Maxpedition has been a mainstay of the EDC community for a long, long time. I own a lot of their pouches and a few of their bags, but found myself hesitant to do full fledged review on them due to my mixed feelings on the “tactical” pouch market that I am sure will run contrarian to the point of view of most of my readers. The EDC industry has evolved over the years, and not necessarily in a positive direction. We are being drowned in overbuilt (to the detriment of portability) construction and materials all to cater to a checkbox for the masses to be happy. Why does a 2 inch blade need a titanium framelock? Why does the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack, the relatively small EDC bag that I am reviewing today, have this ridiculously over-sized buckle?
Because it’s about an image. We are building a kit based on aesthetic prerequisites. We rarely stop and think about utility these days and for someone who tends to be biased towards more utilitarian tools, I have found myself left out in the sidelines with my Moras and 2 mm stock thickness folders. I say this knowing full well that I am guilty of a lot of these preconceptions. I do (quite happily) wax poetics over the latest oversized monstrosity from Cold Steel like the rest of you, but then again I am honest about my biases. I don’t need this level of tough and the way the industry is heading, tough is being replaced with unwieldy, impractical, and overpriced.
The Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack is an odd duck. I grew up preferring more lightweight/basic messenger bags and to this day the most tactical I have ever gone is with the (amazing) Condor Escape & Evade Messenger Bag, and that’s tactical by virtue of materials used and the sheer amount of webbing it’s drenched in. Other than that, it’s a basic, solid messenger bag. The Jumbo Versipack is as far out of my comfort zone as far as bags go, so please bare that in mind when I criticize certain aspects that some of you may love!
I think the general goal for Maxpedition is to create the bag equivalent of Spyderco’s little big knives. The Jumbo Versipack is small but enormous in a bizarre paradoxical fashion. Viewing it by itself, you may think it’s a standard EDC bag for daily essentials, but when it’s on person as you can see above, you really begin to appreciate how much storage is available here. We are talking 15 lb capacity of stuff to lug around, comfortably. This is quite interesting because I see the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack as a great “go” bag. Keep it in the car (it’s relatively compact) with emergency stuff you may want and you can dash off without the annoyance or bulk of a fully fledged pack like the Hazard 4 Officer.
My biggest issue with the Versipack is this idea that this would work (for me) as a EDC bag. It’s just too much, and I find that unless I am going somewhere (trekking for example) with a need for more gear than normal, I would simply have a bag that took up space, not because of the stuff in it, but rather, due to all the protruding storage and “stuff” attached to it that I would never use and would leave empty.
The beauty of a canvas messenger bag is that it adapts both in size and appearance with what you need. I can overload my messenger bag and have it almost exploding at the seams or I can leave it almost empty and it almost disappears at my side. The Versipack is a behemoth that commands attention regardless of its contents.
Take for instance, the bottle holder. We are talking a 40 oz canteen capacity, but let’s say you have no interest in carrying a bottle today- what do you do? You have a big pouch sticking out the side that’s empty or you feel the need to have a bottle (or cans) just because “the space is there so why not?” I know what you are thinking, just get the Maxpedition Fatboy – it’s similar but without the container attachment right? Funny you mention that, because I also own the Fatboy. I own close to a dozen Maxpedition products so please don’t think this is me buying something that I knew I wouldn’t like just so I can slam it. My issue is one of design intent – sometimes, too many options are a problem because you feel the need to use/fill them.
I do prefer the Fatboy, but it doesn’t solve what I feel is an endemic problem with Maxpedition: adding stuff just because. Simplicity is a design feature in its own right (as I have said many times before) and sadly, the sheer overbuilt/over featured/over everything concept of the Versipack just doesn’t work for me.
I do understand why people like them, though. Maxpedition products are the textile equivalents of a Hummer. Check out how reinforced and over-stitched everything is! It’s pretty badass and fondling this level of overbuilt craziness is interesting. I can stand there mulling over what would kill this bag – not much I would guess. I reckon it would survive purposeful abuse with no problems. For everyday use? No way in hell is it falling apart. Does that mean it’s convenient or practical? Not really for me, no.
Now that I have said my piece. Let’s talk specs. Here we have a 13 x 11 x 5.5 inch mono strap EDC bag with 3 zippered, external pockets, the previously mentioned bottle/container pouch, a large 9 inch zippered compartment at the back for a discreet conceal carry compartment, and – finally – a large main compartment with a nice bag pull enclosure system (which is well implemented to be fair; more on that later).
As you can see below, you have a side compartment which is very similar to the top compartment in terms of size. I guess this is designed for you to keep your phone. In practice, my phone lives in my pocket as I am sure is the case for many of you. I get that more pouches is often a solid selling point, but for me, I like the idea of a single large compartment (with dividers) and a hidden compartment for paperwork/money etc. For those of you lucky enough to be able to CCW, I imagine that’s a big selling point for this product, too. Sadly, I can’t.
The compartments are used for emergency medical gear (tourniquet, quick-clot), but I think having some molle straps instead would have been better (at least for my uses). The outside of the Maxpediton Jumbo Versipack is matte and the inside seems to have been coated with some kind of vinyl, I presume for water resistance.
The zippers are super high quality (and overbuilt) so I don’t see water getting in. If nothing else, this is well constructed.
Neat and once again overbuilt buckle attachment point which Maxpedition calls the “Keyper attachment point.” Never used it and I can’t say I am a big fan of more stuff dangling from my packs, but let me know in the comments if you have found a good use for it. Personally, I haven’t so I can’t comment much on it.
Reviewing the Jumbo Versipack is quite frustrating because its construction and methodology is perfect in so many ways. This bag has no weak points. Except as a bag. The materials, stitching, and build are practically bombproof. The compartments are well made like the top flap one below; it works and it’s discreet. I think the Versipack could be incredible if you trimmed half the stuff off it. Maxpedition, if you ever read this, tell me what you think – you can call it the Spartan edition. All utility, no bullshit.
The front compartment is once again, pretty perfect. Nice mesh pouch for your notebook/stray paperwork, but I almost resent having to partition my gear to such extremes. I know I am a minority in this, but this over optimization of “stuff” is becoming tiresome. I miss the days when I hiked into the forest with a $20 Jansport, Desert boots, and not a care in the world. I waltzed all over the New Forest here in the UK as a teen with barely any gear. No tactical titanium bottles, paracord, or heavy-duty fixed blade knives. Just an Opinel, some cordage, and a tarp.
Maybe I am just being nostalgic, but this is my blog, and thus it’s my right to be crotchety. Damn kids.
The inside of the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack has a label that I found quite annoying. I know it’s trendy with Apple making all their stuff in the East, but slathering “designed in Cupertino!!!” or equivalents to somehow make our lack of industrial output (I speak on behalf of the West) seem better is becoming silly. This Maxpedition bag is made in Taiwan. I have nothing against Maxpedition or this bag for that – as a matter of fact, I have always maintained that the Taiwan-made Spydercos were the best in terms of fit and finish, but I do wish people would cease and desist with this “even though it was made overseas, it was designed here in the US!” business. If it’s a USA-made product, then mark it as such. If it’s a Taiwanese-made product then the same applies. Don’t try to make it seem like this being a Taiwan-made, USA “thought up” product is any different from anything else on the market. Most of the goods we use are owned and designed by Western corporations, but are made in the east.
Didn’t mean to go off topic, but this hipster marketing to try and sugarcoat globalization is driving me crazy.
Now for some positivity: the main compartment is quite excellent. We are talking about a cord pull hood that can keep things nice and dry with a lot of inner capacity. 9 x 8 x 3 inches. The good thing about the “cinch cord storm collar,” as Maxpedition calls it, is the ability to over or under pack the main compartment and compress it to as compact as a size as possible. This is nicely implemented and in my opinion is the main advantage of this type of bag over a classic messenger bag. It’s roomy, contents are safe, and I just plain dig it.
As I look back at the pictures, I can’t help but be amused as to how overbuilt this is. Looking at photographs showing only sections, you might be tricked into thinking this is an enormous backpack when in reality is a mere EDC mono-strap shoulder bag.
In terms of comfort, wow. Those cushions are unreal. Absolutely no issues cramming this bag full of as much stuff as you can- weight is not the limiting factor here, but size. Carrying gear for extended periods of time was perfectly comfortable, and the mono strap design makes taking it on and off a cinch. So yes, it does have practical uses but as I mentioned at the beginning, the bias for me is one of EDC utility versus an overbuilt go pack. This is definitely into go bag territory, I’d say.
There’s also a waist strap on the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack. I’ve never actually used it, as I found the bag to be perfectly comfortable without it, but it’s a nice option to have, especially if you are doing the sort of activity where you don’t want your bag to slip off or move – I’m thinking rock climbing or other similar tasks.
Mostly loaded up, this bag is big, but too small to be a backpack. I imagine someone, somewhere is ecstatic over such a weight to size ratio balance, but personally I view it as an unwieldy oddball. The Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack has no category, it is its own category.
The construction is 1000-D cordura. That’s tougher than both my Hazard 4 Officer and my Hazard 4 Switchback. Think about it, a smallish-large EDC bag has a more heavy duty construction than my 3 day BoB pack. Crazy. I know some people would say that’s awesome, but personally, I think it’s overkill. It feels very rigid and the toughness, whilst un-debatable, I don’t think is relevant for its purpose. Again, this bag reminds me of the yuppies in Toronto driving around in Hummers – so unnecessarily silly it becomes almost comedic. When did a Jeep become “not enough”? I know a lot of people love this company, and I can certainly understand the reasoning, but personally, I feel it’s tried so hard to be practical, it’s become impractical.
So yes, if you have read all the way to the conclusion (I applaud you for your patience) you will notice that this is somewhat of an unclear review. Is it good? Is it bad? When I review a knife for example, if it has garbage fit and finish like the Spyderco Urban – I will say so and point out that it’s a bad purchase. But with the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack, it has no real flaws. The issue with this product is with me, the end user. I don’t like its design from a personal usability perspective. It’s just too stiff and bulky, and I can’t see myself using it at all.
In short, if you want a large monostrap EDC bag with lots of pockets, pouches, and stuff hanging off it that could survive the apocalypse, then this might be the perfect option for you. If you want a GO bag for your vehicle – need something to quickly throw on in order to escape trouble, then again this would also be perfectly viable. However, if you want a general EDC bag to carry around town, are like me and prefer more spartan design and minimalist utility, and basically just want practicality – then you will be disappointed. This is not a reflection on Maxpedition’s construction or the product itself being designed or manufactured poorly, but rather what we want for our every day lives does not match up to what this product offers.
At least I can still enjoy my Maxpedition pouches.