- Buyer's Guide
Hunting a Unicorn: Mystery Ranch Beams Day Assault
Despite what your parents told you, unicorns actually do exist – they’re Multicam and made from Cordura nylon.
This pack has been haunting me for nearly six years. I first discovered it by accident via some aimless backpack Google searching some time in summer of 2014. I’m obsessed, don’t judge me. During my browsing, one very particular photo of a backpack caught my eye. Honestly, to this day, I’m unsure if I wish I could unsee that image. In all its camo and coyote nylon glory, it burned a hole into my brain. Even though I’m extremely vocal and biased about being #TeamAllBlackEverything as well as not being a huge camo fan, this pack somehow could break all my silly color palette rules.
From that single photo I accidentally stumbled upon (above), I already knew it was the most perfect Mystery Ranch backpack that I had ever seen. I had to learn more. So I kept searching. And came up with nothing. The only information of any kind that I could find on this thing was that same digital photo. And despite all my attempts, I couldn’t zoom in far enough to touch it. Frankly, because of the small thumbnail image (at the time), I only knew which brand made it because of the ultra-famous and iconic Tri-Zip design. This exact photo was shared around a few different websites, none of which had any additional supporting information. There were certainly no clues where to find one. Just a photo.
I searched for months.
Months turned into years.
The thorn in my brain and my soul needed to be pulled, so I reached out to the folks at The Ranch up in Bozeman. At this point, I had never interacted with these inspirational softgoods design and manufacturing heroes of mine. While it might not make sense to you, I’ll admit that it took a lot to get over my nervousness to message these Montanan titans. Then their crushing but informative reply came back. This pack was a one-time-only release. A collaboration with a Japanese outdoor brand that I had never heard of, called Beams. But at least now it had a name. And now I finally knew it, “Beams Day Assault Pack“. Even with this exciting new information… it was back to more dead ends.
Reader, please do me a favor. Open up a new tab and use Google to search for “Mystery Ranch Beams Day Assault”. Or click here and I’ll handle the heavy lifting for you. The almighty Google provides three results. Three. And of these, 2 are Facebook posts which occurred in 2017 and 1 is a now expired eBay listing from 2017… all three which appeared years after I began my obsessive and fruitless hunt in 2014. So at the time of my searching, there were ZERO results in all of the internet’s 4.6+ billion pages. Despite having inside intel at the very source, the person who typed the email to me was sitting in the actual building this pack was built in… I still only had a single photo, a name, and even greater jealousy of the customers in that incredibly exclusive Japanese carry market. Still, I wouldn’t give up.
It became my grail.
Then I met D3. D3 is the son of “The Big Guy”, Dana Gleason, founder of Mystery Ranch. D3’s first name is actually Dana, but he uses the nickname D3 to avoid confusion (and we will too, for the purpose of this article). D3 is now one of the pillars at Mystery Ranch, picking up where his father has stepped back. Most of the new designs you see coming from The Ranch are either designed by D3 or he has a very big part in their design/development. Anyway, I had the pleasure to meet D3 at an Outdoor Retailer show. Turns out we shared several common interests, which developed into simply recognizing each other over the years, and now, dare I say a quality friendship. Long story short; if there was anyone to know about this pack, it was D3. I’d find out, even the details of this pack were a bit hazy for him. But he did have some quality intel.
Beams is an outdoor/lifestyle brand in Japan that makes its own products and is a retailer for many other brands, including Mystery Ranch. The genius folks at Beams reached out and inquired about making a collab version of one of the best-selling products they carried; a Tri-Zip Mystery Ranch backpack but in a smaller, more everyday-friendly silhouette. There would be organization. And it would be two-tone with camo, because Japan.
With a little tag team effort from both Lance Lombard (who handles MR’s military contacts) and D3, I gained a little more insight. Beams placed the order for this small batch of packs in late 2013. They were made at the Bozeman HQ in January of 2014 and shipped over to Japan in February of 2014. Total units were 50. No, I didn’t miss a zero. 50. No wonder this pack was such unobtanium. I was grasping at mist in the distance of a dream.
Learning this, I asked if they would *ever* consider remaking them. The answer was a hard “no”. For an understandable reason, as this was a collaboration project. Re-releasing the same or similar design without the other brand’s consent is simply immoral and could even be illegal. I asked if there were any extras… anywhere. D3 ran a quick mental inventory of The Ranch’s bag collection, his eyes darting around in his eye sockets while he carefully thought. If I’m not mistaken, he might have mentioned there was one left. But that was the only one, and it had to stay in Bozeman for obvious historical reasons. Basically another “no”. A friendly “no”. Either way… Back. To. Square. One.
Over the years, there was one additional photo that popped up on the internet, devoid of information. The same head-on angle, revealing nothing more, not even a side view. This new photo’s sole purpose for existing was to taunt me, so I tried to ignore it. Then, one popped up on eBay. When the price reached $500, despite wanting to continue in the bidding war, financially I had to step out of the running. It sold for $660 USD, which would put it around $700 shipped from Hong Kong to the USA. Another went up for sale some time after that first one. It sold for nearly $800 and then had its page swiftly removed from existence.
Andy, owner/founder of Carryology and Bellroy, and I would romance over this pack through the years. Though I had never even seen this bag in person, I’ve made lifelong friendships because of this bag. One important one being Lance Lombard (mentioned previously above). Lance has then introduced me to dozens of additional friends from a variety of different backgrounds. Much later down this path of self-inflicted torture, I would meet Greg Li in our Carryology Classified Faceboook chat group (check it out, it’s a bunch of bag and gear geeking where you can also find rare “grail” items for sale frequently). Greg is the owner of Suburban, which I firmly believe is the single best and most curated bag shop on Earth. Located in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay shopping district, this shop is stocked with all of the heaviest hitters that we talk about here on the site. Want to see the most Carry Awards winners under one roof? Go to Greg’s shop.
Little did I know Greg had a Beams Day Assault Pack squirreled away among his epic carry selection at Suburban. Greg drops me the most generous message ever within the Carryology Classified Facebook group. “Hey man, I’ll send you one. You can’t keep it forever. But you can use it, take photos of it, and just enjoy it for a while.” Despite knowing Greg for less than a year now, I can already tell he’s another lifelong friend… all because of this pack. In fact, Greg opened his doors for a Carryology meetup event (click to view the calendar for one near you) at his shop this past December 2019, which was a lot of fun.
Cutting straight through the Hong Kong customs export documentation to get into the box, I try to keep a steady hand. There it is. Years of waiting for this moment. A real-life unicorn, in Multicam and coyote Cordura fabric. This is the first time I have seen one of these in real life. Let alone been able to physically touch and hold one. Folks, I know we’ve all purchased bags after drooling over photos, reading the reviews, and watching videos online… only to be left a little underwhelmed. It happens. With all kinds of products. Sometimes the thing you imagined just wasn’t as great as you had expected. Not here. It was better.
Why do I love this pack so much? For me, it’s a perfect balance between: the allure of being an ultra-rare collab, the Mystery Ranch quality and pedigree, the fully-adjustable (non-attached) super comfortable Futura harness, military-spec durable materials, the beautiful aesthetics and perfect proportions, the improved additional organization, possibly the thrill of the hunt itself, and not to sound cheesy, but the quality friendships I’ve made along this journey.
The most obvious thing that stands out on this Beams Day Assault are those two contrasting vertical pockets. I love my MR ASAP, but you’re really only left with quick EDC organization in the top lid pocket. With the “BDA” on the other hand, you’ve got two large quick-access pockets for your stuff. And they can double as water bottle pockets for those who are all about that hydration life. Moving inside, there are two more small zippered pockets and a large drawstring dump pocket, so you can keep items up off the bottom “floor” of the pack. Ultimately, with just a few tiny niggles, this is what I had always been dreaming of.
Aesthetically speaking, I think this still might be my favorite backpack in the world. Yep, I said it. Again, I don’t dig camo, particularly for an everyday carry type pack. Which kind of makes my bold declaration even more impactful. Of course, I would much rather it be black on black, but there’s just something about these proportions.
It’s like the Golden Ratio and Leonardo da Vinci hooked up and gave birth to a backpack. It’s like trying to explain to an alien species why humans enjoy looking at a sunset. It just is perfect… because it is. Hey folks at Mystery Ranch reading this, I’m going to need to back off a bit from here, as I don’t want to go turn you wonderful humble people into chest-pounding egomaniacs. Kidding, of course, I know you’re way above all that.
Ultimately, if it were my own personal Beams Day Assault Pack, I’d commit a sacrilege and hire a very (very) capable softgoods factory sewer to make one or two tiny tweaks which would make this the perfect everyday and 1-4 day travel backpack for me. If it came in black and had one or two modern updates to it, my search would end. But for now, the hunt continues.
And I’m still haunted by this pack… in the best way possible.