An Expert Guide to Mystery Ranch Backpacks

Published on 01/16/2024 · 13 min readEmbark on your next adventure with confidence! Our expert guide to Mystery Ranch backpacks covers their durability, design, and best uses.
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

Tl;dr: Mystery Ranch is a great brand to consider when in the market for a new backpack. They have several different types of backpacks geared for specific outdoor uses. To narrow down the right Mystery Ranch pack for you, think about your intended use for the pack, the amount you need to carry, and any features in a backpack that make your time outdoors easier and a more enjoyable experience.

I've been an avid outdoor enthusiast since a young age, thanks to my dad's insistence on toting me along for all of his backpacking, hiking, and camping adventures. Now, as an adult, I have worked in the outdoor industry since 2017 in different capacities, getting a great full scope of all the gear and products on the market.

When customers on Curated ask me for backpack recommendations, one brand always comes to mind above the rest, and that brand is Mystery Ranch. Having tried several different packs across several different brands, I can confidently say they make some of the best quality backpacks out there with some of the most useful features you could ask for in a backpack. Over their 20+ years as a brand, they have fine-tuned everything in their design process to ensure they make great backpacks that fit well and last a lifetime.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about Mystery Ranch packs in hopes that you can find the right Mystery Ranch backpack for your needs!

Who is Mystery Ranch?

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

While most outdoor brands have various products, from tents to backpacks to sleeping bags and beyond, Mystery Ranch has dedicated itself to designing only one product: backpacks. With this narrow scope of gear, they are on a mission to perfect their backpacks and make some of the most efficient and useful packs on the market.

Mystery Ranch has a backpack to suit just about every type of outdoorsman, from hikers who need a streamlined, small pack to hunters who need a space to carry out their catch to wildland firefighters who need a bag that can withstand the heat of wildfires with a compartment for their water and fuel. They even have specific lines of backpacks for Navy Seals and jump packs for military jump operations. Each backpack type has integrated features and uses specific designs for whatever activity you plan on using it for.

All Mystery Ranch packs are designed and built locally at their headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, where they heavily emphasize sustainable manufacturing. There's quite a quality difference between a locally made brand such as Mystery Ranch and a global brand with worldwide production that does not have the time or means to quality check every pack like Mystery Ranch does. In every one of Mystery Ranch's backpacks, you get hand-built quality with the bonus benefits of less water use and fewer chemicals in manufacturing.

What to Consider When Buying a Mystery Ranch Backpack

What Will You Use It For?

First and foremost, you’ll need to narrow down the exact reason you are looking to purchase a new backpack. If you are looking for something to use for backpacking trips, you’ll want to check out Mystery Ranch’s line of backpacking bags. If you plan on using your new pack for day hikes, check out their more general hiking packs.

How Much Gear Will You Need to Carry?

Similarly, you'll want to take some time to think about what kind of gear you are going to be carrying in your pack. What do you typically bring on your hiking or backpacking trips? Are you looking for a small pack that can just carry some water and snacks? Or do you want a bigger pack that can accommodate a first aid kit, some extra layers, gloves, water, and snacks? Make a list of all the gear you plan on carrying in your pack, and from there, settle on what volume of backpack you need. Backpack volume is measured in liters, and usually, a 10-20L pack is a good fit for a day hike, whereas backpacking bags run more in the 55-75L range depending on the length of the backpacking trips you plan to embark on.

What Extra Features Would Be Useful?

Each specialized Mystery Ranch pack has an array of features intended to best suit whatever activity you plan on doing with your pack. Think about what features might be useful to you in a backpack, and make sure to select a pack that has those features! A few examples of these extra features are:

  • Internal Hydration Systems: Includes an internal sleeve for a hydration bladder and clips along the shoulder strap to attach the hose from the bladder. It would be useful if you find you drink a lot of water on trails and don't want to stop and wrangle your water bottle out of your pack every time you need a sip.
  • More Advanced Weather Resistance: If you hike in rainier or wetter areas, more robust weather protection on the pack will help prevent your pack and gear from getting soaked, which could end up being a safety concern and add a lot of water weight to your pack.
  • High-Tech Suspension System: Have you had issues in the past with weight distribution on your backpacking or hiking pack that has led to sore hips and shoulders? Opt for a pack with a high-quality suspension system that can help alleviate some of these issues.
  • Extra Shoulder and Hip Padding: Personally, I don't have a ton of meat on my hips, so a pack without plenty of hip padding is a sure way to end up with bruises on my hips at the end of the day. Ensuring I have a backpack that has plenty of padding has totally solved this issue for me!
  • Waist Belts: Waist belts with buckles can help carry some of the load on your hips as opposed to carrying all of it on your shoulders. I also like that most hip belts have pockets, which make it easy to store my cell phone, satellite phone, or wallet somewhere where I have easy access to it. Some of the waist belts are even removable, so you can use the belt bag as a fanny pack for smaller treks or around town and keep the larger pack for more intense missions.
  • Sternum Straps: Sternum straps can help keep your backpack close to you so it's not swinging around as you're climbing over loose terrain. As someone with a small frame, I also find it helps balance the load in my pack on the center of my chest better, whereas packs without this put more weight on my shoulders.

How Much Are You Looking to Spend?

Last but not least, get an idea of how much you are willing to spend on your new backpack. Mystery Ranch has options for varying budgets. More basic models are great for everyday use or less technical activities, mid-range options are a bit more durable and have more features for more regular hikers or backpackers, and more expensive high-end models are more specialized and durable, best for more specific heavy use, such as longer and frequent backpacking trips, or daily more technical hikes. Narrowing down a budget before settling on a pack will ensure you get what you actually need out of a pack without draining your bank account.

What Are The Different Types of Mystery Ranch Backpacks?

Mystery Ranch has quite an array of different types of backpacks for just about any type of activity you could imagine. They have hunting backpacks, firefighter-specific backpacks, military-specific backpacks, travel bags, ski backpacks, and tons of other types of packs. But in this article, we will just focus on their various lines of more generalized hiking and camping backpacks!

Hiking Backpacks

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

Mystery Ranch’s hiking backpacks are designed for short hiking adventures and day trips. They’re a great option for those planning to spend just a few hours on the trails and just need to carry some of the basics in a small but comfortable pack.

Benefits:

  • Lightweight and minimalist
  • Generally have an internal hydration system
  • Quick access to pockets and compartments

Be Aware:

  • Smaller capacity, so it can’t fit a ton of gear
  • They typically have very basic features but aren’t super specialized for more extreme treks or more extreme weather conditions

Backpacking Packs

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

Similar to hiking backpacks but with larger capacities, backpacking packs are intended for overnight or multi-day trips. They typically have more compartments, which make it a bit easier to keep your gear organized, and more features in the suspension system to help with carrying larger loads.

Benefits:

  • More capacity to carry all your overnight essentials such as a tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc.
  • More compartments make it easier to stay organized
  • A better suspension system to help distribute weight evenly

Be Aware:

  • Heavier and bulkier, so not great for shorter hikes
  • More expensive due to the size and extra features

Everyday Carry Backpacks

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

The Everyday Carry (EDC) packs are more generalized and meant for daily use for everything from short hikes to walking to the library with your laptop. If you want one do-it-all backpack for your day-to-day that can also handle some weekend adventures, these are a good option, but they are less specialized, so they won't have as many features that would be useful in a hiking pack.

Benefits:

  • Versatile
  • Padded compartments for electronics
  • Best bang for your buck if you want one backpack for everything

Be Aware:

  • Fewer features, not as specialized for outdoor use
  • It is not as durable as hiking-specific packs
  • They're typically not as comfortable

Women’s Specific Backpacks

Most of the packs that Mystery Ranch makes are unisex, but if you are a smaller framed female who is having a difficult time finding a backpack that fits your frame well, you’ll want to check out their women’s specific line of packs. They have more padding in the hips and are designed to fit a smaller frame.

Benefits:

  • More specialized for female hikers and backpackers
  • Adjustable harness and hip belt with more padding
  • Lightweight

Be Aware:

  • Typically have a smaller capacity than unisex options
  • Limited styles and design options

Features To Look For When Buying a Mystery Ranch Backpack

Now that you understand the different kinds of backpacks Mystery Ranch offers let's look at some of the features specific to Mystery Ranch packs that might be useful to your outdoor endeavors. These might only be relevant to some of the specific activities you plan to use your pack for, but it's helpful to understand their different features and technologies.

  • Futura Yoke Harness System: This micro-adjustable harness system is featured in most of Mystery Ranch’s backpacking packs and a few of their larger hiking packs. It allows you to dial in the exact right fit for your torso length, making it more comfortable to haul heavier loads and saving you from hip and shoulder pain at the end of your hikes! It also adds some breathability to the back panel of your pack so you don't end up sweaty and soaked early on in your adventure.
  • 500D CORDURA Fabric: If you’re rough on your gear or plan on climbing with your pack, look for a Mystery Ranch pack with this body fabric. It’s extra durable and abrasion-resistant and can save your pack from getting holes or rips when it comes in contact with sharp rocks or tree branches.
  • Tri-Zip Design: This zipper design is unique to Mystery Ranch packs and allows easier access to the inside of your pack. It consists of two zippers on the top section of the pack and one down the length of the pack. If you’re like me and constantly find yourself pulling everything out of your backpack just to get to the thing you need, which is inevitably always at the very bottom, this will save you a ton of time because you can just zip the pack all the way open to access the gear in the bottom.
  • Adjustable Waist Belt System: As I mentioned before, as someone with bony hips, this is a must for me. Waist belts can make a huge difference in weight distribution and balance on hikes, and a waist belt system that’s adjustable to fit your exact hip width will do wonders for your ability to hike long distances without having tired, aching shoulders when you reach your destination.
  • Quick-Release Top Lid: Some Mystery Ranch backpacking backpacks have a top lid that can buckle onto your backpacking pack or be taken off and used as a separate fanny pack or saddle bag for shorter treks. This is a great option for backpackers who like to set up camp in one location and go on short hikes from base camp because it allows you to just carry some essentials without the need to pack a smaller daypack along with the rest of your gear. This is also a great option if you’re an avid backpacker and day hiker because it eliminates the need to buy two packs. You can use the backpacking pack for overnight treks or leave the large part of the pack at home for day hikes and just carry the detachable top lid.

How To Choose The Right Mystery Ranch Backpack for You

Photo courtesy of Mystery Ranch

Even with all the info we've covered so far, you might still find yourself unsure as to which backpack from this brand would best fit your needs. Don't worry; we've got you covered! Below, I have listed two Curated customers I've helped find the right Mystery Ranch pack for their needs. I've included some information about what kind of activities they are using their pack for, as well as what they should look for in a pack and some specific Mystery Ranch packs that would work for them.

Lola, The Field Worker

Lola has a job that keeps her out in the backcountry for a week or more on end. She has a ton of gear to carry and wants a pack that can handle a heavy load and is suitable for the long backpacking trips she does for her job.

Features to Look For:

  • Robust frame system for load support
  • Adjustable torso and hip belt
  • Good organization capabilities to keep her gear in order

Mystery Ranch Backpack Options for Lola: Mystery Ranch Women’s Glacier, Mystery Ranch Stein 62, Mystery Ranch Bridger 65

Emily, The Casual Day-Hiker

Emily enjoys short hikes on local trails around her house. She’s not a backpacker and doesn’t do anything too technical that would require much gear, so a minimalist pack that can carry some water, snacks, and a small first aid kit would be perfect. She has a small frame and needs a backpack that fits her well.

Features to Look For:

  • Comfortable shoulder straps
  • Women’s specific design to better fit her frame
  • Streamlined design without unnecessary bulk

Mystery Ranch Backpack Options for Emily: Mystery Ranch Women’s Coulee 25, Mystery Ranch Gallagator 19, Mystery Ranch In & Out

Talk To An Expert

We covered a lot of ground in this article, but hopefully, by now, you have a good grasp of everything Mystery Ranch has to offer and what specifications and features would be useful for your exact needs. Each of their packs has a ton of modern functionality built into a highly durable backpack that will last a lifetime.

If you're still not positive which pack is the right choice for you, reach out to a Curated Hiking and Camping Expert. We can offer personalized information on what to look for in a pack and some recommendations for specific backpacks that would suit your needs to ensure you have a great experience on your next outdoor adventure! Happy Hiking!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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