I’ve used the Terraframe 50 on about ten day hunting trips so far and packed out four broken down deer, giving me a good feel for its loading and features for day use. I had planned on doing a multi-day bivy hunt with a friend in order to get some shots and a better feel for a heavy pack but with the current circumstances (state and federal regulations) that was not a possibility. Instead I loaded up everything that I would take on a three-day mission, less my hunting gear (bow, arrows, rifle, binoculars, rangefinder, etc.). In accordance with the regulations I did twelve hours of hiking through the Otway Ranges and along the beach with a fully loaded pack (three days of supplies) which I chalked up as exercise. I went through all the processes of setting up and packing up camp, stopping to cook, etc. Things I’d do on a multi-day. You might ask why I bothered setting up camp if I wasn’t planning on staying, or why I packed three days of food, water, clothes and fuel up and down a hill for 12 hours. Well, it was the best way to get a true feel for the pack under the current circumstances.
Name: Terraframe 50 (65 & 80 available)
Brand: Mystery Ranch
Format: External frame backpack
Measurements: 711 x 381 x 330mm (28 x 15 x 13 inch)
Capacity: 51L (3118 cubic inches)
Weight: 2.27 Kg (5 pounds)
Material: 330D Lite Plus CORDURA®
Who It Suits
Mystery Ranch primarily make hunting-specific packs and the Terraframe is for hunters. Now hunting has become a polarizing subject in the last few decades and some companies have had to compromise or shy away from their roots due to the renormalization of public perception driven by extremists who anthropomorphize animals that have been harvested for protein for thousands of years by our ancestors and other predators. I say this not to ruffle feathers but to help the consumer understand that Mystery Ranch do not compromise on the hunting packs. Mystery Ranch could have used a lighter fabric to make the Terraframe more appealing in backpacking circles by shaving off pounds. But hunting packs are put through some of the roughest treatment imaginable and need a heavier, more durable fabric to survive.
What type of hunter will the Terraframe 50 suit? The first is a day hunter who does one of the following: hopes for the best and plans for the worst (emergency camp gear), packs camera gear or a lot of glass (spotting scope, tripod) or hunts in variable climatic conditions (extra layers). I like the security of extra base layers, rain gear, puffies and emergency camp kit, that can be compressed into a low pack volume but if successful the meat can be packed out comfortably and if necessary it can weather a storm or night out or both. The 50 is on the small side of multi-day packs but with conservative packing it can easily do it. Below is what I fit inside the pack for a bivy camp scenario where I am hunting with my camp on my back (allowing for maximum amount of terrain to be covered).
Sleeping bag (down)
Military poncho/tarp, cordage and pegs
Inflatable sleeping mat
Camp stove and pots
Water purifier (steripen)
Water bladder and bottle
Rain jacket and pants
Insulated jacket (microfiber)
Base layers (merino wool)
Battery charge pack and cords
Fire kit (hexamine, cotton wool and lighter)
Mid-layer (technical hoody)
Who It Doesn’t
Hunters who like creature comforts unless they get the Terraframe 80 or unless they like things strapped to the outside of the pack. I avoid this option as it creates noisy unbalanced load that snags on the underbrush.
Hunters or backpackers who carry a lot of weight as standard will find a more suitable pack elsewhere. This pack suits lighter weight pack-ins and makes heavy pack-outs bearable but not overly comfortable. There are higher-end packs in the Ranch range that are more load specific such as the Guide Light Frames.
Not high on the list of hunter priorities but its two-tone pattern breaks up your shape if you are unlucky enough to have the prey behind you.
Robust is probably the best way to describe it, much the same as the other Mystery Ranch packs that I’ve unsuccessfully tried to destroy. They are built fit for purpose, even if that means getting dragged over shale, through blackberries or just sliding around in the tool box for weeks at a time. The tough carbon fiber frame with tubular webbing allows it to flex and form while still carrying heavy loads and transferring the weight efficiently.
The buckles and zippers are heavy duty and functional, all webbing has Velcro to secure tag ends and the three-way weatherproof YKK zips allow for easy access to the entire pack. Little features such as the elastic loop and hook on the chest strap make life better.
The 330D CORDURA® LITE PLUS is a smooth and supple high filament density fabric 6,6 nylon weave that has an excellent strength to weight ratio. It requires less coating for waterproofing but is packable and easily foldable. The tight filament density creates a superior air and water barrier, higher resistance to abrasions, scuffs and tears and a quieter fabric, all important features for a hunting pack.
The Terraframe 50 has a large main compartment accessed by the classic 3-ZIP. There is a single internal elastic seamed pocket along the back wall that is for hydration bladders but I also keep my game bags and knives in there. There is a weather-sealed hole for your hydration hose at the top but otherwise it is pretty sparse. I tend to use pull outs to separate my gear rather than internal pockets; large uninterrupted spaces allow for a versatile pack that can be used for multiple applications.
The pack lid has two pockets, one smaller fully sealed and the other a larger mesh-bottomed one on the lower half. Both have weather-sealed zips. On either side of the pack there are two elastic pouches that could be used for water bottles or combined with the expansion webbing to carry spotting scopes, trekking poles, a tent, snacks, tripod, arrows, etc.
Probably the most important feature of the pack is the OVERLOAD® load sling/meat shelf between the frame and pack, this can be used for carrying out meat, hauling camera gear or other bulky items such as tents and sleeping bags. The shelf is accessible by undoing a number of buckles and can be easily adjusted to the appropriate size and compressed. All of these webbing points can be adapted to carry external loads when not using the load sling. There is also a webbing loading point on the base of the pack that is ideal for sleeping bags/mats, tents or wet gear. There is a single daisy chain running across the bottom of the pack for load securement.
Camera & Tech
I run a bulky DSLR with multiple lenses and a tripod which doesn’t always make the packing list depending on the severity of the terrain or the state of the deep freezer. I use an f-stop module that goes in the middle back section of the main compartment above my sleeping kit. The OVERLOAD® sling/shelf could also be used to carry a more significant setup with longer lenses and multiple bodies. My other electronics such as a phone, charge pack, headlamp, GPS and cords all live in the top sealed lid pocket.
With the exception of my wet weather gear and puffy jacket, all of my clothes go in a pull out in the main bag. This serves two purposes: it keeps them contained but also if the need arises I can strap them to the exterior of the pack. The puffy packs into its own pocket and lives at the very top of my pack, while the wet weather gear is either at the bottom or top depending on the day.
In the top mesh lid pocket I keep snacks, a compass, fire kit, buff, gloves and binoculars. My sleep system goes at the bottom of the pack with food, a cooking kit and camera above then my clothes on top. The top of the frame and the lid make a small shelf with two webbing clips. I found this really handy for storing jackets, cameras and mid-layers for rapid access.
Pack Suspension System
The external webbing covered carbon fiber frame with adjustable yoke combined with shoulder straps, a waist belt and chest strap that have been refined by decades of design experience provide a light, versatile and capable suspension system. Unlike rigid frames the Terraframe can flex torsionally, which helps when carrying loads through difficult terrain. The air space created also helps with reducing perspiration that is generally a real problem with frameless or internally framed packs.
Space & Access
The Terraframe 50 is a bag that bats well above its liters because of the OVERLOAD® shelf and lack of internal pocketing. The access to the main compartment is easy with the 3-ZIP and two compression straps across the front that are separated from the side compression. Access to the load sling is a little trickier but only requires the user to undo seven buckles and it does not disturb the pack which can be completely removed from the frame with two more buckles. I really like a pack that allows me to get to everything I’ve packed without having to disturb my loading. The Mystery Ranch 3-ZIP system allows you to butterfly the entire pack without disturbing the OVERLOAD®, the side load or bottom loaded items, at the same time keeping the contents of the main compartment contained but accessible.
With light to medium loads this pack is really nice but with heavy loads for extended time periods the comfort level began to drop off. The narrow feel of the pack gave a slightly unstable side to side movement when the shelf was not in use. The upper portion of the shoulder straps began to bite a little under load with light clothing; this would not be the case in cooler climates where increased layers would make the pack feel better. The waist belt system is a real treat and transfers the load efficiently to the hips and the tension system is slick and intuitive. The fabrics and frame design significantly reduce the amount of back and shoulder sweat that I normally experience.
Where I generally hunt it rains 300 days a year and drips off the trees the other 65, so I need a weatherproof pack. The 330D Lite Plus CORDURA combined with the heavy-duty YKK zips seems to do the trick. Not only does the fabric protect the pack’s contents from rain and mud but also blood when the OVERLOAD® shelf is being used to pack out broken down game.
Alternatives to Consider
The Terraframe 65 and 80 are options for people requiring greater load capacity or modularity. For a lighter backpacking-style pack with similar capabilities check out the Osprey Xenith 88 to name but one. Comparable hunting-specific packs are made by companies such as Eberlestock, Kuiu, Exo and Kifaru, the 44 Mag by Kifaru would be my pick for overall performance and durability. Cheaper options such as Badlands and Hunters Element will work but with companies like Mystery Ranch you buy once and cry once.
Having done so many miles with the Mystery Ranch Dragonslayer on my back I was more than a little excited to get my hands on a framed pack. This would make packing out so much easier on day hunts and replace the backpacking and ski touring bags that I had been using for multi-day hunts.
The construction, weight, access and load capabilities all really impressed, combined with all the standard things that I’ve come to expect from a Mystery Ranch pack such as functional design and durability. The Terraframe 50 is a really good bridge between a day pack and a serious multi-day mountain bag in that 80-100L range. However, if you just wanted to run one bag for everything, you could make it happen by packing smart and being a little less comfortable on the multi-days and a little bulky and awkward on the day hunts.
There are a lot of positives to this versatile pack but here are a few of the things that I didn’t particularly like. It might seem petty but the way the frame protrudes above the shoulders when the pack is not fully loaded on day hunts really got annoying, as it had the tendency to snag on everything. For open country hunters this isn’t an issue. Secondly, when the pack was fully loaded but without using the OVERLOAD® sling, the pack had a slightly unbalanced side to side feel because of the movement in the interface between the frame and pack.
There could also be one more side compression strap to secure both the things in the OVERLOAD® sling and anything that you might attach to the side of the pack. I had problems with meat bags slipping out the side and not being able to secure a rifle effectively. The pack for the most part is pretty quiet but it did have a tendency to creak a little, which is not a huge problem unless you stumble upon game unexpectedly. It would also be really nice if you could purchase the pack and frames separately as I would definitely get the 80L to have all my bases covered with the one harness system. Alternatively some daisy chains and some custom external modules for the 50L would also work.
Overall with the hunts and test hike that I’ve used this pack for, I love it and will be making very good use of it in the next few months once camping is again a legal pastime.
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