Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mystery Ranch Huckberry Edition 1000 D Urban Assault 21 L Pack Review: Seriously Rugged Streamlined Day Pack

Article by Sam Winebaum
Mystery Ranch Huckberry Edition 1000 D Urban Assault 21 L Pack ($139)
Mystery Ranch of Bozeman, Montana founded in 2000 by Dana Gleason, previously co-founder of the iconic Dana Designs pack company, was approached in 2004 by the Navy Seals to design and build special packs for their needs. Since then Mystery Ranch has expanded its offering beyond traditional backpacking and mountaineering to military and Special Forces, woodland fire and upland hiking packs.

With a focus on user centric design, Mystery Ranch packs are known for their function first focus, durability and comfort-regardless of the load. I have often seen their packs on display at Outdoor Retailer with always a crowd of outdoors people and those special military people flocking the booth but  have never owned one.

I have been in the market for a day pack that I could use for hiking, nordic skiing and carrying the weekly work laptop. An advertisement from Huckberry for a special edition Mystery Ranch caught my eye as the specs met my needs to a T.

The Huckberry version of the Urban Assault 21 L differs from the regular Urban Assault in being made of forest service Hot Shots grade super rugged Cordura 1000D vs. the almost as rugged 500D in regular version, having a Velcro patch removable logo, and a special Dusky Green color.

I ordered one and put it to the test this past weekend on a rugged 2 day hike in the Northern Presidential Range of New Hampshire's White Mountains. We climbed over 5100 feet of vertical on very rough trails the first day sumitting Mts Jefferson and Adams, staying overnight at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Madison Springs Hut then the next day scrambling to the top of Mt Madison before descending 4000 feet to the road.

The Urban Assault was perfect for the load which included 2 liters of water, weather gear, snacks, change of clothing, sleep sheet, and incidentals.
While it does not have a waist belt the adjustable sternum strap in combination with the very densely padded somewhat rigid shoulder straps kept the load high and stable at all times.
Access is through a 3 zipper Y configuration which makes everything quickly accessible. The zippers are completely sealed when closed.
As I could not find a hydration hose opening (the only negative) I improvised by running the hose for my 2L bladder through a slightly open diagonal zipper.
The Velcro logo patch is removable.
There is one outside accessible pocket in the lid with a key clip. Inside, the pack has two high small zipper pockets. I found them very easily accessible for small items with the pack partially un zipped if a bit shallow. Against the very substantial but thin rigid back panel we have a deep drop in pocket for up to 15" laptop which is fronted by another shorter drop in pocket.

Other than the zip top pocket the pack has two webbing loops on either side of the top lid and a chain of webbing loops on the bottom. I used one top loop and one of the bottom chain loops to attach my trekking poles in a sack, but after a first easy mile the poles came out for the rest of the trip to provide balance on the endless boulders.
Mt Washington in the background. Home of the World's Worst Weather. We had beautiful mid 50's and windless conditions on the ridges and summits
The pack is beautifully assembled and shouts rugged with at the same time an unmistakable, spare elegance.
It easily transitions from daily work use to the most rugged terrain. Lightly loaded or even empty it does not scream big pack yet once loaded there is a lot of room. The 1000D Cordura is so burly the pack can practically stand on its own and when opening the sides stay put.
The 21 L capacity is more than enough for most day trip uses.  I can easily see, while  heavier than most running packs and without the usual front pockets which could be attached to the front webbing, that its impeccable stability and comfort even with a full load would make it a great run pack as well, particularly if your adventures require bushwhacking.

The Urban Assault should carry me through many years of adventures and daily use. It is a durable and simple piece of gear.  Comfortable and extremely stable when full, with enough structure from the pack body and dense shoulder straps to keep from flopping around when emptier. Its functionality, elegant design and distinctive no frills look can make it an essential companion on every peak, the roughest commutes and along any boulevard.
The product reviewed in this article was a personal purchase. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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