Mystery Ranch is a brand that needs no introduction at this point, but I think most people associate them with their large Military style packs or well thought out EDC bags. The brand also makes top-notch fire fighting and trekking packs and while I’m no firefighter or ATC thru-hiker I was happy to use the In and Out.
The In and Out is a packable summit bag, able to be compressed and carried inside a larger pack or luggage, and deployed for fast, light use. While many packable bags are sparse and simple, the In and Out is fully featured with curved straps and multiple pockets.
Primary materials: 100d Cordura
Quality and Comfort
The In and Out is constructed from mostly 100D CORDURA® Mini Rip. This gives the bag great resistance to common types of wear while still keeping it relatively light. Coming in at 13 ounces it’s certainly not the lightest packable bag on the market but I believe it strikes a great balance between durability and weight savings.
Obviously, this bag does not have an internal frame or back support system. Going into this review I thought this was going to be a real issue for me and the bag would be uncomfortable most of the time but I’m happy to report that is not the case, mostly. In my testing with this bag I used it for travel, trail running, climbing, and fast-paced day hikes. Carrying anything large or heavy like a camera (DSLR) on this bag was good as long as I packed the bag properly. This required me to make sure I placed softer items like a jacket on the interior back of the pack so the heavier items didn’t always hit me in the back as I walked around. I don’t think this is a dealbreaker but just something to keep in mind when packing up for the day.
For me, the In and Out really shines in a few very specific jobs or activities. For air travel, this bag is fantastic. I can load up my checked bag with all the stuff I don’t need in the terminal and on the flight, with the essentials moving into the pack. Personally, I hate having even a normal-sized backpack (20-30 liters) in the cabin as it usually steals away my already limited legroom.
As an avid runner and hiker, I’m always trying to find the gear that is lighter for days on the trails. This pack is light and roomy enough for me to do a full day hike during the summer months. This really surprised me as I’m one of those people who usually brings everything but the kitchen sink on his day outings. When I transitioned to using this bag on my long day runs it worked great, as it kept the weight on my back down and it provided me a place to put snacks and water. Overall I think this pack is very comfortable and the contoured shoulder straps (with adjustable sternum strap) are very nice for their size.
Unfortunately, I can’t fully recommend the pack for this activity to most people because of a few issues. My one big complaint about this pack is that there is no hip strap. When running, I want there to be as little movement on my back as possible, so I don’t have a bag hitting me in the back all day. The In and Out does offer a nice sternum strap helps alleviate this problem but not to the level of a dedicated running vest like the Salomon ADV Skin 12. The other reason I don’t endorse this pack for running is that there is no thermal layer between the bladder sleeve and the wearer’s back, meaning any hydration bladder will quickly warm up in use. So unless you’re exclusively running in the winter and need some warm water from your camelbak to thaw off your toes, I don’t recommend this bag for that.
On the flip side, this bag really shines when used for climbing and bouldering. There are plenty of attachment points on the exterior of the bag for ropes, harnesses or even climbing shoes. The pack is perfect for a day of climbing with space for extra layers and snacks while not being too big to weigh you down or make you unbalanced during a climb.
The Mystery Ranch In and Out has a surprising amount of organization for a packable minimalist bag, in my opinion. The top of the pack has a very generous zippered pocket for your smaller items. Keys, sunglasses, and wallets fit well in this pocket. Directly below the is the mesh, zippered stuff pocket that the bag collapses into when that option is desired. The mesh pocket is also very large for the size of this pack. I need to point out that this pocket is part of the bag’s exterior, meaning you shouldn’t put anything in there that you don’t want being seen or exposed to the elements.
On the left side of the bag, there is a stretchy mesh pocket that is good for bottles. Unfortunately, this pocket is very slim and will not fit any of my wider water bottles. I could fit a 20 oz hydro flask and a SMART water bottle without problem but wouldn’t able to fit a Gatorade bottle in this. Rounding out the exterior of the pack we have daisy chain webbing running from top to bottom on the sides of the pack. I really appreciated this feature as it allows the user to attach attentional equipment that wouldn’t normally fit inside this pack like ice axes or tracking poles or even ropes.
The interior of the pack is one large compartment that is a half clamshell design, with a very small slim sleeve designed for a hydration bladder. Overall I’ve been very impressed with the number of items I can conformably pack in this 19-litre bag. On one hiking outing, I was able to cram a small DJI Drone, extra jacket and base layers without issue.
- Very competitively priced, among the cheapest Mystery Ranch produce.
- Well thought out for most tasks
- Lots of colour options
- Built like a tank with 100D CORDURA®
- No waist belt
- Heavier than its competition
- Water bottle compartments are small and slim.
In my line of work, I get to interact with a lot of gear-oriented people. On one of my recent assignments at a Special Forces sniper course in Austria, I noticed one of the instructors using the In and Out while moving up and down the range. During some downtime I had a chance to speak to this instructor about the In and Out and why he chose it. Paraphrasing, his answer was something like this: “I like this bag because it very versatile for its size, I can take it on vacations and work trips and it doesn’t scream Tactical Operator. It fits everything I need and nothing more so it helps me pack efficiently.” I think this sums up the In and out perfectly. It’s a light, jack of all trades pack that you can stuff and hide away when you don’t but pull out for when you do.
Disclaimer: the In and Out was purchased privately and subsequently used for this review. The content of the review was not shared with Mystery Ranch prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.