Mission Workshop’s $180 The Sanction is a laptop bag that’s prepared to take a beating. This backpack—nay, rucksack—has a waterproof construction and is designed with a full day’s essentials in mind. As long as you’re not obsessed with packing every pen and flash drive in its own little pocket, this is a solid bag that can take your daily commute and the elements in stride.
The Sanction is a tall backpack with plenty of individual compartments of varying size. Two of the three main compartments, each of which runs the full height of the bag, have open tops that are protected by the bag’s main flap. These two compartments each have more than enough room to store a couple books and a rolled up hoodie or rain shell. The third main compartment, capable of accommodating a 15-inch MacBook Pro, is protected by a waterproof zipper, as are two additional smaller compartments on the front of the bag. A third small compartment on the front of the bag, near the bottom, is secured with a velcro flap, but its opening is restricted to prevent the elements from seeping in.
The Sanction gets a lot of things right, especially when it comes to small details and construction polish. Its tall design offers a lot of storage space without turning you into the Hunchback of the Commuter Train, and at only 2.6 pounds when empty, the bag itself won’t weigh you down. However, I feel Mission Workshop skimped when it comes to padding, a key element of any computer bag. The notebook compartment (the one at the very back of the bag that’s protected with a waterproof zipper) has decent padding against your back, but the opposite wall, facing the rest of the bag and the bottom of the pack, has little—during my testing, I didn’t feel confident that my MacBook was protected against the typical bumps and bruises of commuting. Putting your MacBook in its own padded sleeve solves the problem, but I’d prefer that Mission Workshop offered a little more built-in protection.
The Sanction is also different from most of the computer bags I’ve seen in that its smaller compartments don’t have the typical array of pockets and sleeves for separating things such as pens, flash drives, identification, keys, and cables. Fortunately, there are two of these small compartments so you don’t have to toss all your trinkets into one big grab bag. One pocket is higher up on the front of the bag and protected by both a waterproof zipper and the main flap, while the aforementioned other pocket is lower on the bag and more accessible since it’s protected by its own Velcro flap.
Overall I like this bag, though I’m still a bit disappointed by the padding issue. That aside, bags built to withstand the elements this well are rare, and as a commuter in Chicago, it’s hard to avoid getting caught out in the elements. The Sanction’s top-notch construction and weatherproofing make me much less concerned about waiting in the typical storm.
David Chartier is a Herald for 1Password, the wrangler behind the Finer Things in Tech, and eternally searching for the perfect notebook bag.