Universal Soldier: The Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 15

I have many fond memories of my time in the Marine Corps. I couldn’t tell you how many times we’d stay up after 2AM on Thursday nights, cleaning our room for inspection Friday. I had the good fortune to become intimately acquainted with every inch of a toilet, as well as every crack in the walls that could hold the tiniest speck of dust and cause us to fail an inspection. I also remember the wonders of cleaning weapons at the armory for 5 hours at a time. The mere act of drawing weapons made them dirtier than they had been while inside. And so, we’d shoulder our burden like Sisyphus, doomed to the eternal torment (or so it seemed) of cleaning weapons that would never be clean until the end of time.

But a memory that sticks out more than the others is the time I had to spend 44 hours awake and hallucinated dementors on a field op. That’s right. See, I had the luck of drawing barracks duty immediately prior to a week-long field op. At that time, some Marines in the company had gotten in trouble and as a result sleeping had been banned for the duty; we had to stand the full 24-hour post. I had hoped this would get me out of the upcoming field op, but alas, I was a boot and my skates weren’t sharp at the time. So, we step off on the field op, have a full day’s worth of events at the range, and then at the end of the day learn our platoon commander, in his infinite wisdom, has decided we will be “training” for sleep deprivation. Keep in mind there is no scientific evidence to corroborate that this is even possible.

In some small act of kindness, by the time we had finished with our lieutenant’s shenanigans, I was given the first firewatch, meaning I stood guard for the first two hours and then got the rest of the night to sleep. Well as the saying goes, “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training.” So, there I was out on watch, everyone is asleep, the rain starts falling, and I’m so deliriously tired that I start seeing shadowy figures moving in and out of my peripheral vision. At the time, I hadn’t seen Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but it was basically like seeing dementors floating around in the shadows. Terrifying.

Luckily, I survived my watch without getting my soul sucked out like Harry and Dudley under a freeway overpass in some kind of messed up Marine Corps version of Order of the Phoenix. Before crashing, I went digging in my daypack for some morale boosting pogey bait. It was dark, and I couldn’t find anything. Frustration built as the contents of my pack started spilling on the wet ground in my desperate search for beef jerky. Finally, I found the goods and crashed out for a few measly hours before waking up and doing it all over again.

… This is a memory that often comes to mind when I use the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 15. Not in a bad way though! The Rip Ruck 15 is so well designed I can only wish I had something like it during my time in the Corps.

If you couldn’t already tell, what initially attracted me to this bag was the ease of access. It just makes fishing out gear so much better when you can see what you’re looking for and get to it quickly. And while finding junk food or gym equipment is one thing, the design of this bag also makes it a viable concealed carry platform for when it is otherwise impractical to have something on your body.

In addition to the thoughtful and innovative design by Mystery Ranch, I loved that they still managed to give it a clean and minimalist look. The color options of black, (wood) brown, (foliage) green, and (cherry) red are less directly militant but still have the capability of blending in to surroundings if needed. From the field to the classroom, this means the Rip Ruck 15 can easily find a place in your loadout.

One feature I absolutely love: the large sleeve inside the main pouch that is elevated off the bottom of the pack. This is a huge technology improvement for items that you don’t want impacting the ground every time the bag is set down, such as laptops and tablets, or concealed weapons. There are also two smaller compartments attached to the laptop sleeve inside the pack, perfect for snacks or extra magazine storage.

The external build of the pack is minimalist without sacrificing functionality. One front pouch will hold small to medium sized items, and there is one elastic pouch for holding a water bottle. I’ve thought about this and I actually don’t mind the presence of just one water bottle pouch. It does give the bag a somewhat asymmetric look, but I’m really just glad it got included. In all honesty, the two molle attachment points on top of the bag could have been deleted entirely. However, I’m glad Mystery Ranch decided to at least keep them to a minimum. Additional features include a removable chest strap and a pair of magnets on the end of the main flap that aid in keeping everything secured.

Let’s talk about the detachable chest strap. I get where they were going with it, and I like the idea, but its going to be something this pack takes a hit on. It’s just a poorly implemented feature. The strap comes off with a pair of cleverly designed disconnect buckles. The problem lies in the excess material left behind. The runners that the chest strap attaches to, when removed, are loose and floppy. They get in the way as much as the chest strap that you just removed. Like I said, I get where they were going with it and I like the idea, but the implementation is disappointing and downright ugly.

The Rip Ruck 15 with chest strap removed.

Another issue with this pack isn’t necessarily a problem, but it could be in the future. It involves the curved travel of both zippers on the main compartment. A fair amount of force is required to open this compartment in one motion. Too little and the zippers will bind up about halfway, then you have to mess with it using both hands to get it open. This is an obvious concern for concealed carry applications, but it may also be an issue with wear over time. For now, I just make a conscious effort to open the main compartment with a purpose, and hopefully no issues develop.

Finally, the zipper on the smaller front pouch likes to eat the side fabric when opening. This happens more than 50% of the time and in my opinion shows an obvious lack of T&E. While not a deal breaker, it’s a simple problem that should have been caught in development. Mystery Ranch: Zippers. Do better.

I do have a couple of recommendations just in case the folks over in Bozeman, MT are listening (spoiler alert, they’re not). I’m a huge fan of high-vis liners in packs. In Afghanistan I used a Spec-Ops Brand assault pack that had this bright yellow liner, it was great. For the life of me, I can’t understand why every pack out there doesn’t have one, and I think it would have made a really nice addition to the Rip Ruck 15.

Additionally, some sort of elastic keepers to retain the excess shoulder strap material would have been a major quality of life upgrade. Mystery Ranch built such a nice pack and it’s a shame to have this excess material flopping around everywhere. It would be a negligible cost increase and really round this bag out. I ended up using some leftover Velcro loops, but that shouldn’t have been necessary.

The Rip Ruck 15 in the wild.

Issues aside, this pack is fantastic and definitely worth a buy. The quality and innovation are top notch, just what you’d expect from Mystery Ranch, and its exactly the multi-role daypack I’ve been looking for. Right now, it’s my gym EDC pack, but I’ve also used it hiking up some of the mountains and trails here in Virginia. You can find it on Amazon for $119 or on Guidefitter for $69. Just keep in mind they sell out fast!

Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Mystery Ranch. This bag was purchased with personal funds and the review was written without regard for any outside influence.

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