I previously looked at the District 18 when it came out, and while I liked the bag — it felt a little small on my long torso. I grabbed the District 24 to take a look at in hopes that it was the same bag, only bigger.
And it is bigger, but that ‘bigger’ changes how it feels enough that it’s not a layup if all you want is a larger version of the District 18.
Size & Specs
Even though it is called the ‘24’, this is a 23L bag according to Mystery Ranch (I’ll touch on this later, but to me it packs closer to 25-26L). The bag dimensions hit a sweet spot for most: 18.5″H x 11.75″W x 9.75″D. That will fit most adults, while not feeling too small on taller folks like myself.
But I don’t love the dimensions of this bag. It’s a bit too deep and too wide, and I would have preferred Mystery Ranch to make it a little taller and keep that width around 11” — as the water bottle pockets do expand out, a narrower bag feels better when those are in use. That said, I’ve not had any actual issues when using this bag given the dimensions — so this is more of an spec-sheet preference of mine.
I should note, that the depth is a little hard to measure here. The bottom is not 9.75” deep, but certainly the deepest part is. It’s a curved design, so the deepest part is about 1/3 the way up from the bottom of the bag. This plays a factor in keeping the feeling and visual footprint of the bag looking smaller — and is likely a part of the reason why I don’t have complaints about the size when using it.
All of this weighs 2.7lbs, and the primary material is the ‘CORDURA® 420d re/cor™ RECYCLED NYLON FABRIC’ that Mystery Ranch has started to use. This mostly feels like a 500D weight, with a unique texture, and a sheen reminiscent of ballistic nylon — though more pliable than ballistic. The love child of ballistic nylon and 500D cordura I guess you could say. It’s a good material.
While this is a fixed harness, it is comfortable, has somewhat functional load lifters, and a simple and easy to remove sternum strap. If you like the Urban Assault harness, you’ll like this one a touch better — it carries the load better in this variant. The only thing I will mention about the straps is that they feel a little more narrow than I would ideally like for a bag of this size. That’s a very minor complaint though — splitting hairs really.
Use & Carry
I’ve been using this bag for heading back and forth from the office and my single line thought is that: it works well, while offering no reason to hate it, or love it.
There’s something lacking in this bag for me, but before I get to that, a quick run down on the normal things:
- It’s comfortable to carry this bag. Far more comfortable than the District 18 was for my frame, but not as comfortable as Mystery Ranch’s Futura yokes. In this price point and size/feature set, I think it will be hard pressed to find a more comfortable bag.
- It holds everything you could want it to hold and then some.
- And it holds that gear however you want: with some rather functional organization pockets, or you can go full pouch mode and avoid those all together.
- The quick access pocket at the top is decently large, and awesome. A really nice pocket.
- The front pocket area is simply too large here, without having more organization in it. It’s not poor like what the GR1 has, as it can still be used well with pouches. But it does feel oddly large for what it’s meant to be. The bottom third of this section feels somewhat like an after thought almost.
- The water bottle pockets work really well on this bag. They hold larger bottles securely and even my smaller bottles. Where I run into issues with them is that the bag is already rather wide at just under a foot in width, so adding another 3-4 inches to the width on one side — means that that bottle likely will stick out beyond your arm, or will be in a great spot for your arm to bump into it when swinging your arms. I noticed this several times, and while not a deal breaker, it is a thing to note if you are going to do a lot of walking with this bag and a larger water bottle in it.
- The main compartment is effectively the same as the District 18, so that it can work as an accordion opening by default, but with a quick change of some velcro wings, it turns to full clamshell. This is really handy. There’s good enough org here, but it’s all rather basic. The upside is that it doesn’t impact the useable space enough to worry about those org spots if you don’t want to use them.
- I found that this bag carries larger, it feels like a 26L bag, but probably has the capacity of a 24-25L bag. Meaning if you think it will be smaller than a 26L GR1, it will be, but not in how it feels or looks on your back.
- The shoulder straps, and top handle are all very comfortable and well done for the expected use of the bag.
- This bag flies completely under the radar visually.
- It does not get dirty easily, either from pet hair or actual dirt. Big plus for many right there. And when I did get a few marks on it, they wiped clean very easily.
- The bright orange interior is fine — I’d prefer light gray, but the orange is fine. It’s a little much, and I hope the trend goes away in general.
This bag held everything I wanted it to hold just fine. It carried fine as well. Fine is fine, but it’s not great. That’s how I feel about the bag after using it.
Compared to 18
I wanted to touch on this really quick with a few points for those trying to decide between the two sizes of the bags:
- The 24 fits my 6’-3” frame much better and is more comfortable for me.
- The 24 carries bulky items a lot better as there’s more room.
- The 18 is ideal if what you carry is mostly flat shaped items.
- Visually I think the 18 looks better than the 24.
Even though I pack rather large amount of gear, I prefer the 18 if I had to pick between the two.
This is a very good backpack. For most people, this would be among the best bags they have used. It’s better than most North Face, or Patagonia, work backpacks people buy and drag to the office, while not looking any fancier than either of those.
My issue here is that I like my bag to look fancy. I like it to say something about something. This bag doesn’t do that, especially in the all black, and most of the color offerings are not a great fit for the office. So you select black, and it feels a little boring.
Which is a shame, because this is legitimately a good bag. And at $165, with a Mystery Ranch quality — it’s a good value too. If you need a really good bag, which doesn’t look like a really good bag — this is it.
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