Built to take on city streets and in weather of the mountains, the Mystery Ranch Urban Assult 21 is a basic and overpriced laptop backpack. We were first drawn to its interesting three-zipper design and unique look, inspired by military rucksacks. While the 500-denier Cordura fabric and waterproof zippers do wonders when combatting the rain, it lacks performance in most other categories. The most stand-out is its lack of comfort on the straps of the backpack. The materials are scratchy while the sternum strap adjustor digs into our testers' chests. The zippers make access to the interior of the backpack contrived and annoying. While we want to like this bag and say more positive things, we aren't sure it's worth its higher price tag.
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21L Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very water resistant, cool and sleek design, easy top pack access
Cons: Lacks value, not comfortable, zipper design gets annoying
Manufacturer: Mystery Ranch
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Urban Assault 21 is a basic laptop backpack with O.K. performance and a high price. It stands out for its great water protection, but its lack of performance in other categories makes it a lower value option. If you still want to try it, know that it works well for most backpack related activities — the daily commute, hiking, school, and more.
This backpack provides an average amount of protection with strategic laptop sleeve placement and cushioning. The back panel offers thick cushioning that will keep laptops up to 15" safe and sound while being put down on the ground or even tossed into a corner. The sleeve itself is constructed of thinner materials with a lack of cushioning on the sides of the sleeve itself. The bottom of the sleeve is higher than the bottom of the pack to further protect from impact. In general, when using this backpack, we felt confident that our laptop would be safe and sound, even though it doesn't offer additional securities that you might find with a highly protective laptop backpack.
Even though the Urban Assault 21 features ample cushioning throughout the back and on the shoulder straps, the material is pretty scratchy. The panels aren't all that breathable either, making hot days on a bike commute sweaty. The straps of the backpack do offer a sternum strap, which aids in providing a better fit. However, the strap is outfitted with a thick piece of plastic that digs into armpits. We tried to take this off, and could not. As a result, we tried to avoid wearing this backpack simply because it felt quite uncomfortable to wear against the skin.
When wearing a t-shirt or jacket, this was a non-issue. The backpack offers a great deal of structure, which makes it comfortable to use and wear when loading it down with heavy binders, textbooks, and more. Overall, this laptop backpack lacks the comforts that you should expect with one of the top performers out there. If Mystery Ranch worked on using a softer material and getting rid of the plastic sternum strap connector, this pack would be far more comfortable.
This backpack offers 21L of volume for storing all sorts of items. It even comes with nylon loops at the base of the backpack, if you want to clip items on with a small carabiner. That said, we're not a huge fan of having items swinging around our legs. The laptop sleeve can accommodate up to a 15" computer with a relatively thin profile. The sleeve itself doesn't offer a whole lot of room for thicker computers, sadly, so keep this in mind if you have an older or bulkier PC. On the main sleeve is another shorter sleeve where you can slide in a composition book, loose papers, a tablet, or a folder.
The interior compartment is quite big, making it perfect to stuff in a pair of shoes, jacket, lunch, and more. Within the interior compartment are two lateral mesh pockets that offer some storage for electronics, like a mouse, external battery, cords, and more.
The only external pocket is found on the top of the bag, which is also a mesh pocket with a key cord connector. This pack doesn't offer any specified storage compartment like a pen holder or a specific place for a pair of sunglasses.
It also lacks a place to keep a water bottle separate from the laptop compartment. While storage is decent, we really wish this pack had a place for a bottle. Overall, storage is pretty standard and doesn't feature any stand-out mentions.
Ease of Use
Most backpacks that are super easy to access only require unzipping one zipper or opening up the drawstring of a compartment.
To access the internal compartment of this pack, you need to open up at least two zippers, if not three! The zippers are along the lateral side of the top compartment with a top-down zipper dividing the left and right side of the main compartment.
If you want to use the pockets inside the backpack, you need to unzip all three, which proves to be a pain in the butt. Even though the zippers are water-resistant, they aren't easy to open.
We typically found undulations in the zipper path, forcing us to use both hands to pull the zippers open or closed. To do this, nine times out of ten, we had to take the backpack off completely! As a result, this backpack is not super easy to use, but it's not impossible either.
Wow! We were really impressed with this backpack's protection against water.
The exterior fabric is constructed of 500-denier Cordura fabric that offers optimal water resistance. We put this pack in the shower for roughly three minutes, soaking it from top to bottom. We originally thought that water might leak in through the holes where all the zippers connect.
However, despite drenching it completely, the zippers and fabric did an amazing job at keeping things dry. The only place the backpack got drenched was at the bottom. Luckily the laptop sleeve is built to hang over the top of the bottom of the bag. Overall, we are really impressed with how water resistant this pack is! We'd trust it even in downpours.
This laptop backpack comes with a few different color options that look great both in the mountains, on the trail, and in the city. It features a sleek look with great color contrasts. While we didn't receive too many compliments when wearing it around town, we certainly feel that it looks good, for both men and women.
The price tag seems a little high for its relative point score. There are other packs that are cheaper and offer much better performance with the exact same function. While we do appreciate its water-resistance capabilities, we don't think it's enough to warrant such a high price. Our verdict? Overpriced for its performance.
The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21 is a funky pack with a unique three-zipper design, but it didn't win over our testers. Its stand-out feature is its great water resistance with reinforced zippers and army grade fabrics. Unfortunately, it's not the most comfortable and requires quite a bit of effort to get into. Even though it can easily be used as a daily commuter for students and office workers, there are many other packs out there that offer better performance for a lower price.
— Amber King