Ben with Mystery Ranch was nice enough to talk to a few of us for almost half an hour about their packs, and it was very informative. I’ve always thought of their products as heavy and expensive – which they are, for the most part. But seeing the packs and hearing how 80% of their business is not to recreational users brings that in to perspective. They’re designed to fit well, carry well, and survive in very abusive environments. Mystery Ranch packs are also sewn in the US, which adds some cost over moving production to a factory in China. They had their existing airbag pack (the 42L Blackjack) and a smaller prototype model on hand, and it’s clear that they’re designing a functional pack first, and then figuring out how to add an airbag, rather than designing an airbag pack and trying to add functionality later. Weight (7.8lb) and price ($975) is fairly competitive with other bags on the market, so the “expensive and heavy” stigma isn’t necessarily appropriate. Definitely something I’m considering, as airbags become more pervasive in the market.
Our first stop Saturday morning was at Mammut, who is expanding their line of airbags next year. The system is fully removable and can be swapped between other bags in the line, with several packs ranging from 20L to 45L. The 45L even has back panel access, which makes it the first airbag pack I’ve seen with that feature.