Hands On Review: Mission Workshop Arkiv R6 Modular Bags

San Francisco’s Mission Workshop has a storied history. Formed by former Chrome employees, the company produces beefy backpacks and messenger bags designed and constructed in the United States. As a long time cyclist, I’ve had more than a few Mission Workshop bags, and have owned some of the original Chrome gear (pre split) for decades.

While not specifically a manufacturer of camera bags, (the company’s products are designed for cyclists and active outdoor enthusiasts) the Arkiv bag collection nonetheless caught my eye. A modular system, the Arkiv bags use a fabric “rail” system that allows add-on bags to slide onto the main bag, thanks to a Mission Workshop-designed clip.

The company sent me the Arkiv R6 with side pouches, computer bag and a pouch that’s the right size for an iPad.

I had the chance to test the bag for a few days before I headed to San Francisco for a combination of work and vacation, where I brought the Arkiv as a do-everything camera bag and expedition pack. Each day I’d load some camera gear into the main pack, along with enough clothing to handle the various different weather conditions for myself, my wife and my son.

Side pouches were big enough to hold lenses, but I usually stuffed them with water bottles and snacks, using the clothing in my main bag to pad the equipment. If I were heading out on a purely photographic trip I’d likely purchase a camera insert and stuff it into the main compartment.

The Mission Workshop bags are completely waterproof, with sealed zippers. The tops of the compartments can be used folded over or as a roll-top bag—popular with messengers. Each of the pouches expands nicely, providing a lot of room for over packing. One day I used the main pouch not only for my gear but for a massive amount of new clothing and toys purchased when we were playing tourist, and the pack easily held everything I could stuff into it.

Because the accessory pouches are removable, the Arkiv is a great bag for the frequent flyer–simply detach the computer pouch and store the rest of the bag in the overhead. It’s also good for the shooter that wants to swap out pouches based on what gear they’re planning to use.

The bag has a chest and waist strap, and comfortable shoulder straps. The back of the bag is padded, though it doesn’t provide as much air flow as some of my other outdoor bags—I ended up with an incredibly sweaty back on a 60º day after walking for hours.

My only real complaint about the bag is a lack of internal pockets. There are zippered sections inside each bag, but there are no webbing sections to hold things like pens or snacks. That could be solved by adding on the “Folio” or “Tool Pocket” accessories.

Again, this isn’t a dedicated camera bag, but that means that it doesn’t look like a camera bag, something that I value in many travel situations. The Mission Workshop Arkiv R6 is built like a tank, waterproof, attractive and has copious storage space. It’s particularly useful for mirrorless shooters, who should be able to squeeze the whole system and lenses into the backpack.

Missionworkshop.com $235 to $255 depending on size.

Images courtesy of Mission Workshop.

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