Mystery Ranch Metcalf Review

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This is the companion article for the Mystery Ranch Metcalf Review video. Mystery Ranch has a well deserved reputation as one of the best pack manufacturers in the world. They have become the “Go To Pack” for the hardest users out there. The designers of Mystery Ranch packs scrutinize every detail to make sure that their packs do not fail in the field.

Mystery Ranch Metcalf Review

Let me address the obvious questioin right away: What is ProLite Gear doing reviewing a 7.5 pound backpack?

The most dialed in lightweight backpackers I know are hunters. They scrutinize every ounce they carry because they are going off trail into terrain that most lightweight backpackers would never dream of hiking into… they are doing it during the late fall, they are moving fast, and if they have a successful hunt they may be packing out over 100 pounds of meat out of that terrain.

What they do, where they do it, and when they do it demands that their “bit of kit” is extremely refined.

There is not a “lightweight backpacking pack” that currently exists that provides the the load carrying capability, durability, and comfort of the Mystery Ranch Metcalf backpack.

Mystery Ranch Metcalf Frame SystemThe Mystery Ranch Metcalf has an extremely high load carrying capacity to weight ratio, allowing users to effectively and efficiently carry well over 100 pounds without a high risk of catastrophic failure of the pack while placing as little stress on the body as possible.

The NICE frame, Futura yoke, and waist belt form the load carrying foundation for many of Mystery Ranch’s packs. The design of the system allows structural framing on the body, and structure on the pack, but keeps them isolated from each other. Users over 6 feet tall can opt for the NICE Lit Kit which raises the height of the frame so that the load stabilizers function better. The NICE Lift Kit adds 6.5 ounces of weight.

Mystery Ranch Metcalf Teflon CoatingIn terms of overall design the Mystery Ranch Metcalf pack has a clean design with only one exterior zippered pocket. The pack does ship with the top lid. The top lid was formerly sold as a separate item.

The pack is made from 500D Cordura. Mystery Ranch has a tight relationship with Cordura which allows them to get a tighter weave than the competition. Competitor’s packs can be found with Lighter weight material, but they run a higher risk of ripping out. The 500D Cordura is doubled up at the bottom of the pack, which is a high wear area and is under high stress.

The fabric is coated with Teflon instead of a DWR. Teflon coating has the added benefit of not registering on an infrared scope for military clients.

Mystery Ranch Metcalf Buckles & StrapsHigh quality 1″ webbing is used on all the compression straps. The auto-locking buckles they use on Mystery Ranch packs have twice the crush strength of competitor’s packs.

Zippers are all YKK. The smaller zippers are a #8 size, the larger zippers are a size #10. All zippers are a coil zipper, but they are zinc coated. That makes them more expensive, but also stronger. They appear to be a silicon impregnated zipper which allows them to slide easier than the more commonly found Polyurethane coated zippers.

All zippers have cord loops on them instead of metal pulls to reduce noise.

Mystery Ranch Metcalf Overload ShelfOne of the most desired features of the pack for hunters is the Overload shelf. By releasing a couple buckles the body of the pack can be removed from the NICE frame system. This allows you to place meat or other dense, heavy weight close to the spine where it can be more effectively carried. This has the additional benefit of keeping it isolated from items in the main body of the pack.

The Mystery Ranch Metcalf is an impressive pack that carries heavy loads better than any other pack I have personally tried. It is durable, and well thought out with features that serious hunters will appreciate.


  • Built with 500D CORDURA® for long-haul durability
  • Top-load design with side-zip access to necessities at a moments notice
  • Side zip is large enough for full-sized spotting scopes
  • Detachable lid transforms to a shoulder pack with two pockets for a kill kit, rain layers, water and food for the day so you can drop your pack and stalk with precision
  • External detail pocket on left side sized to fit headlamp, SPOT, batteries, flagging tape, and neck gaiter
  • Single stretch-woven side pocket for tripod feet or bottle
  • Hydro sleeve with toggle hang loop for any bladder type
  • Face compression for bow/rifle or shed antler carry
  • Overload Shelf™ to securely carry meat or dense additional gear between the Metcalf bag and Guide Light Frame™
  • Volume: 4325 cu-in (71 L)
  • Weight: 6.1 lb (2.79 kg)
  • Frame System: Guide Light Frame
  • Country Of Manufacture: Imported
  • Intended Use: Backpack Hunts, Bivy Hunts, Day Hunts

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