Welcome to the Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault CL, stop here if you are not ready to buy this bag.
This bag is my ultimate go anywhere, do anything, choice — out of all the bags I own, or have tested. It’s that good. I actually thought going into trying this bag, that it would be a bag I would try, and decide was too large to keep — that’s not even close to the case.
There are caveats, so read on…
Credit: Erin Brooks
Quick Note On My Mods
On all my other Mystery Ranch bags I undid the knots on the cord for each zipper pull, cut off the metal tab, and put the stock cord back on.
With this bag though that didn’t work, I had trouble getting the knots undone as they were decently melted together. So I bought some Coyote Brown paracord and replaced everything with that. But you might also notice that some of the cord is orange, as I have seen this on a few other bags, I liked the contrast to tone down tactical vibes, so I went with that. You’ll also notice that in some pics there more orange pulls than others, as I liked the look so I swapped to having more orange.
Of the Velcro cord management I added, I did so with Mystery Ranch’s own webbing straps — they are meh. The plus of them is that they are really easy to take on and off with little to no issues and can be added anywhere. The down side is that they don’t look as clean as elastic webbing management.
My thoughts: it’s too big, you are better off with the 2-Day if EDC is your primary use case for this bag and travel/outdoors is secondary. The 2-Day is a cheaper bag, almost the same size, and offers external laptop compartment access which is much better. That said, the 3 Day looks way better than the 2 Day and if you don’t mind the size the 3-Day is hands down the better bag. I’d pick the 3-Day over the 2-Day, but I look at the 3-Day as a backup EDC bag.
For Rucking / Hiking
A part of my bag testing (for backpacks) is to see how well it handles weight, so I typically take it on a rucking workout with me at least once. For the 3-Day it was trial by fire, as I took only this bag on a week long family trip, where I planned on using this as my rucking workout bag as well. Surprisingly, it’s a fantastic bag for rucking. Loaded up with 30lbs of weight in dry weight, and carrying full at just over 35lbs, I had no issues at all.
The bag wears extremely comfortably for this, and the deployable hip belt stabilizes the load comfortably, and can even carry some of the weight. Wearing a Mystery Ranch bag to ruck is a different experience than a GORUCK bag as the weight rides closer to mid-low on your back, instead of up high. After you get used to that, things work great.
Beach rucking is murder, but the 3-Day held it’s own.
For a rucking bag, this is a very solid option, but needs a little finessing to get the weight to sit securely. I put a standard 20lbs ruck plate in the laptop compartment, rolled a beach towel up and used the compression straps on the outside of the bag to push the towel against the plate so it didn’t flop in the laptop area. Then I used a 10lbs rucking sandbag and placed it at the top of the bag on top of the towels. The end result was the bag looking pretty full but the weight being secure and against my back.
Credit: Erin Brooks
For hiking, this bag would be great. I have not had a chance to test that, but here’s some items about the bag I think would allow it to be a boon for overnight hiking:
- Hydration bladder support.
- Solid load lifters.
- Solid hip belt.
- Excellent water bottle pockets
- Excellent points of attachment for external gear (daisy chain on the front, MOLLE at the bottom and top of the sides).
The only gotcha would be the capacity at around 33.8L. That’s pretty small, and you’ll need to be a light packer to use that. Not unheard of, but the similar yet larger, Terraframe 50 is cheaper and made for hiking with a beefier hip belt. So I would say this is an excellent bag for the occasional hiker, or if you day hike with people who don’t want to carry their own bags (such as with my wife) then the capacity would be ideal for that. Otherwise, you’ll want something dedicated.
This bag is it. That’s all there is to it. If you are talking about a bag to one-bag travel with for any duration, this bag checks every box. Load is not a concern, because it can handle the weight. It has a great laptop compartment.
It has compression straps and smart pockets at the top for easy access, and modular organization capabilities in the bag. It’s not overtly tactical, but as durable as any other tactical bag. It’s not a box on your back, so it feels more svelte to carry even when stuffed full.
It’s the right size. There’s also a nice bonus, like the ASAP the 3DAP has two interior large pockets that are open at the top, and sit against the front inside of the bag. Unlike the ASAP these do not get in the way and are useful for packing. I found my flip flops fit in one perfectly, and my DOPP kit fits in the other. Keeping both out of the way of the rest of the bag, while keeping them easy to grab.
I had stopped one bag traveling, but this bag is going to push me back into it. I love everything about this bag for travel and I have nothing to complain about. It’s silly expensive, but you’ll not regret it.
There’s a Chance This Is All You Need
I’ve flown through the stuff I usually detail because essentially this bag is a larger version of the three other Mystery Ranch bags I have reviewed: the ASAP, Front, and 2 Day Assault — it’s mostly a bigger, and USA made, version of the 2 Day Assault (2-Day is 29ish liters and the 3-Day is 33ish liters). There’s minor changes here and there, but that’s why I am not diving in. There’s no major thing bad about this bag, which is crazy for me to say.
Stuffed full, from left to right: Urban Assault 21, ASAP, 2 Day Assault, 3 Day Assault CL.
But even crazier, is that this bag could be the only bag you need.
I’ve long been asked the question: if you could only pick one bag, what bag would that be? And that’s always been hard for me because the GR1 is my most used bag, and an ideal size. But it’s tight to pack on some family trips in that. Where the GR2 34L seems like it would be the happy trade off, but that thing looks like a box on your back, and always feels bulky. Almost no other bags are under consideration for this role because they struggle to carry weight well, or are too compartmentalized to be versatile.
34L GR2 on left, 3 Day right.
Until the 3-Day CL came along that is. Because right now if I had to pick just one bag to keep and get rid of the rest, this 3 Day Assault CL would be the one bag and I wouldn’t even worry much about it. Yes it would be large for EDC, but people carry bigger bags, and the compression straps work well enough that it wouldn’t be a huge issue.
Credit: Erin Brooks
You can tone down all the webbing by getting a custom Beavertail added, which covers it and can be ‘fun’ with silly camo patterns that tell everyone not to take you seriously. Even the morale patch field is sufficiently high enough on the bag that it’s not as visible as it is on other bags.
I select this bag over all others for the one as it is the most versatile of every backpack I own, here’s my rough rankings in some categories:
- EDC: it’s above average, with the two negatives being size (though visually not much larger than the 2-Day) and the lack of external laptop access.
- Travel: flawless.
- Day Hikes: a little big, but who cares when you are in the woods, there’s not a lot of penalty there for extra size, only benefit.
- Overnight Hiking: could be tight, and it’s not light enough for the ultralight people who do pack light. So odd middle ground here.
I know a lot of people use backpacks to tote home groceries — I’ve never done it, but I bet this would do very well there, as the tri-zip setup would be fantastic. I can’t think of a use case where this would be a bad bag.
That’s my pitch for this bag. It’s one of the best backpacks I have ever reviewed on this site. Yes, it is big at 33.8L. However, many people still consider 33L a great size for EDC — fun fact, that’s almost the size of many classic Jansport bags, crazy right?
There are things which could be better about this bag, but not a lot. It has a padded and load bearing hip belt which completely tucks away and is deployable while wearing the bag. It has the fantastic Mystery Ranch yoke system which makes the bag fit your body like a glove. It has the tri-zip which is one of the best opening systems on the market. Plenty of attachment points, but held back enough so that you don’t need to worry about standing out as “tacticool” in a crowd.
The only thing which would make this bag better for me: removing the water bottle pockets (I generally don’t like those), and maybe add external laptop access, though I have mixed feelings on real utility of that. There are not many bags I have this few complaints about.
I’ll peg it as at least top three best backpack I’ve ever tested, with only upside to it.
I’ll stop the praise there so you can go buy it.
A Note On Adjusting a Mystery Ranch Yoke
One thing that makes Mystery Ranch stand out above other bag brands is the adjustable yoke, but I have heard from many people they struggle with perfecting this. So I have you covered, before you go out with your new Mystery Ranch bag, use these two videos to help you get your yoke setup: video 1, and video 2.
Now, after you have the bag all put back together and tightened up, what I recommend is going to find about 5-10lbs of weight — anything — and placing it in the bag. Then put the bag on and walk around for a little bit. Generally I find that after doing this and letting the bag and straps settle, that the bag will feel about 0.25-0.5” lower than where I actually want it. I make a mental note, and quickly adjust the yoke by shortening it the amount I want.
Once I do that I repeat the weighted test again. This is a lessoned learned by me after trying the follow the empty bag instructions and then hitting the trails with the bag. I had to adjust each bag on the trail because of this.
Lastly, over time the bag might need to be further adjusted, so don’t think of it as something you’ll never adjust again.