Editor's Note: The following article was written by contributor Brandon Barton for his Facebook page, Last Man Projects. We've shared the post in its entirety with permission. For more from Brandon, check out his previous articles, Lessons Learned from a 26-Mile Hike and $200 DIY Emergency Power Pack.
Hello, my name is Last Man and I… I’m a pack addict. I recently got a great deal on a closeout Mystery Ranch Coulee 40 from Backcountry.com. It’s a departure from many other packs I’ve picked up and not one I think many in the preparedness community would normally gravitate to. Why not? Well for starters it’s not some webbed up, 1000-denier nylon, Velcro paneled, multi-pocketed tac-pack (of which I have several).
In fact mine, in the only color they had left, looks kinda like a giant avocado. It’s closer to a dedicated hiker’s pack more at home in a National Park than a military-based pack on a deployment somewhere. Think more Osprey or Kelty and less London Bridge Tactical or Eberlestock. For those of you guys looking to be more “grey” this is a great pack, coming in some low-key colors but with the space and features few if the other less “tactical” options offer.
My initial impressions of this pack are very positive. At 40L it’s not made for long sustainment trips, but for something to help get me home over the course of a week or so it’s just right. Because of its size it’s really difficult to over-pack, although I bet some folks will still succeed in doing just that.
It’s exceptionally comfortable — I hardly notice I’ve got it on. The 3-zipper design, a Mystery Ranch exclusive, is the best way I’ve seen so far in accessing all gear easily. If you lay it down unzipped completely, the pack is wide open. Although I have to admit, when you sit it up and open just the top (pictured), the bag looks disconcertingly like that face-sucker egg from the movie Alien. The zippers are on par with the best I’ve seen in the industry.
Oh, and one last thing on storage. I really love the zippered pockets on the waist belt. They are very handy for all the quick access items you’d normally have to stash somewhere like the lid pockets.
I’m not going in to all the technical voodoo that makes this bag so comfortable. Mystery Ranch says it's a result of a frame “comprised of two vertical composit rods and an upper horizontal composit bar” paired with an HPDE frame sheet and Futura Yoke. For anyone else, just take it that it’s really, really comfortable.
Now for the downsides. That cavernous interior needs a lot of organization to pack well. There are no interior pockets to organize smaller things inside the main compartment so little pouches and zip-lock bags are your friends.
Speaking of pockets, those four “stretch woven pockets” on the outside are not nearly as handy as Mystery Ranch would like to think they are. They seem too tight or awkward for anything other than a light rain shell or pair of gloves. I’d rather have a couple extra “real” pockets for my money. Lastly, the hydration reservoir pocket is smaller than most packs I have. I crammed the 3L bladder from the Camelbak BFM and its not the ideal set up, but will work.
The bottom line is if you’re looking to travel fast and comfortably with minimal to moderate loads, this is a great choice.
Here are the basic specs from Mystery Ranch’s website:
Weight – 3.8 lbs
Volume – 2441 cu-in (40 liters)
Dimensions – 28.5″ x 16″ x 12.5″
MSRP – $229