Mystery Ranch Pitch 40 Backpack

Matt Zia reviews the Mystery Ranch Pitch 40 Backpack for Blister Gear Review
Mystery Ranch Pitch 40

Mystery Ranch Pitch 40 Backpack

Volume: 2550 cu-in (42 L)

Stated Weight: 3.68 lb (1.66 kg)

Frame System: Adventure Frame

Intended Use: Alpine climbing, ice climbing, summit pack

Stated Features:

  • Roll top closure for secure weather protection
  • Side compression straps
  • Ice tool carry
  • Front and top accessory pockets
  • Hydration reservoir compatible
  • Adjustable, Futura Yoke
  • Top compression for rope

MSRP: $225

Size Tested: Medium


  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 160 lbs
  • Torso length: 18”
  • Waist size: 30”

Test Locations: San Juan Mountains, CO; Enchantments, WA; North Cascades National Park, WA

Days Tested: 20

While the name Mystery Ranch might still be new to some backpackers, the company’s roots are decades-deep and involve multiple generations of pack design. The one constant? Dana Gleason, the man behind the legendary packs of Kletterworks and Dana Design. Mystery Ranch is the latest iteration of his pack designs.

Mystery Ranch packs have grown a reputation for durability and carrying comfort, so when the company announced a new line of climbing-specific packs, I was excited to see how well those two hallmarks carried over onto a pack with more alpine intentions. The Pitch 40 is Mystery Ranch’s mid-size climbing pack, in a line that also features a 55-L, 20-L, and 17-L version.


Anyone who’s used an old Dana Design pack will recognize the suspension system. While the Pitch 40 has some differences, the guts of the pack are directly influenced by the legendary Dana Design Arcflex and Terraplane packs. The Pitch 40 is based around a single, large body pocket with a roll-top closure and two smaller pockets on the front of the pack and between the shoulder blades. I found the stated 42-liter volume about accurate; I was able to pack significantly more gear than in a 30-liter pack, but nowhere close to a 55-liter.


The fit on the Pitch 40 is very adjustable and can accommodate a wide range of body sizes.

Matt Zia reviews the Mystery Ranch Pitch 40 Backpack for Blister Gear Review
Matt Zia in the Mystery Ranch Pitch 40, Mt. Stuart, WA. (photo by: Nate Mankovich)

If you are caught between sizes (as I was), Mystery Ranch suggests sizing up on the torso length and sizing down on the waist size.

I followed both of those suggestions and have no complaints with the Medium size. I have an 18-inch torso, a 30-inch waist, and tend to fall solidly on the Small / Medium size split. Luckily, the torso length on the Pitch 40 is adjustable with a velcro spreader, and the shoulder straps also have generous load lifters to allow for more adjustment. The waistbelt is also removable and swappable for different sizes.

Ice Axe and Crampon Attachments

The Pitch 40 ice axe loops are the relatively ubiquitous pick-pocket and plastic buckle system paired with velcro loops on a pair of sewn-on daisy chains running up the front of the pack. The system holds a traditional piolet or modern technical tools equally well, and I haven’t had any fit issues.

The Pitch 40 does not have a traditional crampon attachment system, though. While most packs have either a set of straps (BD Speed 30, HMG Ice Pack) or an open pocket (Cilo Worksack), the Pitch 40 has a sewn-in pocket on the front of the pack with a zippered closure system. Although putting crampons inside the pocket does reduce the overall profile of the pack and reduces the (seeming inevitability) of your crampons snagging on or tearing sensitive materials, the pocket is too small and lacks any sort of bellows to allow for expansion. This isn’t a problem when the pack is unloaded; crampons fit easily. But when the pack is full, the crampon pocket is compressed by the contents of the pack, and I had a very hard time getting my crampons back into the pocket on transitions from snow and ice back onto rock.

Roll-Top and Pockets

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of roll-top closures on non-waterproof packs. I think they’re no faster than a drawstring closure, and I find them more limiting as far as packing options. That said, the roll-top closure on the Pitch 40 is well-thought-out, and features stiffer fabric on the edge so the pack actually stays open on its own. I consider this roll-top a net-neutral feature, since it does make loading the pack somewhat easier.

Matt Zia reviews the Mystery Ranch Pitch 40 Backpack for Blister Gear Review
Matt Zia with the Mystery Ranch Pitch 40, Mt. Stuart, WA. (photo by: Nate Mankovich)

I do really appreciate the layout of the secondary pocket. As I said above, the crampon pocket falls short in style and execution, but the second pocket does not.

The pack features a small zippered pocket located between the shoulder blades on the back of the pack, similar to the pocket found on the HMG Ice Pack or the “ninja pocket” on a Cilo Gear pack. Unlike those packs, however, the pocket on the Pitch 40 is outside the main pocket, and uses a waterproof zipper to seal. This makes accessing items easy without needing to actually open the body of the pack. The pocket is by no means gigantic, but it is big enough to easily fit a pair of sunglasses, some food, and a small point-and-shoot camera.

NEXT: Suspension, Climbing, Etc.

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