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Head to Head: Chrome vs Mission Workshop messengers

by , March 7, 2013

We put two apparently similar messengers Head to Head

There are lots of reasons this comparison was crying out to be done, with the most obvious that they appear to be such similar bags. So with the generous support of both brands, we dived into a Head to Head. But first some background on why this comparison is even more fun than it initially appears…

Some background…

So Bart and Mark started Chrome Bags with their classic flap format messengers (the seatbelt buckle ones…), then introduced some pretty original roll-top backpacks like the Chrome Ivan. So Chrome is OG.

Then Bart and Mark sold Chrome, hung underground for a couple of years, and then launched Mission Workshop. Amongst their new brand’s line-up was the Rummy, which brought their roll-top ideas to messenger bags.

But Chrome haven’t exactly been sitting still since the founders left. Amongst several new formats, there are also reinterpretations of their DNA, which means the Ivan has recently been interpreted as a messenger – the Lieutenant.

If you’re still with us after that history 101, you’ll now understand why these bags look so similar. But what surprised us was just how different these bags actually are in day to day duties. We listed some key areas in which a good messenger should perform, and then set each one up in an arm wrestle for kudos. Here’s how it played out…

The Look – Rummy 0, Lieutenant 1

The hardest one for us to split, as these bags really do look very similar. If you compare the two in their all black colorways, they’re crazy hard to split. However for us, we’ve always been impressed by the old school charm of the Ivan, and this Lieutenant maintains that vibe. The custom G buckles and rounded pocket flaps give it a charm that wins this round.

Comfort on the go – Rummy 1, Lieutenant 0

OK, so this was probably the single biggest difference, and it’s a very big win to the Rummy. When empty, as well as when loaded, the Rummy is a super comfortable messenger (part of why it won our recent Carry Award). The contoured shoulder section spreads load beautifully, and the entry and exit patterning avoids any pinch or rub.

The Lieutenant? Yeah, it actually squeezes quite uncomfortably, and just rides that fraction higher up your neck. We swapped these bags amongst three of us, and all three noted the same points.

Space & Volume – Rummy 1, Lieutenant 0

One of our niggles with the Ivan backpack is that when filled, it really bows outwards. The Lieutenant is cut from this same cloth, with the predominantly 2D patterning struggling to spread around a significant load.

The Rummy on the other hand has depth designed into the patterning, and can swallow a surprising amount of gear. For quite similar flat dimensions, there is a big difference in carrying capacity.

General Access – Rummy 0, Lieutenant 1

The Rummy has a deeper tube opening, buckles that get in the way when rolling, and loud velcro ‘rips’ on the front pockets, all of which reduce the access ease of the Rummy. The Lieutenant is both quieter and easier to open.

But that does come at a cost. There were a few times we had the front pocket G buckles fall open on the Lieutenant, without sufficient friction to keep the G’s tucked home.

A bonus for the Rummy is that the roll-top can be extended and used as a flap. However for accessing stuff, we think the Lieutenant gets the win.

Work Tools – Rummy 1, Lieutenant 0

Being good with work tools means being good with organisation. Neither of these messengers star in this area, but the Rummy does have the upper hand, with more pocketing and better volume in the pockets.

Both deal well enough with laptops or tablets, again with neither truly shining. And then both will keep them well protected in a surprise downpour, with a slight preference for the Rummy’s weatherproofing (everything is just a little deeper and more protected).

Build & hardware – Rummy 1, Lieutenant 0

Both these bags are built very well, with solid materials and attention to construction. For us, it was the selection of hardware that gave the win to the Rummy. While the Lieutenant hardware adds a lot of personality, it also adds a huge amount of clang. We bumped and clanged and generally made out like a Swiss cow while wearing the Lieutenant, and started to regret the extra weight and noise that comes with that gear.

Overall victory – The Mission Workshop Rummy

This was a surprisingly clear victory for the Rummy. While these two bags look very similar, the Rummy just shines in the areas that really matter (comfort and contents). The details are better nailed, and the bag is both more practical and more versatile.

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” – Charles Eames

For a messenger, the way the strap merges into the body of the bag is a big deal. Almost the big deal. If Chrome can spend some time massaging the details, beginning with the strap integration, I think the next comparison should be closer.

Thanks again to both brands. These comparisons are good fun, and we hope to bring you more in the near future.


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