sacrificed anything here. Water repellent YKK zippers, fidlock buckles, and a waterproof internal liner means the Rhake should last you a lifetime. The VX-21 material came out of the box really stiff and noisy, with an almost plastic feeling to it. I’ve used VX-21 before on other bags and the Rhake seemed stiffer than usual. I’ve found that this is a result of an extra waterproof liner, covering every inch of every pocket and compartment of the Rhake behind the VX-21 fabric. All that extra thick material gives the Rhake it’s extra weight, but it’s necessary for having such a weatherproof bag. After using the Rhake for about a month I’m happy at how the material has softened to the touch. The material almost aging, developing a patina, from the harder than normal use I put the Rhake through.
Mission Workshop made their start by focusing on urban commuters and cyclists. So the Rhake is fairly tall and wide, sacrificing depth for a bigger footprint on the body. Paired with wide straps and a well padded back panel, the bag is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever used. I usually like having bags tight and high on my back but ran into pinching on the neck and hot spots on the shoulders. However, by adjusting the straps and carrying lower than I normally do, the issues went away. And with such a large footprint hugging my back I still had a lot of control walking through crowds, hiking, and biking.
The Rhake might be Mission Workshop’s most ambitious product yet. With a laptop compartment, stowable bottle pouch, zippered mesh pockets, a key clip, and more being basically unheard of in their previous models.
The laptop compartment, which can hold up to some 17″ models, features a zipper the length of the bag on the left shoulder and is suspended about an inch off of the bottom of the bag. It’s also padded on both sides and lined with that same waterproof material and a water repellent zipper. It offers some of the best protection for your laptop that I’ve seen in a bag. Able to survive a downpour or a tumble off a chair, I’d trust it more than almost any other laptop compartment that I’ve used.
On the opposite side is a small zipper about half the length of the bag that hides the stowable mesh water bottle pocket. I like the idea of it and the fact that it’s stowable is a big win. But, in practice, when holding my full 20oz bottle it bounced around hitting off of my side. I chose not to use it, instead holding my water in the main compartment. Though it did come in handy on a hike with my family when I was designated the “here daddy hold my water” pack mule.
The bottom zippered compartment has decent space and can hold a good amount of gear. However, the main compartment shares space with this compartment. Meaning if you pack this area first it will be a struggle to get things out and if you pack this compartment after the main then you won’t have as much usable space. I found that storing my softer items here (gloves, beanie) cushioned the bottom, and if packed correctly it gave the Rhake the ability to stand on its own.
Below the main roll top compartment is a 10″ water repellent zipper with a rain flap that hides an iPad/tablet pocket. I found it to be one of the most surprisingly useful areas of the pack.
When you look at the Rhake the first thing you notice is the two “ribs” of the bag. Along with the roll top it gives the Rhake it’s unique look that some will love and some will hate. The right shoulder side offers a ½ zippered compartment that’s just a blank storage area, perfect for small pouches or quick access items. The left shoulder side has a C shaped zippered compartment that when opens exposes the main admin panel of the Rhake. It contains two slip pockets behind two zippered mesh pockets and a pen slot. It does a good job for one of the smaller admin areas I’ve used. The zippered mesh pocket the length of the door and a “hidden” area along the side, where I stored a small pouch, were very useful.
All in all it does a good job, but I feel the blank side compartment is a missed opportunity. For a laptop enabled bag this is where I would want to store items like a mouse and power brick that I wouldn’t want crushing each other, so even small mesh slip pockets would have been awesome in this pocket.
The roll top of the main compartment can be held down in two ways, by hook and loop or g-hook strap. Both have their issues and I honestly wasn’t thrilled with either. The hook and loop holds the top down tightly and securely but your neighbors will hear you opening your bag. I opted to use the g-hook strap the most because it’s quieter, but even when set as tight as the strap could go everything was lose. By making the strap adjustable and changing out the g-hook for something that can be unhooked one handed, this could be an easy fix.
Once you open the main flap you find a spacious 22L compartment with no real internal organization aside from a flat water resistant compartment along the back of the bag. Yes that’s a water resistant compartment inside of a water resistant compartment. I found that the main space of the compartment has the ability to swallow up a surprising amount of stuff. With the same amount of items that made other similar bags feel cramped or tight, the Rhake fit everything I threw at it with room to spare.
- Materials are all supreme quality
- Straps/back panel are amazingly comfortable
- Most weather resistant bag I’ve ever used
- Hurricane and earthquake proof laptop compartment
- Looks and feels better to the touch every day
- Floppy water bottle sleeve
- G-hook strap is too loose and requires two hands to unhook
- Big footprint on the back might not work for smaller individuals
- On the heavy side
The Rhake is unique. It’s unique in its look, in its materials, and in its abilities. I understand the look will throw some people off, and a roll top is not everyone’s favorite way of entering a bag. However, with the Rhake’s extra storage areas most of the user’s smaller items can be accessed without entering the main compartment. And if you’re a pouch aficionado like myself then the main compartment is no problem at all. The Rhake isn’t perfect for everyone, and for me it took some time to find out how to make it work for me. But, it’s one of the most surprising bags I’ve used in a long time, earning a spot in my rotation for the foreseeable future. The Mission Workshop Rhake and Rhake VX retail for $365 and $455 respectively in a variety of different colors that sometimes differ in price. It’s on the higher end of the price scale of most bags, but we do hope you give it a try as there isn’t much out there like the Rhake.
Author’s Note: With some extra strap I had laying around and an $8 Amazon purchase I made a replacement strap in the vein of what I was hoping for, and it has fixed the loose roll top issue for me.
Editor’s Note: The Rhake VX was provided by Mission Workshop as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Mission Workshop before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.