You can never go wrong with American made gear bags, and as far as we're concerned there are at least two namely companies worthy of mentioning one after the other, and those are Mission Workshop and WaterField Designs. And ironically enough, these two are practically neighbors stationed at the heart of San Francisco city. Where the weather is mental and carrying a laptop is a must. Mission Workshop's Sanction is certainly not just another backpack, it's an all weatherproof rucksack that has been constructed to last a lifetime; all whilst having that urban and military-esque appeal. Perfect for the a daily commute, may it be on a bike or a long and tiring trek no matter what Mother Nature has in store for you. The Sanction can carry your gear just fine, but can you carry the Sanction? Our full review awaits after the jump!
Mission Workshop is a trendy bag maker and the Sanction shows much of that in its simple, modern design. At first glance, the almighty Sanction is one tall backpack that looks like it can gobble up an entire skateboard. But we say nay nay, the Sanction isn't one of those skater packs. It may look like one, but it really is designed to carry a laptop up to a 17-inch MacBook Pro. This is the kind of backpack you'd use to keep a low profile but still have the luxury of being able to take pretty much all that a city person needs on a daily basis. It features an abundance of large weatherproof compartments and pockets zippered using urethane coated zippers to seal your gear from water, sand and mud. Using these type of water tight zippers can be strenuous, though surprisingly the Sanction's urethane zippers are much easier to operate than those we've tested on a number of Thule's sleeves.
On the outside, the Sanction is made with durable nylon fabric shell that's water-resistant and will repel water with absolute disgust. Mission Workshop's Sanction can be had in this gray, or olive, black and charcoal monotone colors. And for the most part, it's a good looking commuter bag with excellent construction qualities, however, it isn't going to suit everyone's needs and sense of style like more mainstream backpack will. But hey, there's nothing wrong with swimming against the current.
While it may look deceiving, the Sanction is quite a simplistic backpack with a rucksack styling and even more so when you open it up to reveal its inner workings. The Sanction has one large flap overly secured by two adjustable straps with plastic buckle snaps to help expand the size of the pack in case you want to fit something extra long - along with two inner Velcro strips as a means of keeping what's most important, very secure.
The first thing you notice is the Sanction's convenient Velcro-secured front pocket, the only external pocket on the entire bag. It's perfect for keeping your portable headphones, power adapters and cables inside. Or anything that you need to have quick and easy access to for that matter. While it doesn't feature a waterproof zipper, the Velcro and flap overlay help keep rain from seeping in. I'd still keep my small and important valuables like my phone and wallet in my pockets as a precautionary measure, regardless.
The Sanction's impressive slim profile is one of its strongest features in that it can pack loads of stuff without making you look like a camel with a big hump on its back. Bikers will most definitely appreciate the streamline profile of the Sanction as it keeps a low wind resistance compared to other backpack when it sits flat on you back. The weight of what you're carrying is distributed evenly across your back in a flat state which gives you a superior balance compared to other backpacks that end up bulging and weigh you backwards.
As you would expect, the Sanction's backside is lightly padded with a breathable mesh backed by a firm inner support frame and fitted with amply padded shoulder straps followed by a chest strap for extra support. Wearing the Sanction isn't like wearing a normal backpack because of its longer, better balanced slim profile that makes it really comfortable to wear even when filled to the brim for prolonged periods of time. The tightly packed yet non-bulky sensation the Sanction gives you is definitely satisfying knowing you can squeeze into tight public spaces without knocking people down. In the years that I've had to wear an assortment of backpacks, this has to be my favorite one of all when talking about comfort, and that says a lot.
The Sanction's 1,000 cubic inches of storage capacity is divided into 5 individual compartments, three of which are sealed using urethane zippers while access to the largest main compartment and its slip-in companion compartment which sits closest to your back, remain opened only to be covered and kept protected by the Velcro flap. These three compartments run deep across the length of the bag where you can stuff a couple of books, Big Jambox speaker, a micro fourth thirds camera, an iPad and even a fresh pair of tightly compressed clothes. As long as you're not trying to stuff a basketball in this thing, you'll should be totally fine. The Sanction is capable of maintaining its slim profile well under maximum load.
Your laptop can fit inside either of these compartments, but if you want to put it inside a protective sleeve as thick as the Thule Gauntlet, you would end up sliding it into the Sanction's largest, main compartment where unfortunately it also won't have much, if any padding offered by the bag itself.
The Sanction is pretty weak at having any type of fabric lining or padding in the interior other than extra waterproof material like this thick rubbery PFTE membrane. So if you've got an iPad and a laptop and want some additional impact protection, you may want to consider putting them into protective sleeves and cases.
The Sanction lacks some of the traditional internal pen pockets and little pocket-in-pocket sections that help keep the little things up and above. Fortunately, there is one small shallow pocket at the top that makes for a great place to keep pens/styluses, flash drives and all sorts of small goodies you really can't leave home without.
Mission Workshop's $180 Sanction is an expensive rucksack considering it's stripped of essential protective padding, organized pockets and metal hardware. It's easy to understand why this bag has become widely accepted by people with a unique sense of style. The Sanction is the smallest option for a backpack Mission Workshop has to offer, but with that said, we're happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a solid urban backpack that's most comfortable to wear under load, has plenty of weather-proofed storage for such an "aerodynamic" design and has a rugged exterior that's built to last. Guaranteed. Ultimately we think the Sanction is best geared towards cyclists (pun intended) who commute to and from work.