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Climbing Packs

First Look: Mystery Ranch Scepter 35

Fresh new pack from Mystery Ranch!

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MSRP: $199.00

BEST FOR: Alpine approaches

The Scepter, one of Mystery Ranch’s new fall 2019 packs excels on long approaches. Whether you’re going out for an alpine rock climb in late summer or a winter snow slog in late fall, the various pockets, straps and other doohickeys on the Scepter make it appropriate for multiple purposes. I tested out the 35-liter version, but the pack also comes in a 50-liter size.

Starting at the top—literally. The Scepter doesn’t have the typical body-brain design of most packs. The lid is not attached by straps, but rather sewn directly onto the pack. The lid folds over from the front—the opposite direction of traditional brains—and fastens down with two simple G-hook closures. These are great in cold-weather climbing, when you might be wearing gloves: the hooks are far easier to manipulate than the buckles on most brains.

The Scepter.

Aside from the chest strap, most of the other connection points on the bag also rely upon G-hooks, or G-hook-like clasps. The only other exception is the hip belt buckle, but this is large enough that it’s still easy to use. I took the Scepter out ski mountaineering several times this past spring, and between all the times I stopped to de-layer, re-layer, brew up, boot pack a steep section, switch back to skis, and on and on…. being able to do everything easily with gloves on was great.

The advantages of the lid on the Scepter are multiple: it never sits awkwardly atop a too-full pack as frequently happens with brains on other bags. It also cinches down nicely on a rope draped over the pack, and keeps it snugly in place. If you’re not using the brain, you can just fold it into a top-loading pocket in front of the main compartment.

Said pocket is a great spot for crampons, ice-screw bag, other sharps, or anything to which you want to have quick access. Within this pocket there is also another small zippered pocket.

The front panel of the pack has a whole host of functional features. There is a daisy down the middle, plus a bungee cord. The bungee is another good crampon-carrying option, but it’s also removable if you’d rather not use it. 

The ice tool attachment points are thoughtfully designed. Velcro fasteners wrap around the tool handles and can be positioned at one of three different spots on the front panel, depending on how long your tool handles are. 

Finally, there’s the main compartment. 35 liters was plenty of space for most of my purposes. A grab handle inside, mirroring the one on the outside, is a nice little touch.  Both the 35- and 50-liter models come in two sizes for each gender: small/edium and large/x-Large for men; x-small/small and medium/large for women. 

Comfort-wise, I was pleased with how well the Scepter contoured to my back. It has good cushioned lumbar support, and the inside of the hip belt strikes a good balance between squishiness and stability. I never had any chafing on my hips, even with heavy loads.

I found the Scepter a great pack for long approaches, snow climbing and ski mountaineering—basically anything where you’re wearing your pack for a long time, but the technicality of the terrain is low. The Scepter certainly could function as a full-on technical alpine climbing pack, but there are lighter bags out there better suited for such missions. (The 35-liter bag weighs 3.27 pounds, while the 50-liter bag weighs  3.34 pounds.)

Finally, there’s the price. At $199 for the 35 liter and $225 for the 50 liter, the Scepter is a pretty good bang for your buck.

Buy Now 

Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.