With over four decades of design and manufacturing experience – coupled with simultaneous in-the-field testing and real-world hammering – we've learned a thing or two about load transfer, active framing and the importance of using only the most top-shelf materials. Here you'll find a detailed explanation of our Load Carriage™ credo, our patented custom fitting, as well as all of the time-tested design features and proven engineering that makes our packs the most comfortable and durable for the long haul. + Read More

Face it; we live in a world with too many choices (backpacks included). As someone who wants or needs to carry heavy loads – for missions ranging from alpine cragging or backcountry elk hunts, to wildland firefighting or patrolling hostile terrain – we're here to help you cut through the noise. In short, we want you to understand the fundamental design ingenuity and load-bearing solutions that differentiate our backpacks from the others in the market.

You've heard the adage, "necessity is the mother of invention." Well, in our case, the necessity was fixing other peoples' gear (primarily backpacks) that had failed in the course of normal, in-the-field use. Our very first enterprise – dating back to 1975 – had us hunched over sewing machines, repairing blown out gear. From these humble roots, we learned a whole heck of a lot about where the "Achilles heels" existed in backpack design, materials, and manufacturing. With this foundation, we began making packs for ourselves and our friends. Our pack-focused enterprise grew out of these pragmatic, labor-of-love beginnings.

Bottom line – we want you to better understand our backpacks: what makes them the most comfortable packs on the planet for big, awkward, changeable loads. What patented design elements make them easily customizable to fit you perfectly. And, what materials and trim components are thoughtfully chosen to make ours the most brick shithouse backpacks available. In essence, we want you to have a crystal clear understanding what makes our packs the premium choice in an often-blurry marketplace.

The Importance of Load Carriage™

Load Carriage™ is the cornerstone of our design philosophy; it's at the core of what makes MYSTERY RANCH packs different. We specialize in building packs that adapt to awkward and changeable loads. In designing premium Load Carriage™ and long-haul durability into our packs, we don't focus or obsess on the weight of an empty pack because, frankly, no one carries an empty pack. Instead, we concentrate on how the pack feels and carries when it's fully loaded. + Read More

When you cram most packs full, they tend to get round. They no longer maintain the desired concave curve up over your shoulders or wrap supportively around your waist and hips. So you either have to have a heavy duty, fairly rigid frame, which is precisely fitted to you, or you can try to load the pack meticulously and hope it maintains some semblance of your back's shape. That's something no one does very successfully. At MYSTERY RANCH, we don't try to make the whole load take on your exact shape. Instead, we've engineered a more functional, more achievable solution.

An "Architectural" Solution:

Unlike other backpack makers, we build our pack bags and the load transference systems (what we call the mainframe) separately. These two critical elements are addressed with their own distinct design and engineering solutions. We design and sew our pack bags for optimal containment and taming of the load. Then we engineer a Load Carriage™ mainframe – separate from the pack bag – that can be ideally customized to fit your unique anatomy. All the personal shaping takes place outside of the pack bag. Most of our mainframes are built out of composite materials, so they flex as you pull on the lifter straps. Instead of the load distorting the pack, the load is shaped and contained in the most ideal manner – fairly flat and essentially twice as wide as it is thick on the mainframe. We then engineer all of the shaping for the shoulders, waist, and hips, outside of the pack bag, so it functions independently from the distortion that compromises most internal frames. This is the key difference in MYSTERY RANCH packs.

We do not sacrifice with materials or trim components to shave weight. Rather, we focus on the load-bearing features in our harnessing and frame and how they optimally support the load. In response to our "gram-shaver" friends, we assure you, long-haul comfort is way more important than micro tweaking the showroom "weight" of an empty pack. Remember, a 40lb load that carries like 30lbs is way preferable to a 40lb load that carries like 50lb.

Focus on Fit

Our packs are different in that they let you adjust the yoke via a telescoping design – up and down – to fit the exact length of your torso. By moving our form-fitting molded adjuster, we move the shape as well. This is a patented feature unique to MYSTERY RANCH. In short, our telescoping harness design, in conjunction with our patented lumbar wrap, allows us to custom fit any of our packs for any customer for any mission. Our form fitting "adjuster" gives an accurate representation of your upper back.

Active Framing – Our Remedy

Our frames are built flat which helps them transfer the weight/load more effectively than an exaggerated S-curve or C-curve that you often see on the market. Though designed to perform as an active brace, MYSTERY RANCH packs are built to flex. They are not built to a generic shape that may or may not fit the user. Building that flex into the frame – by pulling on the lifters – changes the dynamic by putting an arc into the pack's foundation. We have learned that it's far preferable to spread the load across the entire height of the back (a wider swath of a carrier's back) than to focus the load on just the shoulders and hips. The arc created helps lift the pack off your shoulders and allows the load to be more evenly distributed. + Read More

No matter how you move, the load comes with you. There's no sag, no gaps, no dead spots... it's a dynamic system that moves with you. Our active frames flex to a point and then resist at the end of their range. MYSTERY RANCH frames serve as an active brace to make the load behave no matter how unwieldy and changeable.

Our packs feature active suspensions which means they're designed to flex and move equal to how much your body can flex and NO MORE. We achieve this by building a central core of rigidity to our frames, using two, vertical stays and then reinforce this dynamic tensioning all the way out to the frame's edges. We've isolated that flex, so it has just the amount of flex your shoulders need when you walk – nothing more. And as you get towards the extremes of that flex, it resisting the flex more whereas most of our competition resists flex right from the start if it's got a full load in it.

Yes, we are control freaks (when it comes to frame flex and load stabilization).

Purpose-Built Load Carriage™ Solution

Engineered for your specific end use

We engineer packs that stabilize and control a wide range of loads and let your body move naturally and dynamically throughout a gamut of motion. In solving these equations, we ask: Who is the end user? What are they carrying? How are they using it and in what environment? Our challenge is to synthesize all of these inputs and then design purpose-built backpacks that evenly transfer weight, making the load as easy to carry as possible.

A Fire Pack – aka Web Gear, aka Line Gear, called a PG Bag by Jumpers, aka The-Monkey-On-Your-Back, aka The-Only-Thing-You-Can-Call-Your-Own-For-The-Six-Plus-Ragged-Months-of-a-Hotshot's-Fire-Season, aka (and best described as) Home – is a highly unique species of Load Carrying Equipment. We sometimes think of it as a fanny pack on steroids: built to carry up to 55 lbs for 16, 32, sometimes 48 hours straight – on fire shifts where multiple sunrises and smoked sunsets start to blur and blend in the brain – shifts where this pack is always worn, while working, hiking, digging in the dirt, running chainsaw at ground level, picking up brush and slash, falling trees, swinging an axe, dragging a firing device, standing on a summit. Its low-slung lumbar design is an industry standard in place since at least the eighties, born of the ergonomics of a job where you're bent at the waist while remaining mobile, athletic, and alert. What MYSTERY RANCH brought to "web gear" caused a paradigm shift: the load-carriage of structure and framing; the comfort of fully adjustable, specifically-sized harnessing

Hotshot yoke specifically designed 2" narrower than our standard Futura yoke to maximize ventilation without compromising load carriage comfort
External fuel bottle carriage option allows for separation of fuel and water
Haul loop handle also doubles as hardhat hanger or a location for additional tape/ flagging rolls
Admin pocket for notebooks, IAP, pens/pencils, maps, IRPG
Fusees zip away for secure storage of up to eight fusees for Rotor-wing transport (four per side)
Wing pockets are the industry's largest – holds up to three fuel bottles, three – 1 qt FSS bottles, or three Hydroflasks per side
Incorporated hydration for 100+ oz. on CAL FIRE spec models
Angled pack bottom keeps fire shelter off the butt and thighs while compression eliminates shelter motion
Low-cut tailoring pocket edge lets user reach pockets while wearing pack
MOLLE accessory attachment
Wicking material on all body contact faces – transports heat and moisture away from the body
S-curve shoulder pads are ergonimically shaped to the torso and keep straps out of armpits while working

A key design challenge we face in our Military Line is integrating Load Carriage™ architecture in and around the unique contours of body armor. The convexity of the ceramic plate creates a pivot point allowing the pack to shift from side to side as the soldier moves. One of our solutions was to develop removable bolsters that affix to both sides of the body panel. These Bolsters help secure the pack onto the ceramic plate, stabilizing it throughout a full range of motions. The bolster acts like a shim to keep the pack from pivoting, helping preserve a soldier's energy.

Bolsters provide stability and some flotation for the pack and stabilize the body armor plates by acting as shims
Bolsters create stand-off and encourage vertical airflow
Side-release buckles for easy release when bolsters are not needed
Lightweight, molded EVA foam designed with ventilation holes to promote horizontal airflow

For hunters, the Load Carriage™ challenge arises when it's time to haul meat back to the trailhead. As avid backcountry hunters, ourselves, this is where we dreamt up the Guide Light Frame™. Our Guide Light Frame™ lets you remove the pack bag from the frame, revealing a sling and compression straps, with which to secure your harvest. This process is detailed in our Overload Shelf™ feature. The beauty of this system is that it allows for the heaviest part of the load - the meat - to be closest to your back. This is the ideal scenario when packing anything heavy or awkward, as it least affects your center of gravity, keeping you nimble in the terrain where we find big game.

Guide Light Frame™ is an intelligently designed, load-lifting frame and harness technology that gives you the edge over gravity in load-hauling capabilities
Overload Shelf™ holds the bulk of the weight closest to your back for optimal pack-out comfort
Compression straps strategically located to securely compress and stabilize the load
Load lifters maintain load transfer capability with Overload Shelf™ in use

Our Outdoor Line reflects our deepest MYSTERY RANCH heritage as well as our latest offerings. This line has benefited hugely by drawing from our design experience and load carriage challenges we've faced in Military and Wildland fire. Our Outdoor line draws many features from the tried and true designs in these professional lines. Compression is key when packing a pack, therefore, the Outdoor line features many compression features - both internal and external - as well as strategically placed zips for ease of access to the contents of the pack. Within this line, you'll also find harnessing specifically designed to fit a women's body. Though we already offer three yoke sizes and can fit a vast range of body shapes and sizes, the introduction of our women's specific yoke allows us to provide further customization from which we've built our reputation.

Speedzip™ compartment allows easy access and can compress and haul sleeping bag or other large gear
Side zippers for ease of access to content
Internal compression strap to cinch down and securely hold contents in place
External racheting compression straps effectively flatten and stabilize the load for better Load Carriage™

Our Packs in Action