Vanquest ENVOY-13 Messenger Bag: Review

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Vanquest is a tactical and outdoor gear manufacturer based in Orange County, California. They were founded in 2011 by a group of industry veterans and founding members of Maxpedition. Their products are designed and engineered, but not typically manufactured in the US, like many other US manufacturers.

Vanquest is known for their unique look and often rapid development cycle. It’s normal to expect them to revise a product early and often. This specific Envoy-13 is a fourth generation design.

Tech Specs

Height11″28 cm
Length16″41 cm
Depth6″15 cm
Capacity1056 cu in. (est)17.3 L (est)

Quality and Comfort

vanquest envoy 13 review

Vanquest uses CORDURA fabric and YKK zippers throughout the bag. In the Envoy-13, the bottom of the bag is made with 1000D fabric, whereas the rest is 500D for weight reduction. This generation of the Envoy, like most of the new items in their 2019 line, is fully lined with high-viz orange loop material. You can hook and loop all your accessories pretty much every where. It’s also designed to work with their new molded foam dividers to form custom layouts inside the bag.

vanquest envoy 13 review

Vanquest’s cross stabilizing strap, 1 inch wide, has some interesting design elements. The top end wraps around the main strap with some hypalon material and snaps. There is a section with two elastic straps and a slightly longer piece of webbing all sewn together. This is a shock absorber (my terminology) design that also gives the overall strap some elasticity. I first saw this on their Javelin 3.0 sling bag. The cross strap has a buckle right after that section for quick detachment. The other end of the strap hooks onto the bottom of the bag with an S-clip that is removable. The strap can be attached on the left or right, a true ambidextrous design.

vanquest envoy 13 review

The shoulder pad is well padded and has a rubber material in the middle to help it stay in place on your shoulder. The 2 inch main strap is designed to slip back and forth on top of the shoulder pad. You can swing the Envoy-13 from back to front while the shoulder pad stays in place.

The shoulder pad is slightly curved, which helps in having the pad contour on the shoulder, especially when carrying cross body. The main strap is attached to the bag via a heavy duty set of hook and loop. They could have used a buckle here, but the hook and loop setup is stronger as long as you’re not removing it and attaching it all of the time.

vanquest envoy 13 review

Sometimes I just want to grab the bag and carry it briefcase style. Vanquest thought of that and provide two padded handles at the top of the bag. There are two because there is a top zipper that allows direct access into the main compartment without opening the messenger bag flap. So there is a handle on either side of the zipper so that the bag stays balanced when carrying with the handles.

Design and Organization

vanquest envoy 13 review

I counted 12 pockets / small compartments on the Envoy-13 covered by zippers or hook and loop beyond the laptop pocket, the two collapsable water bottle pockets, and the main compartment. This is a signature of Vanquest packs: It’s unlikely that you’ll use every one of these pockets, but there are enough of them for you to organizing things to your preference.

vanquest envoy 13 review

Most of these pockets do not have their own volume. Some of them are closed with zippers, some are closed with two hook and loop tapes. One pocket under the front flap has a  pocket spanning half the width of the pack, with an inch depth and is held closed with hook and loop. This seems like a good place for a large wallet or something that needs to be securely stored. The other half under the flap are three generously sized pen slots — only three because the front flap is closed by buckles and two large strips of hook and loop. The hook and loop takes up vertical space. An unusual design.

vanquest envoy 13 review

The two collapsible side water pockets can both fit, tightly, a 32oz large Nalgene. It has an elastic loop at the top to further secure the bottles or other items. The Envoy-13 has a luggage trolley handle pass-through in the back, and they put in a strange little horizontal zipper pocket on the pass-through. Since this is right against my back, I am not sure when I would personally put anything there. Someone else might find it useful depending how you carry it.

vanquest envoy 13 review

The flap of the bag has some stiff foam inside. This gives the front of the bag a cleaner look. However after using the bag a bit I actually prefer just a soft flap, because I can stuff the bag with items more easily.

The bag has a top zip, allowing access to both the main compartment and even the front admin area under the flap without having to open the flap. Because this is a small bag, getting my iPad in and out of the laptop area through the zipper requires some maneuvering.

vanquest envoy 13 review

The attention to detail and the love of hook and loop shows on the side wings where the top cover meets the side of the bag. Most messenger bags have this extra material, I call them wings, on the side so that when the bag is closed, there will not be a gap that allows rain or other weather elements into the main compartment through the top. Vanquest went one step further, included a tiny hook and loop strip to pull these wings inwards.

vanquest envoy 13 review

What’s Perfect

  • This is a very comfortable bag to carry, from using it with the handles to carrying it high and close on my back.
  • The bag is well thought out with a lot of organization
  • The CCW area is well designed, large enough, and more importantly has a wide opening.
  • May seem like a small thing, but the bag stands up on it’s own even when the flap is opened.
vanquest envoy 13 review

What’s Not

  • Some of the features of this bag didn’t translate well from its larger brother, the Envoy-17. There are too many pockets that do not have their own volume / depth. In such a small bag those are not useful.
  • The tiny pocket on the luggage pass through could be eliminated
  • The two pockets on the front flap are too small – with the stiff flap and no volume, I can barely fit my keys in there.

Wrap Up

It’s nice to see a good tactical messenger bag in this small size with a good balance of features. This makes a great office EDC bag or a second carry-on bag for flights. I carried my laptop plus iPad Pro, noise cancelling headphones, and various pouches all in this messenger.

vanquest envoy 13 review

I understand Vanquest’s decisions to use exactly the same design for both their 13 inch and 17 inch Envoys. Re-using patterns can keep costs down. Though through field testing it I think they can remove some pockets, skip the stiff flap and put in a single flap pocket. That would make this compact bag more useful. The Envoy-13 retails for $159 and is available from Vanquest in black or wolf gray.

Disclaimer: the Vanquest Envoy-13 was purchased privately and used subsequently for this review. The content of the review was not shared with Vanquest prior to publishing and our reviews are never edited to keep brands happy.

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