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Review: Vanquest Envoy 13 (vs Maxpedition Mongo)

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Brewer, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Brewer

    Brewer Loaded Pockets

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    I bought both bags at full price from the manufacturer's website, and have no affiliation yada yada yada. I don't plan to list all the pockets or product specs etc, nor analyze the construction quality - this info is available elsewhere. Instead I'll focus on the design differences and describe my experience in using them as day-to-day EDC bags.

    I can't imagine my EDC bag usage is that uncommon. I like to have certain things to hand, but don't really have much that I NEED to carry around every day. So mostly I like to carry an 'empty' bag with a few organised essentials outside of the main compartment. The main compartment just needs to be large enough to be useful. Mostly I get around by car, so there isn't really much carrying involved other than grabbing it and taking it into my destination or throwing it into another vehicle. Occasionally I'll travel by plane or train or bus so it'll get slung over one shoulder when necessary.

    I've been using the Maxpedition Mongo for several years, and just fancied a change. The size is just about perfect - small enough for EDC, but large enough to accommodate any documents, magazines, items of clothing, food, water, purchases etc that might come up on any given day. It's organisation is good but not ideal, it has a terrible grab handle, is an awkward shape, and won't sit upright under any circumstances.

    The Envoy 13 is a very similar size, but with a squarer, more typical messenger-bag style and a stiffer structure. It sits upright, stays where you put it, has a decent carry handle (2 in fact) and a contoured shoulder strap, which not only makes the bag more comfortable to wear cross-body, but also helps keep the strap firmly planted when carrying the bag on one shoulder.

    Unfortunately neither bag is very good at organising common EDC items like multitools, flashlights, reading glasses, phone chargers, first aid kits etc, but the Mongo is a bit better as it has a number of external compartments that have their own volume. These work well for organising small kits and bulkier EDC items, but none of the compartments are themselves great for the common, loose EDC items listed above, without the use of additional velcro organiser panels. Unfortunately these panels are difficult to find and few of them are laid out particularly well for these kinds of items anyway. The top compartment of the Mongo has some elastic loop organisers for smaller items, but it is an awkward place to carry any weight and the compartment itself is not wide enough to accommodate full size multitools or AA flashlights. I used a couple of velcro panels in the main front pocket to organise these tools, and used the top compartment for phone chargers, batteries and cables, but I had to cut some stitching and add some bungee loops to make it work for my gear. Unfortunately leaving the Mongo's main compartment empty and filling the external ones does result in a somewhat floppy, shapeless bundle that is awkward to handle and position, particularly as the bag ages and the original stiffness of the Cordura gets beaten out of it.

    The Envoy 13 is much easier to handle. It's a much more defined shape than the Mongo, and behaves itself when sitting on the floor or a car seat, and will probably continue to do so even as it ages due to its squarer shape and more structured construction. While it has a lot of pockets, almost none of them have any volume of their own, and therefore they do not accommodate 3-dimensional items very well. Making this matter worse is the fact that despite all of Vanquest's raving about the amount of velcro field lining in these bags, none of it is in the pockets - it is all in the main and CCW compartments, making the pockets both slim and not given to organising. The front velcro-flapped pocket has a small (1/2") gusset and therefore some volume - I use this for (slim) phone chargers and cables. Even the rear 'CCW' compartment has no dedicated volume of its own but the width of the zipper and the soft divider mean you could probably call it an inch deep. I am still looking for a way to organise this area efficiently for EDC items like tools, medications, hand sanitiser etc.

    Besides the lack of 3-dimensional compartments, the Vanquest has a couple of other frustrations. The additional handle and the top zipper seem like a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist. The flap is secure enough using just the velcro that getting in and out can be near instantaneous anyway. Similarly the use of twin buckles seems like overkill on a bag this size - the Mongo uses a single central buckle and it is fine, even when stuffed full. The Envoy 13 even has the advantage of a stiffer flap over the Mongo, making a single buckle an even more appropriate solution. Finally, the bottle holders on each end work as described but they do seem like an opportunity missed for additional secure storage.

    Better accessories for organising the CCW compartment of the Vanquest would make a huge improvement. I'd like to see a full-width velcro panel that could fit along the top half of the compartment, containing a series of 4-inch pockets for accessories like multitools, AA flashlights, small sprays and tubes etc and maybe even a couple of 6-inch pockets for reading glasses and sunglasses, leaving room below for a couple of small pouches containing first aid and other supplies. For now I am using an assortment of other panels, but they are clumsy and inefficient.

    I chose the grey version of the Envoy, and I really like it. It has a certain techy, pseudo-tactical look that makes it look a bit more rugged and ready for action than your typical laptop bag. The Mongo (in khaki-foliage) looks a lot more army-surplus in comparison, though I have no particular problem with that.

    For now I'm preferring the Envoy, and if I can find better ways to organise my EDC items I'm sure I'll be quite satisified with it. The Mongo is still a threat though, as it has the Envoy beat on a number of counts, and I already miss it in some ways. I'm also still open to any other similar sized bag that crops up with better inbuilt organisation for EDC and small items.
     
    #1 Brewer, Jun 3, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
  2. Jjb5730

    Jjb5730 Loaded Pockets

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    Thank you for this. I've been carrying the Maxpedition Edgepeak for about a year, but have been looking to switch to a messenger style bag and was focused on the Envoy 13. My situation is near identical to yours for usage. I've been hesitant to pull the trigger mainly because of some of the things you addressed here. First, the lack of volume in the organization and the annoyance of the double buckle in a small bag. Also considered the Maxpedition AGR messengers... decent concept but several flaws also and look too "purse" like.

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
     
  3. Brewer

    Brewer Loaded Pockets

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    I'm not a fan of the AGR messengers, although I can't really say why. I think it's a combination of being too curvy and 'zippy'. They look like the form is dictating the function rather than the other way round.

    The buckles on the Envoy are a bit annoying, but I can live with them. I find that the velcro holds just fine so I rarely do them up unless I want some extra security. Frustratingly, neither of the provided retainer positions are great for stashing the redundant straps - the ones on the lower edge of the front face tend to place the two halves of the buckle on top of each other whenever you close the flap (adding bulk, impinging the velcro mating area and necessitating a flap realignment whenever you do decide to fasten the buckles). Securing the straps to the first set of retainers on the base of the bag is better though as it avoids this, and makes for quick and convenient buckling when required - but obviously it leaves the strap and buckles a bit more vulnerable to wear from ground contact.
     
    Jjb5730 likes this.
  4. Jjb5730

    Jjb5730 Loaded Pockets

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    Any chance you can post some pics of your Envoy?

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
     
    AlgoOPC and chaosmagnet like this.