As you might already know, I’m a big fan of the Mystery Ranch ASAP and 1DAP packs. You can find my in-depth reviews of the ASAP pack here and here. I also wrote a detailed comparison between the ASAP and 1DAP packs. Now it’s time to add another pack to that equation. I wanted to take a closer look at the newest member of the small 3-zip family – the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault ($139). I thought it would be best to compare the Urban Assault side-by-side with my tried and true 1-Day Assault Pack (1DAP). I will also provide some references to the ASAP pack as well.
The overall outline of both packs is nearly identical and each one has a total volume of roughly 20 liters. Both packs are tall, slim, and made of tough 500D Cordura fabric. They’re also both built around their proven 3-ZIP design with YKK zippers. It’s worth noting that although the 1DAP’s zippers seem to be of higher quality and more rugged, the Urban Assault’s look a bit plasticky, but still work fine. It’s obvious that the 1DAP is more of a tactical-oriented pack. It features additional MOLLE attachment points on sides (so you can add extra pouches) and webbing daisy-chains, which is handy for my climbing equipment. According to the original specs, the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault pack is rated as a 21 liter pack versus the 18.5 liter rating of the 1DAP pack. This might be due to additional space saved in the back area (thanks to simpler construction of Urban Assault) and ultra slim profile of 1DAP in the bottom part. Also, you won’t find a velcro patch panel on Urban Assault’s top lid nor any antenna or hydration ports. It’s fair to say that the Urban Assault look way more … urban, thus the name.
Turn the packs over on the backside and the key difference become obvious. The Urban Assault utilizes a simple fixed-strap harness configuration without any torso-length adjustment or a waist belt. It is still nicely padded, so it offers more than enough comfort for any urban adventure. However, fixed straps makes an effective back length shorter than the 1DAP, and even more when compared to the ASAP. This surely limits the prolonged time carry comfort for people like myself (6’1) or taller. On the other hand, it does make the Urban Assault very comfortable for single-shoulder carrying, which is very welcome in an any urban-oriented pack. Overall, I’d say it’s a compromise – which is fully acceptable on this particular pack. When it comes to the straps, both packs are nicely padded. However, only military-line packs have additional stiffeners inside and rubber loops for hydration tube. Last but not least, just like all good quality packs, a detachable and adjustable sternum strap is standard.
A closer look at the bottom of both packs yields some differences as well. The Urban Assault still has a bottom carry strap, but it can’t be used to attach Stick-It tarp/pocket due to the lack of any MOLLE attachments on the side. I guess it’s just there just to grab your pack easier from trunk or when it’s stored in an overhead bin on the plane. What I find very surprising is that Urban Assault has a lumbar channel, which can be used to attach a padded waist strap (aftermarket). That’s a very cool feature and I’d like to see that on next generation of ASAP/1DAP packs since it allows you to use a solid padded 2” custom waist strap rather than thin webbing tape like on the ASAP or nothing at all on the 1DAP. Also, you’ll notice a thin Cordura strip at the bottom on the back of a coyote pack. This allows the mesh padding to stay well protected from mud, water or snow when you put the pack down on the ground. I love this! The mesh panel on the back of my 1DAP tends to absorb all kind of moisture from grass or snow. Sure, it’s not a big issue in the outdoors (I don’t care if I got my jacket a bit more dirty as it’s going to be dirty anyway), but in the city it’s a ‘coat saving’ feature. Nicely done, Mystery Ranch!
Above is a closer look at the frames and stays of both packs. The pre-shaped spade-system on the Mystery Ranch 1DAP yoke is very ergonomic and I don’t have any complaints here. On the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault pack, the stiffener goes much lower to the lumbar area, so an integrated aluminium stay (sewn onto frame sheet) is a good idea as you can adjust it to the lumbar area shape of your own back.
You can definitely notice a lot more differences on the inside of the packs. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault’s interior is clearly designed for office and/or city carry. The two back slots are spacious enough for A4/Legal format documents, 15” laptop, and a 10” tablet. The two side pockets inside are awesome additions as well because they allow for VERY secure wallet and keys carry. In addition, there are two rubber straps that can hold a pen or a knife (which is what I do in my case) by the clip, or support a collapsible umbrella inside the pack. I have previously described the 1DAP’s interior in details in my 1DAP vs ASAP article, so please check that out here to explore more of the 1DAP features. In my opinion, the 1DAP is a good compromise for EDC/city/outdoor use, but the Urban Assault’s interior works much better as a mobile office for those on the go.
A closer look at the top lids shows a very simple design on the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault. It is just some storage space with a side-to-side zipper opening and key holder inside. The 1DAP/ASAP lid compartment is much more advanced – it is taller and opens flat. This allows you to store considerably larger objects like military binoculars. For example, my Steiner 8×30’s fits great in there. There is also an additional small zippered pocket on top. Such a big opening could be a security concern for a commuter traveling by subway or the bus, so it’s again a ‘form follows function’ solution on Urban Assault.
Okay, let’s get to the bottom line. Which bag is better for whom? Actually, it’s very clear. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault pack really shines as an urban daypack for commuters, students, all kinds of ‘outdoorsmen at heart’ working in an office environment. For anyone looking for a non-tactical looking pack, but with clear tactical roots and pedigree, consider the Urban Assault. It looks good and doesn’t stand out in the crowd too much (ok, it’s still a 3-zip so does look a bit different from your average Joe’s laptop pack. It also carries really well on one shoulder if that’s your thing. The Mystery Ranch 1DAP is clearly outdoor oriented pack, and so is the ASAP from Mystery Ranch’s military line. With an adjustable yoke, MOLLE webbing, velcro patch panel, Stick-It compatibility, and hydration ports on the 1DAP (and ASAP) – it is an obvious choice for anyone looking for an adventure and outdoor daypack. However, all the extra features come at a price. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault is $139, while the 1DAP and ASAP variants would easily set you at least an additional $100 or more. That is a healthy difference, which is really something to consider. It’s actually great to see such a clear distinction between the two packs. They look similar at first sight, but they are clearly separated in terms of intended use. To me, the Urban Assault is urban, the 1DAP is adventure, and the ASAP is military. Want visual proof? Take a look …
This is where the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault is really at home …
… and this is exactly where Mystery Ranch 1DAP and ASAP packs really shine! I hope my review helps you make an educated choice if you’re currently in the market for a small, 3-ZIP pack. For more information on Mystery Ranch packs, please visit their website.