Review: Mystery Ranch Scepter Pack

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Ice climbing with the Scepter pack in Hyalite Canyon, Montana.

Ice climbing with the Scepter pack in Hyalite Canyon, Montana.

The Mystery Ranch Scepter pack (50-liter version pictured).

The Mystery Ranch Scepter pack (50-liter version pictured).

Mystery Ranch’s Scepter pack, available in 35L (3.25lbs) and 50L (3.34lbs) versions, was designed for climbers. Made of a durable 330 denier Robic fabric, the pack has a low-profile, streamlined feel that made it well suited to pack on ice climbing, alpine climbing, and even for crag duty. To begin, the Scepter is nice and simple: There’s one main pocket for climbing gear; one secondary compartment for snacks and water; and a single zipper pocket inside the pack for phone, wallet, and keys. You get all the separated storage space you need, and nothing more—no fussing with 72 secret compartments in the field.

As for climbing-friendly features, the Scepter has a sleek flap lid that opens toward the pack front, as opposed to the traditional bulky brain that opens backward. The lid easily fit a helmet or coiled rope underneath, then fastened securely in place with side adjustment straps. The Scepter also uses a hook system to fasten—aluminum G-hooks thread through small webbing loops. I initially worried that the hooks (vs. your standard Fastex buckles) would come undone during the approach and my bag would spill open. But cinching down the straps before each use ensured that this never happened. Additionally, the hooks are glove and mitten friendly, demanding minimal finger dexterity, which was nice while ice climbing in frigid Hyalite Canyon, Montana. Meanwhile, the Scepter also boasts an external daisy chain for accessory attachment, removeable outer bungees that are perfect for strapping on layers shed during sweaty approaches, and a Velcro strap system for attaching ice tools. The attachments were stellar for keeping my tools in place and away from the rest of my gear, and with the sharp tips hooked under the daisy chain webbing, I didn’t have to worry about puncturing my puffy when throwing my bag in and out of the truck.

Scepter

The Scepter’s multitude of adjustment straps and its compression-molded back panel made it one of the most comfortable packs I’ve used. The telescoping yoke—which lets you adjust the width of the shoulder straps, creating the perfect fit for any body type—creates an incredibly “tight-feeling” and nimble pack, helping maintain agility on steep approaches. To get away from the cragging-crowds up in Boulder Canyon, you have to make the long, steep approach to obscure places. With the Scepter on I easily bounced from rock to rock, ducked under trees, and pressed steadily upward without feeling like I was being dragged down by my pack. I tested the 50L bag, which handily accommodated a harness, rack, rock shoes, helmet, food, and water (when ice climbing, I forwent the rock shoes for crampons and Velcro’ed my ice tools to the outside). When the multiple adjustment straps were pulled tight, the pack stayed close to the body and sat high on the hips instead of slumping down my back. With waist and chest straps to pull it in, this thing seriously felt like an extension of the body. 

$199 (35 liter), $225 (50 liter); mysteryranch.com