It’s time for an update to my gym EDC bag. From boxing gloves to wraps and cable attachments, the amount of gear I’m bringing to the gym has grown over the last year. It’s become a chore to fit it all in to the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 15. Don’t get me wrong, the Rip Ruck 15 is a great bag, but I’ve realized it’s time to find something new with a little more capacity. So, I’m going to take a look at a few slightly larger offerings from Mystery Ranch and give my thoughts on their features and performance.
Why am I sticking with Mystery Ranch? Their quality is really good, their design is often cool looking, and they have outside the box features. I’m just a big fan. I also appreciate that their gear isn’t made in China, a point I’ve definitely become more sensitive to lately. I wouldn’t say their gear is perfect though, and I try to give each piece of equipment an even shake when evaluating. But as a starting point, I often look to the Ranch first.
My philosophy of use for this new bag is similar to the Rip Ruck 15. It should be able to accommodate both my gym and EDC needs. Can I get to all of my gym gear easily? Can it safely store and provide effective access to a concealed firearm? While I’m a fan of military gear, the bag should blend in to a gym environment, meaning it can’t look too militant. However, it should have military grade quality, so no Jansports or any of that Chinese airsoft garbage that is so ubiquitous on Amazon. Finally, it needs to be a two-strap backpack. Why? Because you can’t run effectively with a shoulder strap bag. You can try, but it’s going to be flopping all over the place and slowing you down. Put both arms through a backpack and I can run as if it wasn’t there at all. Kind of a laundry list of features, but those are the main features I was looking for when I started my search.
The Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24
This bag is the natural place to start since I’m upgrading from the Rip Ruck 15. I absolutely love the wood coloring; it’s slick and attractive, but not too loud. It has the same large opening as the Rip Ruck 15, which I really liked. The two smaller external pouches are perfect for a couple tourniquets and my earbuds. And I was pretty impressed with the quality of the Rip Ruck series so far; overall construction, stitching, and comfort was top notch.
Using the RR24 for over a month left me with a different impression. While it may look like the big brother to the RR15, it actually has a very different design; one that kind of gets in its own way. The large main opening on top only grants access to half of the bag. In a lot of ways, it felt smaller than the main compartment on the RR15. Not ideal.
The RR24 suffers from an overabundance of fluff and not enough basic functionality. The biggest issue I had was that the large main compartment zipper gets stuck on the internal stitching when you’re trying to close it. It was really bad, and I’m going to call this a design flaw that should have been identified before going into production.
The smaller front pouches are also a huge pain in the ass to use. They feature both a zipper and magnetic hooked clips. You have to undo both of them individually to gain access to the pouch. That’s twice the effort, and for what? The design adds nothing to functionality. Why couldn’t they have just gone with one or the other? Or at least come up with something that the user doesn’t have to fight the bag to use. Again, I think this is an issue of focusing on flash versus functionality.
Finally, to drive the point home, they missed a ton of small features that are really just no brainers when it comes to bag design. What annoyed me every time I put the bag on was a lack of elastics to keep the excess shoulder strap material clean and out of the way. Every military bag I’ve ever used features these, and the cost to put them on the RR24 would have been negligible.
The RR15 at least had one (why not two?) side elastic pouch for a water bottle or other small items. The RR24 deleted this pouch entirely. Why? People still need a place to put their water bottle. I liked to put my wallet in there when I lift. What’s the point of removing useful features?
And the most basic of slam-dunk design features: a hi-vis lining. I’ve got all kinds of junk rolling around inside this thing, it would certainly be helpful if the bag was designed to facilitate the end user’s ability to retrieve their gear. A hi-vis orange, for example, would probably have complemented the wood color of the bag I had. Instead, it’s just another oversight in an overall poorly designed bag.
Now, while I think there could be many design improvements in the RR24, the material quality and construction were all excellent. The shoulder straps were comfortable, and while the zipper did get bound up frequently, it was beefy enough to not get damaged. It definitely represents the high quality you’d expect from Mystery Ranch.
The Mystery Ranch Skyline 23
I had my eye out for a new bag after my less than satisfactory experience with the RR24, and the Skyline 23 seemed to make the most sense. I figured with the Skyline I’d keep the Mystery Ranch style and quality I loved, while getting the full unobstructed main pouch I was looking for.
Unfortunately for the Skyline 23, it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back. I really love the way it looks; practically identical to the Rip Ruck, and the single main compartment fits everything I need just great. But what it packs in terms of functionality, it misses in the signature Mystery Ranch quality I’ve become accustomed to.
Starting from the top, the curved main compartment zippered flap works better than the RR24. Better… but still not perfect. I think it may just be a case of the scientists at Mystery Ranch still ironing out this advanced curved zipper technology. Time will only tell. But one positive thing I can say is that I did miss the magnets on the end of the flap that assist closing the main compartment. It was a feature I’d gotten used to. Is not having it a deal breaker? Not really. But when comparing the two it’s certainly an omitted detail that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The inside of the bag is much more stripped down compared to the RR24. There is a top zippered pouch and a bottom elastic pouch, and that’s it. I’d wanted a single, large main compartment, but this is a bit too far on the sparse side. Right away I had issues with CCW. My M&P Shield 2.0 fits right in the top zippered pouch just fine. Only the bag really doesn’t have any structure to it, so the weight of a pistol makes it slouch over like a fat guy at a computer. The top-heavy weight also throws off the balance of the bag when accessing the main pouch.
Also removed is any sort of hydration pouch or compartment. So while you could have added some structure with a soft panel of III-A, you’re left with an ugly slouch in the bag and a little less functionality. Not ideal.
What they added are tons and tons of superfluous straps strewn all over the Skyline 23. And while annoying, at least they were all easy to take off. Which is great, because the attachment mechanism sucked and they kept coming loose. Now I just have a pile of straps sitting on my bench. One plus I’ll give to the Skyline is that the waistbelt had Velcro strap keepers that I was able to repurpose and put on the shoulders. While not intended, at least I was able to make it work.
Speaking of shoulder straps, this is where the bag shows what it’s made of. While I’ve become accustomed to quality of materials that go into Mystery Ranch gear, these shoulder straps just plain suck. They’re thin, cheap feeling, and have little padding. Most surprisingly, they scratched the hell out of my arms. Seriously. After coming back from the gym, my wife was like, “Did you get in a fight with a cat?” And I had this big curved scratch down my arm caused by the underside of the shoulder strap. Only after doing it twice did I realize where it came from. I don’t know if it’s just cheap material or really poor quality, but seriously WTF…
The Skyline just feels constructed of lighter and thinner material compared to the RR24. The shoulder straps are much thinner and have less padding. The waist belt is a joke. There is no back padding or structure. And while none of this is necessarily a deal breaker by itself, putting all of these faults together results in a pretty poor showing, especially when advertised as a “climbing pack.”
So, what does this all mean for you? My recommendation is that the Rip Ruck 24 probably makes a better all-around EDC bag. It can fill the role at work, school, going to the range, and even as a light gym bag. It’s attractive looking and feels like quality. There’s just a little more to it in terms of design and layout when compared to the Skyline. Just know that it’s going to feel a little bit like kicking yourself in the nuts every time you try to use it.
As for me, I’ll probably stick with the Skyline for a while, but neither bag is really what I’m looking for. Both fall down in a lot of similar areas and I definitely look forward to a v2 for each of them.
Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Inforce, Surefire, or any other product mentioned in this article. The lights discussed were purchased with personal funds and the review was written without regard for any outside influence.
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