UPDATE: Good grief these got a nice fat discount overnight. $167.98 now, AND it ships and returns for free.
About the Author: Mark G. has been a member of the US Air Force for the past 17 years, serving 11 years on Active Duty and now a full-time member of the Reserves. Currently in Maryland, he enjoys a variety of hobbies, to include mediocre woodworking (he’s just skilled enough with his power tools to—at press time—retain all fingers and toes), hunting, as much travel as possible, and even occasionally badly impersonating a horse. A relative newcomer to the world of men’s style, he’s found a niche and rocks it whenever he can, from dressing for brunch in NYC to an Embassy black-tie party in DC.
I first came into contact with Mystery Ranch products while on deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, and have been a huge fan ever since. Those familiar with backpacking probably know the brand Dana Design, founded by Dana Gleason and eventually sold to K2 in 1995. In 2000, Gleason founded Mystery Ranch, and just four years later found himself making packs for the US Navy SEALs. This quickly blossomed into a VERY close partnership with the US military which branched out to the First Responder community as well. Mystery Ranch is a company synonymous with quality, rugged packs (designed and made in Montana) that can be dragged to hell and back without so much as a zipper catching.
Whoo hooo! Lookatit go!
This new offering, made in concert with Huckberry, capitalizes on that reputation, though with the asterisk being that it isn’t made in Montana, but overseas. The only effect that overseas manufacture seems to have is on the price, because in my extensive hands-on exploration of the pack (comparing it side-by-side with my 3-Day Assault pack which currently serves “gym bag” duty) I can’t find a single quality issue with it–speaking volumes of Mystery Ranch’s commitment to quality control.
A weekender duffel AND a backpack, all in one.
Waxed 500D Cordura fabric. Very tough.
The material of the bag itself is a waxed 500D Cordura fabric, which is SERIOUSLY tough stuff. It’s the same grade of nylon that makes up issued plate carriers (body armor) for combat troops. Very heavy duty. This version, however, has a really cool “brushed flannel” feel, something I’ve never experienced with a waxed fabric before. HUGE kudos on that. It does *NOT* feel like any 500D I’ve ever worn/used in my life. The zippers are EXTREMELY beefy YKK units, with pull tabs made of parachute cord (also referred to as “550 cord”). Stitching is uniform, even, and appears to be extremely strong. While I admittedly didn’t try to yank the reinforced carry handles or built-in shoulder straps free from their anchor points, if previous experience is any indicator, they’re not coming off without a pair of trucks playing tug-of-war.
Beefy YKK zippers with parachute cord pull tabs.
Having established that the build quality hasn’t suffered at all due to overseas manufacture, let’s take a look at what’s inside. The given name, The Mission Hybrid/3-way, implies that you can use it for three purposes: As a weekender duffel, as a backpack, and in a pinch, as a briefcase-like bag. Now, it is far roomier than the typical briefcase (and the casual nature doesn’t lend to most situations in which a briefcase is appropriate), but it does have everything needed to make for a FANTASTIC 72-hour travel bag.
Plenty of room for a long weekend.
Specifically designed spaces for shoes, a laptop, etc.
Upon opening the main zipper which travels along three sides, one finds a large and small compartment similar to what most rectangular carry-on luggage has. The large compartment is plenty big enough for socks, underwear, a couple t-shirts and pants or shorts. The smaller compartment is essentially just a zippered mesh keeper for smaller items, toiletries (if you don’t have a separate dopp kit), etc. The other side of the smaller compartment has its own zippered opening and a more traditional “briefcase” interior–pouches for documents, a specific microfiber-lined location for tablets, etc..
This bag also comes with a padded laptop sleeve. Huckberry says it fits laptops up to 15 inches, and I found that not only was that true, but even my 17-inch laptop went in fine, although a bit snug to get through the zipper. (But of course, YMMV. Not all 17-inch laptops may fit, of course).
A look inside the business-y section. Smaller pockets for pens, a microfiber lined tablet pocket, etc.
Moving down to the “bottom” (or one of the sides, depending upon how you’re holding/carrying it) we see two very large grommets, which serve as drainage holes for the shoe/boot compartment, which boasts a waterproof lining and taped seams, as well as capacity large enough for standard hiking-type boots. It’s worth noting that the shoe compartment intrudes into the large portion of the main compartment, so it eats into the available space there when utilized.
The bag includes shoulder straps which can be hidden away if you just want to hand-carry via one of the two very stout handles along one of each of the long and short edges. It took me a minute but I found the hidden nylon webbing loops to which the shoulder straps attach, tucked under a flap to keep them out of sight when not in use. Clever.
Shoulder straps which can hide away if you want to carry it like a duffel.
But the best feature of this bag is one that makes a simpleton like me giggle with delight at the engineering, creativity, and exclamations of “holy [bleep] why did nobody do this sooner?” It uses rare-earth magnets to hold everything together, coupled with a “rip-open” zipper architecture which makes it quite easy to open one-handed, as you can see in the photos…
Ta-da. Easy open, one-handed operation when you need quick access.
So what’s the final verdict? Well, I think putting the word “briefcase” into the name may not be the best idea, as it really doesn’t work as what is traditionally (especially on this site) considered a briefcase–it’s far too casual to use in nearly any professional work environment. As a short-trip travel bag (or carry-on for essentials just in case your primary luggage gets rerouted), however, it is the knees of the bee. Clever design inside and out, enough room for all the stuff you might take on a flight or train, versatility of stowable shoulder straps, waxed finish to help shed weather as well as added patina over time, and rugged enough you won’t be worrying if it’s going to fall apart soon. It’s an amazingly solid bag at what is probably one of the kinder prices I’ve ever seen Mystery Ranch gear being offered at.