Backpack manufacturer Mystery Ranch has been providing premium packs to hikers, first responders and military special operations forces for nearly two decades. We at Task & Purpose are no strangers to the Bozeman, MT-based company’s products, having put their 2DAY Assault Pack and Urban Assault 21 backpack through a battery of tests for previous reviews; we even included the first one on our list of the best tactical backpacks to carry.
Throughout Mystery Ranch’s history, their most distinctive feature has arguably been the Y-shaped tri-zip. This unique zipper allows the wearer of a bag to access all of the contents of the bag without removing items it doesn’t need, and it has effectively become synonymous with Mystery Ranch and the quality of its brand.
But at the 2022 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada in January, Mystery Ranch made an unusual move by debuting four new packs without the company’s Y-shaped zipper, raising questions about Mystery Ranch’s sequel and whether popularity tri-zip has run its course.
At first glance, the four new Mystery Ranch military packs – the Gunfighter 14, Gunfighter 24, Raid 32 LT and Blackjack LT 35, with the numbers indicating the internal capacity of the main compartment in liters – impressed us with their designs. highly innovative, lightweight construction and use of new and unusual materials compared to the rest of the company’s work. All of these new packs feature a lightweight 330 Denier Cordura construction and use laser cut Hypalon webbing instead of sewn MOLLE for added weight savings. All are Berry-compliant and near-infrared treated so they won’t stand out under night vision.
Then there’s the absence of the distinctive Y-shaped zipper, with each new backpack opting instead for different side zipper styles. The Gunfighter 14, which is extremely small, uses a lid with two side zippers, allowing the user to simply grab the lid and tear it open rather than having to use the zippers. This model expands Mystery Ranch’s military line into the concealed carry and EDC market by providing the features of the new line of packs, but focusing on making a carry pack.
Similar to its smaller sibling, the Gunfighter 24 features a side-zip rip-top, but with the addition of two zippers that run down the sides of the bag from top to bottom, allowing the same full access to the bag. than the tri-zip. . Additionally, the Gunfighter 24 is a fully “jumpable” bag, with zippers featuring safety buckles that prevent it from tearing while skydiving.
The Raid 32 LT is probably the most conventional of the new packs, with a horseshoe zipper. But despite being a smaller bag, the Raid breaks new ground by offering load-lifting straps above the shoulder straps, which are essential for the heavy loads that many military personnel find themselves carrying in their bags. by assault.
Finally, while the Blackjack 35 LT may be the largest of the new packs, it’s actually a much smaller variant of the Blackjack 50, 80 and 100 rucks that retains the same design DNA in one package. much more compact. The Blackjack 35 LT features a zipper on the right side of the bag, which allows the same access to the entire bag as the tri-zip packs, while remaining completely jumpable, and with a more conventional closure at the top.
So why is Mystery Ranch abandoning the Y? It looks like the company is bringing the more conventional shapes of its larger bags to smaller and smaller bags and, in the case of the Raid 32 LT, has removed the full bag access vertical zipper capability entirely. According to a Mystery Ranch brand ambassador at the SHOT Show, it is difficult to attach retention pouches to the MOLLE webbing on the more typical tri-zip Mystery Ranch packs when the pack is cut in half vertically. This is something I personally experienced with the 2DAY Mystery Ranch and a 3 day assault pack that I was able to use temporarily; in fact, this problem is especially pronounced with the 2DAY, which has 3 columns of MOLLE on either side of the zipper whereas many holding and general purpose pouches are 4 or more columns wide. Newer and larger packs such as the Raid 32 LT and Blackjack 35 LT feature 4 columns of MOLLE, which will allow for the mounting of multiple types of pouches. (Another potential reason I’ve noticed myself: people like variety, and not everyone is a fan of the tri-zip layout, distinctive as it is, but they want the name and the features from Mystery Ranch.)
Anyway, these packs are not yet available for public sale at the time of writing, and only time will tell if their new features make the packs more user-friendly. Stay tuned to Task & Purpose for product testing as these packs become available.
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