When I posted my review of the Mystery Ranch Front I thought I had found a bag which was going to start walking away with praise — and I mostly did. It’s such a stupidly good bag, and while not perfect (especially for EDC) it is just good. Then Mystery Ranch discontinued it (I hold out hope it comes back) so I felt the need to see what some of its sibling bags offer. Specifically, the most readily available to US customers, the Mystery Ranch ASAP.
This is a military specific day pack, and it looks like one. And this is not a review of it — I need a bit more time. But for those who have been looking at the Front, seeing the rare and expensive prices for them on eBay, here is a run down of the differences between the Front and the ASAP.
Front left, ASAP right.
First, a quick tally:
|– – Front & Sides Of Bag – –|
|Daisy Chain down front||Two 6 row by 3 columns of PALs on front|
|3×3 PALs near top on side||3×3 PALs middle of the sides|
|Water Bottle Pockets on each side|
|– – Back of Bag – –|
|Seamless transition between adjustment area||Nylon covering over top seam of adjustment area|
|Defined lumbar pad area||1” webbing hip stabilizer belt|
|Lumbar area not defined|
|– – Top and Bottom of Bag – –|
|No Velcro standard (I modified mine)||Standard Velcro loop for patches|
|No MOLLE (it appears some models did have this?)||Two rows of 7 PALs loop|
|Dual top/side hydration ports.||Single full width top hydration port w/ dual zippers|
|– – Inside Bag – –|
|Mesh pouches on the flaps, both sides||Large hydration cinchable pockets on the flaps with small loop to clip bladder to|
|One large elastic topped stash pouch at the back||3 row, 4 column PALs webbing 1/3 way down from top on back panel|
|Hydration bladder toggle center top on the back|
I don’t think most people come to this site for that obvious stuff, so here’s my list of differences:
- The ASAP has frame sizing which means the yoke can/will fit you better. The Front is adjustable, but has a more limited range because of this.
- The water bladder pass through is worse for water bladder use on the ASAP than the Front. But more versatile for non-water use on the ASAP. (Essentially I mean that the Front won’t be usable for anything not water bladder hose shaped, whereas the ASAP can have a large pass through opening for stuff.)
- The shoulder straps look identical, feel different. The ASAP feels like it has denser foam and are slightly thicker than the Front. This could just be an age/use difference but my gut says it is not. That should mean the Front is more comfortable out of the box and with light loads, but the ASAP will hold heavier loads better for longer. For most use cases this is irrelevant, but if it matters to you the ASAP does have slightly better straps. Slightly.
- The plastic hardware is different between the two bags. All of the ASAP adjustment hardware has holes for a cord to be added so that it is easier to release them with gloves on, not the case for the Front. Also the sternum strap connects differently on the front than the ASAP — with the Front’s being a little more user friendly if you want to disconnect it. All of these are mostly visual things, not practical things. I prefer the way the Front’s hardware looks.
- The real difference is inside. With the Front you are not putting a laptop in unless you just drop a laptop in a sleeve in the bag. The ASAP has MOLLE so you can attach a sleeve inside the bag. This mostly works, but will take getting a little creative with sleeves and sizing.
- But the ASAP has no interior zipper pockets and the hydration pockets are super weird to wrap your head around. Luckily the Front has really nice mesh pockets that zip close and work well — as does the large pouch pocket for a water bladder. Here I wish there was more MOLLE or a large loop field for velcro attachments on the ASAP.
- The size of these two is identical, only dimensional difference I can see is the added volume of the water bottle pockets on the exterior of the Front.
All in all the biggest difference aside from looks/features are the straps. The Front was immediately comfortable to me and held a 20lbs and 30lbs plate with ease. The ASAP is going to take some break in, but would likely hold any weight you can fit in the bag just fine.
Review soon, but know that the ASAP is a substantially better bag than I had assumed. The ASAP is more expensive than even aftermarket Front prices, but that will likely change as the new-old stock runs out. Get an ASAP here, I doubt you will regret it, my full review soonish.