The Mystery Ranch Scree 32 mid-size daypack is a unique bag that many will love despite some of the drawbacks. The pack that I have tested is the L/XL size in the wood color, bought in January 2021. This particular color may have been discontinued, as of February, which is a shame because this one is perfect.
There are many aspects of this backpack which makes it stand out from other daypacks within the 30-35L capacity range. For one, it’s appearance is different from many of the other daypacks geared towards hiking and adventure. It’s no surprise as Mystery Ranch is producing some exciting packs which are gaining people’s attention.
Why buy the Mystery Ranch Scree?
This pack has a lot of what many have been looking for in a daypack: versatility, comfort, design and functionality. Also, it’s unique quick-access zipper system makes it easy for people who need to get access to their gear without having to dig through their stuff to find what they need.
The bag may not be for everyone, however. You pay a premium price for the bag. It costs more than comparable-sized bags such as the Gregory Zulu 30, Osprey Manta 34, and Deuter Trail 30 pack. It also lacks a few items that come standard with the other brands’ packs.
One thing that is very clear is that for taller hikers like me (I am 6’5”), the Mystery Ranch Scree 32 is a no brainer choice. Even if you aren’t that tall, the wide adjustment range allows almost anyone the perfect fit.
So what makes this bag worth it? Let’s talk about it.
What is Mystery Ranch?
First of all, let’s look at Mystery Ranch. They are based in Bozeman, Montana and have origins in a legendary backpack company called Dana Designs. Dana Designs gained in popularity in the 90s due to its load carriage technology which made carrying heavy or unbalanced loads more comfortable. The business was sold off to bigger brands and the brand eventually disappeared. The original founder, Dana Gleason, started Mystery Ranch in 2000 and set out to make superior packs once again. Some of their first customers included the military and wildland fire crews. So, durability and performance were top needs.
While Mystery Ranch has been around for a while now, it’s popularity as a pack maker has recently exploded. There is much reason to be excited. A pack maker that has built custom gear for the Navy SEALs is sure to know how to build a great product that you can depend on.
Where is the Mystery Ranch Scree 32 made?
While there are some packs Mystery Ranch make that are made in Montana, this one is made in Vietnam. For an expensive bag, you may be wondering why it’s made in Vietnam and not in the US. And your thoughts would be justified. Fortunately, Vietnam does manufacture a lot of high-end packs for other brands and seems to produce well made products.
One of the most versatile daypacks
This pack may be one of the most versatile packs out there. This is partly due to the size as well as the design.
While it’s still more of a daypack than an overnight or weekend backpack, it occupies the upper end of the daypack capacity range. For many, the 32L (or 1955 cu in.) capacity will let you carry anything and everything that you’d normally take on day hikes. However, this bag also has a lot of potential for ultralight backpackers who have the appropriate gear. The daisy chains, loops, and decent size water bottle pockets let you carry additional things externally.
One bag for many purposes
One advantage of this size is that instead of buying and owning both a smaller daypack and a larger backpacking pack, you could get away with just this one bag. That would save you money on packs and allow you to focus on what works for one bag.
Great style and colors
The styling of the pack makes it especially versatile. The wood color variant looks pretty slick whether you are on the trails or on the streets. There is a new copper variant which stands out as well as black for people who want to keep things simple.
The earthy tones of Wood are tasteful and have an almost retro, yet modern look. Compared to some of the contemporary hiking bags with ultra bright colors, this one feels more appropriate for many scenarios such as travel or other forms of leisure.
A lot of Mystery Ranch packs such as the Urban Assault 21 and 2 Day Assault Pack have tactical styling, making them popular with non-hikers.
Useful for travel
The dimensions of the bag place it within the limits of carry-on baggage. Carry-on bags usually max out at 45 liters. So while the 32 liter capacity comes in less, it’s still a useful size for weekend travel by air. Larger, 45 liter packs like the Gregory Stout 45 might seem more useful, but when they are filled up, they actually exceed the carry-on baggage limits. Plus, people who carry bags larger than 35L often stand out as backpacking tourists which can place an inconvenient target on your back for scammers and thieves. If you can pack light, it’s best to do so.
One thing that the Scree 32 features which is similar to carry-on luggage is ease of access to its content. The 3-Zip system lets you open the bag up more than regular backpacks giving you easy access to the things inside. This becomes very useful when you don’t want to have to dig through your bag for small, loose items. When all 3 zippers are fully open, the pack almost loses all resemblance as a bag as the sides and top folder over.
Modern, sleek design
The dimensions of the bag come in at 22″x11.5″x9.” And while there are 2 upper compartments at the top, the main compartment gives you almost all of the rated capacity. Because of the 3-Zip system, you can easily fit in longer items without having to worry about rearranging items inside. I can fit my Benro travel tripod in there and not have to struggle with pulling it out.
At 2.8 lbs it’s only slightly heavier than the Deuter Trail 30 and Gregory Zulu 30 but around 4.6 ounces lighter than the Osprey Manta 34. That could be due to the hydration pack included with the Osprey.
Speaking of which, unlike the cheaper packs, a hydration pack isn’t included. It is compatible with hydration packs, however. If you have one that you like, you may be able to fit on in. A raincover or an integrated whistle in the buckles are not included either. What it does come with is a good level of water resistance already built in.
The Scree 32 has a level of water repellency which will keep your stuff dry in light rain. The YKK zippers have a layer of polyurethane film which helps keep water from seeping through the gaps. They also contribute to the overall high-end appearance of the bag.
Mystery Ranch recommends using a clear Rust-oleum NeverWet Fabric Water Repelling Spray on your pack to make it even more water resistant. You may want to consider applying this to your bag annually or as needed.
One other thing to note is that the bag looks good even when not filled to the brim. One irritating thing about the Osprey bags is that their advertised photos show them looking very clean because they are stuffed which pulls the material tight. But, in person, it doesn’t look like anything close to the photos. It’s very misleading. With the Mystery Ranch Scree 32, it looks good no matter what.
Supreme comfort and fit
As mentioned previously, for tall people, the fit is incredible. For the L/XL, the torso length spans 17-24 inches. The S/M is 15-20 inches. Many of the other large daypacks max out between 20-22 inches and don’t have the level of adjustability like the Scree. And while the Osprey Stratos 34 fits up to a 23 inch torso, I can tell you from experience that the fit is nowhere close.
An internal HDPE frame sheet is used to keep the back rigid and lend support. The interesting thing with this bag is that you can have items awkwardly placed inside the bag, but still feel like the bag is balanced. When I put my travel tripod in the bag, I will sometimes have it off to one side, but will not notice that one side is heavier than the other. The same goes for water bottles in the pockets.
For waist, the S/M fits 26-36 inches and the L/XL fits 35-40+ inches. The waist strap being removable is a nice feature when you don’t need the waist straps or just want to simplify the experience. The pockets on the waist strap aren’t big enough to carry a phone, but could be used for other equipment such as small pocket knives, a compass or snacks.
The Scree 32 is a highly-functional pack for on and off the trail. Along with the clever 3-zip system, you have daisy chains, loops for gear like trekking poles or ice picks and a compression belt.
The bag is constructed with 210D Robic nylon fabric which is promised to be more durable and stronger. It has diagonal ripstop patterns and has nylon fibers that are supposedly 50% stronger. Some say that it is generally better than X-Pac and DCF in durability in the long run.
The interior of the main bag features 2 inner pockets near the top which give you a place to store smaller, loose items. Larger items can be placed in the main area.
Around the zippers are loops which you can grab onto when opening them. While this may be an overlooked feature, I think this will add to the durability of the bag. Instead of pinching the sides and wearing out the materials, you have a dedicated place to distribute the force of pulling the zipper apart.
Maximize longevity of your Scree 32
To keep the pack looking good and functioning well, you’ll want to clean it occasionally or after exposing it to dirt or mud. The cleaning process is simple and can be done in the shower or bathtub with warm water and a little dish soap. As with hiking boots, when you dry your bag out, do it in the shade.
Can the Mystery Ranch Scree 32 fit in a laptop?
Yes and no. The inner sleeve inside the pack is mainly for a hydration pack. Even a 13 inch laptop won’t fit in the sleeve. However, an iPad will fit in, as well as other flat items that you want to keep flat like maps. What you can do is use a padded sleeve for your laptop. The rigid back of the pack will help protect the laptop from being bent and you should be able to fit in most small size laptops in their sleeves.
Future plans with this bag
I plan on using this as my main hiking and traveling bag for the foreseeable future. This should give me enough experience to do something similar to my Salomon X Ultra 3 long term review. I’m excited to see how it will perform and how durable it will be. Stay tuned!