For many years I cheaped out on backpacks – whether my work backpack or my hunting backpack, I always had a hard time ponying up the dough for a buy-it-for-life kind of backpack. Then a miracle happened – I found the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack (2DAP) on such a clearance that it couldn’t be passed up. To be frank, I am not sure you’d ever find the price I got again and I don’t think I ever would have bought it at current retail prices. But I lucked myself into one of the best backpacks I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned a lot, just ask my wife).
Out of the box, the backpack just exudes quality. It feels well made, and it feels durable as hell. As a result, it is also not for the ultralight crowd. But damn is it a nice backpack.
From a distance, I always admired the battle-tested quality backpacks being sold by brands like Mystery Ranch and Eberlestock. I was especially attracted to the Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault Pack (3DAP), but the price prevented me from even considering it. When I found the sale on the 2DAP, I was skeptical to say the least. I did my research and found that at 27 liters it was significantly smaller (6 liters smaller) than the 3DAP, and unlike the 3DAP was not made in the U.S. but in Vietnam. But I took the risk, and boy did I make the right choice.
I’ve owned it just over a year now, so I feel this review is warranted. I use this backpack for a myriad of things – going on weekend trips, hiking with the family, rucking, lugging my crap to and from work, and hunting. It just pulls through each and every time, and is able to carry everything I need even if I need to strap items to the outside. When rucking and carrying much weight, the backpack holds it all without issue.
The biggest thing to stress is how comfortable this backpack is. The adjustable yoke is just awesome. Being 6’2″, I went for the L/XL yoke and it feels great. Wearing 25+ pounds in this thing is no problem, even with the hip belt issues I will get into later.
The MOLLE straps on the bottom of the pack are great for lashing your gear like sleeping bags and tents if necessary. I also have two carabiners clipped to the side MOLLE straps to hold wet items such as Keens I’ve used for wading in water while I hike out in dry boots.
I took this pack on a one-night backpacking trip with my kids and I was able to hold all of my gear plus some of theirs with straps I added (granted, we slept in a cabin but a tent could be added without issue). Chris and I will be backpacking a part of the Appalachian Trail for two nights this fall and I plan to try using this instead of my much larger Mountainsmith backpacking backpack. I’m not sure I’d use this for any more than three nights, but I’m no ultralight purist either.
While hunting, I am also easily able to strap my compound bow to the outside using the factory compression straps. This is a nice option if I am walking long distances while hunting. I live walking distance from some hunting spots that require I hike through non-hunting areas to get there, so it helps to not have the bow in hand when passing non-hunters.
The exterior water bottle pockets are also huge. When I’m hiking with the kids, I can fit 2-3 kids-sized water bottles in one of the water bottle pockets. This is very helpful when you have three thirsty kids!
The Bad and the Ugly
With all the praise I’ve just heaped, there are a couple of drawbacks you should be aware of. First and foremost, the hip belt is not great. Mystery Ranch really should have put some level of padded hip belt on this backpack. And even if not, they should improve the existing hip belt. I read online many complaints of people saying their hip belt came loose after movement. And they are right! Time and time again, the hip belt would come undone from the buckle that holds it to the backpack. I even tried doubling the strap over and back into the loop and it would eventually come undone. My solution was to sew my own line of stitching into the strap to keep it from falling off. As you can tell from the picture below, I am not a master tailor. It would have been done much better with a sewing machine but I have no clue how to use a sewing machine and so dipped into my experience sewing patches on for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and just did a crude hand stitched line, and it works. But the point is I shouldn’t have to make this modification, it should be designed better.
I also really don’t like how the backpack tapers at the bottom. I think if the pack had been built to be more tube-like, it could gain a few extra liters of storage that would come in handy. Minor quibble but important enough for me to point out. It can make packing bulky items challenging, but the die-hard zipper always pulls through in squeezing bulky items into the pack.
If you’re a water bladder person, then this may not be the pack for you. A big difference between the 2DAP and the 3DAP is the water bladder slot and port was replaced with a slot for a laptop. You could still technically put a water bladder in there, and run the tube out the top of the zipper at the back for laptop access – but this is a workaround that may not suffice if you’re a dedicated water bladder user. I prefer bottles so I don’t have this problem. In fact, I find the laptop sleeve extremely useful because it can hold a 25 pound ruck weight perfectly so that it’s not flopping around while I hike.
There are also reports online of the mesh material on the back starting to come apart from heavy use. I haven’t seen that yet in the first year – maybe I lucked out. But I have definitely read multiple reports of this issue so it’s something to be aware of. I want to stress that I have not yet experienced this myself and the mesh is holding up just fine.
A minor complaint also worth mentioning – why are the morale patch Velcro strap, buckles, and yoke black on the forest color pack? They should be forest colored too!
- Versatile – works for hiking, hunting, and everyday carry (EDC) such as a work or travel bag
- Poor hip belt design
- Could be a bit larger
- Not designed for water bladders
Rating: 4 / 5
I am giving the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack four stars only because there are several cons I’ve noted, so it’s not perfect. But I want to stress – I love this backpack! I use it all the time, and I hope to be able to make use of it for life. I firmly believe I made the right choice in buying this. If the 2DAP is a bit too tactical looking for you, Mystery Ranch has similar models such as the Urban Assault 24. You can’t go wrong with Mystery Ranch quality, and the 2DAP is no exception.
Have you tried the 2DAP? I’d love to hear your thoughts, comment below!