One to Watch: Mystery Ranch’s Everyday Carry Line
Tony Sculimbrene 12.19.16
Okay, so this is a bit of a misnomer. This is not one to watch, this is a many headed beast. And that, in part, is what makes this so amazing. For those not in the know, Mystery Ranch is one of those small upscale brands that influenced the influencers. Everyone that cared about gear and packs knew that if you wanted insane performance, you had to at least check to see if Mystery Ranch had a pack for you. More focused on firefighters and warfighters, most civilians (that were not field biologists in Glacier National Park) had little use for Mystery Ranch’s stuff.
The trick to Mystery Ranch gear is found in two places: the harness and the tri-zip feature. The harness, coming in two sizes, is 100% customizable. And the tri-zip was the best of both worlds–accessible yet very secure. The materials were crazy as well–the best everything sewn by hand here in the USA. When I interviewed TAD personnel on the podcast and asked them about their influences, there was an immediate response: Mystery Ranch. If you were in the know, you knew of Mystery Ranch.
But all of that quality came with one hangup: price. Their gear, because of the sophisticated designs, top flight material, and Made in the USA label, was exceedingly expensive. Once tricked out, it is easy to spend $500 on a Mystery Ranch pack. And not everything is always available all of the time (I have been waiting for a Black ASAP for about a year now).
Enter their new overseas line. They have a step down in materials, they are made in Vietnam and lack some of the customizability. But they are affordable and, once fully stocked up, should be available in a wide range of colors.
Looking through the offerings it’s staggering to think that basically anyone that wants a bit of that Mystery Ranch magic can get some. For example, if you want an ASAP but can’t afford the $245 price tag (or want something other than digicam or desert colorations), take a look at the Urban Assault, which will retail for around $150.
The differences are not as big as you might suspect. For example, both use 500 denier cordura fabric. Both have the tri-zip opening. Both have internal pockets for organization. And the Urban Assault has 80 more cubic inches internal space. The Urban Assault, on paper, is not a rip off of the ASAP. But there are some crucial features missing. There is no internal MOLLE for organization nor is there the Mystery Ranch harness, the Futura Frame. The Urban Assault has a fixed harness system. There is also less opportunity to accessorize and tweak your Urban Assault.
In the end, the entire line of Everyday Carry stuff from Mystery Ranch holds promise. There are good designs with decent materials and good prices. Instead of being in the absolute top tier, this new line competes with more rational packs–LL Bean and Osprey for example. Whether it will succeed depends on just how much of the Mystery Ranch magic carries over. And for $150, it is probably worth a peek.