Saturday, January 14, 2012

Product Review - Maxpedition Mongo Versapack

Like most geeks out there, I carry a laptop and the sundry odds and ends it needs for work.  I used backpacks from Targus for several years, which were wonderful backpacks, but they were so large that I found myself throwing more and more crap into them as time went on.  Eventually, I was carrying as much junk to work as I used to take on ruck marches.

When my backpack wore out, I decided to go in another direction.  I wanted a laptop bag that was rugged, could carry enough stuff that I wouldn't have to stuff it every day in order to get to work, but wasn't so big that I could just keep chucking stuff into it.

I saw several people at the NRA Annual Meeting carrying small bags from Maxpedition, so I took a look at their line.  They have everything from the tactical man purse to rucksacks and everything in between.  My range carries a few things from them, so I was able to take a look at the quality of their work, and I was impressed.  I eventually settled on the Maxpedition Mongo Versipack.

Photo from Maxpedition website
The Mongo is big enough I can put a Dell laptop, power supply, a Logitech trackball mouse, a water bottle, a notebook, and my lunch without any crowding.  When I want to, I can fit in a Macbook, its power supply, a novel, and a few more things before having to wonder about how I'm going to close the main zippers and buckles.  Honestly, weight is the limiting factor.  The Mongo is a messenger bag, so the carrying strap is worn across your chest and shoulders.  Too much weight in the bag means discomfort in the shoulder.

Most of my EDC Crap
All the EDC crap in one convenient package,
with a bit of room for lunch, another computer, or whatever
It carries exactly as much as I need for a day, but not much more.  It definitely keeps me from putting ever increasing amounts of crap into my bag.

The bag is well made and rugged.  I have used it as a laptop bag, diaper bag, picnic basket, and odds and ends bag while hunting.  It carries just about everything I need or want, and shows no wear after several months of use.  Cleaning the fabric is pretty simple.  I just use a wet dishrag and some liquid soap, and any schmutz comes off with a little elbow grease.

The bag has pockets and pouches for everything, including a water bottle holder with a drain hole, several pockets for whatever you carry, and a cellphone/MP3 player carrier on the strap.  The phone carrier holds my iPhone very well when it is in a slim case, but my OtterBox rubberized case was too big for it.
The phone carrier holds very securely, and has some expansion for larger phones

Interior pocket.  Hook and loop material on both sides allows for addition of accessories

One of two key hooks.  This one is located on the strap, the other one is in the front pocket.
This is very convenient when going through airport security.
One quibble on this is that there is a LOT of hook and loop material on the bag.  When you're trying to be quiet in the woods while carrying it, you're going to make noise getting your water bottle out or opening up one of the pockets.  Also, hook and loop is a magnet for dirt and burrs when you're walking through the woods.  Most of the time I have spent cleaning the bag up has been spent picking something out of the loop material.

One upshot of the hook and loop is that you can put on hook and loop patches. I got a nametape from Military Names, and it is easily put on and taken off of the hook and loop panel on top of the bag.

Maxpedition has a lot of extra pouches and other doodads that you can buckle, velcro, or strap to its bags.  These include a hook and loop 'universal' holster and magazine carrier for off-body carry.  Again, weight is a limiting factor in a messenger bag.  The more stuff you carry and strap onto your bag, the more weight the strap across your deltoids is going to have to sit under.  The strap is padded, but there is a point where it would be too much.

Two things that might give someone pause in buying the Mongo are its appearance and price.  Maxpedition is unapologetically making 'tactical' bags, which means they look like something you could take on patrol.  Unless your office is behind Baghdad barriers, you're not going to blend in with the rest of the IT crowd.  Also, their color selections appear to be brown, green, or black, or some variation thereof.  I chose the more subdued of their greens, which they call 'foliage'.

Maxpedition's prices are a bit steep when compared to laptop bags from Targus or Swiss Army, but you definitely get what you pay for.  I've been using this bag every day for six months, and it has no sign of wear or stain.  Maxpedition lists the bag for $157.99, but Amazon has them for $112.  Either way, it's more than I had ever spent on an EDC bag, but I expect that it will last far longer than the less expensive bags that I considered.

Overall, the Mongo is a good value, as long as you plan on using it often and for a long time.  Its looks might not be for everyone, but it is a good bag for carrying those things you need for your day and nothing more.

Almost forgot:  Disclaimer - I was given no compensation for doing this review.  I purchased the equipment with my own money.

1 comment:

Jay G said...

Ooh, thanks for the reminder. I need to write up a review of the Gearslinger Malaga when I get back from SHOT...

Suffice to say, very impressed so far...

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