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Mystery ranch vs. Gregory pack ??

For those of you who us Mystery ranch packs, what were your reasons for choosing it over a Gregory pack? I just purchased my 4th Gregory, a Baltoro65 and was studying up on it and noticed that it is compared quite often to the mystery packs and since their price weights and volume are comparable was a little curious as to what the real difference was and why you choose one or the other. I've never seen a Mystery pack and doubt it would have made much of a difference anyway but if theirs is something better than mine I'd like to know what and why that is. Your opinions are welcome and I'm very happy with my Gregory packs so your not going to offend me if you don't like them.

I use Gregory myself. I think part of the mystery ranch appeal is that they aren't owned by a large conglomerate, same as Osprey.. I can't recall the owners first name but it is the same guy that started Dana designs and he started Mystery ranch and built the reputation providing packs for the U.S Special forces.I looked at some Mystery ranch packs at the local outfitters and they did appear to be a little more solidly built than the Gregory or Ospreys. If I was going to replace my load hauler Mystery ranch would definitely get a test drive. On the smaller capacity packs Mystery ranch seems to run a little heavier than the competition so I would probably save the wieght.

The difference between the two is perhaps more readily apparent after a few years' time. You're on your fourth Gregory, John, when you might've only required one Mystery Ranch.

This is not to slight Gregory; I think they've made some fine packs. But for a certain percentage of users a Mystery Ranch pack will have more desirable design features and engineering.

I use both brands and think highly of both but...

My primary pack over the last 7 years and several thousand miles has been the Mystery Ranch Trance (this model is no longer made). I initially fell in love with the harness system on the Trance, but came to appreciate other factors over time. It just fit me better than anything else I had tried. The durability has been really outstanding. If I get time later I might take a few photos for illustration but the Gregory Mountain pack I have, and with much less use, has shown far greater wear over a shorter period of time than the MR pack.

I might just review that Trance even though they don't make them anymore. It has a lot of sentimental value to me. I've used it on every "big" trip I've done since I bought it (and it was stolen and mauled by a bear, found later by a hiker, recovered by me and repaired by MR).

I was a Gregory guy from the 90s to mid 2000s including the Palisade for hauling the family backpacking gear, to the Z55 for solo trips. I love the brand and still use the Z55 for longer winter trips when my now favorite pack (ULA  Ohm 2) is just a tad too small. Haven't used a MR pack, but if I hadn't found the Ohm I would have tried one last year based on all the reviews and talking to a couple of folks on the trail who swore by them and seeing the packs in person. Both are great brands and you can't pick wrong...

Pillowthead mine have yet to show any wear as the oldest is probably only 5yrs old and I'm pretty careful with all my gear and stuff i.e.: cleaning and not throwing it around and such but that may be helped by the fact that I tend to use the palisade mainly in fall winter and early spring and my savant in summer or solo trips. In short I don't really have a go to pack although I mainly use those 2 9 out of 10 times, I'll use different packs for different expected trips. And without a doubt it has helped mine last much better.

patrick  that's interesting coming from someone who gets as much trail time as you do I didn't think it was possible to get anything more comfortable than these Gregorys. Looking forward to your review or further break down on the difference 

Phil besides the mystery I've been noticing you guys talking about the Ohm also and as a gear guy have been curious myself but until I can actually check some of these others out in person I'll be pretty much sold on the Ones I have although the smallest on I have I may let go as I've had it hanging in my closet for 3 or 4 years and it's never been used so if I come across someone who wants it Ill probably trade or sell it. Since I hate stuff waisting away like that.

jason I kinda wondered if that wasn't some of the reasons also. Guess I'll find out when I actually see some in person 

I have no direct experience with Mystery Ranch, however I've been looking at buying one for years. Dana Gleason is a very talented fellow. If I didn't already own an Arc'teryx Altra pack as my heavy-weight, I'd have a MR pack...

I'm currently testing a Gregory Paragon 58, and mostly love it. There is some stitching coming undone in a critical area, which you'll see in the review soon enough. It is a comfortable pack, which is pretty important since Gregory is taking a stab into lighter-weight backpacks. 

I don't have any weight specs handy at the moment, however my ÜLA Catalyst is lighter, more durable, and as comfortable... 

I really get an attachment to my packs, regardless of choice and factors involved in making a selection. Once I have taken one through the ringer a few times and really settled into a packing system that becomes second nature to me, I feel like they are old friends and am less concerned with some of their minor flaws (just like my real friends!). It's hard to make a change even though I really enjoy evaluating and trying out new pack is the one that is toughest for me to break from routine. I looked for a lighter option for almost 2 years before ordering the Ohm...

Whatever pack you use, theres nothing like the sight of a familiar pack, full and ready to go, the day or so before a trip to get me ramped up for another trip into the wild country! 

Correction I inadvertently called my smaller pack a savant when infact it is a serrac45 and the one never used is a Z40

Sean how do you rate the Arc'teryx against the Gregory and Mystery?

I have used and reviewed both the Mystery Ranch G6000 (a big one, 105 liters) and the Baltoro 65 on this site.  The G6000 is nearly ten years old; the Baltoro about five years old.  I still use both.  I used to carry the G6000 for any trip longer than an overnight; when I saw an older model Baltoro with a good sale price, I bought it and started using it for shorter trips.

The short answer is you can't go wrong with either brand, they have many similarities, and there are some differences worth thinking about.

-both carry weight really well, adjusted for size of course.  Not many 65 liter packs can comfortably carry fifty pounds; the Baltoro can, easily.  few packs of any size can handle over sixty; I have hauled over 65 in the mystery ranch, and it carried well.   

-both are highly durable, but the mystery ranch pack has the edge.  The Baltoro (my version) uses mesh in some areas, like bottle carriers and hip belt pockets, and those have occasionally suffered some damage; the pack bag materials are highly durable.  Mystery Ranch backpacks are heavy but made from materials that can sustain more wear and abuse.  Also, both stand behind their products.  Gregory replaced a hip belt pad after a rodent ate its way through a mesh pocket (I was dumb and left a clif bar in it overnight); Mystery Ranch replaced a shoulder harness where the interior nylon developed some holes after several years of use (the exterior nylon was fine; the interior parts were rubbing against the hard plastic part of the shoulder harness.  didn't compromise how it functioned, but when I noted the wear, I replaced it to avoid a failure in the field).

-Gregory does a better job for three season hikers who use hydration systems - sleeves, openings are readily available and easy to use.  Mystery Ranch is better for people who like water bottles.  My mystery ranch can carry a 3 liter the lid.  the lid has an opening, but putting that much weight in the lid, in the sun? not the best solution.  on the other hand, mystery ranch's bottle pockets are nearly perfect.  Gregory is the opposite; their bottle pockets are decent, the hydration sleeves tend to be very well-designed.  

-fundamentally different organizational philosophies.  Gregory is more creative with pockets and openings; mystery ranch gives you a few good-sized options, less variety but still good exterior storage.  I happen to love the two long vertical pockets that are a mystery ranch trademark.  

No personal experience with ARC teryx but I have run into some out on the trails that are obviously well used, that's always a good sign. My personal opinion is that you can't really go wrong with any of the top brand packs anymore. As long as it fits you and you like the way the pockets and zippers are designed. Durability depends a lot on where you go and how you take care of the pack. My old Palisade is still the most expensive pack I have bought, and that was over 20 years ago. I flat out abused the Kelty Tioga my parents bought me. Threw it across creeks, slid my arms out and just let it fall to the ground. But when I let go of my own money for the Gregory all of that stopped.

Jason Berry said:

 But when I let go of my own money for the Gregory all of that stopped.

 Amen to that. Paid $360 plus tax for mine if I remember correctly dang things aint cheap

For what It's worth I'd put some of Arc'teryx's packs up there, too. I had a Canadian-made Bora 95 that was indestructible. The stays squeaked a bit with loads over 75lbs, but that was the only nitpick I could come up with.

I rarely use my Arc'teryx Altra 85; mainly I use it for longer trips carrying lots of food and water. I cannot compare it to a Mystery Ranch pack, a Gregory Baltoro, or really anything else, it is the only giant I've ever owned. When the conditions call for this kind of gear, I LOVE IT. 

I'm having internet speed difficulties at the moment, but you can look into the load transfer disc tech that sets it apart from anything I've ever used... That being said, it's a BIG six pound pack that will take polar or expedition abuse. 

If I didn't have a crazy opportunity to get that $500 pack at a bargain, I would have likely gone Mystery Ranch after reading about Patman & Tipi. 

Perhaps after this Gregory Paragon 58 review, I'll review the Altra 85... 

My personal knowing 3 of 14 hikers who Gregory pack gave out in different points on the AT year before last will keep me from ever owning one..Yes their packs are Muh...I have looked at the MR and I have friends that have them and quit happy..I am more inclined for a load hualer from them...

I have some moderate experience with MR packs from my time in the military, and I have nothing bad to say about them. The only MR "pack" I currently have is a camelback linchpin which uses the MR harness and suspension system which I absolutely love as a day pack.

My goto pack company is Kifaru. Night and day difference between any other pack I have ever used. The best thing I love about them is the suspension, and actual load lifters that work.

Almost every pack out there has "load lifter" straps on them, but about 95% of all packs the load lifters don't actually work, or only marginally so.

Hello guys, newbie here. I'm planning to buy a 50-65L pack, and I have narrowed my choices between MR sphinx/ravine and baltoro 65l. the prices are nearly the same. Which would you recommend between the two? :)

With two good brands to choose from, I would go with whichever feels best to you. Pack choice is very person dependent with lititle idiosyncrasies of how it sits on you specifically. Are you able to try both out in stores? If so, load it up with gear and spend some time in the store walking round and letting it settle in on you with similar weight to what you wold carry. Usually the pack will tell you which one to choose.

Hello Phil, I've tried both and I must say the comfort is top notch, especially when you compare to other brands. They're both on the heavier side, but I'm fine with that as long as support/ comfort is good. I'm interested in knowing which one would be durable and more suited for long hikes. I've heard good stuff about both, but I'd appreciate if you can share me your experiences since my budget is only for one.

Gregory recently was bought out by a large company, Samsonite?, I believe. According to a few friends in the industry and longtime sellers of Gregory, they have taken a downward turn in what they used to be, thats over the past year or two. Arcteryx packs, Canadian-made, are excellent. MR is solid and their folks know their business. Watching for some of their stuff as they have moved some production overseas, as have Arcteryx.  CiloGear would be another company worth looking into.

Mr. Gregory retired a couple years ago.

Dana Gleason and his son still own Mystery Ranch, with the young Mr. Gleason doing most of the day to day running.

My wife and I have 3 Dana packs, one of which has been to Antarctica twice, climbing on Denali 4 times, climbing in the Cordillera Blanca on several month-long research expeditions, and generally used hard for heavy loads over 10 or 15 years. The other 2 are newer, but just as comfortable.

We also have our original Kelty external frame packs. I got mine directly from Dick Kelty from his garage in 1962 not too far from where I was going to college at CalTech. Before good internal frame packs were developed, Kelty packs allowed heavy loads in comfort. I still use my Kelty's from time to time.

A lesson many of us have learned is that when a small company is bought by a large conglomerate, quality tends to drop. In Dana Gleason's case, after many years of producing superb packs, when he retired, he first sold the company to the large conglomerate that includes Kelty as a part of K2 these days. He was an advisor for a few years. When he had some disagreements with the company, he started Mystery Ranch.

Wayne Gregory ran Gregory Mountain for many years. When he retired a couple years ago, he sold to a conglomerate. Gregory went downhill fast after the purchase, just as Kelty did when it was taken over.

We also have several Osprey's between us of several sizes. These are quite good for our lighter trips (though we use true ultralight packs for some uses).

My suggestion is:

1. find a knowledgeable specialty store (I know - almost impossible anymore) which has EXPERIENCED pack fitters. 

2. examine the various packs after you have a conversation with the fitter about your experience and hiking intentions. Be open and honest and listen carefully to the fitter's suggestions.

3. As someone mentioned above, take a pile of gear that you will use on your hikes and backpacks, load it into the pack selection, and walk around the shop for an hour or two. If, like the old Marmot Store in Berkeley, the shop has stairs, climb up and down them for a dozen round trips.

This will give you a good idea of how a given pack fits.

Well, I do own a Dana Designs Terraplane and at 7 1/2 lbs. it is a monster, but a comfortable monster for winter camping only. 

I used it last weekend for a solo ski camping trip at 8,400 ft. only because my -20 F. LL Bean down bag would not fit into my Osprey EXOS 58. My total Terraplane pack weight was 42 lbs with 3 qts. water and 3 days of food plus a Tarptent Moment DW and MSR Whisperlite Universal stove in white gas mode.

BTW, that MSR stove in white gas mode is amazingly hot and fuel efficient. I wish there were a Ti version of that stove. I'd pay an extra $50. for it. 

So yes, there are lighter winter packs of the necessary capacity (at least 7,000 cu. in.) but the Terraplane is what I've got so it's what I'll use for now.

I had a Gregory Wind River pack eons ago and it was excellent. So was Gregory's customer service. They replaced ALL buckles at no cost when I sent it in to get 3 of them replaced.

Eric B.

I've had my most recent Gregory for about 10 years and it's amazing, the newer ones are clearly not the same caliber.  

MR is mostly awesome however their civvy packs are now made overseas.  The .mil line is for the public, made in the USA, and notably heavier.  I love my MR packs.  (Assault pack and 3 day pack).  

I have a Kifaru that is a tank but it's going to last forever.  Check them out too. 

interesting to hear the viewpoint that gregory has gone downhill.  how has that manifested itself?

what i particularly like about their Baltoro, though mine is several years old, is that it is quite durable and carries weight well - has a bar of 7000 grade aluminum that is much better at transferring weight than softer 6000 grade stays.  i see the current version has retained the 7000 grade aluminum but now configures it as two skinny rods that more or less track the perimeter of the back, rather than a more robust bar up the middle.  probably to reduce weight; i can't imagine it would be as durable or as capable of handling a  heavy load.  

i just tested a new, smaller gregory pack (25 liter), and it was very good for its purpose as a daypack.  employs the wire frame concept i just explained above, pretty rigid, but this pack wouldn't be your choice to carry much more than 20 or 25 pounds due to the light construction of the belt and shoulder straps.  can't assess long term durability, of course.

How are the Stone Glacier packs?  I just recently read of them in a conversation.  New to me.  Similar in market and application to Kifaru and Mystery Ranch; hunter and paramilitary types.

You still can't beat the value of used Danas and Ospreys of the 90s.  For less than $150, you'll have one of the best packs ever made.  Everyone has different body shapes and sensitivities, so one or the other might not be comfortable to a person, but overall, they're a steal.  I wouldn't mind owning a Kifaru or Mystery Ranch because I'm a pack junkie, but for the money, I'm going to those overbuilt packs of the 90s.  I wouldn't even consider buying new.  But I'm also not an ultralighter.

Having had both brands I can say that Gregory packs are "sensibly lighter" and just as durable. 

My Dana Designs Terraplane is used only for winter camping due to the bulk of the gear.

Dana owns Mystery Ranch and his packs are similar to his old DD line.

Eric B.

September 28, 2020
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