- Buyer's Guide
Sometimes the stars align for a review. This is one of those times...
Mystery Ranch were sending us a Dragon Slayer for review. Our friend Pete Barfoot was landing back home after time away. Pete could smoke Bear Grylls – at anything. The Dragon Slayer could smoke Bear Grylls and so we thought it was only fitting to bring the two together.
Pete and his friends hunt, but they are also conservationists and environmental stewards (Pete’s actually a marine biologist), so they hunt in a low impact and respectful way that felt just right for this sort of pack.
We’ll let Pete take over, as he passes the pack around to some friends for images and feedback.
- Name: Dragon Slayer
- Brand: Mystery Ranch
- Format: 3Zip hunting backpack
- Measurement: 51 x 31 x 22 cm (20” x 12” x 8.5”)
- Capacity: 37.7L (2300 cu. in.)
- Weight: 2.11kg (4 lbs)
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: 500D Cordura
- PriceUS $299
Pete: The Mystery Ranch Dragon Slayer is a light, highly customizable pack that serves as a larger scouting pack and an ideal day or overnight hunting pack.
From a size perspective it is perfect for packing out a broken down kill but also has enough external attachment for taking overnight gear or tree climbing kit.
Comfort and fit
The comfort and fit of this pack was what we were most excited about (besides using it to help fill the freezer). This comfort is achieved through smart and refined design. The level of adjustment is a little daunting at first but getting it to fit is worth the time. It’s the standard Futura Yoke design from Mystery Ranch, so once you learn the trick of sliding the stiffener in to break the Velcro grip it’s easy.
The 3Zip was also something that separates this pack from most others, and in many ways countered the loss of any rear and side entry that would compromise the pack structure and fit.
Although it is intended as a hunting pack we have so far tested it out as a travel pack for overnighters, long approach spearfishing, climbing, sailing and offshore fishing. We even tested out its suitability as a ski touring pack, though snow is a bit thin on the ground this time of year.
In all these applications the pack’s base qualities shone through: well thought out attachment points, highly customizable fit, waterproof abrasion-resistant material, as well as tough dry zips and drain holes to mention a few.
Internal and external organization
The internal organization of the pack is configured for the packing out of broken down game. However, this same organization is also set up well for general use with placement for wet weather gear, extra ammunition etc.
The pack is hydration-compatible which is a must for hunting here in Australia.
The Dragon Slayer is a mid-sized pack at 37.7 litres but it doubles as a large pack through the clever use of external attachment points. The heavy-duty webbing with self-locking clips is placed around the pack including the bottom which is a major benefit, given a lot of bag designers neglect to include this incredibly useful attachment point. It was this attachment system that allowed us to road test the pack for so many different applications with a mix of day missions and overnighters (where it doubled as a larger pack).
Dual drain holes fitted to the bottom of the pack are ideal for use in wet climates and packing out game. Unlike other packs these holes do not have mesh, thereby making them relatively clog-free. This was a major bonus for us as we road tested the pack spearfishing and sand is a killer for the normal mesh drain holes.
The heavy-duty weatherproof zips complete with hold tabs you can actually get your fingers through were a pleasant change. The pack stayed dry in the forest and the boat when it cut up rough.
The Y-shaped 3Zip structure allows the user easy access to any area of the pack, making sorting and loading the pack easy. This design resolves some of the problems associated with zip-around packs or top and rear-opening ones.
The external pockets are kept to a minimum with just two in the top of the bag with enough space for maps, a compass, GPS, binoculars, a headlamp and rangefinder.
However, the second pocket has a mesh bottom that means if the main area of the pack is wet and bloody then so is whatever you put in that pocket.
Durability and ease of use
The abrasion-resistant materials we found to be tough and hardwearing with the pack spending a lot of time sliding around in the back of the truck or on the floor of the boat. The Outdoor Life review performed a stress test on the materials used in a number of top packs and the Dragon Slayer came out on top.
During the road test several different people used the pack and the highly customizable strap and spine adjustment allowed each of us to achieve a comfortable fit. The removable hip pads were removed early on as they were bulky and a little awkward but were reinstated for an overnighter in which the extra comfort was welcome for the additional weight.
The narrow and long shape of the pack made it streamlined for moving through dense cover and the Velcro hold tabs on all the external webbing reduced the level of snagging. This was particularly beneficial for getting into tree stands because unlike our counterparts to the north we use tree limbs to climb rather than ladders.
We did note some issues with the pack, which were as follows:
- The lack of a waterproof layer between the second external pocket and the main compartment.
- During stalking a slight creaking noise was noticeable that came from the materials which make up the back structure.
- No rear pocket for a CamelBak bladder gave the pack an uneven tilt when packing light for scouting.
- The bulky hip pads; however, these are easily removed.
The Dragon Slayer was definitely a pack we were looking forward to road testing and it proved itself as a highly versatile, hardwearing and incredibly comfortable hunting pack. It was equally suited to both the bow and rifle hunter and held its own as a go anywhere, all-weather pack, earning it four stars. To see the pack in action check out http://vimeo.com/51450096
We were going to leave the review to speak for itself, but we’re aware that lots of Carryology readers may have strong or unresolved feelings towards hunting. We know we did.
Hunting can be very confronting. There are a bunch of cowboys who hunt, often with crazy big guns and cavalier attitudes. But then there are also amazing folk who hunt, who have taught us a fair bit about approaches to life and death.
As mentioned previously, Pete and his friends hunt but they are also amazing conservationists and environmental stewards. To grossly simplify their views, they believe if you are willing to eat meat, you should be willing to kill it. Rather than detach ourselves from the reality of where meat comes from, they confront it directly, and understand our role in a larger ecosystem where hunting is part of life.
While lots of Carryology folk don’t hunt, we can respect hunting when it’s done with a genuine respect for life.
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