- Buyer's Guide
Mystery Ranch is a staple among hardcore outdoors professionals and the military. They’ve been designing packs since 2000 for military, hunting, firefighting, and mountaineering use. The packs thrive outdoors, seeing action hauling combat gear, skis, and the fruits of a hunt. Mystery Ranch’s hard-charging pedigree is apparent in the Patrol 35, a ski-mountaineering pack, handmade to spec for “seasoned ski patrollers, avy forecasters, or hardcore backcountry shredders.”
In my time with the Patrol 35, I have come to appreciate this understated workhorse as it accompanies me day after day around the Hokkaido backcountry for work and play.
- Name: Patrol 35
- Brand: Mystery Ranch
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: 29x13x11 inches / 74x33x28cm
- Capacity: 2136 cu-in / 35L
- Weight: 4.8 lbs / 2.17 kg
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: 500D Nylon with PU Coating; 330D Cordura Lite Plus
- PriceUS$ 279
Who It Suits
Skiers looking for a heavily featured pack that has a spot for everything from goggles to chocolate bars to chocolate bar wrappers. The Mystery Ranch Patrol 35 is a robust pack, featuring many options for personalizing carry, especially with all the pockets and straps. Mystery Ranch’s background in forging tough all-conditions packs for taking on the world is very evident in their foray into ski packs. The Patrol 35 will be overkill for most missions, but the ability to support anything from casual resort jaunts to all-day backcountry trips is what makes this bag so versatile. The lack of out-of-the-box snowboard-specific carry options leaves boarders who opt for this pack compromising. However, a separate Mystery Ranch “Snowboard Attach” add-on (available on their website) will give added functionality of board carry.
Who It Doesn’t
Those looking for a minimalist or lightweight approach to backcountry carry should look elsewhere, as the Patrol 35 has more pockets and features than absolutely “necessary.”
The Patrol 35 has all the markings of a classic Mystery Ranch pack with strong design, a “built for purpose” appearance, and well-thought-out features. With black camo on black, the Patrol 35 is stealthy and perfect for those seeking an understated, dialed-back aesthetic.
YKK zippers seal the pockets of the pack, offering smooth zipping in conditions down to double digit negative temperatures. I have never had snags or stuck zippers, even with cold, ice, and snow mixing into the teeth of the zippers. Red tabs on the side zips and avalanche pocket zips save time in everyday scenarios (like grabbing snacks, taking the shovel to dig a snow pit) and in the event of an emergency.
The Patrol 35 features 330D Cordura Lite Plus fabric, wrapped around the frame of the pack. Across the face of the pack, where skis would sit in diagonal carry, Mystery Ranch have added a tough ski-edge and abrasion-resistant 500D Nylon with a PU coating to prevent snags and cuts.
Straps and Workflow
The abundance of straps are nice for on-the-fly adjustments and really customizing the fit and compression of the pack as those needs change throughout the day (think layering, delayering, and taking skins in and out). The downsides of this are largely up to personal preference. If you ski in the treeline a lot (like I do in Hokkaido), they can be prone to catching on the many branches and vines that characterize Hokkaido skiing. This also means, in brutal high winds, you won’t have to struggle with clumsy gloved hands to find straps tucked away. However, the straps on the pack (minus the external stash-flap) have a Velcro loop that can secure any excess material away, minimizing (but not completely doing away with) the tree snagging and wind whipping.
The side compressions are perfect for A-frame ski carrying, but without rubber reinforcements on the straps, I can see ski edges digging into the fabric over time. With a robust fiberglass frame though, the Patrol 35 does not sag under A-frame carry like other packs can be prone to do.
Space and Access
Mystery Ranch have really nailed the sizing on this pack, which wears like a 35-liter pack, but has the volume of a much larger pack. I can pack all the essentials and then more, really making it a viable option as the only ski pack to ever own.
"With a robust fiberglass frame though, the Patrol 35 does not sag under A-frame carry like other packs can be prone to do."
As a ski photographer, an easy-to-use back or side zip is a must for me, as fumbling with a brain or compression adds seconds to a workflow that could be whittled down to one zipper pull. The Patrol 35 has two side zips, offering quick access for a camera, water bottles, extra gloves, etc. There is a particular way to open them, as the opening is flanked on one side by the fiberglass frame. Trying to open the pack “outwards” will be more difficult than opening the pack “inwards” (pushing towards the front of the pack versus pulling away from the pack) which will provide a larger opening to grab or stow bulky items such as a DSLR.
As the side access can be a bit of a squeeze sometimes, top access can prove handy for retrieving or loading bulkier items.
Back access on the Patrol 35 can be useful for packing, but more often, it was inconvenient to get through the layers of buckles and red Velcro tab, so I have found I do not use the back access feature much, especially not with cold hands.
The brain of the pack features two pockets, one with a lens-cloth-esque fabric for stowing sunglasses, goggles, or lenses, and another for other small items. The Patrol 35 is one of those packs where when the main compartment is not filled, the brain has a tendency to fold over the front of the pack. There will not be any movement or looseness, but it will block access to the avalanche compartment.
The waist strap features two weather-sealed pockets, one on each side, perfect for lens cloths or snacks. The waist strap adjuster is stored behind the pockets, offering an elegant out-of-the-way option to keep straps from dangling in a critical “tangle zone.”
The avalanche gear pocket features slots for a probe and shovel handle, with ample room for a shovel head.
This is a minor gripe, but one feature that I was missing on this pack is an option to carry a helmet without strapping it to the outside of the pack.
"When the main compartment is not filled, the brain has a tendency to fold over the front of the pack. There will not be any movement or looseness, but it will block access to the avalanche compartment."
Mystery Ranch have added an external stash-flap, going over the front of the avalanche gear pocket, for extra bulky items. I have used this feature for skins, bottles, and for my “regular” pants. At the end of a catski day, I have often found it useful to throw all my wet gear, such as gloves, balaclavas, buffs, radios, and avalanche beacons into the stash zone to be dried later. Separate from the rest of the pack, it is a reasonably secure option for stowing wet gear.
This is my average day-to-day setup, give or take some items depending on the type of adventure and the weather conditions.
"One feature that I was missing on this pack is an option to carry a helmet without strapping it to the outside of the pack."
With the custom telescoping fiberglass frame and adjuster plate, the pack was very comfortable on all day long missions, which often included slinging the pack on and off, dozens of times a day. The adjuster, once dialed in, will stay put, sticking into place via a generous internal Velcro panel. This is where it becomes important to order the correct size based on your torso length. Because of how rigid this pack is, it is critical that the pack is not too large, as riding with a stiff pack strapped to your back will compromise control and handling in tight situations. The Patrol 35 is a tall pack rather than a stout pack, which makes it all the more important that the sizing is correct. This pack will not stay upright when placed on the ground, which may be a minor annoyance for some, but in the backcountry this pack lives on my back most of the time, keeping my safety and photography gear attached to me as much as possible.
This plastic plate can be found after unclipping the buckles above the shoulder strap and pulling the back panel apart from the main pack. From there, the plate can be adjusted up and down to find the sweet spot where the shoulder strap aligns with the top of the shoulder blade.
The shoulder straps are structurally separate from the body of the pack, held together by the shoulder adjusters to form a hinge, which improves ergonomics and comfort, especially when on the move. This helps the pack move with, not against, the movements of skiing and hiking.
Long days with the Patrol 35 are a breeze. The waist belt and sternum strap work well in tandem to spread weight across the body. The frame, being separate from the body of the pack, provides a suspension system to keep weight hovering over the waist instead of pulling down on the shoulders. The contoured and semi-independent waist strap hugs like a good climbing harness, again providing good float so as not to restrict ski and hiking movements.
"The frame, being separate from the body of the pack, provides a suspension system to keep weight hovering over the waist instead of pulling down on the shoulders."
The Patrol 35 takes snowproofing and waterproofing seriously. In my testing, catskiing, skinning up the backcountry, and hauling the pack between hotels and cars, it has not once showed any signs of damage or wear. The contents of the pack have stayed dry (unless I let snow in) and the fabric has never soaked through to the interior. I can trust that the pack will hold for years to come, even with day in and day out use. Chances are, the Patrol 35 will work just as hard as you do without going short of breath, tomahawking, or catching an edge. Here’s a shot of the Patrol 35 hanging out in its element in the bin of the snowcat with the ice, skis, and snowboards.
The only feature to go on my test pack was the elastic stopper loop for the sternum strap, which gave out within a week, followed shortly by the other loop. It hasn’t detracted from the function of the sternum strap, but may allow the straps to ride out of the position you set.
The Mystery Ranch Patrol 35 can be the last backcountry ski bag you ever buy for everything up to a day of skiing (for longer missions, the Patrol also comes in a 45-liter variant). Its versatility and backcountry-centric design is a testament to the Mystery Ranch design philosophy. It is tough as nails, hard-charging, and backed by Mystery Ranch’s lifetime guarantee. In testing, this pack took all the abuse of the elements, day in and day out, working without fail through the dead of winter to the slush and ice of spring for everything from cat skiing to dropping backcountry lines. Due to its size, it can also be a great carry-on as the ski-specific features can double as great travel features.
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support