- Buyer's Guide
It’s early summer in Bozeman, Montana. The last snow clings onto the peaks of Bridger Mountains. In the valley below, deep in the bellows of Mystery Ranch headquarters, Dana Gleason III, Director of Product, Paul Gleason (the designer of the original Spartan backpack) and I, huddle around a worktable with a single backpack the focus of our attention.
Spartanology. The second coming of one of Paul’s greatest designs and one of The Ranch’s most sought-after packs, ever. Made between the years of 2012 and 2014, it was famously the smallest military pack ever produced at the time. Designed to be compact and agile for fast-moving soldiers through war zones.
Designed in a time when the 3-Zip dominated The Ranch’s focus. But Paul wanted to make something unique and took inspiration from a frontline medic bag, the RATS pack, and created something new, something special, something that would take a decade to resurface.
Just over a thousand packs were made. And in the last ten years, a cult following has surrounded it. But I was at the Ranch, working with some of the best damn pack designers in the world, to bring it back, and make it better.
Introducing, likely the most anticipated collaboration in the history of our collaboration program, the Mystery Ranch x Carryology: Spartanology (codename: Cerberus).
Third Piece to Complete the Triptych
First in the series was the MR x Carryology Assault (codename: Unicorn). Then the MR x Carryology No Escape (codename: Dragon) followed. Both releases were cult packs resurrected from the archives. Both sold out in minutes.
Now, the Spartanology (codename: Cerberus) will be the final piece to complete the triptych.
Redefined for Everyday
The two words we circled on the board: ‘clean’ and ‘urban ready’. That would be our goal.
First move, to reduce the exterior PALS, refining the exterior look, making the pack less military and more urban, more street.
Quick-Access, Times Two
The second, a ‘deep dish’ quick-access pocket lives on the top brain, just behind the loop Velcro morale panel. Within this pocket, we designed in two stretch mesh pockets for organization of your EDC items.
Both of these exterior pockets utilize YKK’s water-resistant AquaGuard zippers in size #5, to keep your small essentials dry and safe.
In keeping with refining the exterior, we moved to webbing interactions. On the sternum strap and main compartment closure we added strap keepers to make the pack cleaner and dangle-free in places that draw the eye.
Diving inside, we built in a suspended 16" laptop sleeve, and admin panel for small notepads and tablets, so your tech stays safe, snug, and organized.
Hidden Stick-It for Exterior Carry
Like the Dragon, the hidden Stick-It beavertail (via zippered pocket at the bottom) had to be included to bump carrying and customization options to the next level.
The Stick-It deploys up and attaches via the Hypalon loops and aerospace aluminum G-hooks made by Trimmers, blacked out, of course. This provides additional storage, for one. But on the exterior of the Stick-It, there’s two columns of ‘daisy chain’ webbing, so the end user can lash accessories (like additional Velcro field) as well.
The original Spartan uses a plastic ITW side lock buckle, so you know we had to upgrade. We opted for a 25mm Fidlock V-Buckle with pull tab on both the main closure and sternum strap. Designed by engineers in Germany for one-hand operation, it makes it a breeze for cinching down, expanding, opening, and closing.
Not stopping there, we moved to ‘the mouth’ of the main compartment. The original Spartan uses Velcro to keep the mouth shut, which allows long items (the barrel of a soldier’s rifle, for example), to poke up through, while remaining closed.
Velcro is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but can be noisy and distracting when closing and opening a main closure, so we switched in magnets for a quieter, more technical result.
Bomber and Weatherproof
Compact and Expandable
The Spartan expands via its unique quick-access main compartment. Two features in one. The front flap cinches down with a buckle on the vertical webbing to tighten things up and if you want to add a few more liters, just loosen the webbing and the “mouth” will stick upright and expand for you.
Easy-to-Grab, No Click Pullers
Like the previous two collaborations, all the exterior zipper pullers are made from paracord with heat shrink wrapped ends. Easy to grab when wet or with gloves or whatever other situations life throws at you. Plus, they’re silent (no jingle jangle) and have a clean, classic look.
What really makes the OG Spartan unique is the fact that it is Mystery Ranch’s smallest assault pack ever made using the legendarily comfortable and adjustable Futura harness. Some speculated that we’d opt for the fixed harness suspension on this, which is still a great system. But nope. We went with the real deal Futura Yoke. Comfortable all day and every day, and customizable in height to suit many different users, no matter where or what you get up to.
Four Killer Colorways
While the Unicorn and the Dragon were available in just one colorway, we wanted to give everyone variety this time. Drawing inspiration from the Spartan’s military roots, we selected Crye Precision’s MultiCam in MultiCam Black for a subdued look and MultiCam Alpine for a bit of contrast and visual pop. Both patterns are used by US military forces for specific applications in specific environments. And then, a third camouflage was added. Nicknamed “God’s plaid”, the M81 Woodland camo is what most of us think of when we hear the word “camo”. First used in 1989 and remaining in use until the 2000s, it would be our third colorway. And finally, if you know us, we had to go for a stealth option, all black everything. Four colors in total, each with their own unique character and vibe.
Get Active Hydration
When using this small and nimble daypack, hydration is key for quick missions or day trips. Side water bottle pockets make sense on packs like this, so you don’t steal volume from the interior. So we included two on each Spartanology, both made from a durable and secure stretch nylon. They disappear flat when not in use, but eat up large size bottles (tested with 24oz and 32oz, no problem).
Inside, there’s also two toggles to hang a water bladder with a hydration hose pass through on each side. Laptop-ready everyday pack? Check. Hydration-compatible hiking pack? Check.
All Access, All the Time
Keeping the classic silhouette, the Spartanology nails the same awesome access as its predecessor with complete access to the main compartment via two #8 reverse coil YKK zippers, chosen for smooth gripping and ripping.
Add in the two external quick-access pockets and the Stick-It and your access to your gear is plentiful and awesome.
Minimal Branding to Represent
Label-wise, the orange and black woven label has proven to be a favorite, so we went with that option and centered it. Black background and orange text for Black, MCB and Woodland. For difference, Alpine is a black and white combination.
High-Vis Everywhere (Well, Almost)
Of course, we used hi-vis orange nylon fabric for the liner. For those wondering why? Orange is Mystery Ranch’s and Carryology’s brand color. Additionally, it’s a feature benefit, creating visual contrast to easily locate items in low-level lighting scenarios.
But… to keep you guys guessing, just a little. We wanted the Alpine to run black and white only to keep things monochrome (and maybe because we were suffering Storm Trooper syndrome, ha).
Art Direction and Planning for the Polyptych
The Carryology Assault and the No Escape both acquired their nicknames from their respective morale patches. If you really want a deep dive into the symbolism, here’s a link. Both patches were designed by Hadrien Monloup, co-founder of Carryology.
In the beginning, I had envisioned a series of three products for this particular “series”. There was no guarantee, but I had to plan ahead. Planning for a polyptych three moves ahead… tricky stuff!
The Dragon patch was designed with a samurai rider charging to battle the knight atop his Unicorn steed. And now, Cerberus connects with the existing two, finalizing the triptych, fitting in the center of the Unicorn and the Dragon. Three beasts, one battlefield.
The Unicorn contains elements from medieval Europe, The Dragon contains elements from feudal Japan. And so the Cerberus had to draw inspiration from Sparta and ancient Greek mythology, for obvious reasons. Atop would be King Leonidas, arguably the most famous Spartan to ever live.
As the other two patches had historically correct characters atop fictional mythological creatures, this would follow the same recipe. Leonidas would be riding the mythological Cerberus, a fearsome three-headed attack dog who guarded the gates of the Underworld. Our rider would be carrying the powerful Aegis shield, carried by Zeus, adorned with the head of Medusa on its face.
Easter Egg Time!
Now, here's some fun detail. You can see Leonidas is holding a spear, the preferred weapon of the Spartan warrior. Near the tip, a red scroll used to represent a Scytale, a cryptography tool said to have been used as a cipher to communicate during military campaigns. On this ribbon, the word “if”.
This single word “if” might be the most famous Spartan quote of all time. You see, back to that minimalist lifestyle of the Spartans… they were taught to live simply, even in education and language, expressing thoughts without many words. Known as the Laconic phrase, a form of verbal art. Think Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool, but better.
Now, the specific story of the quote. King Philip II of Macedon, was launching a major military campaign that would eventually lead to him controlling most of Ancient Greece. As part of the campaign, before setting his sights to conquer Sparta, he sent a messenger carrying this message:
“When I come to Sparta, should I be accepted as friend or foe?”.
The Spartans sent the messenger back with a one-word reply,
Furious, King Philip II followed up with this message:
“You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”
The Spartans replied with one word…
Badassery in the third degree. And something we just had to include, because we're geeks, and details matter.
USA Launch Date
October 12th at 12pm Noon USA Mountain Time is the start of the pre-queue when individuals can join the sale and get lined up. The official launch is at 1pm (USA Mountain Time).
Make sure to visit Carryology.com at this exact time for the 'Exclusive Article' which will have the shop link.
The link will take you to a Queue-it virtual waiting room, so the release runs smoothly and everyone gets a fair shot.
Note, there will be a limit on 1 pack of each color per person.
Global Launch is at the same time, October 12th at 12pm Noon (Mountain Time).
If it's in the middle of the night the stores will have them in the morning at store opening.
Note, some launch times may vary, so please contact these retailers directly for details.
These distributors also cannot ship outside of their region, so any folks unfortunately not living in the below regions will need to find a proxy – the best place for that is Carry Classified.
Mystery Ranch Tokyo (in store only)
999/99 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan,Bangkok 10330
991 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan Bangkok 10330
Mega Bangna 38, 38/1-3, 39 Moo 6 Bangna-Trad Rd., Km.8 Bangkaew, Bangplee, Samutprakarn, 10540
Outdoor Lift Pte Ltd
107 North Bridge Road,
10F-5, No. 112, Sec 2
Zhong-Shan North RD
Taipei, 104 Taiwan
P: +886 2 25233871
1F The Segye Times
Seoul Seoul 08505
Korea, Republic of
46c Bavelaw Rd
P: 0131 449 4147
Sea to Summit Pty Ltd
5 Eyre street
Rivervale Western Australia 6103
P: 08 9221 6617
Room 1812, Park-In Commercial Center
56 Dundas Street, Mong Kok
Beijing Sanfo Outdoor Product Co., Ltd
Building 23, Yard 3, ChenJiaYing West Road,
ChangPing District, Beijing, 100192,