REVIEW: Mystery Ranch Coulee 30 Backpack
Mystery Ranch is a company that has built a reputation for designing some of the best backpacks on the market. Whether you’re hunting elk in the Rockies, backpacking the Appalachian Trail, or hiking your favorite local trail, it has an outstanding pack to assist on those adventures. One of the newest additions to the Mystery Ranch lineup is the Coulee 30, a daypack that takes everything we already loved about its products and put it all into a versatile bag designed to go just about anywhere. In fact, this pack includes so many great features that it just might be the only one you need for shorter excursions into the backcountry.
Design (5) ★★★★★
Sleek and compact, the Coulee 30 manages to cram a lot of features into a relatively svelte design. The pack offers a large interior storage compartment, along with two back pockets, twin bottle holders, and a zippered pocket in the lid. It also comes with an adjustable backpanel that can be customized to fit a wide variety of hikers. This allows you to dial in the perfect fit, which is bolstered by comfortable shoulder straps and a well-padded hipbelt that includes two additional pockets. As you would expect, the Coulee 30 is hydration ready and comes with dual adjustable tool attachments for carrying anything from ice axes to trekking poles.
But perhaps the best part of the pack’s design is Mystery Ranch’s 3-zip access system. This allows hikers to get to the interior of the pack—and all of their gear—without having to take everything out or search blindly for the item they’re looking for. By opening three independent zippers, the Coulee grants unprecedented access to its contents, making it extremely easy to grab an extra layer, find lunch, or pull out a headlamp, all without disturbing everything else you’re carrying. This feature is a staple on other Mystery Ranch packs and it is a welcome addition here too.
Comfort (5) ★★★★★
As mentioned above, the Coulee 30 gives hikers plenty of options for adjusting the size and fit. That proves to be very handy on the trail, where the pack feels great on your back, with plenty of plush padding in all of the right places. The pack’s backpanel not only provides excellent support—even when carrying a heavy load—it also breathes well, keeping moisture build-up to a minimum. The bag’s design allows it to carry plenty of gear without sifting the burden onto the wearer. And while at 2.7 pounds, this isn’t the lightest pack on the market, it doesn’t feel unduly heavy either. All of that translates to a versatile and capable daypack that won’t leave you feeling exhausted after carrying it around all day.
Durability (5) ★★★★★
Since Mystery Ranch first burst onto the scene back in 2000, it has built some of the toughest backpacks on the market. In addition to designing products for backpackers, hikers, and hunters, it has made bags for the US military and other demanding organizations. All of that history and legacy shines through in the Coulee 30 as well, which during our testing, took a beating and shrugged off everything we threw at it. The pack is so durable that even after spending miles on the trail, tossing it on wet, dirty ground, and wearing it in a variety of weather conditions, it still looks practically brand new. The high-quality fabrics and components used in its construction continue to hold up extremely well, making this a pack that you can count on for many adventures to come.
Overall (5) ★★★★★
As if it weren’t already obvious, we’re pretty smitten with this backpack. It does so many things well that it is hard to imagine needing any other model for future day hikes. It is incredibly versatile, well-made, and comfortable to wear, even over demanding terrain. On top of that, the 3-zip access system is a revelation, even on shorter treks. This makes it very easy to recommend this bag to anyone in the market for a new daypack.
Priced at $189, this isn’t a budget backpack by any means. But the Coulee 30 is so well designed and built that it is easily worth every penny. Experienced hikers will appreciate all of the little details that went into its design, while even casual trekkers will find it to be an amazing piece of kit. But if you feel the 30-liter version isn’t quite the size you need, Mystery Ranch also offers it in 20-, 40-, and 50-liter models, along with a women’s-specific edition. After using this version for quite some time, I’m confident that those additional sizes offer the same outstanding performance.
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