Mystery Ranch Metcalf Backpack Review
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Hunting season has finally wrapped up here in Colorado. Although not the most successful in terms of harvest, it may have been my favorite in terms of fun outings in the wilderness. One particular highlight has been hunting with the recently updated Mystery Ranch Metcalf pack. Backpack comfort and quality can either make or break your experience in the outdoors. Hunting only compounds the need for a quality pack as the potential of extreme loads will happen on a successful hunt.
Mystery Ranch is a well known brand in the outdoor and work pack community. They are known to make quality packs that can stand up to heavy abuse. Although their design may be rugged, the comfort of these packs are second to none. Additionally, I had a great time reviewing the Mystery Ranch Bino Harness earlier this year. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to try out the Mystery Ranch Metcalf this fall during my deer and elk hunts in the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado.
The Guide Light MT Frame
Like many of the Mystery Ranch packs the Metcalf is built on the Guide Light MT frame. This frame is an updated frame in 2020 that includes a few more features from their tried and true predecessor frame. This pack frame is a rigid frame that the main bag attaches to. Heavy duty SJ auto lock buckles are used to attach the frame to the bag. These are particularly necessary for use when opening the pack up to allow for the carrying of bulky items.
The waist belt of this frame is really cool. It has segmented five point design. This design allows the waist belt to conform to the hips, preventing it from slipping down when carrying heavy loads. There are adjustment points that can be made to articulate the waist belt up and down to customize the fit for different body types. Along the sides, there are molle attachment points that allow for connection of accessories like bear spray, knives, and electronic devices.
The material used in the construction of the Guide Light MT frame is 500D Light Plus Cordera. This fabric is incredibly lightweight and also has high tear and tensile strength.
The Pack of the Metcalf
The bag of the Mystery Ranch Metcalf is a versatile system that allows for many different configurations. This pack has a total volume of 4335 cubic inches which is enough space for gear during multi-day treks or hunts.
Gear can be accessed inside the pack by either going in from the drawstring top or along the side. The side zipper is waterproof and is oversized allowing for easy access to all materials inside the pack. Within the bag there is a water bladder holder and attachment points for some of the Mystery Ranch Accessories like the Quick Attach Zoid Bags. Along the sides of the pack there are two stretch woven pockets. These pockets can be used for water bottle storage, rifle carrying, bear spray or a number of other options.
On the top of the pack there is a two chamber storage lid. This lid is fully detachable and can be added or removed within seconds.
On the outside of the pack there are numerous SJ auto lock buckles. This allows the user to fully customize how they want to use their pack and what accessories they would like to attach.
The overall weight of the Mystery Ranch Metcalf backpack is 5.7 lbs. Its’ dimensions are 30.8” x 14” x 12.3” and again has a carrying capacity of 4335 cubic inches.
Field Testing the Mystery Ranch Metcalf Backpack
Metcalf is feature heavy and built for adventure in the outdoors. This pack is engineered with the hunter in mind, but offers so much more. The Mystery Ranch Metcalf is incredibly versatile. If I were to only own a single pack this would definitely make my shortlist. What makes it so versatile is the ability for this pack to work as a day pack, an overnight pack, and even a multi day adventure in the backcountry. Although sold as a hunting pack this pack will make a fantastic pack for other outdoor activities as well.
My experience with the Metcalf backpack was mostly through the hunting season this fall in Colorado. I took this pack on two different elk hunting seasons, as well as a deer season. The majority of my hunts this year were day hunts as an early heavy snow changed my plans of overnight hunts in the backcountry. At first I was a bit nervous as this pack is much larger than my other day hunting packs. However, after spending a bit of time with the pack at my home it soon became apparent that this pack can fold down small and even smaller than my normal day pack.
When the sides are cinched down and the top and lid is removed the Metcalf makes a perfect day pack. When using the pack like this the width of the bag is no wider than 6 inches even when the hydration bladder is filled. Even in a backpack hunting situation I would carry all of my gear to my campsite and from there compress the Metcalf and go out on day hunts. Collapsing the Mystery Ranch down to a day hunt bag is quick and it is a no brainer for those shorter days in the woods.
This pack really shines when holding gear. At 4335 cubic inches I feel really comfortable carry enough gear for a multi-night expedition into the backcountry. The bag itself holds enough gear that a well thought out outdoors person can carry enough for a few days in the backcountry. This is definitely not the largest pack I own, and neither is this largest hunting pack from Mystery Ranch, but it is large enough to carry all of my needs for a few days.
I really like the accessibility of the gear within the Metcalf. Gear can be accessed either from the top or from the side. For me, I found myself using the side zipper the most. It was nice to be able to get to the gear that would fall to the bottom of the pack. Usually, this was a candy bar or some elk jerky that I was craving.
In addition to the large capacity of the pack, much of the gear can be strapped to the outside of the pack. Tents can be strapped to the bottom of the bag using the webbing and the locking clips. The sides of the pack can easily hold a rifle, tripods, or a fishing rod. The sides, like the bottom of the pack, has webbing that allows for easy carrying.
If you are going on a really long trip or have a ton of gear to carry using, the load hauling portion of the pack can be used. I never used the Metcalf for this purpose but I have already penciled in some high mountain fishing next summer. Having the load hauling area available will allow me to carry waders, fins, and float tube into the backcountry easily. These large and bulky items are such a pain normally to carry. This area will make such a difference for this kind of adventure.
I did however get to use the load hauling shelf for its intended purpose which is bringing game out of the backcountry on a successful hunt. It is really amazing how much this pack can hold. I was able to carry all of the meat from a deer in one single load. This was about a total of 75 pounds.
It is really easy to access the load self on the Metcalf. By unhooking the clips around the sides and small clip directly behind the bag the entire pack opens up allowing access to the load hauling shelf. From there, just fill it up, and reclip and make the adjustments needed to the straps. In my case, the meat is positioned next to my back which is great since it is easier to carry having it close to my body and not far out. Once on my back it was a relatively easy pack out.
I can’t say enough good things about the comfort of the Mystery Ranch Metcalf Pack. The designers at Mystery Ranch knocked it out of the park with comfort. I am really impressed with the five point waistbelt design. This belt feels very plush when hiking around with modest gear. Where it really shines is when under heavy loads. When carrying an additional 75lbs of game meat I could not believe how well the pack distributed the weight. The pack sat nicely on my hips and really never put any weight on my shoulders. This made for a surprising comfortable pack out considering the weight that was being carried. Throughout the entire pack out I did not have to make any adjustments to the belt or did it loosen up.
One point that impresses me about the company Mystery Ranch is there product information platform. Many of the products, including the Metcalf, has instructional videos that detail the features. In products like backpacks with many different design features that might easily be missed, these videos are awesome.
Specs Taken Directly From Mystery Ranch Website
- MSRP $525
- Removable lid with zippered pockets
- Autolock buckles prevent slippage
- Interior Removable Quick Attach Zoid Bag attachment points (Zoid Bag sold separately)
- Bottom, front and side compression straps
- Top-loading shroud
- Hydration reservoir compatible
- Quick attach frame cap hardware provides easier OVERLOAD™ feature conversion
- Side zip for easy access to main bag
- Bow and rifle carry via compression straps
- Side water bottle, rifle or tripod pockets
- 500D LP CORDURA® & 500D CORDURA® (Subalpine)
- YKK® coated zippers for durability and water protection
- Autolock SJ buckles on compression straps
Final Thoughts on the Mystery Ranch Metcalf
If you are looking for a single hunting pack that does it all, the Mystery Ranch Metcalf is a great option. This pack is versatile from multi day backcountry trips to single day short hunts. The Metcalf is comfortable to wear both with light and heavy loads. Although the target audience are hunters, this pack may be the ticket for anyone who carries large and bulky items into the backcountry. For more info on the Metcalf and other Mystery Ranch gear, visit www.mysteryranch.com.