- Buyer's Guide
MYSTERY RANCH Presents :: Taming the Load
Mystery Ranch are masters of load carriage – it’s at the heart of their design philosophy. Their article “Load Carriage: Architecture of a Mystery Ranch Pack” provides excellent insight into how and why they build their packs the way they do. And so we asked them to condense it into a guest post, focused at you, our readers, to share their hard-earned wisdom and to encourage conversation about load carriage…
Our Roots Run Deep
Our very first enterprise – dating back to 1975 – had us hunched over sewing machines, repairing blown out gear. From these humble roots, we learned a whole heck of a lot about where the “Achilles heels” existed in backpack design, materials, and manufacturing. With this foundation, we began making packs for ourselves and our friends. Our pack-focused enterprise grew out of these pragmatic, labor-of-love beginnings.
The Common Problem in Pack Design
Most backpack makers start with the packsack because that’s what most customers look at first. They then cobble a pair of shoulder straps and a hip belt onto said “design.” The shape and aesthetic silhouette of the bag, the color palate, the shiny trims and bling features…these are their tier one considerations. The frame, harnessing, and related suspension are, for many backpack brands, tier two considerations. Which is to say, how the pack’s load carries is an afterthought for most. At MYSTERY RANCH, how the load transfers and carries – over the long haul – is our #1 consideration.
“The frame, harnessing, and related suspension are, for many backpack brands, tier two considerations. Which is to say, how the pack’s load carries is an afterthought for most.”
When you cram most packs full, they tend to get round. They no longer maintain the desired concave curve up over your shoulders or wrap supportively around your waist and hips. So you either have to have a heavy-duty, fairly rigid frame, which is precisely fitted to you, or you can try to load the pack meticulously and hope it maintains some semblance of your back’s shape. That’s something no one does very successfully. At MYSTERY RANCH, we don’t try to make the whole load take on your exact shape. Instead, we’ve engineered a more functional, more achievable solution, which we’d like to share.
Unlike other backpack makers, we build our pack bags and the load transference systems (what we call the mainframe) separately. These two critical elements are addressed with their own distinct design and engineering solutions. We design and sew our pack bags for optimal containment and taming of the load. Then we engineer a Load Carriage™ mainframe – separate from the pack bag – that can be ideally customized to fit your unique anatomy. All the personal shaping takes place outside of the pack bag. Most of our mainframes are built out of composite materials, so they flex as you pull on the lifter straps. Instead of the load distorting the pack, the load is shaped and contained in the most ideal manner – fairly flat and essentially twice as wide as it is thick on the mainframe. We then engineer all of the shaping for the shoulders, waist, and hips, outside of the pack bag, so it functions independently from the distortion that compromises most internal frames. This is the key difference with our packs.
“We design and sew our pack bags for optimal containment and taming of the load. Then we engineer a Load Carriage™ mainframe – separate from the pack bag – that can be ideally customized to fit your unique anatomy.“
We do not sacrifice with materials or trim components to shave weight. Rather, we focus on the load-bearing features in our harnessing and frame and how they optimally support the load. In response to our “gram-shaver” friends, we assure you, long-haul comfort is way more important than micro tweaking the showroom “weight” of an empty pack. Remember, a 40lb load that carries like 30lbs is way preferable to a 40lb load that carries like 50lbs.
Focus on Fit
Our packs are different in that they let you adjust the yoke via a telescoping design – up and down – to fit the exact length of your torso. By moving our form-fitting molded adjuster, we move the shape as well. This is a patented feature unique to MYSTERY RANCH. In short, our telescoping harness design, in conjunction with our patented lumbar wrap, allows us to custom fit any of our packs for any customer for any mission. Our form-fitting “adjuster” gives an accurate representation of your upper back.
“In short, our telescoping harness design, in conjunction with our patented lumbar wrap, allows us to custom fit any of our packs for any customer for any mission.“
Our frames are built flat which helps them transfer the weight/load more effectively than an exaggerated S-curve or C-curve that you often see on the market. Though designed to perform as an active brace, our packs are built to flex. They are not built to a generic shape that may or may not fit the user. Building that flex into the frame – by pulling on the lifters – changes the dynamic by putting an arc into the pack’s foundation. We have learned that it’s far preferable to spread the load across the entire height of the back (a wider swath of a carrier’s back) than to focus the load on just the shoulders and hips. The arc created helps lift the pack off your shoulders and allows the load to be more evenly distributed.
No matter how you move, the load comes with you. There’s no sag, no gaps, no dead spots…it’s a dynamic system that moves with you. Our active frames flex to a point and then resist at the end of their range. So our frames serve as an active brace to make the load behave no matter how unwieldy and changeable.
“Building that flex into the frame – by pulling on the lifters – changes the dynamic by putting an arc into the pack’s foundation. We have learned that it’s far preferable to spread the load across the entire height of the back (a wider swath of a carrier’s back) than to focus the load on just the shoulders and hips.“
Moreover, our packs feature active suspensions which means they’re designed to flex and move equal to how much your body can flex and no more. We achieve this by building a central core of rigidity to our frames, using two vertical stays and then reinforce this dynamic tensioning all the way out to the frame’s edges. We’ve isolated that flex, so it has just the amount of flex your shoulders need when you walk – nothing more. And as you get towards the extremes of that flex, it resists the flex more whereas most of our competition resists flex right from the start if it’s got a full load in it.
If you have any comments or questions we’d love to hear them below!
*If a public Disqus chat isn’t your thing, feel free to contact our customer service team; you will receive first-hand replies to all your questions. Contact us through this site page: http://www.mysteryranch.com/contact or at 406.585.1428.