Mystery Ranch Glacier Review

  • Wilderness Backpacker

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Mystery Ranch Glacier Overview

A backpack is a cornerstone piece of equipment, and the Mystery Ranch Glacier is a burly, load-bearing cornerstone.

We get it: some people are looking for the absolute lightest backpack that can do the job without any bells or whistles. Others want a bit more organization out of their backpack; a plethora of pockets, a specific spot to stow a sleeping bag, a top lid that can carry toiletries or snacks for the day. Others still are looking for a pack that will provide the most comfort when carrying seriously heavy loads, and are built to last a lifetime of carrying those loads. For the crowd interested in the latter, look no further than the Mystery Ranch Glacier.

The Mystery Ranch Glacier is a no-holds-barred weight carrying machine. This pack is built on their Astral Frame. It is a light but robust frame designed to carry upwards of 70 pounds, in actual comfort. The shoulder strap, hip belt, and all contact points with the body are thoroughly wrapped in a high density foam that is made to last ages. It also has pockets, a top lid, sleeping bag compartment, and a few other niceties for those wanting organization.

If you are heading into the wilderness for an extended period of time and are concerned with finding the most durable and most comfortable backpack, that gives you some versatility and the ability to pack a few creature comforts, consider the Mystery Ranch Glacier. When it comes to weight carrying, it’s in a category of its own.

Mystery Ranch Glacier Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Packability
  • Pockets
  • Fit and Adjustability
4.4

Summary

The Mystery Ranch Glacier loves to take extended trips through the wilderness, carry excessively heavy and bulky items, and is looking for a partner equally suited for such journeys. If you enjoy disappearing into the woods or mountains for long periods of time with no resupply, you should definitely “swipe right” on this impressive specimen of a backpack.

While the Mystery Ranch Glacier excels at carrying heavy loads for long distances, we feel that the cost and lack of extra features makes it slightly less ideal for most backpackers than the Gregory Baltoro, our Premium Pick. The Baltoro has a U Zipper for easy access, an included day pack, and impressive suspension.

See the full Mystery Ranch Glacier review below, and see where it lands on our guide to the Best Backpacking Backpacks.

Mystery Ranch Glacier Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 6 lbs. 6.4 oz. Fairly heavy for a backpacking backpack. Due to burly materials and very capable suspension and frame.
Capacity 71L A little larger than most backpacks today (65 liters), with more than enough room for large and bulky items. Learn more about backpack capacity in our Guide.
Frame Astral Frame, Futura Yoke Mystery Ranch makes impressive frames, and the Glacier uses the Astral Frame, which is lightweight yet very strong..
Frame Material Composite The frame is made of multiple materials.
Hip Belt Fit S: 26-32 in.
M: 31-36 in.
L: 35-40 in.
XL: 39+ in.
The hip belt fit is adjustable, and the number of inches depends on the size of the backpack you buy. Learn more about backpack hip belts and how to measure in our Guide.
Torso Fit Adjustable
S: 15-20 in.
M: 15-20 in.
L: 17-24 in.
XL: 17-24 in.
The torso is adjustable, and the number of inches depends on the size of the backpack you buy. This pack also has micro adjustments to dial in the perfect torso fit. To learn more about backpack torso measurement and adjustable torsos see our Guide.
Number of Exterior Pockets 4 Not that many pockets for a large backpacking pack. Torpedo Pockets are a highlight.
Sleeping Bag Compartment Yes Unique zippered sleeping bag compartment for quick access and easy storage.
Hydration Sleeve Yes Attached sleeve to put in a bladder, bladder not included..
Main Pack Access Top Drawstring Standard drawstring opening to the main chute.
Detachable Top Lid Yes You can detach the top lid but there’s not another covering. Really only meant for day pack usage.
Convertible Daypack Yes Take off the top lid and hip belt to make a very supportive lumbar pack. It works well, but requires taking off straps.
Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Loops Yes You can store poles or axes easily on this backpack..
Rain Cover Included No Mystery Ranch does not include a rain cover, but you can buy one separately.
Materials 550-Denier Lite Plus, Cordura nylon Heavy-duty materials that will last a long time and live up to much abuse.
Sustainability N/A As far as we can tell there is no sustainability aspect to the construction of this backpack.
Load Range 40-70+ lbs The Glacier can haul an impressive 70 pounds comfortably, more than most similar backpacking packs..
Warranty Limited Lifetime Mystery Ranch has an excellent lifetime warranty. Be sure to get in touch if something like a zipper or buckle fails.
Retail Price $350.00 A high price for a standard backpacking backpack. You’re paying for the quality of materials and suspension system, plus the brand name.

Gear Review of the Mystery Ranch Glacier

This summer, my wife and I set out to section hike multiple segments of the Colorado Trail. We’re based in Southwestern Colorado and have unique access to some of the most remote, high altitude sections of this gorgeous trail. My wife, a photographer, didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to capture the beauty of the high alpine terrain, both the wild landscapes and the wildlife. Of course, my duty is to nod and say, “Yes, dear, I’d love to carry an additional 15 pounds of lenses and other camera related equipment. Please, just pile it on.”

Needless to say, the first trip this summer was a bit of a learning experience. I did not have the Mystery Ranch Glacier, but I did have about 70 pounds on my back. So, what did I learn?

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-backpacking-colorado-trail
Backpacking with the nearly fully-loaded Mystery Ranch Glacier.

I learned I needed a pack that could handle a comically excessive load for our second trip on another section of this high altitude backpacking trip. Enter the Mystery Ranch Glacier.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

Access to this particular segment of the trail is quite difficult. You can either do a five mile road walk up to Stony Pass and gain roughly 2,400 feet, or you can hop on a segment of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and gain 2,000 feet of elevation in just two miles. We chose the latter.

I was excited for this trip because my pack weighed only 50 pounds — a staggering 20 pounds less than our first trip. My memories of the prior backpacking trip are somewhat overshadowed by the excruciating pain that I felt in my shoulders. Most backpacking packs these days just aren’t built to carry so much weight.

An hour and a half into our initial climb we reached the trail junction, where the CDT meets the Colorado Trail, at around 12,000 feet. While I was huffing and puffing a touch under the extreme gradient, I wasn’t in any actual physical pain. As in, no shoulder pain, no lower back pain, no muscle pain.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-on-the-trail-colorado-trail
Still below the tree-line, the Mystery Ranch Glacier feeling good.

Conclusion? The Mystery Ranch Glacier can carry some serious weight and do so in comfort. Not relative comfort. Actual comfort. Standing at the trail junction and surveying the terrain ahead, I knew that I was going to have an amazing trip, and my shoulders and back would get to enjoy the ride as well.

Digging Deeper

If you’re not familiar with Mystery Ranch, it’s probably because there has been a huge push in recent years for ultralight gear. It seems the American market is trending that way more and more every year.

Well, “ultralight” is not the domain of Mystery Ranch. In fact, the company has a long lineage of amazing packs that were amazingly heavy, going back decades to the original Dana Designs backpacks, the brand that has become Mystery Ranch. Dana Designs backpacks were lauded as the most bombproof and comfortable packs that money could buy. In fact, I have one that is nearly as old as I am (30+ years), and it is still in great shape and sees use during the winter months.

Mystery Ranch eschews ultralight materials and design for durability and weight-carrying frames. They have a huge line of hunting backpacks, too — the Glacier is actually their least burly frame design, and it still manages to hold 70 pounds with ease.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-torpedo-pocket-1
One external Torpedo Pocket, meant to hold quick access items on the Mystery Ranch Glacier.

Mystery Ranch doesn’t focus on trendy features, either. For instance, the stretch mesh pockets found on many backpacks today are not on the Glacier — instead is their much revered “Torpedo Pockets.” These are two vertical external pockets that run the length of the backpack and are a perfect place to store quick access items. One pocket is large enough to fit my Arc’teryx Cerium LT down puffy and a ton of snacks. In the other, I keep all bad weather gear, like a wind and rain jacket as well as my rain pants. In the winter, these pockets make the perfect storage place for your white gas bottles.

I wouldn’t do this review justice if I did not emphasize the frame and hip belt system on the Mystery Ranch Glacier. When you sling this pack over your shoulders it immediately becomes apparent that it is built differently from other backpacking packs. Every single contact point feels like it is hugging your body. You can feel the structure of the frame system without even buckling up the hip belt or sternum strap. The hip belt wants to cradle your body. I found the Astral Frame to be extremely supportive and comfortable.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-with-pack-cover-wood
The Glacier hugs your body while you hike, carrying the load well.

The pack moved with my body over extremely uneven terrain, like picking my way over a half mile of avalanche debris. While the Mystery Ranch Glacier is on the heavier end at six pounds six ounces, I never noticed because it carries so well.

Comfort – 5 Stars

While I don’t recommend actually bringing the kitchen sink, you could do so comfortably with the Mystery Ranch Glacier. This pack will carry 70-plus pounds with ease. You may feel the strain on your body but the ample cushioning and structure of the pack frame will make sure there are no hotspots, and there is plenty of room to fill up the pack with your heavy gear.

Durability – 5 Stars

This is an heirloom piece. When you’re ready to pass it on to your kids it will probably still look like new. All the fabric, buckles, zippers, and zipper pulls are extremely burly. You’re far more likely to put a bandaid on yourself before you need one on this pack.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-daisy-chain-front
Burly materials make for a very durable backpack. The Mystery Ranch Glacier won’t fail you.

Packability – 3.5 Stars

The Glacier is a standard top loading pack. It does also offer a single side entry zipper that spans about half the length of the pack. While this allows access to one side of the internal main chute I would have liked to see a U zipper or at least a zipper on the other side for more access and easy packability.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-top-lid-zipper-storage
Standard top lid organization makes for fairly accessible storage.

Otherwise, it’s pretty standard layout, and I’ve found other backpacks to have more access points.

Pockets – 3.5 Stars

The Glacier has the two Torpedo Pockets, a unique zippered sleeping bag compartment at the bottom, and a top lid with zippered pockets.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-sidewinder-sleeping-bag-compartment
The unique sleeping bag zipper compartment allows for quick packing of your bag.

These all work, and work decently well, but the Glacier is missing hip belt pockets entirely, and the water bottle pockets need some work. More on that below.

Fit and Adjustability – 5 Stars

This pack comes in multiple torso sizes and is also micro adjustable in each of those sizes. The back panel can be moved up or down to give you an exact fit. Overall I was able to dial in the fit exactly to my body, which greatly aided in the comfort.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-torso-adjustment
Mystery Ranch includes adjustment levels on the torso to help you keep track of your exact measurement.

The only note I’ll make here is that you’ll want to mark the back panel with your exact set up, because if you plan to use top lid as a day pack you will have to pull the shoulder straps and frame off. Putting these back on means you have to re-adjust to find your perfect setup.

Grievances

I’m going to nitpick the Mystery Ranch Glacier because, while it’s so darn fantastic on the comfort side of things, I believe it could be even more feature-packed with a few tweaks.

The top lid is able to detach and turn into a daypack. However, it’s a bit of a production. While many backpack manufacturers offer this feature, Mystery Ranch kicks it up a notch by allowing you to insert the Glacier’s hip belt into the top lid to create a very supportive day pack.

Honestly, I find it excessive and a hassle. To utilize this feature, you actually remove the shoulder straps and part of the back panel. These work in concert with the top lid and you wind up with a burly harness system to carry a minimal load. I would have preferred just a simple strap system to sling it around my body. For anyone who is doing extended, weight-bearing summit trips from a base camp, I could see this working well.

Mystery-Ranch-Glacier-closeup-of-pack-while-hiking-water-bottle-pocket
The water bottle pockets weren’t the best for long, narrow bottles. See how the bottle is nearly flopping out of the pocket?

Two more small things that are slightly irksome, all to do with pockets. I found the side water bottle pockets came up a little short. While I was able to fit my Lifestraw filter bottle plus my bear spray in one pocket, the pocket on the opposite side couldn’t hold a 32-ounce bottle. In fact, that bottle popped out three separate times and nearly went flying off a cliff. I had to clip that bottle to the center daisy chain (a good feature, but the water bottle pockets should hold a water bottle).

Finally, the Glacier does NOT come with hip belt pockets. They are available as an add-on purchase. For a pack of this cost, I think the hip belt pockets should be included.

Final Word

The Mystery Ranch Glacier loves to take extended trips through the wilderness, carry excessively heavy and bulky items, and is looking for a partner equally suited for such journeys. If you enjoy disappearing into the woods or mountains for long periods of time with no resupply, you should definitely “swipe right” on this impressive specimen of a backpack.

Where to Buy Mystery Ranch Glacier

We tested the Men’s version of the Mystery Ranch Glacier. At the time of testing, there was only version if the Glacier available (the 71 liter model) for men, and one version for women, also a 71-liter model. We appreciate that Mystery Ranch has made two nearly identical backpacks for men and women, with adjustments in the fit and harness for women.

Compare Mystery Ranch Glacier prices below.

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jon rosenberg packrafting

Jon Rosenberg

Jon Rosenberg is an avid adventurer living at the foot of the rugged San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado. When not working, you can find him and his wife exploring the mountains, canyons, rivers, and lakes of the surrounding areas. Their husky mix Bivy stands guard over his impressive gear room.

Backpackers.com Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review.

2 responses to “Mystery Ranch Glacier Review

  1. The Mystery Ranch Glacier does not fit tall folks: unfortunately, at 6’6” tall, I cannot utilize the load lifter straps because they are below the tops of my shoulders. Mystery Ranch claims that their Large size pack can adjust to a torso size of 24 inches, but with a torso length of 21 inches, I could not use the load lifter straps at all… in effect, this means that my shoulders will end up supporting enough weight to cause discomfort. This is a problem with most adjustable packs when the use only a single back panel size. Osprey packs, by contrast, actually employ different length back panels for their packs… Mystey Ranch is going for the cheap option of using a single back panel size for all of its packs regardless of user size. This means that for short and tall users, the Mystery Rancb Glacier will not fit well at all. As a Mountaineering guide, I have seen this problem more than once with Mystery Ranch Glacier packs. My advice, get an Osprey!

    1. Hey Karl,

      Thanks for reading the review and for your detailed comment about sizing! 6’6″ is definitely taller than most people, so we can see why you’d want to get very specific on torso sizing. At 21 inches you should be able to adjust the Glacier to fit appropriately. We tested the Men’s Medium version of the backpack, and found the adjustment to be as-described in terms of length.

      When you adjusted the small panel adjuster (pictured in this article), did you also break the bond between the yoke and bag, and then pull the yoke up? This should adjust the full length of the torso to the desired length, and then you can put the adjuster back.

      If you did all that and are still having issues, this is from MR: “If you are between sizes on the yoke or if your measurements fall outside standard sizing, please contact Customer Service at 1.833.548.1999. Purchasing packs outside of standard sizing is possible through our Custom Sizing Program. There is typically an additional cost associated with this purchase.”

      All this said, we definitely support going with a backpack that is easy for you to adjust, and Osprey is known for their many sizing options!

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