Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Mission Workshop x Tracksmith Backpack Review

Article by Michael Ellenberger

Mission Workshop x Tracksmith Backpack 


  • Price: $238

  • Availability: Now, from Tracksmith 

  • Dimensions: 18 Liter (20" Tall, 10" Wide, 6" Deep)

  • Laptop Storage: Sleeve for 13” Laptop


Run commuting has always been an aspiration of mine - with limited time in the day, and the need to squeeze in a run around work, I’ve always loved the idea of using my legs to get to work. Well, the COVID-19 Pandemic changed that - what I thought was two weeks at home to “flatten the curve” turned into me working remotely for nearly 16 months, and eventually accepting a fully remote position at a patent boutique - but, there are still plenty of opportunities where running (as opposed to driving, biking, or public transit) is still the easiest way for me to get somewhere. 

Against that backdrop, I tested the Mission Backpack, a collaboration between fan- (and reviewer-) favorite Tracksmith, and hard-wearing, made-in-USA Mission Workshop, which is familiar to any bike commuter or bag enthusiast. The result is undoubtedly the best looking run commuter bag I’ve ever seen, but the performance is mixed; I think the Mission Backpack is ultimately a better backpack than run commuter bag (at least for me)... but I’ll cover all the good and bad below! 

On the Run

First and foremost, we need to talk about how the Mission Backpack performs on the run. If it’s not a comfortable, stable backpack, then it’s a non-starter. I tested the Backpack on several different routes - some, just getting in a 4, 6, or 8 mile run around town, carrying the backpack empty (or with some random knick-knacks, like a change of clothes, just to fill it out). 

I also tested it on dog walk-runs with my pup Waffles, where we cover a couple miles mostly walking, but with several blocks of running interspersed. Then, I tested on pure run commutes - running to a destination with my laptop and theoretical work clothes in town. Finally, I also brought it on a vacation, just to see how it performed as a standalone backpack (and, you know, because it looks great).

In terms of fit and comfort, I think Mission Workshop has done a terrific job (this is really a modified version of their Hauser bag, which is a fan-favorite), but the first thing I noticed is that this Backpack is tall. Like, full-time, travel backpack tall, and not compact, run-with-only-what-you-need sized. There’s a reason for that height - Mission Workshop includes a dedicated laptop sleeve, and there’s more than ample space for a day’s work - but for shorter people like me (I’m 5’9”) it does just feel a little large. 

For a backpack of its size 18 Liter Capacity Backpack (20" Tall, 10" Wide, 6" Deep), the internal frame sheet is much appreciated - it doesn’t flop over or handle unevenly when partially loaded because it has some internal structure. The entire rear of the backpack is also a really nice mesh material that’s breathable and comfortable and wasn’t scratchy to my clothes.

Fortunately, what it loses in height, it makes up for in comfort and adjustability. 

There are two belts to cinch you in - one at the chest, and one at the stomach - and once I got those adjusted (a blissfully simple and quick process), I had essentially no wobble in my carry, even when running at “real” running speeds. I’ve seen run commuting described as different from running because you need to navigate (typically) urban environments with more traffic and pedestrians… but even if your commute was down a dirt road, and you wanted to rip a tempo, you could absolutely do so in the Mission! 

The Mission Backpack is also a roll top! 

Besides giving it a great, tactile feel (I love rolling down the top and fastening the velcro), it lends some adjustability - if you needed to carry your driver to the driving range, for example, you could keep the top open and still make the commute… maybe this is the ultimate speed-golf bag?

Finally, for some little things - huge props to Tracksmith and MW for including the reflective stripe. Especially when we return to dreary fall and winter, the bright sash will be a massive benefit for visibility and safety on a commute. I don’t want to overlook the obvious, either - this bag is built extremely well. I’ve owned 3 or 4 bags from Mission Workshop (their Rummy messenger bag is one of my favorites, as is the Rhake backpack), and none has been anything less than impressive in terms of durability, comfort, and features - and clearly the Mission Backpack is no different. MW constructing the bag in the USA is the cherry on top.

Pockets and Accessories

I alluded to the Mission Backpack’s laptop capacity - it has a custom, matching (i.e. sash-laden) laptop sleeve that can fit a 13” machine. It handled both my work 13” Lenovo, and my personal 13” Macbook Pro. Additionally, the pack is compatible with most hydration reservoirs up to 3 liters, and includes a full zippered hydration pocket for easy access. I didn’t test this - I’m never one to carry much hydration beyond a water bottle - but the integration is much appreciated.


The Mission Backpack also has some side pockets. They’re a black, tight-knit mesh - for quick access to water or your iPhone. I’m glad those were there - I think the backpack would be considerably more deficient without them - but I found them slightly deep to be consistently usable. Maybe one deep pocket and one shallow (for a large water bottle versus a wallet, say) would be preferable, though I admit the symmetry of the layout as-is quite helps the look.

Additionally, the Mission Backpack has an external zippered pocket on the front side, towards the top. This pocket is probably where your phone, keys, and/or wallet are meant to go, and it holds them nicely - though I was unable to access this pocket without fully taking off the backpack and it is (if you’re in a place where this is a concern) pretty accessible to pickpockets without any sort of intrusion to entry.


The Mission Workshop x Tracksmith “Mission Backpack” is really good. If it was 4” shorter or so, it would probably be perfect. As-is, I’ve found the sweet spot for the Mission Backpack as something I wear when out-and-about - running to pick up a package at UPS, to grab a six-pack at the brewery, to take Waffles to the dog park - but not something explicitly for running. With the option to easily add a hydration bladder (and its construction based on MW’s hike-ready Hauser pack), I think many will find great use for this as a serious hiking day-pack, or even an overnighter bag. It’s size works well for uses beyond just running to work and back.

Ultimately for me, and prospective buyers, it will come down to use case - my working remotely means less urgent need to tote things back-and-forth - but for others, the usability here will be crucial. My only letdown - and one I’m careful to caveat that it may not be the case for you - is the size of the Mission Backpack. It’s just a little tall for people of my stature. Of course, this is not a damning complaint - and if you’re tall, it’ll be a non-issue - but it’s worth considering if you’re similarly-statured and eying this (frankly, gorgeous!) bag. 

Look, Tracksmith makes some of the best (and best looking) running gear out there. Mission Workshop constructs fantastically cool bags in the USA. We knew this collaboration would be wonderful, and it is. I just wish there was a smaller size, or the roll-down top compressed it slightly more, to make it perfect for me - but as is, I think this is a pack that many runners, hikers, and commuters will love.


Camelbak Octane 18 (RTR Review)

I prefer the size of the Camelbak, and the plethora of exterior pockets and storage options, but I think the Mission Backpack is a probably a better option for most true run commuters. Why? Laptop storage. The Camelbak doesn’t have a dedicated sling or internal frame sheet, so if you’re needed to commute with electronics, then the Mission Backpack will almost certainly be a safer, more stable option. However, if you’re commuting only with a lunch, clothes, etc. - things that are lighter and can more readily be knocked around - then I think the Camelback is worth a hard look.

The Mission Workshop x Tracksmith Backpack is available from Tracksmith HERE

Tester Profile

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He also has a 2:31 marathon PR from the 2018 Austin Marathon.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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