On this episode of the Hunting Gear Podcast, Dan talks with Alex Rich of Mystery Rich about their new packs. Alex talks about how their customers reacted to their new lineup of whitetail packs that were released 3 years ago, and how those reactions led to pack changes for their 2nd generation Treehouse pack. Alex also talks about the design implications and functionality behind the pop-up pack frame that was introduced in some of the western packs. Another awesome episode that takes a look behind the curtain at Mystery Ranch. Enjoy!
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Happy Friday everybody, and welcome to another episode. Of the Hunting Gear Podcast. And today I am joined by Alex Rich. And Alex is one of the lead designers over at Mystery Ranch. And so on this episode today, we're gonna talk about some of the new things, new products, and how these new products fared to the market about Mystery [00:01:00] Ranch and some of their new packs.
So it's a really interesting question or a conversation. I'll tell you this man, and I mentioned this in the podcast. I am a huge fan of and this is in no way necessarily a plug. It's more of a review. And so I am a huge fan of products that you like. I'm really hard on my equipment, so when I can beat the shit out of some of my equipment and it still functions year after year and I don't need to buy a new pack or a new pair of boots or a new spotting scope or whatever the product is, I love dur.
I love when I can when I'm hard on my equipment and it continues to perform on a yearly basis. That's really what I'm looking for in any said product. And I mentioned to Alex in this episode that the past two years, or, three years now, I have literally beat the shit out of my packs from Mystery Ranch and have had very minor issues with any of [00:02:00] them.
If it well, to come to think of it, probably no issues at all, to be honest. Outside of that, it's a really good episode. Before we do get into today's episode, though, we're gonna do some, what are we gonna do? We're gonna talk about tethered. And this new, actually, this new lineup of mystery ranch packs that we talk about today may be perfect for a saddle hunter and carrying your equipment back and forth.
So if you're looking for a company that makes a really good saddle hunting access, Saddle hunting platforms and climbing sticks. Go check out tethered tethered lineup. A really good lineup of products for saddle hunting. And at the same time, there's a huge education platform that they have created on their website and on their YouTube channels that helps you flatten the learning curve on how to become a better saddle hunter.
Next we have tcam. Now tact cam is one of those. Companies that really has filled a hole in [00:03:00] the hunting lifestyle. And what I mean by that is people love to share stories. Like storytelling is one of the it's a huge buzzword in the hunting space. And so when you can go out and record your hunt and record your sh what the deer that walked by your blinder, your tree stand and you can get a sh the shot on.
Man, that's really, that's a really awesome part of this storytelling that Tcam is able to capture. Recently Tcam has introduced their new 6.0 version, has the L C D screen has image stabilization, 4K recording, and it can go on a bow or a gun. So go check that email@example.com. Next, or excuse me, attica dot.
Next is HuntStand and HuntStand is one of the, these hunting apps that just allows you to journal and document everything that you see. Out in the woods while you're out shed hunting or you're looking for beds or you're scouting like this time of year, it's shed hunting season. [00:04:00] And while you're out there, you might as well be doing some scouting.
So when you're out there, you need to be journaling and documenting what pinch points, Crip crossings, bed. Old sign, that kind of stuff. And it also helps you for your your out-of-state hunts. You can find out where the public land is. You can find access, you can you can go through all these hypothetical situations like wind direction and so on.
So go to huntstand.com, read up on all the functionality, and while you're there, check out the new Pro Whitetail platform upgrade that they have available. And just continue learning. About the land that you hunt, and it's just gonna make you a better a better hunter. So there's that. If you guys are so inclined, please go to iTunes and leave a five star review about the Hunting Gear podcast, man.
That would be greatly appreciated. Other than that, let's get into today's episode with Alex Rich of Mystery Ranch two.[00:05:00]
All right on the Hunting Gear podcast today, Mr. Alex Rich. Alex, what's up, man? Hey, Dan. How's it going? It's been a while, man. I'm trying to think of the last time you were on the podcast. I feel like it was maybe like three a t a shows ago. We sat down with you. Yeah, it must have
[00:05:19] Alex Rich: been just right. Pre pandemic.
Yeah. Maybe January 20.
[00:05:23] Dan Johnson: Yeah. Something like that. Yeah, something like that. And it sa it sounds like a lot has a lot of things have changed at Mi Mystery Ranch.
[00:05:30] Alex Rich: A lot hasn't. A lot hasn't. Yeah. I feel like we just have that kind of, Big skip in the timeline. That pandemic was, yeah.
But we've been cranking, we've been, working our tails off over here throughout that whole period. Yeah. Been growing like crazy in just about every market. And hunting's just really taken off for us over the last few
[00:05:46] Dan Johnson: years. Yeah. And just a friendly reminder here.
Why don't you tell everybody what your role at Mystery Ranch is? Oh, yeah.
[00:05:54] Alex Rich: So I do product design for Mystery Ranch. Primarily hunting and. But everybody kind [00:06:00] of dabbles in all the markets a little bit here and there. I've worked on projects from military to like firefighting as well as, everyday carry products, travel stuff.
But then, yeah, my emphasis on hunting out it. .
[00:06:12] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. Okay. So when you guys sit down at Mr. Ranch and you either try to break into a new market because you guys have, for the longest time, were always known as a western hunting pack. And then you broke in a little bit into the whitetail market.
How do you guys make a decision onto what niche or what market to create a pack for next? .
[00:06:38] Alex Rich: Yeah, that's a great question. The western hunting space is it makes sense for us, especially being based in Bozeman, where, you know, a lot of us here at the office are act hunters. So those, that product development just makes a lot of sense and it's really, we are so product driven that we need products that perform in the field.
So we're have that ability to, go out in the woods here in Montana and use those products. Yeah. But like I've said, we've been [00:07:00] growing so fast in the hunting market. We're looking for other spaces to expand in other, other areas that could use, really well designed comfortable products.
And whitetail space is one that we identified as not having a ton of, there are really good products in the whitetail space, but nothing that carries like a Mr. Range pack. Yeah. So we definitely saw that was an opportunity to enter it up market. And then on the product, , we have to go through the process of figuring out exactly, what we think we can offer to the market, what the market might be missing what the right product offering is to, deliver to the customer, as well as just defining why.
Yeah. Yeah. The process, again, is a little bit more difficult than, the kind of natural state that getting the western hunting is. Yeah. But, and we're pretty well connected throughout the industry we make phone calls, we talk to people. We've got a few guys that, lived out in Michigan.
I think Chris Nolan might have been on the podcast with us last time. Yep. He's from Michigan, so ton of experience in the whitetail woods. I'm able [00:08:00] to hang off him like different thoughts and ideas on how to improve on products in this
[00:08:04] Dan Johnson: space. Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. And You guys identified that you wanted to jump into the whitetail space and you did.
What did that initial offering look like as far as the reaction from the public?
[00:08:20] Alex Rich: So we had the space with just one pack. The, the feature set was there, the textiles where we're developing at the. So the customers that were using the pack really liked it, but there's obviously some feedback that we got from that.
Then the other challenge that we were having getting into the whitetail market is, we have a ton of brand recognition in the West, but when you go, into the whitetail woods, not very many people know who Mr. Duran is. That's another hurdle that we've been trying to tackle over the last few years is how do we drive kinda that brand penetration so that.
get to know who we are and get comfortable with, seeing our products around and familiarizing themself with, what we had to
[00:08:56] Dan Johnson: offer. Do you guys feel like you've got a [00:09:00] foothold in that space now? For sure.
[00:09:03] Alex Rich: I think what that first generation of packs really did was help us to capitalize on those early adopters, the guys that are on the cutting edge, looking for the latest, newest, coolest stuff out there.
And I think since. Especially at this newest, our newest release, we're like starting to address the majority of guys transitioning from the, those like tip of the spear, really gear hungry fellows out there and starting to transition to, the more general population of whitetail hunt.
[00:09:29] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. Okay. All right. And I know you guys had some new technology and before we continue on into the whitetail the second gen whitetail stuff I found when I was at the A t H show this year and looked at a couple of your packs, you had this pop-up frame. So what I want you to do is describe what this pro, this pop-up frame is and the functionality.
[00:09:59] Alex Rich: . So [00:10:00] it was actually developed a few years back. I was doing a little antelope hunting out in the planes in Montana. Not a ton of cover. I was wearing one of our bigger pack frames that I would use elk hunting or deer hunting, that sort of thing, and found myself like in a prone position or like kneeling quite a bit.
And I needed the opportunity to be able to lift my head without being, coming in contact with the. In the back. Yeah. So I thought why don't we, work on developing a collapsible frame system. So that kind of spurred the idea of developing a frame system. Initially it folded like a set of tent poles but we've moved into a frame system that collapses and extends much like a trekking pole would.
So it's a more of a telescoping system, right? And again, that kind of initial design philosophy is like, how do we get into a prom position without the frame inter impeding with our head? Yeah. But still have that full height of the frame, that gives us the ability to pack out a full animal if we're successful.
Gotcha. One of the things that's been really cool about that system though is [00:11:00] because it is quirky and it's new, not a lot of people have like really looked. There's been a lot of whitetail hunters that have been checking that system out. A lot of saddle hunters or guys that are doing, public land hunts where they're carrying their stand they're using the overload system to carry their, their tree stand or their platform over several miles.
In some circumstances on a public land to be able to hang their stand. Yeah. And then that adjustable, the adjustable frame system allows for, guys to really customize the height of that frame. If they're going through thick brush, they can have a little bit shorter or if they've got, a pretty bulky stand, they can use the entire height of the frame to support that system.
[00:11:36] Dan Johnson: Yeah. And so is this pop-up system. All of your packs now or all of your Western packs or just a select few? Just a
[00:11:45] Alex Rich: select few. Okay. It's a, it's more day pack oriented. We haven't put any of our big expedition packs onto that frame system. Yeah. So for this year we came out with two new packs on that system being 30 and 40 liters, so Gotcha.
That [00:12:00] midrange of day hunting all the way up to. What we think of this late season hunting. That 40 liter size is good for a lot of bulky layers, some extra food and whatnot for those late season hunts.
[00:12:10] Dan Johnson: Okay. And so does this popup frame then allow for additional load carrying opportunities as well?
Like ri like rigid rigidness and things like that?
[00:12:23] Alex Rich: Yeah, for sure. So the pop-up system utilizes the same overload technology that we use in our bigger pack. It's the same deal. You could put, elk, porters, or in some cases, entire animals in between the pack and the frame. And then, weight wise, there's not really a good system for talking about what some people would call load rating.
, there's just not really a good way to quantify that from pack to pack. But I've, thrown an entire antelope in the overload system and carried back, a couple miles back to the truck. Yeah, definitely able to carry, north of a hundred pounds if you needed to.
[00:12:56] Dan Johnson: Okay. And is there any additional functionality with that [00:13:00] system? Yeah,
[00:13:01] Alex Rich: So we've been refining the process over, or excuse me, refining the system over the past couple years, and I brought a sample here so I could show you one of the latest innovations that we've had. So if you can see on the side here, this is just a little orange tab to help.
Open up that tracking pole, telescoping technology so you can see that frame can Oh, yeah.
[00:13:22] Dan Johnson: Extend and whatnot.
[00:13:23] Alex Rich: Yep. But one of the cool things that we incorporated for this iteration is, I'm gonna try to get it on the camera there. You can see this screw right here on the top. Yep.
On the top. , that's a core 20 optics script.
[00:13:36] Dan Johnson: Ah yes. I Now I remember you talking about this man, that, that's badass. Just that very simple little thing, man. Like now it, it's almost and correct me if I'm wrong, like I still see a good tripod. It could be necessary, but on a quick running gun type hunt that is bad.
[00:13:58] Alex Rich: sure. Yeah. And it was a [00:14:00] funny deal cuz once I thought about putting that onto the top of the frame, I was like, how the heck have I not thought of doing this early? Yeah. Cuz it, it makes so much sense and you're totally right. Like you can't put a big, 85 millimeter.
Spotting scope on top of that thing and expect it to be stable enough to see for, long distance. So tripod's indispensable, especially in some of those like longer range western style hunts, right? But when it comes to the running gun, you need to throw your binoculars up on top of there real quick.
I've experimented with putting like a sh just a v-shaped shooting yolk on the top. So for Turkey hunting or rifle hunting? Yes. You could throw your gun right there on. And then we've even had some of our early testers experiment with self filming. So you could screw a GoPro right to the top.
You could put a camera arm on there. Because it's anything that adapts to that quarter 20 screw, we can put right on top of it
[00:14:49] Dan Johnson: quick. And that's standard in a lot of optics and video camera equipment, if I'm not mistaken. That's correct, yeah.
[00:14:55] Alex Rich: And if it doesn't have a quarter 20 screw, there's a ton of like photo companies that [00:15:00] make an adapter screw.
I've even, I've started putting like a tripod head on top of there. . So you can run it just like you would a tripod with quick release plates. And sometimes you need that adapter screw to make it work. But the system sits, it comes equipped with
[00:15:13] Dan Johnson: that lot of opportunity or a lot of possibilities with just a little screw Man. That's pretty sweet man. Yeah.
[00:15:20] Alex Rich: That's pretty cool. And I think that kind of speaks to how we approach problems as mystery ranch. Yeah. As a brand, because, we try to incorporate like these little features that, are innovative that nobody else is doing.
We kinda let the customer like, use it for whatever purpose that, they can dream of. Yeah. Overload systems that way. We, you. designed it. We originally designed that overload system for, military applications, carrying drones or ammo cases, that sort of thing. Then that morphed into, carrying elk quarters and deer out.
But we've seen people carry flats of beer or , paddleboard or all sorts of Right. Random stuff. They, bulky items that wouldn't fit in your pack. So same philosophy with this quarter 20 screw [00:16:00] on the top there is let's put it on and. Let's just see what people throw on
[00:16:03] Dan Johnson: there.
Yeah, for sure. So that's cool. Anything else before we step away from Western packs? Anything, any new technology or new packs on the Western side of things?
[00:16:14] Alex Rich: Nothing other than the pop-up system. Yeah. That was our focus. 4 23 is getting that popup system really. There's a few things, outside of kind of that new frame system of the quarter 20 screw that we wanted to work on.
Yeah. One of which was, There were some issues with the bag integrated with to the frame on our past series or past systems of bags there. So we've made the frame a little bit taller, so those bags really sit nice and tight to the frame to get rid of a little bit of slot. Okay. That's just some of the fine tuning adjustments that we've gotten, some customer feedback and, we're able
[00:16:47] Dan Johnson: to improve.
Perfect. Perfect. Let's see here. I want to, I wanna move to the whitetail space now, and the second generation of, what's the name of the pack? , the, oh, we call it the [00:17:00] treehouse. The treehouse, yeah. Yeah. Yep. So talk to us a little bit about the customer feedback from the treehouse that led you, or the redesigns that led you to the second generation.
[00:17:12] Alex Rich: Sure. A number one glaring obvious was the noise factor. We're, we were using a lot of our western based textiles , which you can get away with being a little noisy, in a tree. , noise is one of the biggest things that'll betray you up there. So we worked really hard on developing a new textile that really, tamped down a ton of the noise.
Some of the other, features that we planned in there were, again, just like direct feedback. We put Molly like a Molly system that you'll see on like military gear where you can arrange different pockets and stuff on the top of the pack. , And what we found was most people wouldn't use that.
They'd be like, man, it'd be cool if there was a pocket here instead of these pieces of we. Yeah. So we went ahead and replaced that with, another layer of stretch woven pocket tree. Those along too, perfect. Yeah. So there used to be a two layers of Molly up on top [00:18:00] here. , but now we went to stacked stretch over the pocket.
So here's a nice big lower one and then a smaller one up top. Gotcha. Simple refinement, again, it's just customer feedback that's Hey, you guys got pretty close, but if you included a couple of these little features, yeah. That'd be super helpful. Okay. We also included some bungee and some hooks here at the top on both sides.
That enabled to strap, rattling out levers or, some other like smaller items on top there. Still nice long compression straps. So if you were to strap a stand to the outside or climbing sticks or camera arms, you have a ton of room to do that way. But we made those straps even a little bit longer than on the previous version just to accommodate for some of those bulk gear items.
[00:18:39] Dan Johnson: Gotcha.
[00:18:40] Alex Rich: And then try to get, again, get this close up for you. I don't know if you can see the fibers on this textile. Not,
[00:18:46] Dan Johnson: not very good, but it's it's almost like a fleece, right? Or a what is, what do they call that? A, a crush something.
[00:18:55] Alex Rich: Yeah. So it's similar to a fleece, one of the main difference differences that it [00:19:00] has to a.
Is all the fibers on this material is straight instead of being napped. . So if you did go through a patch of burs or stickers or something this fabric, it may pick some up, but it's very easily brushed off because those fibers are straight. Whereas on a fleece, because the fiber is napped those burs will want to hook.
And then it's just a pain to pull that stuff out.
[00:19:21] Dan Johnson: And that was going, yeah, that was gonna be my very first question because on, on the gen one, which I have, and I Used for the, since I got it like three years now it is a badass pack. I love it. And so when, first off, when I heard people say it's too loud, I was like, first off I said, you're ridiculous.
It's not too loud. And I actually liked the material that's on it because it didn't pick up that many birds, because that's where I hunt, man, in that thick, nasty stuff. And so when I saw it at the ATA show this year with all that fleece on it, my mind instantly went. Yeah, it's great. It's gonna be quiet, but now it's gonna pick [00:20:00] up a whole bunch of junk.
So it's reassuring to hear you say that it's, it won't pick up as much as you think and if it does, it can be basically combed right off. Yeah.
[00:20:11] Alex Rich: Yeah. It's was a huge consideration on us developing this textile too. . Yeah, I've got a couple golden retrievers and picking birds. All those things is the bay of my existence.
Making sure we have a textile that, a bird could easily be removed was really important. , the materials also a laminate, so there's a backer material behind it, so it's totally waterproof. Probably even more waterproof than some of the other textiles that you've seen our bags in previously.
Yeah. . So cuz that was one of the other concerns that some guys had when they saw this material. It was like, man, that looks like it'll just gets super heavy, in the rain or if it gets wet. . And the fact of the matter is since it's lined in, in that laminate form, it doesn't really absorb a ton of water.
Yeah. It'll beat up on the surface, you will get a little bit of water that kind of collects inside of those fibers, but it won't penetrate.
[00:20:58] Dan Johnson: So on the g on [00:21:00] the first gen, the one that I have, there's, I don't know if it's a frame system in there that keeps the pack open and wide is that same technology and the ability to z unzip it and fold it all the way out in this second gen model as well.
[00:21:18] Alex Rich: For this season, we've done two new sorry, two sizes. Okay. So in the larger size, you still have that ability to unzip. Yep. And it has those stays in it that prevents the bag from flopping all the way open and it stays at a nice open angle for you. Yep. Without yard saleing all your stuff on the ground.
Yep. But the smaller version we got rid of the zippers. And and this is the smaller version that I have here and it's a pretty small package. Yeah. So we felt like the need to have those zippers was a little bit it was a little bit too much going on with that small of a system.
Okay. So we got rid of those zippers. And then the other primary difference between the larger size and the smaller sizes, the larger has the adjustable yolk system in there. Whereas on the smaller [00:22:00] size, we got rid of that to save a little bit. Gotcha. Cuz with the smaller size pack you have a tendency to carry a little bit less weight.
. So the comfort, that's built into that adjustable yolk system isn't as necessary. Gotcha. Still a very comfortable pack to carry. And again, on that larger system, you still get that adjustable.
[00:22:18] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. Okay. And so what are the sizes of these two? .
[00:22:24] Alex Rich: The larger is 38 liters and the smaller is 20.
[00:22:27] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. All right. And so far have these already been in, introduced to the public or is that something that's coming this summer? Yeah, they came out fall 22. Fall 22. Okay.
[00:22:37] Alex Rich: All right. Yeah, so some dudes already picked them up in ran all season. Gotcha. And then little teaser in fall 23, we've got a couple new packs coming out too on the
[00:22:47] Dan Johnson: whitetail.
On the lights, tail light. Yeah. Gotcha. So what was the customer reaction for the fall 22 release?
[00:22:57] Alex Rich: From what I've been hearing from a lot of guys is [00:23:00] they were really excited that we addressed some of the shortcomings of the previous version. Gotcha. A lot of the things that we got right, we maintained, tweaked a little bit of the feature set to make sure that we were hitting.
From some of the feedback that we've been getting. So I think product-wise, these packs are pretty darn close to, I wouldn't say perfect, but like really functional, really dialed in for the user. And like I was speaking to before, now it's just getting a brand name out there and getting.
Getting packs on people and seeing where we can go with it.
[00:23:30] Dan Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. And so I'm gonna throw a compliment your way. This really isn't a question, but one thing I really respect from any company and any product I is the style of hunting that I do. And I. I beat the shit out of my equipment, and whether it's a binocular or it's a pack, or it's boots or it's my bow I really am hard on my gear in all the different terrains that I hunt.
[00:24:00] And so when I. Can say I have a pair of boots that's lasted me four or five years, or a pack that's lasted me three years, or, a trail camera or some whatever the product may be. That makes me very happy and it's hard for me to step away f from that product to go test out another product when in fact I'm I'm happy.
The performance and the functionality of said products. So I will say this, the two packs that I've ran for the last handful of years have been the Metcalf and the Treehouse. The Treehouse, right? Correct. Yeah. And I have beat the shit out of those two packs and there's really nothing wrong with them.
And so I, I will say just kudos to you guys like that. That makes me personally very. .
[00:24:46] Alex Rich: Thanks man. Yeah, we definitely take pride in like the quality of act that we build. Yeah. We do, we have a pretty comprehensive, material testing situation here. We have one guy that works for us that's a bad scientist and loves to rip things apart.
He, he holds the feet to the firearm [00:25:00] when it comes to the durability of new products. So whenever we're rolling out something new, he tries to tear it. Just to make sure that we're holding that standard Yeah. Of, super durable and calling
[00:25:09] Dan Johnson: kids. Yeah. And so you mentioned there's some more packs coming out this fall.
Any teaser that you can share with us o of what kind of demographic or what kind of hole they're going to fill? Yeah, they're
[00:25:22] Alex Rich: gonna be even a little bit smaller than the current than the 20 that I just showed you. Yep. , without sharing, sharing too much. They're gonna be a little bit more versatile in maybe addressing different species other than just whitetail.
Gotcha. Yeah, some kind of cool, innovative stuff. Definitely keeping the air to the ground, putting
[00:25:39] Dan Johnson: that out. So I'm gonna just, I'm gonna, I'm gonna judge this next, you don't have to answer, but I'm gonna judge it off your reaction. So it might be worth you being straight faced and not and using your poker face here.
But you mentioned other species in this white, you, you talked about whitetails, then you said other species are we gonna see a Turkey hunting [00:26:00] bag from mystery? I don't remember saying turkeys. Okay. You don't remember seeing turkeys saying Turkeys? Oh, saying no, you didn't say turkeys.
I'm guessing that there's potentially a pack from Mystery Ranch that's going to be a Turkey bag. I'll,
[00:26:20] Alex Rich: I'll just say not specifically. Okay. It's for the, it's
[00:26:22] Dan Johnson: for the whitetail hunt. I gotcha. Okay. All right. Fair enough. Fair enough. I tell you what, any anything else exciting. That you'd like to share with us or any any direction on where the next line of packs is gonna go for Mystery Ranch?
[00:26:37] Alex Rich: Other than the little teaser that I already gave you. What we're really doing here, at Mr. Ranch we've been doing for the last 20 years. Yeah. Yeah. We try to come up with cool stuff every season. Unfortunately it's not. A new suite of pass every year for hunting specifically.
But we're coming out with some really cool stuff in our outdoor lines. We're coming out with new stuff for, military and fire. So we're always just trying to push the envelope [00:27:00] on, innovation when it comes to packs here and here. Yeah. And there's, there's stuff in the hopper for, western hunting for whitetail hunting.
There's some cool stuff coming.
[00:27:09] Dan Johnson: Perfect. Alex, man, I really appreciate you taking time outta your day to hop on and share this information with us. If people want to find out more about Mystery Ranch, where do we send them? Yes sir. ranch.com.
[00:27:21] Alex Rich: Perfect.