Review: Vanquest Gear Envoy-13

Introduction

This year I did not only have the opportunity to get my hands on an Ibex-26 by Vanquest Gear, but also an Envoy-13 messenger bag. Being now the 4th generation of this bag, I was curious to see what the design department of Vanquest came up with, knowing fully well that they never run out of ideas to put another gadget in spots where you would not expect it.

With that being said, let’s jump right in.


Overview

The Envoy-13 is Vanquest Gear’s messenger bag design fitting laptops up to 13 inch. It is a heavy built bag with dedicated padding to protect your EDC items. Designed for ambidextrous use, it features a total of 22 pockets and slots. The shoulder strap is detachable and can be upgraded with the optional GT-Cobra Sling Strap. Next to plenty of other features it offers a dedicated CCW compartment on the backside of the bag.

normal strap in use


Specs

  • Weight: 2.65 lb or 1,2 kg
  • Dimensions: 11″ (H) x 16″ (W) x 6″ (D) = 28cm (H) x 40,5cm (W) x 15,5cm (D)
  • Materials: 1000D Cordura (Bottom), 500D Cordura (main structure), YKK Zippers, ITW & Duraflex hardware


The Envoy-13 Messenger Bag


The Flap

Starting with the top: The first thing you’ll notice are the two (!) carrying handles. Both are padded with a neoprene like fabric and therefore comfortable to hold and carry. Having two of these helps when carrying heavier loads and also when using the zipper that runs in between them. This two way YKK Zipper gives you direct access to the main compartment, without having to open the whole flap.

The two handles, padded

Zipper giving direct access to the main compartment

To the front of the flap you will find two zippered slot compartments for small and flat items, like notebooks, documents etc. There is a laser cut MOLLE velcro panel offering three rows and three channels to mount accessories.

Zippered compartments with high viz interior

Laser cut velcro panel – MOLLE adaptable

A Hypalon loop gives you the option to properly grab and open the flap. Speaking of which: Two large Duraflex Buckles, in combination with velcro areas keep the flap closed. The buckles are hidden under the flap, to give the Envoy-13 a cleaner look. The downside to this is the fact, that it makes the access to the buckles more difficult, when opening the bag.

Hypalon loop to assist with opening

Main buckles, halfway hidden under flap


Frontside

Coming to the frontside of the Envoy-13, underneath the flap. Here you will find a dedicated admin area with 3 generous pen slots that are large enough to fit bigger markers/sharpies.

Front side with admin area and various pockets

Adding to that there are two pockets, which are closed by velcro, one with a velcro flap, the other one with velcro at the opening.

closer look to the vecro based pocket and the zippered compartment above it

While the latter has a small access “hole” big enough to put your finger in to open the pocket, the one with the flap is harder to open, since you have no real area to get ahold of the flap. In time this gets easier, especially at the corners, when the velcro loses its strength, but I would like to see some kind of tab for both pockets, just to make access easier.

Large zippered compartment to the front

But there are still more pockets to the front! Two zippered compartments for flat items. One smaller sized compartment behind the admin area and a larger sized behind the whole front area. The bigger one is also lined with loop velcro. So you can use velcro based accessories to modify it to your needs.


Side Pockets

To both sides you will find large sidepockets, which are expandable using a zipper. That way you can adjust them to your needs, or slim them down when not in use. Both also feature Hypalon MOLLE-Air, in case you want to attach anything. Shockcord with cordlocks give you additional options to mount or fix your items in these side pockets.

Side pocket with MOLLE-air, and zipper to enlarge it (shown with 500ml Nalgene)

 


Main Compartment

The main compartment is lined with high-visibility orange loop velcro. As a result, you can use a variety of velcro based accessories to modify the interior to your needs. If you choose not to, you still have a plenty of pockets and slots to store and organize your content.

To the inner front you have two pockets closed with velcro. Again, these have no tabs, but a small opening to get your finger in.

Two pockets with velcro closure

To the back you have a padded laptop compartment, secured with an elastic strap. The compartment is a tight fit for my 13” Macbook Air, when it comes to length. On this compartment you will find also two additional document slots.

Main compartment

A nice little detail is hidden on the upper corners of the main compartment. Most of you will know the issue of many messenger bags that the flap does not cover some areas of the sides. The design team of Vanquest solved this issue with a triangular fabric, which can be secured with velcro if not needed. But if you do, you can simply close the opening with them.

triangular fabric to the sides to close up properly


CCW Compartment

On the backside of the Envoy-13 you will find a dedicated CCW compartment for your handgun. If you are the type that chooses to carry your sidearm not on the body, but in a separate bag, you will find an option here. If you are allowed to concealed carry, you can easily but a holster in there with a velcro based attachment.

CCW Compartment, lined with velcro (shown with CCW-Plus-Mag insert)


Luggage Handle

On the backside you will also find a large loop to fit most luggage handles. This is a feature that pops up more and more with messenger bags and which comes in handy especially when travelling a lot by plane. Vanquest would not be Vanquest if they didn’t make use of this space as well: in the luggage handle you will find another zippered compartment for small items.

luggage handle with small zippered compartment


Shoulder strap

The basic shoulder strap is a 2 inch/5cm wide webbing strap, which can be easily adjusted for length using a Triglide. It comes with a contoured shoulder pad, which is padded with mesh, and which features a small rubberized area in the middle, to keep the pad from slipping. This is a very nice and balanced approach, which I would like to see in plenty of other messenger bags out there as well.

normal strap in use

standard shoulder strap (below), optional GT-Cobra Sling (above)

GT-Cobra Sling Strap

Since the shoulder strap is detachable by a very strong velcro based webbing interchange, you can use the GT-Cobra Sling Strap, to optimize/upgrade the Envoy-13. This strap features a longer mesh padded shoulder strap, like you would find it on backpacks. This setup changes the way you mount the bag, giving you the option to carry the Envoy-13 like a bike messenger bag on your back.

Bike Messenger style with the GT-Cobra Strap

A GT-Cobra buckle makes it easier to take the bag off, and you will find not only a single row of PALS webbing on the strap, but also two hypalon loops as well as two velcro based gear keepers.

To keep your bag in place, you can use the additional and detachable strap that comes with the Envoy-13.

Stabilization with smaller strap


Manufacture

I have already written extensively about the quality of workmanship when it comes to Vanquest Gear. The Envoy-13 is no exception. It is tough-built, just as the motto of the company rightfully claims. The materials used are the best on the market: be it proper military grade Cordura, YKK zippers or hardware components by companies like ITW and Duraflex. The guys did not skimp on the resources used.

Clean look, reinforced areas, Original Cordura

The same can be said about the manufacture. Straight seams, no loose threads and an overall clean look are my impression. Stress points are reinforced and the attention to detail is nothing other than magnificent.

reinforced areas, closer look at Spartan Zipper Pulls


In use

Having the Envoy-13 now for several months, I can honestly say I am able to give you an opinion about the bag itself.

While it is an amazing bag when it comes to details, and design solutions, level of manufacture or look and feel, it also has some downsides. Being built like a tank and designed the way it is, I would call it actually a suitcase and not a messenger bag. The sturdy materials, the heavy padding and the various pockets and slots make it stiff and bulky. This becomes apparent when you are carrying the bag fully loaded. When carrying a laptop, some organizers and when loading some of the pockets, the bag starts to become a big round ball. Depending on the amount of content, the Envoy-13 becomes more and more uncomfortable to carry the more you put in it.

Set up as camera bag (dividers are optional)

For me this is more of a range or office bag, which you put in the trunk of a car and use to carry your stuff from the parking lot to the range, or your office, but not a messenger style bag you use during the day/night on a stroll through the city.

Set up as range bag (dividers are optional)

I am aware that opinions differ on this topic and several of my friends prefer bags which do not collapse in itself when you put them on the ground, but I prefer the lighter weight messenger bags which run closer to your body. As a result of my personal preferences in this regard, I realized that I used the Envoy-13 less and less over time, which is a pity, given its overall quality.

 


Conclusion

Vanquest claim or motto of tough built gear is the pure definition of the Envoy-13. This is the type of bag you only have to buy once and which probably will survive you.

A crazy amount of options to organize your gear, documents and different items will make this bag a choice for various user groups. Set up as a camera bag, range bag or your every day office bag, this has a wide range of uses. Given the fact that you can modify it even more to your needs, either with the GT-Cobra sling or velcro based accessories like the dividers for Camera equipment, make this a versatile product.

Downsides can be found in the overall bulkiness and some access points, which were mentioned in the review. Be it as it may, if you are looking for a sturdy bag, that is not collapsing in itself as soon as you look at it, you have found your soulmate.

With that being said, thank you for reading! Many thanks to the team of Vanquest Gear, making this review possible.

Take care

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