Montana Wilderness Association

Published 2015-10-25

Load Carrier Series

This series of guest blog posts introduces individuals and organizations that MYSTERY RANCH proudly partners with and supports. While we specialize in backpacks built for fire, military, hunting and mountain missions, these organizations carry the load in other ways. Their missions are to heal, protect, preserve, educate and bring awareness to causes that need all of our support.


Guest Post by John Todd, Montana Wilderness Association.

In 1964, Americans decided to do something no other society had ever done before. We passed the Wilderness Act and set aside a few places to stay just as they are – untrammeled, “where man himself is a visitor.”

Here in the Big Sky state, Montana Wilderness Association (MWA) has been at the forefront of designating all 15 of the state’s wilderness areas.

MWA started in 1958 when a Bozeman couple, Ken and Florence Baldwin, became concerned about the threat of industrial and residential development in Montana’s majestic Madison and Gallatin Ranges. They sent a letter to 100 of their friends to meet at a hotel on Main Street, and there the nation’s oldest grassroots wilderness organization was born.

MWA is a non-profit organization working to protect Montana’s wilderness heritage, quiet beauty, and outdoor traditions, now and for future generations. We’re a community of people who love the outdoors and champion wild places. We’re proud of our long track record of working with a diversity of stakeholders, agencies and partners across the state to improve national forest stewardship, promote collaborative approaches to Montana’s public land and protect wild places for the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.

Along the way we’ve built partnerships with those who share our values. Our latest partnership is with Bozeman-based Mystery Ranch Backpacks. We’ve teamed up with the company for its 5% for 50 years program.

The best packs in the world are inspired by the last best places in Montana. And we couldn’t think of a better way to put Mystery Ranch’s contribution to work than by dedicating it to ideas like MWA’s online hiking and backpacking guide to Montana, the first of its kind for the Treasure State. Set to launch in March 2016, the map-based site will feature more than 200 of Montanans’ favorite trails, including some of the state’s hidden gems. Hikers will be able to use the site to discover off-the-beaten-path buttes and badlands, waterfalls and river paths, scenic views and ridgeline walks. They will also be able to keep fellow hikers apprised of trail conditions and share stories of their hikes. In addition to hiking details, the guide will include information about small-town businesses where hikers can stop for local burgers and brews, spend the night, gear up, or anything else that enhances our outdoor adventures.

Through our partnership with Mystery Ranch packs, we pay respect to our heritage and to everyday people who love the backcountry and help to keep it wild, those who fall in the footstep of champions like Lee Metcalf and Bob Marshall, whose good work helped protect millions of acres and whose names mark some of the state’s most spectacular wild places. We also look to our future by inspiring hikers to venture out, discover Montana’s wildlands and champion wild places for another 50 (or 500) years.

So get a pack, hit the trail and keep it wild!

To learn more about MWA and our work to keep it wild, please visit

View our Marshall and Metcalf hunting packs – both named for Wilderness Areas in Montana:

Marshall Metcalf