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The Rhake Weatherproof Laptop Backpack from Mission Workshop entered my life during one of the wettest weeks in months, so of course I subjected the 22-liter rolltop bag to a trial by flooding. I tossed in my expensive 15-inch MacBook Pro along with our iPad Pro and another MacBook. Beyond that, I stuffed it with my AirPods, my iPhone, my Bose QuietComfort 35s, a jacket, a book, and even a Satechi keyboard. (I was already impressed that it could hold all this junk.)
In this manner I braved a deluge for several blocks toward the train station, armed with nothing besides the Rhake and a trashy umbrella. Half a mile on, I was soaked. Water seeped into uncomfortable crevasses in my jeans. But when I unrolled the Rhake at home, I found everything inside as dry as a Steven Wright routine. So let’s get that out of the way: If you want a bag that lets MacBooks giggle at hurricanes—this is it, chief. The only catch is that sometimes its design interferes with its convenience.
Shake it off
The Rhake can weather a storm, but with its $365 starting price tagRemove non-product link, you’ll want to make sure your bank account can weather a beating before picking one up. It’s worth it in the right circumstances. So weatherproof is the Rhake’s tough 500d nylon fabric, in fact, that you might think it was crafted from the same tarp used for heavy tents. The model I received was actually the $455 Rhake VX model, which is made from even tougher VX-21 ripstop fabric.
Like a big of chips, it crinkles with every move. When water hits it, it sounds like those rain-at-the-campsite relaxation tracks. Much of the bag has two layers of this stuff, and you’ll find it in all the seven compartments, including the deep main cavity. The exceptions are few, but they include the mesh sleeve that lets you slip the Rhake over your luggage’s extendable handles and the padding for the back and shoulder straps.
The Rhake’s zeal for weatherproofing extends beyond the exterior. Unravel the rolltop (which you can hold in place with either a velcro panel or a hook for speed), and you’ll see the weatherproof fabric reaching to the depths of the cavernous 25-inch main compartment. It’s kind of thin, but I can stuff so many things in here that I sometimes forget what lies at the bottom, and photographers will like Mission Workshop’s $130 “Capsule” for cameras that neatly fits inside this space. And there’s more! Along the back of this hole waits the holy of holies: a zippered 18-5-inch weatherproof compartment hiding within the weatherproof main cavity. If that doesn’t convince you the Rhake takes its mission seriously, then nothing will.
Plenty of other pockets burrow into the Rhake’s sides, but getting stuff out of them can sometimes be a pain. The main exception is the zippered 10 x 10-inch compartment near the top, which has more than enough room to hold sunglasses, AirPods, chargers, and other items I reach for on a daily basis. If you’re planning on using this bag as a daily carry, you’ll likely use this pocket more than any other.
The second handiest compartment is a 16-inch laptop sleeve accessible by a zipper running along Rhake’s left side, which nixes the need to unravel the full Rhake to pull out your MacBook. (You’ll also be grateful for this sleeve in TSA queues.) Toward the bottom on the other side you’ll find another 9-inch zipper that looks like it conceals another pocket, but in truth it’s stuffed with a pouch for holding your water bottle. I love this design. It allows for a popular feature without uglifying the Rhake’s hiking-meets-tacticool aesthetic, and it also keeps the pocket from filling with water when it rains.
The least handy pocket looks as though it should rank higher. It’s a zippered slot that runs along the Rhake’s bottom, and it’s a great space for holding power bricks and items of the sort. Problem is, you’d better hope you packed it before you stuffed the main compartment with clothes, books—or a store’s worth of MacBooks, in my case. If you didn’t, the weight of everything else in the bag smushes this compartment, making it challenging to stuff in items later.
Holding it in
You can get around this by laying the Rhake on its back and rummaging inside as though you were performing an operation. This appears to be by design, as it’s also the best way to get into the two “medicine cabinet” compartments stretching across the front. Though already secured with zippers with a water-resisting coating, they’re also bound by two buckled straps. The plastic buckles open easily enough thanks to a toggled buckle, but it’s still a bizarre extra step. If you feel like dropping an extra $60 on this $365 bag, you can also buy some $60 metal Cobra buckles that simplify this process further.
I like to think of these compartments as the “toolbox,” as they’re good for small items like medication or small flashlights. The left one unzips to reveal small mesh zippered pockets of varying sizes, two of which have little sleeves behind them. The right compartment has no petite pouches, but does it sport a little flap that keeps larger items from tumbling out. I saw one guy saying he uses this right compartment for storing diapers for his kid.
Fair enough, but I can’t say I’m much of a fan of these slots. As a carless San Franciscan, I’m fond of bags with pockets that I can reach without fully taking off my bag or putting it on the sidewalk, and that just can’t happen with these slots. The only pockets on the Rhake that allow that kind of convenience are the top slot and the back laptop sleeve (and to be fair, those are super useful). Oddly enough, Mission Workshop put the key fob in the left “medicine cabinet” slot rather than in one of these two more convenient spaces.
Don’t take that to mean that the Rhake isn’t a quality bag. The Rhake will last for years. Even with everything I had stuffed in it, the Rhake remained almost as comfortable as it was at its 3.1-pound empty weight, thanks in part to the stabilizing force of a buckled chest strap. Additional comfort comes from the mesh pads along the back and behind the straps, and a handy nylon handle make it easy to carry the Rhake like a briefcase. If you still don’t think the Rhake has enough pockets, you can add on additional accessories from Mission Workshop on its nylon “Archiv” rails along the shoulder straps.
You’ll just need to make sure that you get the most use out of its strengths for this price. Mission Workshop may make the Rhake here in San Francisco, but I don’t think it rains enough here to justify dropping that kind of cash for a daily bag. I might change my mind if I lived in a wetter place like Seattle or Houston, although I’d certainly reach for it if I had to take my tech out in the woods or had a job as a bicycle courier.
It’s also a bag for those of us who never, ever want to worry about the safety of their electronics: Unless you throw this bag in a river—after all, the Rhake isn’t waterproof on account of the zippers and roll top—your tech is probably going to be fine. You just may have to spend a few seconds unbuckling some straps before you can get to it.
Leif is a San Francisco-based tech journalist. He's a big fan of fantasy RPGs, and you can find his previous work on IGN, Rolling Stone, VICE, PC Gamer, Playboy, Mac|Life, TechRadar, and numerous other publications.