Space and Access
While most of the images I provided for this show the pack loaded very lightly, don’t let that fool you, because the Bridger can haul a serious amount of gear. With 55 liters or 3339.7 CUI of space inside the pack, you can fit everything you will need for an extended overnight stay in the mountains. Mystery Ranch made getting into the bag a breeze too by incorporating two full-length zippers that run down the entire bag. Mystery Ranch is well known for their Tri-Zip design but in my opinion this system works much better. Even if the lid and drawstring on the top of the pack are cinched down tight, you can still use these zippers to access gear on either side of the bag without undoing all the buckles. To me this is a huge feature and increases the usability of the pack by a large margin.
Pockets and Organizing
There is a lot to cover here so bear with me. The Mystery Ranch Bridger is packed with features to increase organization and keep all your gear in its place. The harness has four mesh pockets integrated into it for your smaller but high-use items. Great for sunglasses, phones, and smaller water bottles. On both sides of the pack are large stretch-woven water bottle pockets with enough give to fit a 48 oz Nalgene or Hydro Flask with ease. These pockets also work great for securing the bottom of a tripod, camera slider track, or 2X4. The back of the pack has the same stretch-woven material in the form of a tall stash pocket.
On both sides of the stash pocket is daisy chain webbing with integrated tool attachment points. I found these worked well for trekking poles but not much else. The webbing is a great place to secure ropes or other dangly-type items. They also look cool and add to the technical look of the pack. The bottom has a Speed Zip™ sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider, giving you easy access to larger, less frequently used items like sleeping bags, fresh shoes, and jackets. I personally found this to be a great spot to hide my crampons away. There is a removable divider so you can keep this compartment separate or take it out and increase the overall vertical packing space.
The lid has a generous amount of space with a mesh pocket and tucked-away key leash inside. The lid is also removable and can be used as its own bag similar to some of Mystery Ranch’s other large military packs. I think this is a really smart feature and allows for backpackers to set the pack down by their campsite but still have a small bag to do smaller exploring with.
The top access point of the bag has a drawstring closure to help keep everything tight. Inside the pack are two large mesh pockets for holding items like gloves or hats. There is a water bladder sleeve with an attachment point for the bladder so it stays positioned correctly. I’m happy to see not too many pockets or sleeves on the inside of the pack as the clean design makes packing and unpacking easy.
By far the best feature on this pack is also its newest. The Endurance Yoke is a marriage between a trail running and backpack harness in all the right ways. The yoke features a specialized foam that provides increased airflow over traditional yokes while also being moisture-wicking. The back of the yoke has more of that magic foam and a large air channel to help keep your back as dry as possible.
The front of the harness borrows heavily from trail running bags with its integrated stretch mesh pockets designed for small water bottles but also great for holding snacks, sunglasses, and sunscreen. The hip belt has two zippered mesh pockets. The yoke is also customizable to fit whoever is using it.
What does all this mean? It means that the Mystery Ranch Bridger is one of, if not the most, comfortable packs I have ever worn. After multiple excursions into the woods with 40-plus pounds of gear, I never felt any hotspots from the harness, shoulder straps, or waist belt. In one of my tests, I walked around for 12-plus miles with no fatigue aside from my legs. The Endurance Yoke is honestly a game-changer in my opinion and I could see many other companies being influenced by Mystery Ranch’s design in the coming years.
There is one drawback to the Endurance Yoke though; unless you have the sternum straps buckled, the harness will dig into the outside of your shoulders. Now this is a very minor issue as I imagine most people will use the straps while wearing this pack but it is worth mentioning. Also one of Mystery Ranch’s mantras is their packs’ ability to stand the test of time and while I only had my sample of the Bridger for 8 weeks, I would be interested to see how the breathable fabrics on the yoke hold up over time as they feel like the most fragile part of the pack.
The 100d ripstop with the DWR finish worked great to repel light drizzles and snow but this bag is by no means waterproof. The bottom of the pack was left in snow and mud on several occasions but I can report that the gear at the bottom of the pack ended up wet.