Review: Mystery Ranch District 24l

The all-round everyday daypack made from reclaimed materials from the Montana brand

Feature type Review

Read time 4 mins

Published Mar 31, 2023

Author Matthew Pink

Matthew Pink BASE’s brand head honcho is a denizen of the crag. He gorges on adventure culture, hankers for epic treks and grinds his gravel bike round the Bristol orbit.

Our Verdict

The District 24 from Mystery Ranch is a rugged and cannily designed backpack that can withstand some serious rip but it’s not without a couple of surprising flaws.

RRP £165
Dimensions 18.5 in x 11.75 in x 9.75 in
Weight 1.2kg
Materials CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66, Nylon, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Features 17″ laptop section

Pros

  • The internal gussets are collapsible giving you welcome flexibility on your packing approach
  • Front compartment is deep and super accessible
  • CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 reclaimed material is both environmentally sound and tough as

Cons

  • The teardrop shape can feel like it sags when carrying a decent load
  • Water bottle pockets are a little loose
  • The harness system and the chest strap aren’t the most comfortable
  • Not readily available in UK retailers yet

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

For a daypack I want some smart internal organisation that is going to help me switch easily from commute to hill-mode. These days I’m carrying all sorts of electrical gadgets, batteries and wiggly stuff and so I like to be able to access these with minimal fuss but I also like to open the bag and not feel like I am dipping my digits into a rattlesnake nest.

I’m definitely looking for a dangle-free experience and I want shoulder straps that run chunky. I know from previous experience that my daypacks are going to get pulled hither and thither and have to roll with the punches. They’ll be chucked down during adventure film shoots in the field, playgrounds, carparks, beaches, crags, on mucky train floors or in a car boot with Lord-knows-what in there too.

I have a tendency to overpack, putting some serious stress on the zippers. So I want some solidity there along with easily grabbable zippers with tough fabric able can withstand a fierce yank.

After that, given it will be chucked on my back as I hurtle through the dank, soggy urban winter on my ride, I need a solid, reliable, waterproof fabric to keep my electricals and spare clothes dry along with an easy reach bottle holder.

Too many backpack makers, especially those at the premium price point, prioritise sleekness and aesthetic design over function. From what I can see, I’m pretty confident this is not going to be the case with the Mystery Ranch District 24L.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Do you already know the brand Mystery Ranch? Maybe one more for the Americana outdoors gear heads but now twenty-years-plus in, and based out of the gritty outdoors mecca of Bozeman, Montana, Mystery Ranch has found both a hyper-loyal customer base State-side and a similarly passionate one in Asian and European markets although availability in the UK can be sparse. Over in the US, its reputation for hard-wearing comfort and quality has found fervour and favour with mountaineers but also related professions like firefighters, hardened hunters and even the military.

It was founded and is run by the much admired Dana Gleason who takes obvious and great pride in being a product-driven business that doubles down on durability of construction.

All of this information feeds my first impressions for a bag which looks tough, cool and pleasingly, reassuringly well padded through the straps. Unzipping (YKK, nice) you’re hit with a boom of bright orange which I know will help locate items trying to hide themselves away when accessing the back under low light. Flicking through the various compartments, there looks to be a really rich variety of options of size and shape and it feels like it could perform well as a high functioning commuter pack but also out on the hill.

The Test

I’ve had the bag with me for about three months now and have mixed up usage across commutes, hikes, rides and days out with the family. I also took it on a two-day film shoot where the rain was horizontal and severe for extended periods, soaking us all to the bone and then out the other side too. 

Usually I wouldn’t expose a backpack to such a continuous deluge but I admit to being a little disappointed to see how quickly the moisture crept in and also how annoying it was when the flask would slip out of the bottle holders as the bag rocked and toppled in the wind. 

The straps tend to slip off the shoulders a little too much for my liking too (especially on a down jacket). Otherwise, the bag never feels too bulky, even when pretty jammed, but it can sag a little down the bottom end.

I’ve had the bag with me for about three months now and have mixed up usage across commutes, hikes, rides and days out with the family

WHO IS THIS BAG FOR?

You could definitely adopt this bag as your daily go-to companion for campuses or commutes and the material mix certainly lends itself to a more rugged handling. The CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 is definitely durable and – bonus points – in terms of quantifiable benefits versus Virgin Nylon 6,6 – the production of CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 ‘decreases greenhouse gas emissions by 83%, consumes 82% less energy and uses 57% less water.’ So, that’s good. It’s made from reclaimed pre-consumer materials that are recycled into high-quality yarns. As well as backpacks like this, the feisty fabric is also deployed in designs for apparel, reinforcements, outerwear, heavier luggage, equipment, accessories and footwear too.

If you’re swerving wetter conditions, this bag is a decent option for hikes and longer treks too, but, to my mind, the harnessing system makes it less suited to heavier loads when you want more comfort and security around the chest.

What Stands Out

Collapsible internal gussets

These give you helpful options when carrying different items of size, solidity and softness.

Ruggedness

The zippers, the material mix and the overall shape give me decent confidence that this bag is going to go a long distance with me on adventures, both literally and figuratively. 

Loads of flexibility in the internal organisation

There are lots of different compartments with an obvious mind on modern utility. This is something of a Mystery Ranch (and Dana Gleason) trademark.

Value For Money

This RRP is definitely in the upper reaches of the bracket for a 24L non-technical daypack, no question about that. Of course, time will tell but for now this pack seems seriously strong, sturdy and substantial.

It’s also fair to say, though, that dropping your budget by about 30% of this price will still return you some good options elsewhere. 

BASE Bottom Line

The brand’s product design smarts still shine through with the District 24L but there are a couple of arguably surprising oversights. That said, they are not showstoppers at all and you could absolutely get tons of use out of this bag before those flaws really started to irk.

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