A16 National Park Road Team--September 22, 2016

Posted by Adventure 16 | 09.22.2016

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

A Visit to Mystery Ranch
by Jordan Gardner, A16 San Diego store Assistant Manager


Mystery Ranch sign

            Recently in the outdoor industry there has been a push to make things as light as possible and to travel as light as possible.  This is sometimes a difficult thing to discuss with customers because while the “lightweight” pack they may be holding in their hands looks like it will carry everything, it is hard to describe the nature of the pack and how “lightweight” they must really be.  Not all packs are built this way and to be given the chance to visit a company like Mystery Ranch, founded on principles of designing and building packs for jobs that are constructed with the best materials available, and with the most durable methods available, shows that sometimes there are more important factors to your pack. 


Jordan Gardner and Dana Gleason            Many people know of the name Dana Gleason, or have heard of the name “Dana Designs” from its dominant role in the pack industry during the early 1990’s and its great to see that he is back designing packs again.  Mystery Ranch headquarters is in Bozeman, MT where they design, prototype, and engineer all of their packs.  Mystery Ranch is founded on many of the same principles that Dana Gleason’s believed in during his earlier pack building days when he found his 1st company with Renee Sippel-Baker.  He has since returned with a new invigorated passion for pack design and if you want to learn more about the specific architecture of any Mystery Ranch pack line check out “Load Carriage: Architecture of a Mystery Ranch Pack”


            Most of the people in our community are familiar with Mystery Ranch because of its hiking heritage, however it was the companies focus on military that gave it a second chance in the late 2000’s after Dana Gleason had started making packs again.  After creating some of the highest grade military packs our soldiers had ever seen being produced, Mystery Ranch began building packs for the hunting community because of former military personnel taking their packs on other expeditions.  He did this because of the group often returning with more weight than they left with and there being no other real option on the market at the time.   


Pack hanging on display


            By switching to a direct sales model Mystery Ranch was able to control its growth and keep its ability to design user-centric packs.  Only recently in 2016 were retailers, like Adventure 16, sought out to carry the Mystery Ranch pack line.  A true privilege since less than 100 retailers, through a combination of hiking and hunting stores, exist in the United States.  Mystery Ranch does have a global presence so don't be surprised if you ever see it while traveling over sees.


Mystery Ranch Factory

       In recent years Mystery Ranch has experienced rapid growth, and has expanded it still maintains 4 factories inside of the U.S. and 2 overseas.  The primary packs being produced are the military packs for the U.S. Government, due to the regulations, but there is also small batches of other packs made depending on whats needed. 

             Although production has expanded rapidly, Mystery Ranch sends it own quality assurance team to each factory to make sure that they are adhering to the quality Mystery Ranch expects.  Not only does this ensures the factory produces quality goods it also finds problems early on in the production

             The sewing floor is connected with quality control, warranty, and R&D allowing for constant communication, very similar to Western Mountaineering.  Their is only one employee working at the warranty desk fixing every Mystery Ranch pack that comes in for repair.  This is probably one of the most unique things about Mystery Ranch and also helps by providing first hand and immediate awareness to a common return on any series of pack.


Camo Packs


            It was very neat to see the variety of personnel working on the production floor.  It ranged from local college students looking to earn money for their next adventure all the way to employees who had worked there way up from an entry to position for a career in the outdoor industry.  The coolest part for me to walk through was the research and development area were of course no photos are allowed.  There they are allowed to experiment, literally almost anyone in the company with an idea can walk in there and try to bring it to life.  There were whole pack lines being created right next to someone who was trying to improve the way zippers were affixed to the pack.


Packs hanging on display


Jorda & Alex KutchesAlthough Mystery Ranch has switched from the majority of production being done on their primary floor, it was still full of life with sewing machines working on government orders and quality controllers inspecting a recent shipment of packs from overseas.  A big shout out to Alex Kutches for showing us around the factory and letting us through the door after a week at glacier.  They still do a little bit of sales through their front door but the near by store Schnees stocks the majority of the bags and has been in business for even longer than Adventure 16. 


Mystery Ranch is an amazing manufacturer that takes pride in producing a high quality pack that can take anything you decide to throw at it, so go ahead and see how much yours can handle!


Check them out at our West Los Angeles store or have them transferred to your nearest Adventure 16 location.