Mission Workshop Axis Modular Waist Pack Review
Though we dig Mission Workshop’s use of durable materials, their choice of a front-opening main compartment hampers the Axis Modular Waist Pack’s accessibility.
- Comfortable as a waist pack for biking
- Works as a pouch if you stow the straps away
- Really durable-feeling materials, especially the metal key clip
- Strap too short for a lower sling carry style
- Front zipper makes it tricky to reach into the main compartment
- Seam interrupts mesh pocket’s zipper—may or may not be a factory defect
8 oz (226.8 g)
5 in x 10.25 in x 3.4 in (12.7 x 26 x 8.6 cm)
YKK Zippers, Nylon, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)
Mission Workshop’s Axis Modular Waist Pack features the brand’s Arkiv system allowing it to be an add-on pouch for some of their backpacks. It’s a headlining feature built into the name, but don’t let that distract you because the Axis is a very capable waist pack in its own right. It has a simple-to-use single-compartment layout, durable materials, and a carry style that feels optimized for bike riders.
So, what’s the catch? Having its main compartment zipper at the front means accessibility is a bit awkward since you have to peel back the top like a hatch to access most of its organization. It’s less of a problem in waist pack mode than sling mode. And although Mission Workshop’s choice of materials is quite good, a slight hiccup in the interior makes us wonder if there’s a defect in the manufacturing or a flaw in the design. Either way, let’s check out the review to see how that affects functionality.
The main material on the Axis is 500-denier high-tenacity nylon—it sounds very heavy duty, and it is, though it may not seem like it at first glance. It has a crinkly appearance compared to the more composed look of ballistic nylon or other fabrics with heavier deniers. Rest assured, the Axis feels very well put together, and the materials aren’t flimsy, not by a long stretch. The fabric withstands day-to-day use in the city like a champ, beading off dirt and the occasional light splash of rain here and there. If there are any marks, they’re purely cosmetic in nature and come off with a bit of elbow grease and warm water.
The lone pair of zippers on the outside is from YKK. For the uninitiated, YKK is the brand to get if you want high-quality zippers, and that’s exactly what Mission Workshop did. Mission Workshop is typically very good at picking materials, so we’re not surprised they went with YKK. The zippers include paracord pulls tied with a knot at the end—a simple solution, but it gets the job done to ensure you have something easy to grab when you’re unzipping.
The back panel of the Axis is not just a blank canvas, as there are a few curious-looking slots here. These slots are where Mission Workshop’s Arkiv clips can attach. What is “Arkiv,” and why would you want to use it? Simply put, it’s Mission Workshop’s system that makes some of their gear modular. In the case of the Axis, you can use Arkiv to attach it to the R2 or R6 Arkiv Field Packs, which have corresponding nylon straps at the front. We can spend the rest of the review discussing Arkiv compatibility, but let’s focus on the Axis.
Okay, one last Arkiv-related subject. One quality-of-life feature on the Axis to come as a result of Arkiv is its stowable strap. It’s nothing too fancy; you can simply stuff it behind the back panel through slots on their corresponding sides. That said, stowing can take some time and effort, so switching from sling/waist pack to pouch mode isn’t exactly a fast process.
The Axis’ main body has relatively large wings where the strap itself is mounted, providing extra support when you’re carrying it in waist pack mode. Sling mode benefits less as it only serves to cover more of your front or back. Adjustments are made at either half of the side-release buckle, so you have to manage slack at both. Fortunately, there are strap keepers to keep them in check for that #danglefree look, and they do serve a more important purpose, as we shall explain in the next section.
Lastly, the back panel has a handle that also serves as a mini U-lock slot. Keep in mind the “mini” part. The big U-lock we usually use does not fit, so you’ll either have to forgo this feature or buy a smaller one if you’re in the same boat as us. Furthermore, having a metal lock slotted into the back panel, even if small, will affect comfort.
We’ve been trying a more relaxed fit when using slings, but the Axis’ loosest adjustment still feels a tad tight. Those with larger frames may find the pack still sitting too high, which is a bit problematic, especially in the case of the Axis. Why? The ergonomics aren’t great when trying to access the main compartment due to the hatch design with the zipper at the front. We’ll talk more about ease of access once we get to the next section.
Waistpack mode is really the more optimal carry for a variety of reasons. If you’re frequently cycling, you’ll likely find this more comfortable, especially when it’s on your back. While walking, we’ll have it to the side or in front of us. The pack’s lower position in this mode makes it easier to access the main compartment. So even though both sling and waist pack mode is supported, we’d suggest the latter for ergonomic reasons.
It’s worth noting that the strap’s adjustment gets very loose and easily shifts when there’s no tension (i.e., when not in use). This is because the strap simply loops around the buckle, whereas other slings would have a tri-glide buckle, offering better resistance to accidental adjustments. This isn’t an issue once you’re wearing it, and the elastic strap keepers help secure them. However, we’re curious to see if that will change as the strap keepers’ elasticity loosens with continuous use.
Inside The Sling
Though the Axis is relatively rich in features, it’s actually quite basic in terms of compartments as it only has one: the main compartment. It opens about a third of the way down the front, turning a good portion of its top into a relatively large hatch with a large amount of wasted space at the top, depending on what gear you’re carrying. Large items like compressible jackets and compact bottles (think 12 ounces or less) will benefit. On the other hand, smaller gear like tech accessories, eyewear, packets of toiletries, and snacks won’t since they can only pile up in the lower bucket space.
This issue with space allocation makes us lean more towards slings with zippers at the top. Slings like Bellroy’s Venture Sling 6L and Peak Design’s Everyday Sling 3L (V2) are good examples. That style also has benefits when it comes to ease of access. As we mentioned earlier, the Axis’ zipper placement at the front makes it tricky to reach in sling mode, though less so in waist pack mode. Whichever mode you go for, the main compartment’s layout still poses some issues with obscured pockets towards the back.
Peel back the top hatch, and you’ll find an assortment of options for organizing gear in the main compartment. There are two liner pockets at the back for storing slim items like cards, a passport, a packet of wet wipes, and similarly-sized items. You can also stuff a set of keys into the right liner pocket since there’s a key clip on a short leash just above it. We particularly dig the small, robust metal clip Mission Workshop uses here, a good example of their good eye for materials.
Directly adjacent to the liner pockets is a zippered mesh pocket. Interestingly, the seam that splits the liner pockets seems to overextend and interrupt the zipper track, causing the zipper to snag awkwardly midway while zipping or unzipping. We’re not sure whether the seam is a factory defect or a part of the design, but regardless, it prevents smooth continuous zipper action for the mesh pocket, and we wish it wasn’t there. In case you’re wondering, the seam hasn’t worn in or faded by the time of writing.
You may notice that the interior of the Axis is particularly glossy. That’s due to the TPU coating on the nylon liner that gives it that slick water-resistant finish. Mission Workshop specifically says “nylon liner” on their product page, but the grid pattern makes us believe that it’s specifically ripstop nylon, which is good. Ripstop nylon is typically lighter than its basic nylon counterpart because it’s reinforced on the lines of the grid, while the inner sections of those grids are thinner. In practice, this should stop rips along the grid should they occur.
The liner’s TPU coating also makes it easy to clean in case rain or other liquids seep in—not that it’s likely. The YKK zippers’ reverse coil track has a rubbery finish to help keep water out. On top of that, there’s also a relatively tight fabric welt that, thankfully, doesn’t get in the way of unzipping any more than the zipper’s frontal position already does.
Overall, Mission Workshop’s single-compartment design may not cater to users looking for quick-access pockets. However, some users on the other side of the fence want exactly that simplicity but with a decent amount of internal organization, which the Axis certainly has. Pouch mode is also a convenient feature, especially for those already invested in a compatible Mission Workshop bag (and the necessary clips) and who want to use the Axis as an expansion. The Axis suffers primarily in terms of accessibility, with most of its organization is located far into the back, where they’re tricky to reach.
- Strap loosens quite a bit on its own—the elastic keepers help but will eventually stretch out
- Strap is a little short, making it tricky for sling mode depending on body type
- Metal key clip feels nice & high-quality
- Middle stitch is making the interior pocket zipper get stuck halfway—curious to see if this breaks in or is a production flaw
- Strap area at the hip is very wide
- Works with Mission Workshop’s “Arkiv” modular system
- Comfortable in waist pack mode—especially on the bike
- The bag is hard to use as a sling in terms of access, the shorter strap, and the way it sits on the body
- The seam in the middle didn’t break in over time, and the zipper still gets caught halfway to unzipping the sling