At long last, I’m excited to provide my review for the new Bridger 65-liter backpack from Mystery Ranch!
The Mystery Ranch Bridger is a highly anticipated pack series and I was thrilled to finally get my hands on one to test. For several years the Mystery Ranch Terraframe 65L has been my go-to backpack. So I was excited to see what innovations were included in the Bridger.
Right off the bat I could tell that the Bridger pack was something unique. The first thing my eye caught is the re-designed yoke / chest strap system. Borrowing from a running vest style pack, the Bridger has two chest straps that connect across much wider mesh straps than I typically see on a backpack.
Comfort is key
The result is an ultra-comfortable carry. The redesigned yoke system does an amazing job of spreading out the weight and the contact points that often lead to sore shoulders and hotspots around the arm pits.
Bridger compared to Osprey Atmos or Gregory Baltoro
Over the last year I have been able to test other popular packs like the Osprey Atmos and Gregory Baltoro. It’s helpful to have an understand of many of the packs on the market to be able to talk about some of the ways the Mystery Ranch Bridger 65L stands out from the competition.
Mystery Ranch claims the Bridger pack is the “Cadillac of backpacks”
According to Mystery Ranch – the Bridger 65 is the “Cadillac of backpacks.” This pack is loaded with internal and external pockets for maximum gear packing. The large pocket opens fully for easy accessibility to the gear you need more immediately, like a raincoat, additional snack, first aid kit, or that extra flask. It is a weight-conscious and durable pack that easily supports your overnight or multi-day mission.
The Bridger 65 is built around the endurance yoke. This yoke is breathable, highly ventilated, with pocketed shoulder pads and pocketed waist belt for quick access to you water bottle, snacks (all the snacks!), or sunglasses. There is dual access to the main bag, including two full-length zippers on the front of the bag, and a drawstring shroud for easy accessibility to the main part of the bag without having to fully unpack.
The pack’s removable lid converts to a hip sack for shorter adventures when you may want to leave the main pack at basecamp. The Bridger 65 is hydration-reservoir compatible for additional water when you need it. There are two large, stretch woven back pockets with inner elastic top dump pockets. The speed zip sleeping bag compartment has a removable divider and a double layer bottom for improved durability.
Field testing the Bridger backpack in Peru and South Dakota
I had an opportunity to run some miles on this backpack, as well as use the Bridger 55L, on a previous backpacking trip across the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota. The Centennial Trail in South Dakota was a great place to test the new Bridger line from Mystery Ranch. My first impression? I love it! Let’s get into the details:
How to choose a backpack?
Finding the right backpack is an essential cornerstone of your backpacking gear. The main categories to keep in mind when choosing a backpack are comfort, stability, breathability, torso fit, weight, accessibility to gear, and durability.
What are the best backpacks for hiking 2022?
Three backpacks come to mind when we talk about the best multi-day backpacks, the Osprey Atmos, the Gregory Baltoro and the Mystery Ranch Bridger. Comfort in backpacks is key to having a good experience. That is why the Mystery Ranch Bridger 65L is so different when compared to the Osprey Atmos 65L or Gregory Baltoro 65L. The yolk on the Bridger backpack is unique.
Is the Bridger backpack comfortable?
Yes! The Bridger 65 is very comfortable. Its comfort is one thing that helps it stand apart and what makes it so special. The thoughtful design of the pack, how you can adjust it to fit you perfectly, as well as the breathability of the yoke, all work to make this a pack you can comfortably wear for hours. The double strapped yoke (which I initially was skeptical of) really is very comfortable and I think is a beautiful revolution in backpacking design.
Is the Bridger breathable compared to Osprey Atmos or Gregory Baltoro?
Mystery Ranch has done a really nice job of creating an airflow chamber right through the middle of the yoke to allow hot air to escape through the back. The endurance yokes are breathable and highly ventilated with lots of air holes allowing heat and air to move easily through. The frame and the yoke work together to avoid back-to-pack contact thereby maximizing air flow. While I have hiked with backpacks that were a little bit more breathable, I have zero complaints with the breathability of this system.
How do you adjust the torso fit for the Mystery Ranch Bridger 65L?
When you purchase a backpack, no matter the brand or the size, it is important to be able to fit it to your body easily. Mystery Ranch has a smart and unique fitting system. You can achieve a personalized fit by removing the sheath stored inside, and then you break the Velcro bond by prying it with the sheath. Once the Velcro is separated, it is easy to either lift or lower the frame to get it fitted for your torso length.
How much does the Mystery Ranch Bridger 65L weigh?
The Bridger 65L is 5.5 pounds, which is a more than some of the other backpacks in this category. What you trade in weight, however, you gain in comfort, stability and durability.
How accessible is gear in the Bridger 65L backpack?
The placement of pockets and the placement of the zippers make ease of access a breeze. This is another feature that really makes Mystery Ranch packs stand apart from the crowd. Zippers and pockets create multiple entry points to the gear you need on the fly. When I hike, I like to separate the items that are important. Items like toilet paper, cat hole digging devices, and other items that I may want to keep out of the main chamber away from my food, clothes, and toiletries.
I love the ability to fully flay open my backpack. The Bridger 65L makes it easy for me to be able to spread open the bag and grab different lenses or different camera pieces. I also like the way the zipper works for the sleeping bag compartment. The Bridger 65L has a folding buckle that also contains a completely straight zipper all the way across. When you open the zipper, the compartment really opens up and it’s a very accessible, large space and it is easy to fit your sleeping bag in.
The Bridger pack has multiple compression straps to close it up and cinch it. I really like the side pockets on the Bridger packs, as these are great for water bottles trekking poles tripods.
Are Mystery Ranch packs durable?
If you are paying a premium for your backpack, you want it to last. One of the hallmarks of Mystery Ranch is that they make incredibly strong, beefy backpacks. Mystery Ranch makes packs for the military, firefighters, and people jumping out of planes. You know with the design of their backpacks rooted in this background, Mystery Ranch packs are going to last.
What is the load capacity of the Bridger backpack?
The Bridger pack can carry loads up to 55 pounds. It’s sweet spot is for carrying between 30 and 50 pounds. I have easily carried over 40 pounds and the load was surprisingly comfortable. Exceeding 50 pounds is very heavy for a backpacking trip, and if you wish to do so, that’s where other packs like the Terraframe come in.
Are the Bridger backpacks waterproof?
No. The Bridger pack is not waterproof. However, it will be able to withstand a fair bit of rain and moisture before any packed gear gets wet. The pack is made of heavy-duty nylon and treated with DWR for a water repellent finish. I’d be comfortable using this pack without a cover in intermittent rain. But if enduring consistent rain or wet conditions, use a pack cover or use dry bags inside the pack to protect your gear.
What does the Mystery Ranch Bridger 65L cost?
The Bridger 65L retailed for $349 at the time of the review. I think that’s good value for what you get. I recognize that it is a little bit on the higher end of the price spectrum when compared with the Osprey Atmos 65L and Gregory Baltoro 65L, both which currently retail for about $270 USD. But for the difference in price you get more comfort and superior stability. This pack is for both beginner and expert hikers, as both will benefit from Mystery Ranch’s innovative double sternum straps. This design has been seen before in running packs and is a game changer for backpacking as it changes how you carry the heavier loads (more stability).
Are the Bridger backpacks worth it?
The Bridger 65L will appeal to a wide audience. It is meant for the beginner backpacker who is just getting started. It is also a solid choice for the seasoned hiker who guides for a living and wants a pack to live out of that is functional and comfortable. I think that I may have found my ‘forever’ backpack. The Bridger 65 L pack is for sure my favorite pack that I have used to date! I plan to keep testing it and will do follow up posts to let you know.
Check out the NEW Bridger on the Mystery Ranch website
If you want to compare with other similar-size trekking bags I’ve reviewed, check out these other backpack reviews.