Reviews You Can Rely On

Mystery Ranch Skyline 17 Review

Though it's heavy, this pack makes up for it with durability and great climbing features
Mystery Ranch Skyline 17
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $99 List | $98.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Durable, functional, versatile
Cons:  Heavy, no key clip, not tapered
Manufacturer:   Mystery Ranch
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Climbing Utility - 25% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 20% 7
  • Weight - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Mystery Ranch Skyline 17 ticks the boxes for a small climbing pack. It has a great set of features for climbing and performs well at non-climbing tasks too. The pack is fairly comfortable, and the back length should work for various sizes and shapes. While it is among the heavier models in our review, it's also one of the most durable. That being said, we wish the pack was more tapered and that the shoulder straps were a touch longer. But for adventure climbers who get out regularly and are hard on their gear, this pack could be a great choice.

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Price $98.95 at Backcountry$80 ListCheck Price at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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73
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Star Rating
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Pros Durable, functional, versatileSimple, great zippered pocket, streamlinedDurable, comfortable, simpleSimple, sturdy, lightLight, great features, roomy
Cons Heavy, no key clip, not taperedLimited attachment points, easy to drop stuffHeavy, few hydration featuresNo emergency whistle, draw cord and cord lock blend into packFragile, not super versatile
Bottom Line Though it's heavy, this pack makes up for it with durability and great climbing featuresThough there are no extra features, this bag ticks all the boxes for multi-pitch climbingThis comfortable and utilitarian pack is light on features but heavy on durabilityThis is a great pack for multi-pitch rock climbs at a very fair priceThis small and light climbing pack is well optimized for alpine action
Rating Categories Mystery Ranch Skyli... The North Face Rout... Black Diamond Creek 20 Black Diamond Rock... Black Diamond Blitz 20
Comfort (25%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Climbing Utility (25%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (20%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
Versatility (20%)
7.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
5.0
Weight (10%)
3.0
5.0
3.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Mystery Ranch Skyli... The North Face Rout... Black Diamond Creek 20 Black Diamond Rock... Black Diamond Blitz 20
Capacity 17L 16L 20L 15L 20L
Measured Weight 1.4 lbs 1.1 lbs 1.7 lbs 0.9 lbs 0.9 lbs
Padded back? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fabric Type 1000D cordura nylon 420D nylon 1200D polyester with TPU coating 840D nylon Dynex (210D + PE 200D)
Whistle? Yes Yes Yes No No
Accessory Pockets? One internal zip, one external zip One external zip One internal zip One external zip, one internal zip One external zip, one internal zip
Outside Carry Options? Top strap, side straps, ice axe attachments Daisy chains Top strap, two daisy chains Top strap doubles as rope strap Top strap, ice axe attachments
Hip Belt Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes, removable
Hydration System Compatible Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Key Clip? No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Mystery Ranch Skyline 17 is a relatively new pack from a venerable American pack company. Though they're not known for being ultralight, Mystery Ranch products do have a reputation for durability and functionality, and the Skyline lives up to that reputation.

Performance Comparison


This is one of our favorite small climbing packs.
This is one of our favorite small climbing packs.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Comfort


When it comes to comfort, one of the things we like about the Skyline 17 is the relatively short back length. No climber wants interference at either the top (helmet) or bottom (chalk bag) of a climbing pack. A shorter pack can fit a taller climber, but not the other way around. The back length was great for our 5'11" lead tester, but it also worked for shorter folks. Additionally, the padding on the back of the pack gave good protection for those times when we crammed a rack in there. However, we wish that the pack had some top-to-bottom taper, which helps you forget the rack is in there while climbing and that the padded part of the shoulder straps was longer.

We like the short back length of the Skyline but wish it was a bit...
We like the short back length of the Skyline but wish it was a bit more tapered from top to bottom.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Climbing Utility


The Skyline 17 has many of the features we like in a climbing pack, and they're done well. A whistle is integrated into the sternum strap buckle, and the hip belt attaches to the pack with a simple girth hitch and is easily removable. There are a pair of grab loops on top of the pack that can be easily rigged for hauling. If you do need to haul, the top strap, side compression straps, and the ice axe attachments are all removable. Though removing the ice axe attachments is not intuitive, our testers love that these things are removable without using scissors.

The hydration system carry is decent, but if your reservoir doesn't have a clip or hook built into the top, you'll need to rig something up. Hanging a reservoir in the pack also blocks access to the internal mesh pocket. We missed a key clip on this bag as well.

The straps (one on the top and two on the sides) do a good job...
The straps (one on the top and two on the sides) do a good job securing ropes to this pack.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Durability


The Skyline 17 is about as durable as a pack can be without being a haul bag. Much of that is due to the materials. The pack body is made of 1000 denier Cordura, and the zippers are a reliable #10 YKK. The only way we could see this pack being more durable would be by adding a flap of fabric over the zipper for protection.

We like the big burly zipper on this pack, as well as this grey...
We like the big burly zipper on this pack, as well as this grey gusset which helps prevent dropping things when the bag is full.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Versatility


While the overall style and look of the Skyline didn't knock our socks off, we do find it to be fairly versatile. We don't measure volume ourselves in this review, but our testers felt like this pack was a bit bigger than the stated size. Small and medium-sized laptops can fit inside. So could the ingredients for a few meals from the grocery store.

The ice axe attachment points expand this pack's options into snowy/icy realms, though the size might be a limiting factor on colder days. The detachable top and side straps make securing a rope to the outside quite easy, and the daisy chains on the front expand the attachment options.

This is among the heavier packs in our review (see below), so it is not a first choice for stuffing into a larger pack for an extended backcountry mission.

The Skyline holds technical ice tools and mountaineering axes...
The Skyline holds technical ice tools and mountaineering axes securely.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Weight


This is not an ultralight climbing pack, and we were fine with that — it could never be ultralight with materials this beefy. This bag weighs 1.4 pounds (about 640 grams). Removing the top and side straps and the ice axe attachments can shave off a few ounces, but ultimately the Skyline prioritizes durability over weight.

Weighing the Skyline.
Weighing the Skyline.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Value


This is not one of the cheaper packs in our test. However, it is built to last, and we think that in the hands of a climber who will be using it regularly, it is a good value.

Conclusion


The Mystery Ranch Skyline 17 does most of the things we want a small climbing pack to do, and it does those things reasonably well. It's comfortable for climbers of many sizes and shapes, quite functional, and can be used for other stuff. It's on the heavy side, but that's the cost of a pack this durable.

This utilitarian and durable pack is a good choice for multi-pitch...
This utilitarian and durable pack is a good choice for multi-pitch rock climbing.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Ian McEleney