Mystery Ranch 3-Way Briefcase

I got one of those automated prompts from a vendor for a product that I had purchased. I decided to write a review. By the time I was done writing the review, I thought it was substantive enough to post it here: because if you are searching for a bag and about to spend a bit more than you are comfortable doing, you do a lot of web searching first, in hopes that someone will describe the bag sufficiently that you get a better sense of whether it’s worth your time and hard-earned money to buy the thing

I bought an Eagle Creek Convert-a-brief bag in the late 90s, and I used the heck out of that thing, only eventually setting it aside for other bags that offered more functionality in various ways and leaning more and more towards backpacks. I bought the MR 3-way briefcase because I found myself wanting a bag looked more like a briefcase and less like a backpack recently and the old Eagle Creek just does have much left in it. There’s a lot to recommend the MR 3W: it’s compact in height and width and offers a lot of organization. The backpack straps stow neatly. And it looks good.

Would I buy it again? Yes. Do I wish I could change a few things? Yes. Starting from the front: the magnetic buckle seems cool, but then you realize that it often, if not almost always, latches when the front flap falls down, leading a casual inspection to suggest that the bag is closed when it isn’t: things fall out. Given that the things in the front pocket are sometimes really expensive things to lose, like wallets and phones, another zippered pocket would be useful here.

In the middle of the bag, I wish the padding/insert between the laptop and middle pocket were removed: the rest of the bag provides padding and structure enough to protect electronics in the back pocket and the padding/insert only adds undesired weight and thickness — and the bag would only be better if lighter.

Finally, while the padded backpack straps are easy to stow and remove, the lower half of the straps are not, making it difficult, and time-consuming, to switch from backpack mode to briefcase mode. If the bottom of the pack, when the pack is is in backpack mode, were a velcro strip, this problem could be easily solved without otherwise ruining the lines of the 3W.

Buying through Sierra was simple and fast. The bag itself mostly delights, but some of the wonkiness described above does detract from that delight.

24-liter Daypack Comparison

I recently decided to upgrade from my Deuter Speedlite 20 as the backpack I took for day-long outings with my family. The Speedlite has served me well for four years now, and remains my go to back for any number of other purposes, but for longer hikes, especially on warmer days, it clings to my back, collecting heat and sweat. (Thankfully, it dries quickly.) Its one-inch wide hip belt is not terribly comfortable, and its size means I can’t quite pack everything I would like, especially if I’d like to make it possible for a traveling companion to carry nothing. I already have a Deuter Futura 32, and so I know that it is more than I wanted, so I set my sights on something in the mid-twenties, 24 or 26 liters.

As fellow backpackers know, there are at least two categories of bags, if not really three, that occupy the 20 to 30 liter capacity range: the light packs, the standoff packs, and the technical packs. In the light category are Osprey’s Talon series, Deuter’s Speedlite series, and Gregory’s Miwok series. All fine packs, and reasonably comfortable with their various corrugated foam and mesh back panels, but not as comfortable as their slightly heavier cousins in Osprey’s Stratos series and Deuter’s Futura series. (Gregory’s offerings in the 20 liter range are Salvos, and then they shift to the Zulu line.) There are other backpack makers, I know, but I already owned both Osprey and Deuter packs and they have been super reliable for me: I use an Osprey Momentum 22 to commute to work and an Osprey Porter 46 for travel. I was familiar with Gregory, having looked at a Miwok pack before settling on the Osprey Momentum.

Deuter, Gregory, and Osprey also appear to be the only ones focused on making day packs with light metal frames and mesh backs that are comfortable on days you sweat. And so my comparison shopping came down to the Gregory Salvo 24, the Osprey Stratos 24, and the Deuter Futura 24. All good bags, but a couple of them are handicapped by recent design choices. In the case of the Deuter, the hip belt pockets have recently been dropped, and the hip belts themselves somewhat shrunken. In the case of the Osprey, they have gotten ride of the roomy outer stuff pocket in favor of some weird vertical zippered pocket that everyone agrees is useless when the pack is full.

That left the Gregory Salvo 24. It offered everything I wanted: 24 liter capacity, a large central compartment with panel access, a padded hip belt, with pockets, and a stuff pocket on the front. But I was not comfortable making a decision without some comparison, and so I added the Deuter Futura 26 into the mix: it’s a slightly taller bag, and one of the issues here is my torso. As a six foot plus tall man with 34″ legs, I have a longer torso, and finding a pack that gets the straps far enough up my back to reach my shoulders comfortably is unreasonably difficult. The Deuter Futura 26 is built like bigger packs: it has a spindrift collar, a brain, and while it doesn’t have a front stash pocket, it does offer easy access to the main compartment via a zippered panel.

I wore both packs around the house with a gallon bucket of paint stashed inside: its bulky and heavy (and it was handy). Both packs seemed fine. I then took them out to a nearby park, again with the can of paint handy, and walked around with them. While the Deuter was a bit taller, it also felt like it was fighting me a little bit, and the Gregory just seemed more comfortable, which may in part be a function of the pack staying a little closer to my back. (This feature may become a bug, since obviously there will be less air between my back and the pack, but I cannot know that within the window I have to make a decision.)

So, in breaking with a long tradition of only owning Osprey and Deuter packs, with a couple of Timbuk2 shoulder bags, it looks like a Gregory is joining the family. I’ll post a photo from an upcoming hike as soon as I have one.