Mystery Ranch Coulee 25
Indestructible, adjustable, and crazy comfortable daypack that falls under Buy Once - Cry Once.
- Extremely comfortable
- Removable, sturdy hip belt
- Thick fabric
- Sturdy zippers
- Extremely durable
- Three-zip entry might not be for everyone
- Two front pockets offer limited capacity
- Heavy for a day pack
I'd heard of Mystery Ranch packs, which are manufactured in Bozeman, Montana, but always thought they were way too heavy for backpacking and maybe a little more geared to the hunting/survivalist/outdoors work market. But I wanted a daypack that would handle heavier loads for winter, some lash options, and could maybe work for a super light overnight with minimal gear. In doing a search I ran across the Coulee 25 on a crazy sale and it ticked the boxes. I pulled the trigger and ended up buying my favorite daypack.
The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the fabric. This is definitely not a light and fast daypack. Everything about it is sturdy. Comes in at about 2.9 pounds, which is going to be a good pound heavier than comparable sizes, but given that loads are only going to get just so heavy with a daypack, the extra weight is really a non-issue. Even the four YKK zippers are big (great for gloves) and sturdy.
In addition to the main compartment there's a dual-zippered and relatively deep top pocket that uses a thick mesh that, to date, hasn't shown wear or tears. There are two water bottle pockets, made with thicker material that doesn't stretch out of shape, four side compression straps, two tool carry loops, and two ice ax loops. It stows trekking poles and is hydration bladder compatible with a separate pouch in the main compartment. It doesn't have a key fob, which I think all day packs should have, but there's a spot inside the main compartment for a carabiner if you want to secure your keys.
MR is known for their tri-zipper opening to the main compartment. It allows you to just open the top and dig or use the zipper right down the middle to access the contents. I'm a little torn on this feature for a daypack. Not because of the access but because it eliminates a larger stuffit pocket for wet jackets or a fleece. Instead, they have two smaller pockets on each side of the zipper. Half is the pack material and half is what they use for the water bottles so there's some stretch but the space is limited. A standard rain jacket isn't going to fit, even if it's been stuffed in to its own pocket so you're pretty much left with securing it to the pack if it needs to dry. Gloves, beanies and lighter jackets that are rolled (it holds my Ferrosi hoody) can work but I find larger stuffit pockets to be much more efficient.
The Coulee comes with a very stout and firm hip belt for a day pack. The upside is you can carry as much as you can shove in there very comfortably. And the other big upside is that it's removable. Very easy to put on and take off and if you're not carrying much it's not necessary. It comes with two zippered side pockets for small incidentals.
But comfort is what this pack is all about. The backpanel is adjustable so you can get the perfect torso fit; it's relatively rigid and extends out to fit the lower back and the shoulder straps are wide, curved, and have a great feel. It includes load lifters and an adjustable sternum strap. The entire system feels like what you'd find on big backpack. Easily the most comfortable pack I've worn.
This pack isn't cheap. Retails at about $175 which is definitely the high end for a daypack. But everything about it feels like it will last for a long time. This is one you can roll on granite with, or just toss in the dirt, and it won't be any worse for wear. If you grab it on sale, like I did, you're getting more than your money's worth.
So while I wouldn't choose MR for a bigger backpack, if you're in the market for real durability, superb comfort and a lot of really helpful features, I think this is one to take a good look at.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $110 (sale)
Where to Buy
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Current Retail: $94.50-$141.71
Historic Range: $94.50-$229.00
Reviewers Paid: $110.00
Current Retail: $94.50-$135.99
Historic Range: $94.50-$189.00