If you’re into packs, you’ve got to be aware of Mystery Ranch. The company sprouted some twenty years ago in the worlds of backpacking, climbing and backcountry skiing, and have continued to drive innovation there from their Bozeman, Montana home.
As a lightweight daypack, the Gallagator sits in a size category with a huge breadth of applications and designs. Here at The Perfect Pack we’ve covered a number, from the highly agile HPG Tarahumara, detailed daily-carry packs like the Vanquest Katara 16, to the ultra-versatile Bravo 18 from Remote Equipment.
Mystery Ranch bill the Gallagator as a flexible design that’ll handle a day on the streets as well as the trails, offering the bag in a range of fun colours, as well as the classic black I tested here.
Dimensions provided by Mystery Ranch
Primary Materials: 210d Robic Nylon
Quality & Comfort
While the company is famous for their burly suspension and bombproof materials, here they have stripped the build back. Coming from Mystery Ranch, the Gallagator is a seriously lightweight pack – it weighs less than half what their 1DAP does, at around the same size. The fabric is lighter, but still plenty tough, with a lightly ridged texture reminiscent of much heavier ballistic nylons. The pack uses YKK zippers and quality Duraflex hardware throughout, and I saw no signs of wear or damage across the couple of months I took to test the bag.
Cutting weight further, the Gallagator also eschews the frame and overbuilt harness of its military-inspired siblings. In the hand, it’s utterly flexible, rolling up or sitting flat when empty. When travelling I was able to pack my Gallagator away in my main luggage, to be grabbed for days when I wasn’t going far. It’s not strictly packable like, say, Mystery Ranch’s In-and-Out pack, but still very easy to stow inside a larger bag.
Although lightweight, the Gallagator isn’t entirely without support. Its straps and back panel are padded with spacer mesh for comfort. Testing in hot weather, this mesh was a blessing, as it vented heat easily rather than insulating my torso. I do worry it will pill with extensive use, but standard airmesh isn’t exactly immune to this problem either.
On the body, the Gallagator feels similarly light. The straps are broad and can handle a light day-load, which is fine for the bag’s intent, but will suck if pushed to handle an entire trad-climbing rack. It is fine in movement, sitting comfortably in place on my back, though taller folks may struggle here. Mystery Ranch have included a sternum strap and a simple belt that work to keep the pack in place when scrambling or cycling. The single strips of webbing help, but won’t do much to support weight; they are, if nothing else, easily removable.
Organisation & Access
As with the suspension, the internal layout of the Gallagator is remarkably simple. The famous Mystery Ranch tri-zip access system makes an appearance here, allowing access to the full interior of the pack when needed, or holding gear securely in place to be grabbed via the top opening. I’m a fan of this design and glad to see it again.
Once open, there’s virtually nothing in the way of organisation. This simplicity is both a blessing and a curse. Packing out the Gallagator for a day walking on the beach was easy: I could load my raincoat, lunch and a pair of binoculars with no thought whatsoever, The amount of open space means the volume can be truly exploited, holding a bulky fleece sweater with no problem. Dual compression straps can hold additional layers on the outside if really needed, and the stretchy bottle pockets will accommodate a full-size Nalgene without complaint.
A more complicated task might require a couple of tries to get right. A separate lid pocket will keep essentials at-hand, and features a key leash, but anything put into the main compartment will quickly become gear soup. The lack of structure means even small pouches (like our Sardine Tin) will float about. The pens and small tools I take to work suffered this fate when loaded into the Gallagator, and I had to fish around for them at the bottom at the start of every shift.
The only feature inside the main compartment is an unpadded sleeve, intended for hydration bladders – the Gallagator has a hanging loop and hose ports on both sides – there’s nothing prescriptive about this and it will certainly keep a few things separate as needed, but it won’t offer any protection for sensitive electronics. If it matters, this sleeve is too narrow for even my 13” Chromebook.
- Lightweight build without compromising durability.
- Tri-zip design makes gear accessible and stable in movement.
- Broad straps wear comfortably for light activity.
- Suspension suffers at high weights or irregular loads
- Simple layout won’t stand up to sophisticated packing styles.
The trails and trips on which the Gallagator is at home are more accessible and, arguably, more pleasant than certain hardcore offerings. Mystery Ranch’s outdoor signature stamps are visible here, but this pack sits firmly at the more casual end of the scale than, say, their 1-DAP.
This means that, for many folks, this is a great option. By cutting out specialised features but including simple comfort and easy access, the Gallagator will work for ‘a day out’ in the broadest sense, whether that’s hopping between cafes or a walk in the park.
Disclaimer: The Gallagator pack was provided by Carrylab for use in this review. The content of this review was not discussed with Carrylab or Mystery Ranch prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never altered to keep a brand happy.