I’ve had this bag for quite some time now, and it’s been on the market for a very long time. This is a 19L packable backpack from Mystery Ranch. I picked this up mostly as a ‘just in case’ backpack, but it’s much better than I anticipated, so worth a few words on it.
Size and Specs
Technically, Mystery Ranch says this backpack is 18.8L — marketed as a 19L bag — I disagree with both and say it’s 20L. It doesn’t look that large, but it packs that large. The backpack measures out to: 16.25″ tall x 9.5″ wide x 8.25″ deep, and further folds down to 8.5” x 4.5” x 4”. Though, I would say in practice it feels like it folds down a touch smaller than that. This isn’t some black magic when you fold it away, but it’s impressive that a bag this good can fold down that small.
Like most of these bags, it is pretty simple and barebones. Though, there are nice features like one external water bottle pocket, some organization pockets, hydration compatible and compression straps.
There’s no framesheet and essentially no padding on the straps, but the body is 100D Cordura, which I actually have no complaints about.
Ok, so before I get into my use of this bag, I want to talk about why I snagged it. I snagged it to serve two purposes:
- It’s a wildly popular Mystery Ranch bag I had not checked out, and so I needed to remedy that.
- For when no one else in the group has a backpack, so having an extra that I pay little penalty for traveling with seemed smart, without having to give up my backpack.
Ok, so the way I tested this was at Disney World. I had packed this as a backup like I described above, and my LBT Daypack 14L as my day-to-day pack. However, on the day we were set to leave, I decided that my LBT would be best used to protect some purchased items inside our checked luggage, and thus I broke out the In and Out for our last half-day in the park and the entire travels back home.
I was impressed, but not wowed. Generally speaking, I would use this bag if I needed a bag and it was there, but I don’t go seeking it out. What impressed me the most about the bag was how well/easy it is to use as a bag for being in a park like that. What impressed me the least was how comfortable it was to wear long term.
Oh, I also think this is a pretty good looking bag for what it is.
Some takeaways from the time I have spent using this (which is more than that single day overall):
- It can be a little fussy to pack up into the front pocket. It takes a few goes before it makes sense — essentially without practice you won’t get it to pack up very small and smooth. With practice you can do it almost every time.
- It doesn’t pack down that small, but it certainly packs down small enough to be valuable. Meaning you can stash this inside other bags really easily so that you have an extra daypack — I think that is great.
- I mentioned this above, but it looks really solid. It’s not fashionable, but it bridges the gap between hiking and city well enough that it can fit in both places.
- The organization in the bag is great. There’s not a lot of it, but I found it all surprisingly well executed to the point where it was the first note I wrote down about the bag.
- The overall features on the bag are a bit unexpected given the packable nature. Compression straps, two small pockets, water bottle pocket, and a sternum strap. Great stuff.
- Generally I am not a sternum strap person for use like this, but it was very helpful to adjust the weight given the lack of padding on the straps.
- That said the straps are just ok. If you keep the weight light, say up to 9lbs, then you should be good to go. And the sternum strap will help to adjust things. However, I did notice that the webbing for the straps dug into my pectoral area on both sides and left some decent (but painless) marks on my skin — given how often I wear backpacks this was surprising to me.
- There’s no padding on the back panel, so comfort is dictated by what you are carrying and how well you load it into the backpack.
Generally: this is solid if you need a place to stash some snacks, a water bottle, and a rain jacket. Beyond that — like carrying my load for airplane trips, and you are really pushing this bag beyond what it should ideally be used for.
I enjoy this bag, but I don’t think it will win a lot of people over. This is something I toss in a suitcase when we are packing for family trips. It is sized in such a way where it can fit anyone in the family, and is durable and easy enough to use that I don’t worry about it.
I’m a fan, but the use cases are rather limited for me.