Review: Tracksmith and Mission Workshop Made the Best Running Backpack We’ve Ever Used

We just put this thing through the ringer. It delivered.

April 8, 2021 1:06 pm
tracksmith mission backpack
Our new favorite running pack.

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece explaining why lifting weights while wearing running shoes is a bad idea. A fellow exercise-happy colleague shot me a Slack later that day, asking: “Well, what about people who run to the gym?”

That actually describes me. I told him I either lift with my shoes off, or throw a pair of grippy, wide-box training shoes in a backpack and swap them for the cushioned runners on arrival. Barefoot training is legit — it can strengthen muscles in the foot and encourage neural connections throughout the body — but every time you do it at the gym, you risk dropping a 20-pounder on your metatarsals. So for the majority of my lifts, I prefer to pack my trusty Reebok Nanos.

For a while, my definition of a “running pack” was either A) a hiking pack, or B) a backpack with the straps pulled real tight. But proper running rucksacks exist, of course, and over the last few months, I’ve come to rely on a near-flawless model: the Mission Backpack, a collaboration between Boston-based Tracksmith, and Bay Area-based Mission Workshop.

tracksmith mission backpack
Two brands at the peak of their powers, one awesome collab.

For active people who like nice things, Tracksmith teaming up with Mission Workshop is a dream alliance. Tracksmith consistently ranks among our favorite running gear, while Mission perfectly embodies the day’s “street to creek,” urban explorer ethos. Their backpacks look fantastic, but they’re highly useful, too, made with technical fabrics like waxed canvas or weatherproof nylon.

With the Mission Pack, the two brands wedded these sensibilities, creating an 18-liter, roll-top mobility backpack that dominates on the roads. It can carry an extra pair of shoes on the way to the gym, sure, but it’s also equipped with a 13″ fully-padded laptop sleeve, a hydration sleeve (compatible with reservoirs up to three liters) and more compartments than you can shake a stick at.

The primary design features the Tracksmith racing sash as a contrasting blue, which actually doubles as reflective detailing — it’s a clever design for those used to running in low light. The exterior fabric is completely waterproof, meanwhile, there are outdoor water bottle pockets on either side, and a combination of chest and waist straps combine to make sure the whole operation doesn’t budge.

tracksmith off-road
Wear into the city, wear it into the mountains.

There’s another term for this kind of knapsack: commute pack. Tracksmith released this as part of its Run Commute Collection, a variety of performance gear built with running to work in mind. If, whenever regular commuting gets going again, you want to dodge sketchy public transport and instead strap this thing on for an adventure run to work (make sure you have a shower waiting!), it is certainly up for that task. But it also pairs well with trail running, or cycling, and hiking.

Just for the hell of it, I recently wore the Mission Pack during an intense session of mile repeats, which brought me to a track in Williamsburg. I knew I could count on the bag to hold my things and feel comfy on my back — the shoulder straps are perforated and padded — but I wanted to know if I could legit run in it. Your training regimen can get sort of disrupted if you’re always holding back on account of a backpack.

My Mission Pack was nowhere to be found, though, as I powered through a sequence of low five-minute miles. Once you strap yourself in, it’s so light that it sort of just … disappears. Leave it to Tracksmith and Mission Workshop to design a bag that’s simultaneously impossible to remember you’re wearing, but impossible for anyone else at the track to miss. These things are limited-edition, unsurprisingly, so if you’re in the market, we recommend making moves before they disappear for real. Happy commuting.

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