Author Archives: mystery-ranch-backpacks

Montana Wilderness Association


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 … READ MORE >

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Completing the Circle


At Mystery Ranch, when we invest in something, we do it with longevity in mind. Whether it’s the importance of protecting and preserving wild places as harbors of healthy habitat, or the inherent fairness for access to our public lands – we feel it in our core. As hunters who are willing to earn an experience, regardless of income or social status, we’re staunch supporters of keeping public lands public. And while there’s a nation’s worth of hunting on Forest Service and BLM land, for us, there’s no place that helps us better connect with our primal instincts than genuine Wilderness.

As such, we’ve named our newest hunting packs after two of our most revered Montana Wilderness Areas: Metcalf and Marshall. These vast, untamed tracts of original land inspire our innovation and are ideal sanctuaries for intrepid sportsmen choosing to slow it down. Relishing the pre-hunt preparation: poring over maps… preseason scouting and scouring… getting to know the folds and spines in the landscape… sharpening your senses to their most razor hone. Methodical stalks to perfect shots or, perhaps, shots left untaken. Because, ultimately, it’s not about the roasts and the European mounts – it’s about reminding ourselves … READ MORE >

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Flight Monster Duffel: Behind the Scenes


We designed the Flight Monster to meet multiple needs: Flight Bag, Oversized Red Bag, Out-of-County Bag. The terms to some extent depend on the agency, but in the end this is a full-featured, high volume duffel bag.

First, the bag had to work as a Hotshot type flight bag: big enough to fit fire gear, tent, sleeping bag, pad, and personal gear, for those times when a crew transport is transported via fixed wing. But flight bags tend to get used for a broad range of applications, like spiking and an ensuing packout. When you have a bag of this size, it inevitably ends up heavy, and can get extremely heavy. We put multiple carry options on it, all of which stow away. Backpack straps as padded and ergonomically shaped as our fire packs’, a 2″ duffel style shoulder strap, and traditional haul handles. The stowability is for streamlined travel, both air and wheeled, as well as providing the user with the option to eliminate strapiness and excess harnessing without sacrificing features.

Any duffel bag also has to function as a travel bag, however, and this was something we kept coming back to in our development process. No matter what … READ MORE >

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Bear Hunting in Idaho


Spring bear hunting is dear to my heart – public ground bears roaming large tracts of rough country with limited hunting pressure.

I’ve been spring bear hunting in Idaho for the last seven seasons, learning the hard way. Limited on time, I spend the majority of my bear hunting efforts on the weekends and I save precious vacation time for fall elk hunting.

This year, the hard work paid off.

A Bear Hunter’s Playground

Northern Idaho is home to lots of National Forest land, wildlife, and predators. At the time of this writing, the Idaho Fish and Game department is doing their best to curve the population of cats, bears, and wolves; so in the particular unit I hunt, you can purchase two bear tags over the counter.

To get into bear country, you’re looking at several miles of driving through mud and snow before parking and hiking into merging basins.

In order to spot bears, you have to find places that they like to hang out. I glass the melting snow line, looking for places where cover isn’t too far and green grass and water are close by. I like to set up glassing stations (we use 20×50 Vortex … READ MORE >

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Built for the Mission

Needle-machine sm

You may have noticed that we do things a little differently here at Mystery Ranch.

We’re on a mission to create something that matters. 

There’s a lot that goes into a Mystery Ranch backpack. Forty years of experience, for starters. A design and production team that’s committed to our history of innovation and durability. A relationship with our customers that guarantees we take every step necessary to build the best, so that you can survive the worst.

We build for folks whose work demands that their gear perform in every possible outcome. Men and women with a job to do. We build with the best materials available and the most durable construction methods that exist because you inspire us.

We don’t compromise when it comes to materials. We are always looking for newer, better and tougher, but we will never sacrifice performance. We guarantee that our gear will support your mission whether it’s on the front line, the fire line, the cleanest line or the steepest line.

Every pack that we build is designed with you in mind – from function and fit to design and comfort. When each item that goes in your pack is a necessity, we want READ MORE >

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Mystery Ranch ISO 9001:2008 Certification is Official!

christmas 2013 2

If you had been visiting Mystery Ranch on a Friday at the end of June, you would have been surprised by all the hooting and hollering.

If you worked at the Ranch, you would know that really, we do this all the time.

But this celebration was something different. Dana Gleason, with great fanfare, and in front of a floor of momentarily motionless sewing machines, had just announced that our ISO 9001:2008 registration audit was over – and our auditor was recommending us for certification!

Now, for the acronymically overwhelmed, that last sentence may mean very little at first glance. But for us, it means the culmination of over two years of preparation and effort put into our quality management system.

At the Ranch, we’re committed to upholding the highest standards in the industry for design, craftsmanship, improvements, and customer satisfaction. Not all gear is created equal, and we wanted to ensure that the quality management system that backs those high standards was also one of the best in the industry. After thorough research, several intense analyses of our existing system, and a few not-so-gentle nudges from potential customers in Europe and the fire industry, we chose to start work … READ MORE >

Posted in Backpack Hunting, Disc Golf, Fire and Trail, Military & Tactical, Mountain Adventure, Mystery Ranch Employees, Mystery Ranch HQ, Stories from the Floor, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ISO 9001:2008 Certification

Photo: Jayson Coil

In the Fire Service, safety is priority number one, and we respect the established safety standards of all agencies in the fire service. That fact drove us, over two years ago, to make a significant decision: to become compliant for the ISO 9001:2008 certification, a commitment that affects every level of our company here. After two plus years, and the accompanying costs, we have just completed our official audit for ISO 9001, and are proud to announce that we have been recommended for that certification.

What is ISO 9001:2008? It’s a quality management system whose primary goal is customer satisfaction, achieved through continuous improvement of our organization, its processes, standards, and structures. While it may seem like a bureaucratic formality, ISO 9001:2008 certification is important to the fire community primarily because ISO is a prerequisite for NFPA 1977 certification. Firefighters from many agencies use our gear, but others cannot because their agency requires this NFPA cert. In short, we feel strongly that every firefighter out there should be able to wear our packs.

We approach everything here at Mystery Ranch with our end users in mind. Our fire products are probably the best example of our commitment to design, construction READ MORE >

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Innovation Invasion: The 3-Way Briefcase and Invader are LIVE


If you haven’t seen it yet, Inc. Magazine has featured Mystery Ranch in its list of the 25 Most Audacious Companies.

The article defined an “audacious” company as “on the one hand…bold, courageous, even heroic. Yet, on the other, they are defiant, presumptuous, irreverent, and even cocky. They see a better way to do something and work to make it happen, fearlessly committed to not only making their vision a reality but also spreading that vision.”

We certainly feel that this is an appropriate assessment of what we stand for and how we go about our business of designing packs for the mountains, the street, and the front line. Dana Gleason has always done it his way: committed to his version of the best, even when that idea may have gone against what is popular.

Robots in Disguise. 

Our latest products are no exception. Two more designs from Dana’s son, D3 (who is rapidly making a name for himself in the Adventure /Urban market), represent our full commitment to irreverent innovation. Both packs draw on the designs and technology of our work with the military, wherein we attempt to solve complex carry problems as efficiently and effectively as possible. … READ MORE >

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New Mystery Ranch Adventure Backpacks

New Adventure

We are excited to launch three new packs today, all designed by Dana’s son, D3. With backpacks in his blood, D3 designs with deep respect for and understanding of the history of pack building, and strives to improve on the classics using innovative materials and a fresh perspective on his father’s brand.

Designing packs for Adventure has been at the heart of my work since I first tried to trick out a custom version of one of Dana’s originals. Pack bags give me room to play as a designer, but the frame is hallowed ground since my dad takes pride in his frames above all else. I knew that whatever change I made was going to have to be a big step forward. Years of exploration and testing have lead me to understand basic elements, strip away the extra, and re-craft a frame that carries a load better, is more comfortable and lets people forget about a user’s manual.

– Designer, Dana “D3” Gleason


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Going big and going home – The first ascent of the Pisce Wall


About a year ago, my friend Tom mentioned that there was an alpine wall way back in the Beartooth Wilderness that not only had not seen an ascent, but had no name.  He had done a reconnaissance trip in 2009 to see what this thing looked like and exactly what it would take to get back there.  He told me about a 20+ mile approach, much of which was off trail and through swamps, down timber and difficult orienteering.  Apparently, other parties had tried to access the wall from different locations, but all had been skunked.  Often called the Phantom Wall or the Secret Wall, the details were undeniably intriguing.  Tom’s pictures showed it to be steep, littered with cracks, and beautiful.  I had to at least see it.

My enthusiasm grew, which only stoked Tom’s interest in an attempt. Once we persuaded Tom’s brother Pat to come along (an easy sell), our team was complete.  Pat’s experience with dreaded offwidth cracks rounded out our skill set and  and set us up to handle anything this mountain could throw at us.  Since August typically has a short weather window, we decided that a week in the middle of the month … READ MORE >

Posted in Mountain Adventure, Mystery Ranch Employees, Mystery Ranch HQ, Trip Reports | 7 Comments