Guest Blog by David Downing
This summer, somewhere between Butte, MT and North Dakota’s largest cow, I had the opportunity to visit pack maker Mystery Ranch. My friend and fellow Colorado State Alum, Patrick Odenbeck (who’s longtime SAR volunteer father claims to have rescued Lou something like three times), invited me in for a tour and pack fitting while visiting Bozeman.
For those who are not familiar with Mystery Ranch, it is the latest pack tinkering facility for Dana Gleason (longtime needle and thread genius of Dana Design fame). Mystery Ranch sells direct to consumer, so its Headquarters serve as design, production and showroom. Walking in you are presented with 360 degrees of the current line, plus a nice “museum” hanging above of past packs that only Lou or Dana might recognize.
|Today’s Trivia: Lou, name that pack.|
A quick tour of the building provided the necessary gear geek fix, taking in everything from future office space, rolls of Cordura, shelves of pack templates, and a small fleet of sewing machines where all of the consumer packs are produced. The only work not done in-house is some large scale sewing in Seattle for larger military contracts. So every pack currently around 600 consumer packs a year is made in the USA, if not specifically in Bozeman.
Now for my customer experience. The best way to get a Mystery Ranch pack is to schedule a trip to Bozeman, which should be obligatory for any mountain person’s road trip resume. After your skiing, biking or fishing session, go visit Mystery Ranch HQ a few miles from downtown.
Visit with Patrick or one of the other sales/marketing/sewing guys (every employee starts out assembling packs, so they know them inside and out) and decide what pack you want AND need. For myself, I chose the Sweet Pea a 32L (2,000 cu-in) pack with 3 Zip access. With pack in hand, I was sized up for the proper sized shoulder strap / yoke system, a large in my case. With everything properly set up, I then chose to have a few inches of compression webbing snipped and sewn to my preferred length. I have to say, I’d buy all my packs here just for the option to mod them on location. If you can’t make the trip, you can also order packs off the website.
|New pack, check. Right size, check. Accessories? Pick a box. I want one of thoses, and…|
Overall I was very impressed by the experience. Mystery Ranch is providing a great customer service for those looking for a well designed pack made in the US to bomber specs. These are not the lightest packs you’ll find (ounce trimming is on the horizon), but if you want a solid, well-designed pack, check this company out.
As for my Sweet Pea, I can’t wait to try it out on snow and will have a more complete review of this pack later this winter, or perhaps I’ll have to make a summer run up to Montezuma to try it out sooner.
|Trying on the Mystery Ranch Broomstick. Due out in the Fall, this may be the next big thing for skiing Highlands Bowl sidecountry. This pack carries shovel, probe and skis in a tiny package.|
|I folded and went for my staple color of orange. See the yolks in the background ready to be sized.|
(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Carbondale, Colorado, where Dave is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave’s ski career began due to a lack of quality skiing video games for NES.)