The Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak pack is solid, straightforward, and so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing it.
I backcountry ski in the Northeast where, unless you’re skinning big couloirs in the White Mountains, avalanches are infrequent. So my everyday ski pack doesn’t need to have an airbag. But it does need to be tough enough to deal with scrapes and scuffs in tight trees, overstuffing with extra layers on cold days, and general hard use.
This season, my daily pack is the Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak ($199). Until recently, the company exclusively made packs for the military. Now, it carries over the extreme durability it builds into military packs into its “civilian” line.
I tested the Saddle Peak on backyard trails on my Vermont property and on snowy Montana traverses for this review.
In short: The Saddle Peak is both durable and comfortable. Its Robic fabric is 50 percent stronger (up to 2.5 times the tear strength of typical backpack nylon), and the pack looks like it will never wear out.
It hugs the body, offers near-custom fit, and also sheds snow like a seal. Where ski edges intersect the pack, Mystery Ranch coated the fabric so it won’t get sliced. The only downsides of this pack are that there are no quick stash/grab pockets and it’s not suitable for snowboarders.
Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak: Design & Fit
The key to any awesome pack is how it feels when I have it on and how well it carries the load. Once I got the Saddle Peak’s fit dialed in, the pack’s design felt so balanced and comfortable, I honestly forget I was wearing it.
A lot of this has to do with the easily adjustable harness. To set the fit, jam the included plastic sheet between the pack bag and harness to separate Velcro hooks from loops. This lets you slide the waist belt and shoulder straps up or down to fine-tune fit. It can take a few tries to find the sweet spot, but once you have it set, it won’t slip, slide, or require re-adjusting.
The pack’s compression-molded back panel protects your spine against pokey things inside the pack, and it gives the pack some structure for carrying heavy skis. Both the back panel and the stretch-woven harness yoke repel snow, so this pack never iced up.
Mystery Ranch designers nailed it on the pockets as well, leaving the main compartment of this 25L pack open and ready to accept jackets, skins, snacks, and water. A front panel keeps avi gear organized or helps organize extra gloves, hats, spare socks, or even dog treats when you’re not carrying avi gear.
This pack also sports a soft snow-repelling goggle pocket that’s accessible without opening the main pack. I used it for food as well as eyewear. Other than that, there’s an internal low-profile hydration sleeve and a large inside organizer pocket I used for tools, repair, and first-aid gear.
Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak Ski Pack Review
The Saddle Peak carries skis diagonally with an indestructible multilayer webbing loop that tucks into an elastic holder on the pack’s front when you’re not using it. Skis clip at the top of the pack with a webbing strap. Zippers on the main pack bag and on the avi pocket extend all the way around the pack, so even with skis loaded you can get to your tea, snacks, and more.
Booting up from Bell Lake Yurt in Montana’s Tobacco Roots, my skis stayed stable and didn’t swing around. Back home in Vermont, kicking steps to the summit of Mt. Mansfield, once again I forgot I had the pack and skis on my back. On a dawn patrol at my local ski hill, I felt totally unencumbered skinning to the summit.
At the base of the pack, a hidden front panel stash zone holds a sewn-in helmet carry that clips to small webbing loops on the pack’s face. That mesh sling holds the helmet tight, which is handy because, even when empty, a helmet doesn’t fit well inside this trim pack. The sling proved security and tucked away easily for the descent.
One of my personal pet peeves is zipper pulls that claim to be glove-friendly, but they’re tiny and built so when you yank on them, they pull off or break. The Saddle Peak has long webbing zipper pulls sewn onto the zipper and knotted at the ends that are actually glove-friendly. Heck, I’d go so far as to say they’re even mitten-friendly.
If I could change one thing about this pack, I’d add a hip pocket. I like somewhere to stash my phone and snacks that I can get to without taking my pack off. It’s important to note this pack has to come off to get to the goods inside.
And while a great pack needs to carry your stuff, a great ski pack also needs to stay out of the way when you’re carving powdery turns. After all, that’s the whole reason you hiked up a mountain to start with!
The Saddle Peak’s broad, low-profile design does just that, hugging your body like it’s part of you and helping you enjoy the ride. Sorry snowboarders, this one is for skiers only. It’s available in men’s and women’s in S/M and L/XL for $199.