Bag Review: Mystery Ranch 1 Day Assault Pack

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. It certainly helps when it comes to getting ahold of something that’s prohibitively expensive, or just plain old hard to get.

It just so happens that recently, a friend of a friend was nearing the end of his time kicking down doors and shooting watermelons, when he realised that there was a mountain of private purchase and non-returnable kit just sitting around, taking up space… Shame.

Me… Literally me, preparing to buy all his unwanted gear.

Unfortunately, all the attack dogs with titanium teeth and the super secret decoder rings had been snapped up by UKSF Impression groups, but… I was able to snag this little pack for a price that I think was fair to both me and the guy selling it.

Mystery Ranch are an American business based in “Big Sky Country”, Bozeman, Montana. Famous for making packs for those who carry everything on their back for extended trips into the wilderness, Hunters and Firefighters. It was 2004 when they were approached about making equipment for the US Navy SEALs, since that day they’ve become one of the foremost suppliers of specialist backpacks to US and other special forces.

The Mystery Ranch DAP (Day Assault Pack) Series is incredibly popular with exactly the type of people that I sourced mine from, and the reasons are easy to see once you’ve spent some time using one.

The most notable aspect of the 1DAP’s design is the pack’s trademark triple zip, reminiscent of an autopsy cut and serving much the same purpose by allowing unrivalled access to the inside of the pack. It’s one of the key features that make the 1DAP worth buying, but theres much more to look at when reviewing this pack.

Splayed open, probably the key benefit of this pack is it’s open design.

Starting from the top and working down, a 1 inch webbing carry handle provides an essential and simple way to carry the bag around when not being worn. I’ll admit that my own 1DAP probably spends as much time being carried as it does being worn, this simple handle is well up to the task and as of yet, has shown zero sign of wear.

A loop field measuring 4 by 6 inches allows you to display identification or flag patches on top of the pack, it’s ideal for putting that identifying personal touch on what is otherwise “yet another Multicam pack” sitting in a pile of Multicam packs.

The top flap contains an integral pocket, lined with weight saving mesh at the bottom. The clamshell shaped pocket is accessed via a dual YKK zipper with a laminated polyurethane face, which helps to prevent the ingress of moisture and dirt. The amount of storage space within the top flap is deceptively large, you can easily accommodate the contents of an MRE, an Individual First Aid Kit or even a small/medium framed pistol such as a Glock 19.

Within the pocket sits a second, smaller mesh compartment with its own zipper and integrated key-leash, perfect for storing small devices such as navigation aids, lights or simply your wallet and keys.

Moving onto the main compartment, overall it’s rather small by some standards at around 18 litres, but size isn’t everything (that’s what she said). Many packs suffer from what could be described as “dead space” at the bottom, this is due to the way that the space itself is accessed. When you’ve only got one way in and one way out, you can often end up not making the most out of a pack, even one with twice the capacity of this particular one.

This simply isn’t an issue with the 1DAP, the triple zipper allows fantastic access to this pack. The zipper itself uses the same PU face as used elsewhere to prevent dirt/water ingress, but this also conceals a beefy puncture resistant zipper that helps keep the pack shut, reassuring if carrying items that might force their way through a less durable zipper.

The durable puncture resistant dorsal zipper, when fully closed, it sits tucked up beneath the lid of the pack on the pictured section of fabric.

The inside of the pack contains a kangaroo type lightweight pouch, a small cord loop at the top can be used to hang a hydration bladder and a pair of zippers are placed strategically close to the top of the pouch, exiting near the shoulder straps to allow your hydration tube to run along either side.

All the zippers come equipped with cord pull tabs, a nice touch that cuts down on noise and makes using the zippers simple, even with gloves on.

A drawcord and toggle at the top of this internal pouch allows you to cinch the top closed, with this same cord crisscrossing down the length of the pouch and providing a reassuring grasp on anything you choose to place in it, without deforming the shape of the pouch itself.

A pair of full-length, half-width zippered mesh pockets sit on the front of the kangaroo pouch, a zipper running down each side to allow access. Made from the same tough mesh as used within the lid, these pockets allow organisation of smaller items such as tools, documentation or anything else that could otherwise become difficult to find. Small, but pleated down their length, they allow you to fit in quite a substantial load.

A label on the inside of the pack proudly states that this particular pack was made in Mystery Ranch’s primary factory in Bozeman, Montana, USA. Batch information such as date and work line of manufacture, as well as the signature of the person who quality checked the bag before clearing it for dispatch. A fantastic touch, not something you see often nowadays.

On the outside of the pack, a row of webbing flanks each side of the dorsal zipper. Sectioned off into 2.5” loops, these can be used to attach items by using shock cord or additional webbing straps.

A three by three section of MOLLE webbing sits on the upper portion of each side of the pack, useful if you need to attach kit to the outside of the pack, but low profile enough to not interfere with the pack’s sleek lines when not used.

Underneath the pack sits a final strip of webbing, divided into three sections. Ideal for stowing a Thermarest mat or shelter, and as with all the webbing and structural joins on the pack, it’s stitched using very neatly sewn bar-tacks.

Note the grab tab at the bottom of the zipper, every zipper on this pack has one.

It’s on the rear of the pack where things become very interesting though, with Mystery Ranch using a yoke type design for the shoulder straps and back support. A “lite” version of the Futura yoke system used on many of their packs.

The Futura design uses a shaped two part frame, the lower section sits incorporated within the pack itself whilst the upper section telescopes within its own sleeve, able to be micro-adjusted for wearer height and fixed into place using a hook and corresponding loop panel hidden within the sleeve.

Spacer mesh covers all contact areas on the wearer’s back, providing breathability whilst remaining light and adaptable to different body shapes. On the lower rear of the pack, a padded section sits where the pack will meet your lumbar region. This offers a little more comfort when carrying heavier loads, and can really make the difference in minimising fatigue and back pain.

The spacer mesh used feels very durable, far more so than that used on certain other manufacturer’s products.

The frame is made from HDPE (High Density Polyurethane), it feels similar to kydex but with a little more flex than it’s thickness would allow (if made from the same material). There is a slight “S” curve to the frame which is designed to allow the pack to form itself to the wearer, adapting to the weight being carried.

The profile of the pack is designed to hug your back, note the curve on it’s inner face.

The top of the yoke splits into a pair of conventional shoulder straps, each being faced internally with the same padded spacer mesh of the back panel. The structural strength and load bearing capabilities of the straps are provided by the webbing that runs down it’s entirety, on the top it loops through a Duraflex Tensionlock that allows the top of the yoke to be adjusted for user shoulder shape and load weight.

The shoulder pads each have a coyote brown elastic strip along the upper section to help retain any hydration or comms cables, these are one of the few parts (along with the spacer mesh) that are not colour matched to the rest of the pack, with the webbing and cordura material both being genuine licensed Multicam material.

A doubled up section of the webbing is perfectly positioned to contain a removable sternum strap, which unfortunately was missing from this pack when purchased. I have contacted Mystery Ranch to order a replacement, but I’m not holding my breath for an answer.

A small hole on the Tensionlock allows the attachment of a short lanyard, useful if you want to remove the pack quickly.

The bottom section of the shoulder straps is a standard 1’ webbing as used elsewhere on the pack, joined via an angled cordura wing that comes out around 3” from the base of the pack.

The small section that provides an anchor point for the strap is suitably tough.

The majority of the pack is made from 500d Cordura, a good all round choice, being resistant to wear and tear whilst remaining lightweight and flexible. This pack feels as rugged as my old 5.11 Rush 24 but without the significant weight penalty that comes with it. There are a number of novel design features that make this pack a great choice for those who have the pick of the crop, one of my favourite little touches is the addition of a pair of formed pads on the lower sides of the interior. They provide a slight amount of rigidity and keep the pack’s shape when needed, but without hampering it’s ability to sit completely flat when you want the pack to not bulk out.

In use, I’ve found the pack to be very comfortable once properly adjusted, it’s important to note that Mystery Ranch do offer different frame sizes, but I’ve been able to adjust the medium size yoke on this pack to fit my large frame incredibly well.

The carriage capacity isn’t massive, but for a daysack it’s just about perfect. A Woobie, waterproofs, Jetboil, a couple of litres of water and a bit of food will easily fit within the pack with room to spare.

If you really push it to the limit, you could probably squeeze in a weekend’s worth of consumables and clothing, although all but the most compact of sleeping bags will quickly swallow up much of the internal space.

It’s surprising what you can fit in this pack…

The ability to get something out the bottom of the pack via the dorsal zipper has proven to be useful on occasion, and being able to “flay” the pack open allows for a much more functional packing style, meaning that you can put items where they feel most comfortable, not just in the order that you’ll need them as you’d traditionally be forced into doing.

Need to get to an item at the bottom of the pack? No problemo.

If I had to list a negative (or two), I’d suggest that the MOLLE on the sides should either come all the way down the side of the pack, or be supplemented by a pair of stretch pockets on the lower sides to allow for water bottle carriage. This, added to the lack of internal bottle sleeves (as found on the 2 DAP and 3 DAP) mean that you generally end up putting your water bottle in the kangaroo sleeve or at the very bottom of the pack, which on a pack with no drainage grommets could end up making it rather soggy if you’re not careful.

Overall though, this pack is outstanding. It’s replaced my Haley Strategic Flatpack Plus as my “EDC/lunch bag”, it’s comfortable when taking a walk on the hills and offers enough customisation that you can stick your phone, wallet and keys in the lid pocket, whilst also having two additional mesh pockets free for any other small items.

The biggest disappointment is this pack’s availability, made only in the USA but not available for commercial sale outside of the Far East. Unless you’re military/law enforcement or know someone who is, you’re unlikely to find one of these for sale unless looking at the second hand market.

My advice would be; if you spot one for sale at a price you can justify… Grab it without hesitation. For those of you who can’t afford to wait until one pops up, the Mystery Ranch ASAP fills a similar slot in the market, with a few welcome changes, and is a whole lot easier overall to get ahold of.

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