Evoc vs. Mission Workshop vs. Dakine Bum Bags
1 Bum, 3 Bags
Recently, whenever I sit down to write a product review, I have a tremendous impulse to tell you about my lifetime of experience with similar products. I'll reach back 20 years and spin a yarn about the first time I encountered something vaguely related, or explain my deep seated prejudice towards similar ideas. I need to stop doing this.
I know that you don't care at all about the first bum bag that I ever owned. The one that I bought at the 3rd rate department store at the end of my street. My mom sewed a sweet Santa Cruz Skateboards patch onto it and I stuffed it with skateboard tools, spare hardware and broken copers, beginning my love affair with hauling around a bunch of stuff that I didn't really need.
Nor do you care that during the days of Camelbak being nothing more than a neoprene sleeve with a plastic bag inside, Roach was making a sweet backpack that held a bladder and had a pocket on the back that you could stuff full of tools and stuff and I owned one of those suckers! It's lost to history that it was Roach that brought the hauling-too-much-stuff-around-on-your-back trend to cycling and I was firmly on board from around 1994 until approximately 2010.
And I know that you really, really don't care about the days where I rode with absolutely nothing. No pads. No tools. No water. Just my keys and my phone tucked into my pocket.
All of these things form the framework around which my judgements on these two bum bags are built. They are critical experiences of over-preparation, under-preparation, back-based tools, hip based bags and confusion that are supremely important. Can either reach the bum bag pedestal on which I place my original counterfeit Santa Cruz hip pack? Will either cause me to revert to my days of over-preparation? Will I ever feel as free as those days where I rode naked, tempting fate and hydration?
See. You don't care about any of that. So on with the reviews.
The Mission Workshop Axis VX is a minimalist bag with a few internal pockets, but it is otherwise just one large container that will haul 2.5 L of whatever it is that you wish to carry. It is built from "VX-21 diamond ripstop fabric" and is described as being both rugged and weatherproof. The bag is held to your body with a single, and simple strap system and a Fidlock magnetic buckle. It is "Guaranteed Forever" (which sounds so much better than a "Lifetime Warranty", doesn't it?) and it will cost you US$190 to earn the privilege of wearing this bag on your body.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the EVOC Hip Pack 3L. Where the Mission Workshop zigs, the EVOC zags! It's a maximalist bag with 2 main compartments, 2 additional compartments along the strap, several internal pockets, and zippers and velcro all over the place. It comes with an (optional) 1.5 L bladder (by Hydrapak - I didn't use it, but it is of good quality), and is held to your body with a simple webbed strap and a buckle. The back has foam and webbing and doodads, all added in the name of keeping your lower back cool and sweat free. It takes a more is better approach and US$120 will give you access to all of these things.
Filling Them up
The differences between these two show up as soon as you start trying to fill them up with stuff. Although relatively straight forward, I like the one large pocket that the Mission Workshop gives me to work with. It also has 3 useful internal pockets (one large one that zips, with 2 smaller ones tucked behind that) so it's easy enough to keep your keys, phone and tools separated. The size is interesting. I found that it was often either too much space if I wasn't carrying much stuff (phone, keys, tool pouch), and it didn't leave much extra room if I decided to bring one of my 1L Platypus bottles along. You definitely have to think a little bit about what you want to bring along for the ride, and plan accordingly. I'd love to see this bag borrow the side pockets from the EVOC, but other than that, I liked the simplicity. No gimmicks, no fuss, no muss.
The EVOC is much larger and will haul a lot more stuff, but I had some challenges utilizing all of it. There's one large pouch that is separated into two sections. Even if you're running the bladder, this will still leave you with room to pack lots of things. Without the bladder you have a tonne of room for jackets, beverages, pumps, spare tubes, a small pizza, etc. As well, it has those side pockets mentioned above, in which you could easily pack keys or other small things (it's not quite phone sized). So far, everything is incredibly well done.
The part that I didn't really like on the EVOC is the front tool compartment. This compartment is designed with full zips down either side, so that you can flip it open like a tool pouch. This seems great, but I could never figure out a good way to use it. If you don't zip open the flap, the opening is far too small to give you much access. Every time I did open the flap everything that I had placed inside would fall out onto the trail, where I would then collect it, stuff if back in the bag, attempt to open the flap again for more access and repeat the whole process over again, like some sort of Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. It works well if you lay the bag flat on its back, but it doesn't work so well if you're trying to access things with the bag upright.
There are some small internal pockets that might keep some of your things in check, but they're pretty small, a little bit flimsy and hard to get at as two of them are tucked behind the edges of the flap. I only put things into this compartment if I could get them into one of the 3 pockets, or if I didn't mind that it might occasionally hit the ground. I like the idea, but the execution didn't work for me.
Strapping Them On
When you strap these bags to your body more differences are revealed. The EVOC has the edge in this category for a number of reasons. First, it's comfortable! All that padding and webbing and material keeps things tight. The straps are a bit harder to adjust, but they stay where you put them and they never move. This is a comfortable bag and it stays in place.
The Mission Workshop isn't quite as good at either of these things. I do love the Fidlok buckle which makes it very easy to buckle this bag. Otherwise the EVOC is more comfortable and stays in place well while the Mission Workshop tended to loosen up while riding. It was very easy to tighten it back up, but I'd like to see some straps with a bit more friction that to keep things tight. To compensate I would cinch the bag up like a girdle as I started out on a ride, and then inevitably have to adjust it once or twice as I went. As well, the minimalist webbing and lack of any sort of padding is just not as comfortable as the EVOC. It's not a dealbreaker, but it is not the bag I would look to for a long day of riding.
As for size, I wouldn't consider either of these bags low profile. I struggled to figure out exactly how to wear them. I wanted to put them under my shirt, but then it just looked like I had stolen a 6-pack from a convenience store. On top of my shirt felt wrong, as well. I usually went with a sort of reverse French Tuck (you could also call it a modified Gretzky), with my shirt kind of half-ass riding on top of the bag. I'm sure this looked funny too, but it felt better than the alternatives.
Materials and Construction
We touched on some of this above, but there are more things to talk about. Both of these bags are well built, but in totally different ways.
I don't know much about the history of Mission Workshop, but looking at this bag gives me old school feelings. It reminds me of Chrome or Roach or something like that, and if I was forced to choose a bag to protect my back while I got dragged behind a car, I'd turn to them. The material is interesting. It's quite stiff, and gives you faith in their use of the word "ripstop." I just ran it under my faucet and I'm not sure I would go with "waterproof" (they do only claim "weatherproof", but I was feeling dangerous), but I'd feel okay sticking my phone in this thing during a rainstorm. It's bare bones but I know that a human put some effort into making this bag for me and I fully expect to still be using it 20 years from now.
EVOC takes a different approach. It's not a bad approach, it's just different. There are many more things going on, and everything is a bit softer and more refined. Seams are hidden behind flaps of material and it all feels a bit more "designed" than "construct" I would fully expect that the EVOC will give me years of faithful service as well, but it doesn't have the same timeless quality as the Mission Workshop. But this could be considered a benefit, as well. The price and the essence of the Mission Workshop causes me to treat it like a museum piece on occasion, where the EVOC seems like it's happy to just take whatever you want to jam into it and get on with the job. For example, if I was ever on a ride and my riding companion...I don't know...had their hand fall off or something...I'd think for a bit about whether or not I wanted to put that severed limb into the Mission Workshop. With the EVOC, I wouldn't hesitate to jam that sucker in and keep riding.
As already stated, these bags couldn't be more different, and it's probably a bit silly that I'm comparing them. I mean, the only reason I am comparing them is because I couldn't make up my mind as to which I wanted when Cam offered them to me and it seemed a bit silly to write two bum bag articles so why not put them together.
If I'm heading out for a short ride and I just want to carry a few things, the Mission Workshop is the bag that I reach for. It's not the most comfortable and it costs a lot of money, but I like the way that it makes me feel while it goes about its business. Could it use a bit of refinement and a couple of extra pockets? Sure. But maybe that would ruin the whole idea.
The EVOC is a great option when I need to haul a bunch of stuff (like when I take the dog for a ride and I need to carry a leash, water, treats, etc and keep them separate), or if I'm riding for a few hours. It's comfortable, stays put and I've never come even close to filling it all the way up. It gives me options and makes me feel like an adventurer.
Putting all of these contradictory ideas together, it sounds like the winner of my shootout is probably the EVOC Hip Pouch 1, which I haven't actually tried.. It has one easy to use compartment, side pockets, and nice padded straps that exude an essence of friction. Until I pick one of those up, I'll happily continue to juggle these two. Or....maybe....
Dakine Hot Laps 1L
The Dakine came late to the party and sounds roughly like what I have described above as my ideal bum bag (but there's no way I'm re-writing this whole article to fit this in, so we're just going to tack it on nicely, here at the end). It's the size that I think I need. It has one, easy to use pocket with some nice organizational features. It's nicely padded and has a really simple strap system. The only thing missing is some side pockets. And information. I can't seem to find info on this bag on the the Dakine site.
Material and finish wise, it's fairly similar to the EVOC. It has a nice ripstop material and looks and feels like any of the dozens of Dakine products you have hiding in your closet already.
Filling it up
The Dakine has really well designed storage compartments that swallow up a lot of stuff. If you're just looking to carry a phone, some kind of tool and your keys, it's perfect. It includes a nice little divider that makes it easy to separate tools from phone, and the back of the bag has a nice soft material for further phone protection. There's a couple of small pockets inside the front flap that are perfect for keys. On top of your phone and a compact tool, you can fit a tube and a pump, but you're pretty maxed out at that point. For me, this is about the right amount of storage for most of my rides.
Strapping it on
The strap on the Dakine is about as basic as it comes. It's a single buckle fixed to the left side of the bag. It only has one point of adjustment, and there might not be much room for our girthier friends to fit into this bag. I was pretty much at the max for the bag, and this lead to it being a bit tricky to adjust, as the end of the strap always seemed to be buried in a place where it was hard to grab.
The back of the bag is lined with a mesh material similar to those weird football jersey things that kids named Tyson wore in the 80's. I'd imagine the point it so reduce the amount of skin contact and create some airflow. This is fine.
This bag also comes with two interesting features. The first is a couple of straps on the back of the bag. I haven't tried it, but it looks like you could pretty easily strap a jacket in here, although it would wind up flapping in the breeze.
The other feature is the little strappy thing beside the buckle. This took me a few minutes to figure out, but once you open it up, you can strap in a water bottle. Even when I was riding a bike with no water bottle cage this didn't strike me as something that I wanted to do, but different strokes, right?
Dakine Overall Impressions
Since this bag showed up in my life, it has been the one that I use the most often. I'm seldom need to carry more than I can fit in this bag. It has great organizational features. It's simple. It fits pretty well and doesn't bounce around. The strap could use some refinement, and I'd love it if they added a pocket on the strap as well (in place of the bottle thingy, maybe). Other than that, this bag gives me everything that I want in a bum bag, 90% of the time.