Hello, my name is Jim, and I have a bag problem. Hi, Jim. I really wanted a Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack – and I bought it.
by J. Bridger, contributing writer
I love bags. I can’t help it. I love the idea of relying on no-one but myself and using well-thought-out tried-and-true gear that I haul around on my back. Something about it is greatly satisfying, in several ways. I appreciate owning equipment that I can use for more than one task, bugging out included! Enter the Mystery Ranch Scree.
Bugging Out and Hiking Backpacks
Anyone that has been on multi-day hiking trips knows how important details are in all gear, but in particular, the bag that carries that gear. If you’re bugging out, i.e. your life might be on the line, that importance magnifies exponentially! Thus, if you’re making gear purchases for a bug out bag, listen to hikers’ advice.
This bag is awesome. It’s easily one of my favorites. I’ve taken this on several flights, day hikes, and overnight excursions. I can safely say it’s one of the best backpacks I’ve ever used. The size is perfect, the layout is right, and the suspension system rocks. The Scree is at home on the mountain as well as the airport.
The Mystery Ranch Scree
The pack is 32 L, comes in a variety of colors, and has a detachable hip belt. It’s a technical pack, so it has features you won’t find in other bags. The main compartment is accessed by Mystery Ranch’s signature three zip design.
There is a deep pocket on the inside of both flaps, and a pouch for a hydration bladder. It fits my Camelbak 100 oz bladder snugly. There is a central hidden flap for a hydration bladder hose. There is no loop to hang a bladder from, so I added my own made from Paracord.
I think the side flap pockets are great. They add a little extra organization but take up no space. The top flap has two pockets. The smallest on top is a perfect fit for cellphone, keys, wallet; small things that you don’t want to lose in the main compartment. The other pocket on the lid is lined with mesh, so you can see into it from the bottom. It is a decent size for several small items, or even a shirt or thin sweater.
The hip belt is removable and has two pockets. The belt is sturdy, and on long hikes I often tighten it and loosen the shoulder straps as far as they’ll go, to give my shoulders a break. It stays secure and is the perfect place to hang my Half Face Blades Crow Scout. You can’t fit a cell phone inside the pockets, but they will hold other small items like Chapstick, keys, or a compass. It’s easy to adjust and remove.
When I take this as a carry-on bag, I remove the hip belt so it appears smaller and I don’t have to deal with it flapping around. I have no problem getting this in an overhead bin, and if I need something inside mid flight, the top flap provides easy access. The straps allow for comfortable placement of the sternum strap and have a piece of elastic to secure hydration bladder hoses. There are load lifting straps with a generous amount of adjustment.
Well-Designed Outside and In
The outside of the pack is well thought out. There is a deep water bottle pouch on either size. These are big enough to hold a 1-liter Nalgene but will be impossible to get into if your pack is stuffed full. They don’t expand much. They keep my hiking poles secure and I bet would even carry skis.
On each side there is a load cinching strap. There is a daisy chain on each side of the front of the pack, with ice axe loops and tie downs. I added a thick piece of shock cord to the bottom of my pack, where I sometimes carry my sleeping pad. I removed my ice axe tie downs and added a second buckle that runs perpendicular to the longest zipper. This gives me a more secure way to stow my sleeping pad and lets me take pressure off the zipper.
Suspension System and Map Pocket
The suspension system comes with its own plastic piece to break the Velcro bond and allow you to adjust it for your height. This is the perfect place to stow a map. They slide in perfectly and don’t wiggle out. I hate getting into my pack all the time to check the map. This way, I can take my pack off, sip water through my hose, look at the map and check my GPS all without ever unbuckling or unzipping anything. This is important not just for hiking, but if you’re bugging out, you’ll be able to move more quickly, efficiently.
I recently took this pack on a 50-mile hike in Escalante Canyon and fell in love with it all over again. Inside I stowed my sleeping gear:
- a Gossamer Gear ground tarp,
- a tarp shelter, and
- Wenger 20 degree sleeping bag.
Inside one flap pocket I kept a “poop kit” with backpacker’s trowel, wet wipes, and soap. The other side contains my toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, small container of Vaseline, floss, first aid kit, and water treatment tablets. Keeping these in the deep flap pockets means I never have to rummage for my IFAK or poop kit when I’m in a hurry. Again, the key here is “in a hurry,” which really brings optimizes the Mystery Ranch Scree not just for technical backpacking, but also for bugging out.
The Main Compartment
The main compartment also held my sweater, beanie, food, 1L platypus, and jacket. The top lip pocket held my cell phone and the bottom lid pocket held my fire starting kit, headlamp, and BeFree filter. On the rear of the pack I stowed my closed cell foam sleeping pad and my 3L Hydrapak. I kept my GPS strapped to my left pack strap. My HFB crow scout fit on my belt in a comfortable appendix carry.
In the waist belt I keep small conveniences: Base Salt, Chapstick, a Bic lighter, compass, and Body Glide. When I ended up falling into the river, the pack kept all my contents dry, despite most of them not being in a dry bag. This isn’t ultralight, but it’s still very light at 2.75 pounds.
There is an interior pocket that holds a curved plastic sheet. This sheet is a perfect design addition as it helps settle the load off your shoulders and spreads it across your back making for comfortable use for longer periods of time.
This is a good-looking bag, and the way it’s designed allows it to fill the “bugging out” role. I would have no problem packing this with enough food for a 5- or 6-day trip. At its heaviest, my pack was probably around 25 pounds, and it carried the load comfortably.
Mystery Ranch Scree Pack Summary
My complaints are few. I would like the top small pocket to be felt lined, for a cell phone or sunglasses, and I would like the sternum strap to have a built-in whistle. I wish there was a suspension loop for a hydration bladder, and I think the hip belt pockets could be big enough for a cell phone. None of these are deal breakers to me.
This is a serious, well-built pack with a great suspension system. If you’re looking for a day pack, light overnight pack, or a pack to take on the plane or bug out when SHTF, this one won’t let you down.
If you don’t have a decent bug out backpack already, consider the Mystery Ranch Scree. If you have one already – what pack are you using?