Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

740 400 Piotr Ma

If you recently read my Mystery Ranch ASAP review, you’ll remember that I really liked the design, construction, and features of the ASAP pack. However, while I had done some light duty testing of it, I didn’t really have a chance to test it in demanding conditions. That all changed last week. I’m just got back from snowy Tatra Mountains in southern Poland and I’d like to share some further observations and random thoughts about the ASAP. I was gone for just one day. It was just me, my ASAP pack, and my camera.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingI started in the very morning with a clear plan. As you’ll see in the upcoming photos, it might not have been the safest plan. It was quite easy to attach the ice-axe to the ASAP with just a piece of paracord.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

I was also able to store my crampons under the Stick-it flap, but I also added an additional compression strap on the pack as a secondary fixing point. It was time to decide where to go and to put the crampons on.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingReview: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

I made the first checkpoint and marked my time. As you can see from this shot of the Mystery Ranch pack on a frozen rock in the fog, you can easily attach some extra gear to the PALS on the side of the pack via straps, paracord, or carabiners. Customization of the ASAP is really impressive thanks to the webbing panels.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingReview: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingAfter some more hiking I decided to stop and take a rest and enjoy the incredible view. I improvised a ‘snow chair’ so I could relax for a bit. With the crampons on my boots, I had an empty Stick-it. With a bit of imagination and the help of the ice-axe, I converted my pack into a quite comfortable chair! This might be another reason to consider getting a the Stick-it if you purchase an ASAP.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingReview: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

On my way I spotted some climbers in the distance. It looked like a climbing training camp to me. I also noticed some mountain goat’s fresh tracks. They were hardly visible, but still easily identifiable.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingHere is a shot of what I had inside the Mystery Ranch ASAP that day. It was a full frame Nikon camera with f/2.8 tele-zoom (a big & heavy setup), spare warm cap, Klean Kanteen thermal bottle with hot tea, small silicone cup, ITS Tactical medical kit, emergency foil blanket, camera accessories in small pouches, a 5L waterproof bag in case I needed to carry some extra clothes in the Stick-it pocket, and some energy bars. I also had the crampons & ice-axe attached to the pack when not in use. It was quite a lot of stuff for such a small pack. By the way, I only used the heavy Nikon twice and it wasn’t worth taking at all. My small Fuji X100 did the job perfectly.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingThe path was starting to get more and more vertical. It was time to draw the ice-axe from my pack and put it to good use. The red sign says, “Very dangerous trail. Beware of falling rocks.” Nice, very nice!

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingAnd that was the place where the REAL adventure started. The destination? Way down there! I decided to go off-trail and try an almost vertical climb down the ice and snow. This is the beginning. I wasn’t able to take any pictures half-way during the decent. It would be way too dangerous! I just tightened the straps even more and started the climb down. You’ll notice a group of people, almost pixel size, down there on the left in the clearing.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingThat was my route down. I’m not sure if I’d ever do that again. I learned a lot about adrenaline that day! Can you see the grey pixels on top where my route started? It’s another guy looking down and wondering if he, or she, should follow my snowy path down.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingAfter that decent, it was time for a short rest. The pack was very secure on my back during the climb. It kept really close to my back without any movement. I was able to keep perfect balance while on the slope. For me, I’d easily score it a 10 out of 10. I think that says a lot as this was a bit more challenging than your average Sunday walk in the forest.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingReview: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingAfter another short trek I finally made it to the shelter to get warm and relax for a bit. Inside I found some more people with climbing rope. They must be smarter than me! Here is another shot of the ASAP and my stuff out of the pack. I really like how the pack compresses when I zip it closed. It’s a much more effective way to put a lot of stuff into the pack versus using a classic top loader style pack, especially when it comes to traveling with irregular-shaped objects like camera with lens.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingReview: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

As the sun started to set and the evening fog started to rise up the hills, it was time to get back to the base and my wife and kids. I’m really extremely happy with the Mystery Ranch ASAP pack! It has been probably the most comfortable small backpack I’ve ever owned. Without a doubt, it’s the most comfortable of all the military styled tactical packs I’ve ever tried. An optional padded waist-belt could potentially make the pack even better, but for an 18L pack it is not really necessary. Neither my shoulders nor my back were really tired that day, but my legs definitely were! I can tell that I need more training during the year.

One other thing to note is that the mesh on the back is very comfortable, but it also attracts the snow. In snowy conditions, when you need to find something in the pack, I recommend that you put the pack vertical by leaning it on your leg and then unzipping it. Don’t put the mesh directly on the fresh snow. You can clean it easily, but some snow will surely melt and the mesh can get a bit wet. Some small hypalon panels would probably help, but a hypalon panel against the back is not my preference for those hot summer days. Since my hard shell was really hard, I didn’t have any problems with that. A fleece jacket could be more problematic, but if you wear a hard shell you’ll have no issues.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain TestingAll in all, It was an awesome day! I was rewarded with one of the most awesome ‘goodbye’ views I had ever seen!

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

On a side note, I have used the Mystery Ranch ASAP for a lot of skiing recently. With the ASAP I’ve been able to carry my full equipment on my back! You can definitely consider the Mystery Ranch ASAP an extremely versatile pack. It’s great as a city pack, but also good for biking, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, weekend walking, and for many more applications.

Review: Mystery Ranch ASAP Winter Mountain Testing

Don’t be afraid to the push the Mystery Ranch ASAP really to the limits and it should serve you for a lifetime.

AUTHOR

Piotr Ma

Piotr is an avid backpacker, mountaineer, skier, sailor, and all around backcountry adventurer. Read more …

All stories by: Piotr Ma

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