Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack Review | Customizable 42L Backpack Made In The USA

By | February 1, 2019

Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack Review

The Mission Workshop Radian is a durable hauler focused on one bag travel that is a tad bit heavy for carry on. We love helping people optimize their travel experience with guides and reviews, just like this one.

Let’s jump right into the Radian, a pack that we have used in many places.

Mission Workshop bags really have a unique look to them, and the Radian does not disappoint. People have said that I look like a villain while carrying this bag around, and personally, I kind of like that.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Also, the overall aesthetic of the pack can change based on the additional accessories that you choose to add. More on how that system works later in this video.

This pack has a slimmer but wide profile and I test a lot of backpacks and I wear a lot, this one is quite wide on your back.

So for me it took a little bit of getting used to.

I kept running into the side of doors and things like that in closer quarters. So just note that, it’s really great for distributing the weight for carrying and it’s a very comfortable carry.

However, it is wider than a lot of other one-bag travel backpacks on the market, especially if you start getting some of those Arkiv pockets on the side as well.

In terms of branding, there is one noticable logo tag on the side of the pack.

Another thing on the branding perspective with Mission Workshop is the overall look, they really have a lot of unique design going on.

And their packs look a lot different than anything on the market. Huge props to them for always pushing the envelope in that department.

As this review is being composed, the backpack comes in gray, black, and a black, multicam camo. The gray and the black models have Mission Workshop’s HT500 nylon, which also has a coating on it.

There’s an additional coating on here that’s going to kind of get a different look as you use it for longer. Adds a bit of patina as you wear the pack for longer, so a similar concept to a waxed cotton canvas.

And the camo version is a 500D Multicam Cordura nylon.

Each of these materials are extremely durable fabrics and each one of these versions comes with Mission Workshop’s floating liner, which is a very water resistant liner on the interior of the pack.

Also if you took this fabric and designed a pouch or a bag to be airtight, it could very much be submersible as well.

Definitely a ton of weather resistance going on in this Mission Workshop pack. All of the models use Duraflex plastic hardware and you can get a metal Cobra buckle if you’d like. However, it adds more weight and isn’t super practical if you’re trying to do carry-on air travel. But that thing is definitely awesome to have.

Looks really great and is super fun to clip. It’s also super durable.

All those durable materials come together to make a solid layout and design. However, with that comes a weight penalty.

So without any of the Arkiv pockets on the outside, without the hip belt, and without that Cobra buckle, it comes in at 4.8 pounds. That’s 2 pounds heavier than the GoRuck GR3 and over a pound heavier than the Aer Travel Pack 2.

Mission Workshop – External Components

Moving onto the external components, the harness system on this pack is one of the most comfortable and adjustable in the travel backpack space.

Starting with the straps – we have a soft, padded foam backed by a higher density foam here, as you can see on the bottom, ’cause it kind of tapers off.

So that really helps out with the comfort in having those different layers of foam and densities.

When it comes to balancing the load and creating a more comfortable carry, you have a lot of options. There are load lifters that can be used to adjust the way the bag sits on your back, pulling it closer and up a little bit higher towards the top.

There’s an adjustable, velcro-able sternum strap that can be used on four different positions on the shoulder straps.

There’s an aluminum frame on the back of this pack that gives it some structure, helps balance the weight and adds to the comfort of the carry.

Plus, the straps are adjustable on that frame via Velcro, so that you can fit it properly to your torso length. The back panel is really padded and comfortable, and thin, which helps with airflow on the sides of your back.

Lastly, there’s a detachable hip belt that is super beefy. It’s called Mission Workshop’s Expedition hip belt, and it integrates seamlessly with the Radian Travel Pack.

There are some stretchy pockets on the side that do not zip up, so you can hold some things in there. It’s not necessarily ideal for things that you want to carry permanently, but if you just want to set something in your pocket really quickly, it’s decent for that.

But without any zippered pocket, I’d be a little bit concerned about putting things in here of value. Easy to just grab out. The whole harness system can zip up into itself to create a lower profile for either loading onto the airplane or checking your bag.

And even the beefy hip belt will fit inside. The stretchy-like material allows for that, and that’s hidden right at the bottom of the bag, just under a flap of Velcro. So it’s always there when you need it.

The one improvement point to the harness system could be better strap management. The load lifters have two areas where they have Velcro strap keepers – you can manage the straps a little bit more and attach them.

However, the hip belt and the shoulder strap adjusters don’t offer any additional strap management, so you’re going to be left with a lot of straps just dangling around.

This is a minor nitpick in an otherwise super comfortable harness system.

On the top of the pack, there is a nicely padded grab handle at the top here, that feels comfortable to pick up, even when the bag is fully loaded out.

However, one minor nitpick we’ve found is that it’s asymmetrical, the foam inside is asymmetrical. That’s a minor detail, but we were surprised to see this on a Mission Workshop pack, considering their attention to detail and craftsmanship is usually super high.

It doesn’t affect the functionality at all, however, aesthetically, the foam padding inside of the handle is slightly pushed off to the side.. And next to that handle we have two MOLLE-like loops that can be used to attach additional items.

Next up, the Arkiv system. There are eight Arkiv rails, four attachment points across the entirety of the exterior of this pack. Keep in mind that these have different spacing’s, so specific Arkiv pockets will fit on specific areas of this pack, depending on how they’re constructed.

We have two vertical roll-top pockets that fit on each side of the pack. We found this to be perfect for keeping sandals or minimalistic shoes separate from the main liter capacity of your pack.

Also they’re great for smaller water bottle pockets if you want to utilize them that way. On the front of the pack we have the Arkiv folio, which is good for flatter items. Also there are two more Arkiv rails here if you want to attach even more

Lastly, there is a single rail on each one of the backpack straps, which is ideal for Mission Workshop’s cell phone pocket cases.

These come in varying sizes as well. There are a ton of different color options available in all the pouches as well, so you can match the color Radian you have or create a funkier look, if that’s your thing. So with all that customizability, do you need it? That’s totally up to you, what you’re carrying and what your organization style is.

Just note that the more pockets you add, the further away you get from carry-on compliance as it adds additional size specs to your pack, especially if all the pockets are fully packed out.

And lastly, on the wearer’s right hand side there is a hideable water bottle pocket that expands with some stretchy mesh. However, due to the positioning, it can get a little bit awkward if you have a massive water bottle that you’re trying to carry.

On the backside of this pack there is an ample-sized laptop compartment that easily fits a MacBook Pro 15″. You may even be able to fit your giant 17″ laptop inside of here as well. On the top of this pack there is a quick access compartment that can be used for items that you want quick access to – a tablet, or a water bladder.

There’s a small clip loop that’s great as a toggle for your water bladder hose. And additionally, there are zippers on each side – so you could control which side the hose comes out of, if you do want to go that route.

All the zippers on this pack are durable YKK, water-resistant zippers. Both of these pockets are great to have, and they have a hidden low profile underneath this side flap of fabric.

One of the small nitpicks here are that the zipper teeth are always exposed for that strap hiding system that we took a look at earlier.

And this makes it a little bit hard to tell at first glance whether or not these pockets are open or closed. And lastly, the main compartment of this is accessible from the zippered flap on the front of the pack, or the rolltop as well.

You can either roll the top down, like we have here, otherwise you can just simply use this as a panel loading top panel, where you Velcro this in as well. There is a ton of customizability and configuration with the rolltop.

You can use it with or without the Velcro, with or without that Duraflex strap, which then you can reposition on different parts of this pack, based on how compressed you want the pack to be.

One small note – the Velcro access is quite loud. So if you’re in a hotel and you don’t want to wake your partner, or if you’re sleeping in a hostel – I mean, this thing is just really loud to access. So you might want to just opt for the Duraflex top-loading configuration if noise is a concern to you.

Once you get into the main compartment of the pack, you’re pretty much greeted with a giant bucket. On each side there is one stretchy mesh pocket, similar to the material of the water bottle pocket.

On the side of each of those, one singular MOLLE-like loop for additional attachment options. And then on the top flap, you have a large, stretchy mesh compartment as well.

We always recommend using packing cubes with a configuration like this, It just helps keep your internal organization a little bit more smooth. From an access perspective, I usually put the items that I need quicker access to towards the top; so you can just grab that from the rolltop. And in that main zippered area, towards the bottom, I would put my clothes – so it’s just kind of there, on a little bit more of a permanent basis.

At the time of this review I’ve been testing the Mission Workshop Radian, here in Detroit, upstate New York, and New York City for the past two weeks. In actual usage I found I could carry this thing fully loaded out, in its heaviest state, comfortably for long periods of time – whether it was on a hike upstate, or just getting to and from the airport in transit.

This felt a little less slick in New York City, due to the wider carry. I was definitely getting used to it, and bumping into a lot of things in the closer quarters of that city. Also, it’s somewhat bulky on an airplane and doesn’t really fit underneath the seats super well, especially if you have those Arkiv pouches attached to the side.

However, it fits into the overhead bin like a dream, and it’s still a lot better and more compact than a lot of roller luggage available on the market.

Radian Travel Pack – Durability

As far as durability goes, there have been no issues with this pack so far, not even a loose thread within the two weeks of everyday testing.

And that’s great, we expect it to continue to hold up. Mission Workshop makes some of the most durable packs and uses some of the highest quality materials that are available. Stay tuned for additional usage notes.

However, we basically think this will follow the same path as the Mission Workshop Fitzroy, which we’ve tested previously. They make great, quality gear and if there are any issues, Mission Workshop has their Guaranteed Forever warranty that actually works. These are made in small batches in the US.

Mission Workshop really prides themselves on the gear that they create.

Mission Workshop – Pros & Cons

So, to wrap this thing up with some Pros and Cons – the modular options and high customizability allow you to tailor the pack to your needs.

We’ve got some really high durability and quality construction going on.

There’s high weather resistance with their floating liner .

On to some of the Cons – it’s a wider profile than some other bags, and takes a bit of getting used to.

Velcro access can be really noisy. It is heavy for air travel, even at the baseline, with no additional accessories.

Mission Workshop Radian Travel Pack Review

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Mission Workshop Radian offers a great, comfortable carry, high quality construction, and a lot of smart, modular thinking.

If you’re into bags, it’s easy to geek out about all the quality design going on here, and the features throughout. In practice, this pack is a little bit bulky and heavy to use in the context of air travel.

But if you’re conscious of the Arkiv accessories you put on the exterior, as well as how you pack it, it’s one of the most comfortable, adjustable carries we’ve used to date in the travel backpack market.

Thanks for taking a look at our review on the Mission Workshop Radian travel backpack.