- Buyer's Guide
We love Mission Workshop. From innovative formats to trick new hardware details, they’re one of the best carry brands out there. So when they offered up an AP Special Projects rucksack for review, of course we jumped at the chance to put the pimped up VX Fitzroy through its paces.
In MW land, the Rambler & Vandal rucksacks are the two sizes in their more complicated but more versatile backpack design, with an ability to grow significantly. The Fitzroy (and its smaller Sanction companion) are a simpler design; more like a messenger bag layout (big section under a flap with a few pockets on the front). It means they cost a little less, but also they just have less to fuss over or go wrong. For some, that’s a bonus.
The VX Special Projects part takes these donor styles, tech’s up their fabrics, adds the Arkiv closure system, and costs more (US$319 for this puppy versus $219 for the standard Fitzroy) [note 2016 prices are $325 and $245 respectively].
- Name: VX Fitzroy
- Brand: Mission Workshop
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: 15'' x 20'' x 8''
- Capacity: 2,500 cu.in. (40 liters)
- Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
- Zippers: YKK urethane-coated zippers
- Material: VX Cordura ripstop shell backed with a PET waterproof membrane
- PriceUS$ 325
Who It Suits
Bike commuters who are dressing it up: It’s quick to throw a bunch of things in, it looks great no matter where you end up after work, and you won’t look like you’ve stolen your kid brother’s school pack at the office.
Cool cats looking for something reasonably versatile: It looks great, and covers most needs.
Travelers: So long as you don’t need too much work organization, the Fitzroy format works well for travel.
Who It Doesn’t
Crew on a budget: The standard Fitzroy Rucksack is $100 cheaper [note $80 cheaper in 2016]. That’s a lot of money when the essential performance of the bag is virtually unchanged. You go with the VX if you’re after the boost to its look, or crazy demanding on weatherproofness, rather than for most normal reasons.
Tech junkies or serious organizers: If you carry hard drives and cameras and lots of little bits, or like to separate out different papers and bits, you’re going to find the lack of organizing areas frustrating.
"So long as you don’t need too much work organization, the Fitzroy format works well for travel."
These guys helped reinvent the grown-up’s backpack, and the Fitzroy is no exception. Despite high-tech fabrics and solid comfort, this bag looks great moving between work, play, and any number of adventures. The top corners of the trapezoidal form can get a little in your peripheral on a bike, but it’s worth it for the touch of masculinity that form adds to the bag.
Colors are black or grey, adding to the office suitability, and the pimped hardware on the VX really shines if you are trying to step it up in the office.
Just like a messenger bag, the Fitzroy has a big opening that’s easy to shove things into. Unlike many messenger bags, there is zero chance of Gorby Gap, with a gusset that both encourages itself to bend inwards and then seals super tight against the elements. It works really well.
"These guys helped reinvent the grown-up’s backpack, and the Fitzroy is no exception. Despite high-tech fabrics and solid comfort, this bag looks great moving between work, play, and any number of adventures."
The white internal PET lining helps you to see things inside, and at 1.5kg the overall weight is reasonable for the pack’s size.
We're fans of the Arkiv closures. Be sure to check out the vid of these buckles getting stamped, formed and laser-cut. It’s a neat system that works well, gets away from generic plastic clips, and is silent (other than the rip of Velcro when you then open the flap). MW are working on lots of other applications for the Arkiv system, so it will be fun watching it evolve (including as a MOLLE replacement).
"Just like a messenger bag, the Fitzroy has a big opening that’s easy to shove things into. Unlike many messenger bags, there is zero chance of Gorby Gap..."
Pockets and Organizing
There’s an internal pocket against the back panel that works pretty well for a laptop, there are pockets on the front for a number of your smaller items, and it’s all wrapped up in some pretty trick fabrics.
The elastic closure straps make for a pretty quick system, basically acting as back-up for the Velcro under the flap. A bonus is the ability to throw a sweater or helmet under them for quick stashing.
Two of the pockets are protected both by water-resistant zips as well as being covered by the flap, so you have exceptional water resistance for your small tech bits.
The most pressure in a bag is always at the bottom (thanks gravity). Unfortunately, the Fitzroy runs multiple pockets to the bottom of the bag, meaning you can’t put anything delicate in them, as they tend to all bunch down there and form a jam.
As we mentioned with the Vandal, it would be great to just trim the different pocket heights to different levels, to encourage settling of contents at different heights.
Why are we high maintenance with this? If you’re throwing your keys, phone, small camera and sunglasses into this bag, you’ve probably already made life a touch tricky (when separating sharp keys from sunnies or your phone). Add a banana and some toiletries, and you need to start juggling amongst what are actually quite limited organizing spaces.
"Unfortunately, the Fitzroy runs multiple pockets to the bottom of the bag, meaning you can’t put anything delicate in them, as they tend to all bunch down there and form a jam."
That jam/cram/pinch at the base would be helped if there was just a touch more volume in the front pocket (something like a dart in the lower corners). Because this is the only pocket that can be easily accessed on the run (the rest are under the flap), you end up using it for lots of things, which gets tricky when lots of things are jammed down the bottom.
Just like a messenger bag, you get a cavernous main section where you can get big things in and out easily. The pack sits well whether empty or bulging, and a PE board against the back panel stops sharp bits in your load digging into your back.
However, the harness and straps feel a bit stingy. At one stage, after finally passing multiple commuters I absolutely had to drag, I’d filled the entire back panel with sweat. Yep, saturated and dripping like a thick sponge. The whole back and strap underside is air mesh, so we have our usual air mesh gripes. Add to that a strap foam that is both a touch thin and a touch soft, and the back doesn’t quite do justice to the front on this VX. Additionally, if you want a waist belt, you need to grab that separately (although there is a good slot for it).
"The whole back and strap underside is air mesh, so we have our usual air mesh gripes. Add to that a strap foam that is both a touch thin and a touch soft, and the back doesn’t quite do justice to the front on this VX."
Alternatives to Consider
We’re still waiting for our VX Vandal, but that doesn’t yet exist. You will have to have a serious look at the other packs in the MW range, as the standard Fitzroy is significantly cheaper, and the Vandal more versatile.
Chrome has the Ivan, Soyuz and Citadel, which have a similar vibe for a little less coin. Timbuk2 has the Especial Tres, and T-Level has several options, all of which are in that higher end bag space.
Yeah, this is a weird lowlight to have, but when they have innovated so much with the Vandal and the Rummy, the Fitzroy can feel a touch underwhelming in the innovation stakes. We have to counter this with the ‘cleansing’ simplicity of the Fitzroy though, which does feel easier in day-to-day operation, at the expense of some versatility/scalability.
- Smart aesthetics for work or play
- The Arkiv closure system works well and is silent
- Large main opening for easy packing and access, with good gusseting to avoid Gorby Gaps
Not So Good
- Lacks organization for tech and bulkier items
- Pocket depths end at the same level, causing items to jam at the bottom and making them harder to access quickly
- Back panel and straps could be improved
The VX Fitzroy Rucksack is a great-looking bag that fits into most environments well. It is comfortable enough, very weatherproof, and is quick and easy to get large loads into/out of. There are some niggles and limitations, but some neat bits too.
So would we buy one? Probably only if we were feeling flush, as the regular Fitzroy on which it is based feels like better value. There are also a lot of amazing backpacks you can buy for under $319, so we’d probably buy nothing in a stalemate of indecision over an abundance of awesome carry options.
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