I didn’t find a flaw in the Mystery Ranch Tower 47 after 2 years of almost constant use. For sport climbing, with occasional trad climbing jaunts, it never left me wanting anything more.
From haphazard pre-dawn stuffing to gearing up in a mad rush to beat the hordes on the warmups to schlepping a 70m rope and too much gear over arduous approaches, the Mystery Ranch Tower 47 was a winner. It did everything I ever wanted a crag pack to do. And after being dropped, dragged, and abused, it suffered no damage.
The Mystery Ranch Tower 47 was my only constant piece of rock climbing gear for 2 years. I tested through several ropes and a dozen rock shoes, but I never wanted to relinquish the pack. It was on my back at steep local limestone sport crags, slabby limestone river cuts, and crystal-infused granite domes.
In short: The Mystery Ranch Tower 47 had the size, carrying ability, organization, and durability I’ve always wanted in a crag pack. After a decade of testing crag packs but never being 100% satisfied, I’ve finally found the one. The only downside is the hefty weight compared to others. But, it’s a trade I was willing to make to get everything I’ve ever wanted.
- Material 1000D CORDURA nylon
- Dimensions 24" x 14" x 11"
- Volume 47L
- Weight L/XL, 4 lbs., 10 oz., verified
- Carries extremely well
- Incredible durability
- Extremely organized
- Rolls out to form a flat workstation
- Drab aesthetics
Mystery Ranch Tower 47: Review
The first thing I noticed about the Tower 47 was the super burly construction. 1000D CORDURA, large YKK zippers, metal buckles, and consistent and ample stitching backed up Mystery Ranch’s reputation for robust builds. The pack looked like the military had its hand in development (Mystery Ranch has a heavy military component).
The same heavy-build attributes apply to the suspension system. The adjustable Futura Alpine Yoke, two fiberglass stays, and frame sheet were appropriately stout for what a determined rock climber can stuff into 47 L. And all of it is removable for splinting use in an emergency medical situation. The padding on touchpoints felt dense and high-quality, good signs for resisting bottoming out or deforming over time.
Nothing on the pack gave a clue to any corner or cost-cutting strategies. The quality and robustness were obvious, but those came at a cost. The Mystery Ranch Tower 47 weighs a verified 4 pounds, 10 ounces in the L/XL size, hefty for a crag pack.
That Mystery Ranch Carry
Mystery Ranch packs have had an untarnished reputation for adjustability and carrying heavy loads well since its inception. Lauded pack designer and former head of Dana Designs, Dana Gleason, forged a long-standing history of packs that were at the top of the big load-hauling game.
The Tower 47 tracks on that path. The shoulder yoke had a large torso length adjustment range (rare for a crag pack), and the pack easily carried better than any other crag pack I’d tested to date. The difference became more obvious as the load got heavier.
I’m in Texas, so carrying up to 4 L of water can be normal in hotter months. Throw in a full 70m rope, a dozen quickdraws, trad gear, lockers, belay device, slings, harness, chalk, multiple pairs of test shoes, helmet, and lunch, and the load grew to 40+ pounds at times. But the Tower 47 did an incredible job of directing the bulk of the weight to my hips. This left my shoulders and arms comfortable and relatively free for scrambling.
The ample rigidity of the back panel also kept hardware from forming pressure points. And when under proper compression, the load remained super stable regardless of scrambling antics. This is important on a crag pack, as some approaches require precise balance.
The padding on the shoulder straps and the hip belt was comfortable, with minimal layers on. But it wasn’t so soft that it bottomed out when jumping off boulders, keeping the load distributed correctly.
My legs might have been complaining, but the rest of my body enjoyed suspension that was second to none for crag packs.
Easy to Load, Clean and Organized Work Station
The Mystery Ranch Tower 47 is barrel-shaped and has a zipped lid and a zipped front panel that extends across one side panel. The simple, cuboid shape swallowed more gear than the stated volume suggests.
I much preferred to stuff the things that didn’t live in the pack from the top, mashing things down as I went. This filled the voids as efficiently as possible. Then, four side compression straps and one top strap cinched it down if needed. The top strap could also carry a rope, and all straps are removable.
Once at the crag, I fully unzipped the front/side panel, and the Tower 47 converted to a flat workstation. This setup kept all my gear out of the dirt. A total of five internal pockets and two gear loops kept everything extremely organized and separated chalk and dirty shoes from things I wanted to keep clean.
Every time I deployed the Tower 47 in front of climbers that had never seen it, it garnered “oohs” and “ahhs” from those that valued organization and cleanliness (which means they weren’t my dirtbag partners). Finally, a voluminous lid pocket kept often-needed items handy.
Moving the workstation between nearby routes was quick, thanks to a hefty handle on the unzipped side, top and bottom. And if the Tower 47 needs to do hauling duty, the hip belt is removable, and the pack can be clipped in via the top handle and haul loop.
Burly Is as Burly Does
After 2 years of continuous duty, the Mystery Ranch Tower 47 looked as good as the day I got it. The only signs of wear were dust and dirt. It has been mercilessly thrown down, dragged across granite crystals, and tossed off boulders during some tricky scrambles. I inspected the pack closely, as I suspected at least some damage. But I have found zero signs of weakness.
The only things I foresee potentially being issues are the plastic hip belt buckle and the massive length of zippers. I have broken plastic buckles before at crowded sport crags, usually from someone stepping on them when they are on stone. Interestingly, the compression strap buckles are aluminum.
And although I had zero issues, the significant length of zippers might be prone to contamination by dirt. This can make them sticky and hard to operate. I’ve had this happen to large YKK zippers on duffel bags. But it’s easily mitigated with some cleaning and silicone lubricant.
Final Thoughts on the Mystery Ranch Tower 47
Outside of the weight and somewhat drab looks, I cannot think of any downside to the Mystery Ranch Tower 47. And both of these potential negatives are a trade for durability and carrying ability. For a crag pack destined for 1-day outings, I’m more than willing to trade weight to gain bombproof robustness. I couldn’t care less about how a crag pack looks.
Until something better comes along, I will continue to use the Mystery Ranch Tower 47 unless I’m testing another crag pack. I have no reason to change after 2 years of zero complaints or damage. I think this pack will be my ride or die for a long time.