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REPOST - Owner Review - BDSB backpack

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  • richardglyon
    Steve, Thanks for bearing with me; creating html files is new to me. I think I ve got all the edits this time. I ll be away through July 5, some of it in the
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 30, 2005
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      Steve, Thanks for bearing with me; creating html files is new to
      me. I think I've got all the edits this time. I'll be away through
      July 5, some of it in the backcountry. I added today's date. RGL

      OWNER REVIEW – Mystery Ranch BDSB

      Product: Mystery Ranch BDSB (Big Dana's Special Blend) backpack
      Reviewed by: Richard Lyon (backpacking profile below)
      Manufacturer: Mystery Ranch Backpacks (URL: www.mysteryranch.com)
      Year of manufacture: 2004
      Year of Purchase: 2004
      Listed weight: 8 lb 8 oz (3.9 kg)
      Weight as delivered: 8 lb 5 oz (3.8 kg)
      Capacity: 7400 ci (120 l)
      Color: Titanium/castor grey (see review regarding other colors that
      are available)
      MSRP: $630
      Date: June 30, 2005


      The BDSB is a top-loading, internal frame expedition backpack
      designed for use by U.S. Navy SEALs.

      Dana Gleason of Bozeman, Montana founded and gave his name to Dana
      Design (DD), which he sold some years ago to Kelty. His
      noncompetition clause has expired and he's back in business at
      Mystery Ranch (MR). As at DD, he offers a full line of packs, from
      computer carriers to mountaineering monsters. When my DD Terraplane
      finally earned honorable retirement after 16 years of service, it
      was to Mystery Ranch (MR) I went for a replacement. After one
      summer with an earlier model MR expedition pack (the Alpacka, now
      discontinued), Dana talked me into the BDSB. MR does a substantial
      defense business (there's a separate section of its website devoted
      to military products), and the BDSB is its largest pack, the G-7000,
      modified for the SEALs. (For those not from the U.S., SEAL is an
      acronym for "sea, air, land" used by our Navy for its demolition
      experts and other special forces. For us civilians it's a synonym
      for "tough customers.") The BDSB is now regularly available for
      commercial sale.

      The design of this pack is similar to DD's "ArcFlex" models. Its
      main compartment is loaded from the top and has an apron that is
      cinched at the top with a toggle. This can either be one very large
      compartment or separated into two by use of a detachable divider
      about three-quarters of the way down. There is a zipper at the
      bottom for separately loading a sleeping bag or other gear into the
      lower section. Compression straps can be used easily to flatten the
      lower section when it's not needed, to reduce things moving.

      On the back are two large vertical pockets with side zippers running
      from the top of the pack bag to the top of the lower compartment,
      for stuff needed in a hurry. I use these for rain gear, first aid
      kit, sunscreen, and fishing box. A top section with two zippered
      compartments (900 ci, 15 l total storage space) serves as
      the "lid." As discussed in my review, this can be detached for use
      as a day pack.

      Just in case 7400 ci isn't enough space, the BDSB has straps on the
      each side and at the bottom for attaching extra gear outside the
      pack. MR sells accessory pockets that are easily attached to the
      sides, and DD pockets (still have some from my Terraplane days) work
      too. There are five daisy chain loops between the vertical pockets
      in the back (handy for bear bells), and two larger loops just below
      the pockets (holding the sleeping pad in the photo). My usual
      approach, though, is if I can't fit it inside this pack, I probably
      shouldn't take it. The compression straps allow cinching up loads
      in the main and sleeping bag compartments for stability.

      The BDSB has several features not found on DD packs. The most
      useful is the addition of one stretch pocket (made of Spandura, a
      Spandex-Cordura cross) on each side of the pack. I've used these
      for skis and regularly for small items needed close to hand. A
      radio pocket on the frame inside the main compartment provides a
      perfect fit for a 100 oz (3 l) Camelbak bladder.

      But it is in the pack structure that Mystery Ranch has made the most
      functional improvements. The pack has a plastic frame supported by
      two fiberglass rods for shape and rigidity, and a connected but
      separately adjustable shoulder yoke. The yoke can be easily raised
      or lowered for a personal fit without simultaneously moving the pack
      frame. MR includes a plastic sheet with printed directions on how
      to do this (discussed below) with each of its expedition packs. The
      hip belt "wrap" (said to be patented) that connects the yoke and
      frame extends across the back to distribute the pressure of the load
      across the waist and thus avoid undue pressure at any one point.

      The BDSB is listed only in one frame size. (Its civilian
      counterpart, the G-7000, may be purchased with a man's or woman's
      frame, and MR says it could attach a BDSB bag to the smaller woman's
      frame on request.) The adjustable yoke makes further frame sizing
      used by most manufacturers (including DD) unnecessary. So says Dana
      and so I discovered. Three different hip belt sizes are available.

      The pack bag is made of 500d/1000d Cordura, in a special
      manufacturing run that includes waterproofing inside and out
      (according to MR's website, a "polyurethane layer of waterproofing
      inside, and a outer layer of Teflon HT").

      Bag, buckles and straps are all titanium/castor grey, a color the
      SEALs selected to reduce contrast and visibility. Other colors
      (forest camo is one) are occasionally available. The G-7000 comes
      in red or black.


      To get a feel for this pack I used it on all my hikes after buying
      it last May. That's seven times in the Rockies last summer and fall
      (two long day hikes, four three-day trips, and one seven-day trip),
      once this past winter (overnighter), and several day hikes in
      Texas. Except for day hikes on the long trip, each time I carried
      the entire pack, not just the detached top section. (My most
      frequent day hiking companion took full advantage of my
      experimentation and the BDSB's capacity by using me as the group's
      pack horse.) Loads varied from 15 to 75 pounds (9 – 34 kg).
      Weather was mostly sunny, but I encountered one big thunderstorm, a
      couple of rain squalls, and some driving snow. The waterproofing
      works well. I did not notice any sogginess or extra weight in the
      pack after the showers. I followed my customary practice of lining
      the pack with plastic garbage bags, however, so I can't say that it
      was the fabric that kept the contents dry.

      Capacity. Even with my penchant for extra gear, the BDSB is more
      pack than I really need for a short trip. Tying off the bottom
      section prevents loosely packed items from shifting, but I still
      have to carry that big frame. Removing the lid would save some
      weight. My long trip last summer was as a Forest Service volunteer
      in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, and with work clothes
      added to my standard summer backpacking kit and only a fly rod and
      sleeping pad strapped outside, about a 65 lb (30 kg) total load, the
      pack wasn't full. I'm glad I'm not a SEAL.

      Weight distribution. This is an expedition pack and it's with a big
      load that it excels. The BDSB surpasses even DD's Terraplane (a
      terrific pack) for efficient weight distribution. The main reason I
      used this pack even for short hikes was to do my personal fine
      tuning, to reduce the hip belt's slipping down on my hips and the
      top of the pack's pulling back off my shoulders, the only two
      complaints I ever had with the Terraplane. All I had to do was use
      the compression straps to keep the load from shifting before
      shouldering the pack, then, with the pack on, pull the strap on each
      shoulder pad to keep the load forward and centered over my hips.
      Once the yoke is properly adjusted and set – easily done at home or
      on the trail by setting the peak of the yoke even with my shoulders,
      then re-attaching the velcro to hold the bag and yoke to the frame –
      further adjustment isn't necessary. I've never been truly
      comfortable with a sixty-pound load, but it's never been easier to

      Special Features. Shoulder straps on the detachable top section are
      an inspired innovation. These roll up and are stashed out of sight
      when that section is attached to the pack body but allow use as a
      day backpack (rather than a fanny pack). I found this much more
      comfortable and efficient for my day hikes from base camp or to hike
      from camp to a fishing spot, since I could attach water bottle and
      fishing box to my waist and carry lunch and rain gear on my back.
      When using the full pack, the side flex pockets let me keep camera
      and water bottle accessible without removing the pack. Best of all,
      it's simple. The BDSB thankfully doesn't include a number of overly
      technical extra straps and micro-adjustments that Dana experimented
      with on earlier Mystery Ranch packs.

      Durability. Unbeatable. Not a tear, scratch, or loose thread on it
      after considerable bushwhacking, fording, low-lying branches,
      thorns, rain, snow, mud, dust, rocks, and overnight hanging from
      bear poles, and I'm not especially careful where I set down my pack
      on the trail or in camp. I should note that my Terraplane withstood
      16 years of similar mistreatment and though worn in a couple of
      spots was still in good enough shape to donate to the Forest
      Service. I expect durability from anything made by Dana.

      Room for improvement. I wish the top section were a wee bit bigger,
      big enough for rain jacket, rain pants, sweater, lunch, work gloves,
      and first aid kit. I now have to lash the jacket to the outside. I
      don't need more overall capacity, so I'd sacrifice some space in the
      main compartment for a larger daypack. Dana suggested removing the
      seam between the two compartments of the lid section, which should
      solve the problem. Re-attaching the top section to the pack takes
      some care to avoid its flopping around, even when cinched down.

      Possible savings. MR's G-7000 pack is the same size, has most of
      the features, and saves half a pound (220 g) and $110. But then
      you'd lose the radio pocket and that great low-vis grey, which my
      girlfriend, on first seeing the BDSB, described as "beautiful."

      Customer service. Mystery Ranch remains a small, friendly business,
      and all employees from Dana down to the janitor are both extremely
      knowledgeable about the company's packs and eager to help, by phone
      or at the Bozeman store. Dana and his team are genuinely interested
      in what customers have to say, and they act on feedback. Several of
      my comments on prototypes I used are now standard equipment on the
      BDSB or other MR packs.

      Availability. MR is moving to a direct sales approach, and its
      website now lists only nine dealers in the United States. The best
      way to order is by telephone to the shop (406-585-1428) or on the
      web. I'm in Bozeman several times a year but for those who aren't
      this makes pre-purchase inspection and sizing something of a
      problem. MR does have rental packs, which could be shipped for
      testing and comparison shopping. MR has sent me replacement parts,
      including improved features, quickly and at its own expense.

      Overall. I'm very pleased with this behemoth. I haven't gone
      lightweight yet and I normally carry an expedition pack even on
      three-day trips. I've seen slightly lighter weight expedition packs
      available from reputable manufacturers, but I consider the great
      weight distribution worth an extra pound. In Dana's words, "making
      a pack as light as possible without sacrificing its ability to
      function in a real world environment." In future I'll limit its use
      to overnight or longer trips, though, unless a case of beer is

      Name: Richard Lyon
      Gender: Male
      Age: 58
      Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
      Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
      Email address: rlyon@...
      Home: Dallas, Texas USA

      I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the
      Rockies since I moved to Texas in 1986. I do a weeklong trip every
      summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in
      alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13,000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I
      prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from
      camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Regardless of type of
      trip, I'll tote a few extra pounds to have the camp conveniences
      I've come to expect.
    • Nazdarovye
      Richard - Excellent job, and thanks for bearing with me also on the delay getting back to you (traveling for business, plus swamped with the 4th of July
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 7, 2005
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        Richard -

        Excellent job, and thanks for bearing with me also on the delay
        getting back to you (traveling for business, plus swamped with the
        4th of July holiday).

        Your review is approved and you may upload it to the BGT site.

        I recommend you start by posting your review to the Test area of the
        site - you'll see that when you log in to backpackgeartest.org at the
        very end of the list of categories for reviews, or you can click this


        If you have been using Microsoft Word to create your report, you may
        notice some anomalies in the HTML (a text editor, or a dedicated HTML
        editor, are generally a better bet). If you have trouble with or
        questions about posting, I can refer you to the mentor program (ask
        for a mentor on the main group), as well as encourage you to ask
        questions at our companion Yahoo! support group at:


        Once everything is ready to go, you will find the page where you can
        upload your final HTML report on BGT at:

        Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Mystery
        Ranch BDSB

        Log in to BGT, then navigate that that folder. Click "Upload Report,"
        be sure to select the "Owner Review" button, and follow the
        instructions to upload your HTML file.

        Thanks for the OR and, as I believe this is your second,
        congratulations on becoming a tester! Be sure to get Shane your
        signed tester agreement if you've not already, and at that point you
        may apply for tests.

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