Guest Field Report: Sweet Pea

Long time Pack Config follower Jed Edwards sent me his thoughts on his new Mystery Ranch pack and his approach to packing.

The path I followed went in and out of wooded areas and fields, went up and down quite a lot, and all told took me about 9 hours, although I don’t know how much distance I covered in that time. To put it simply, at this time of year, that’s a proper dawn ‘til dusk hike.

I’m trying a new system for kit along the lines of ‘dress light, pack heavy.’ I understand why a lot of people may be critical of this but I’m a serial overpacker and, try as I might, find it very difficult to pack as light as people I see on the trail every time I go out. With this in mind, I went out with just a synthetic base and a layer of nylon not dissimilar to what I probably could have worn on a cloudy day in May or August. I changed hats regularly depending on my level of activity and exposure and my rainjacket came in and out of my pack a few times, I felt a fair bit warmer whilst wearing it but it wasn’t needed, and the real reason for the hike (besides just enjoying it) was to test out my new pack.

I’ve had my Mystery Ranch Sweet Pea for less than a month, but I love it already. I’d spent a little while looking for a pack for just this purpose, somewhere in size between my 5.11 MOAB 10 and Rush 72, reading a lot of reviews and weighing up my options; at the start of November Mystery Ranch announced their first ever online sale and the decision became obvious. All together, with two rounds of shipping (long story), I paid a little less than £200 for this pack. I’m very happy with it.

I love the design a lot: it’s quite basic even compared with similar MR packs, just the main pack, a small lid pocket, and two side pouches for bottles or what have you. No MOLLE, mesh pockets, or sleeves for a bladder. I’m used to 5.11’s extensive admin pockets, which have tons of small (and not so small) spaces for just about everything, but I think this leads me to bad habits as I tend to find things to pack just to fill up the slots, which then sit there adding weight without function. This purchase was, in many ways, a deliberate move away from ‘tactical’ styling, towards something very effective that’s designed to do what I want it for. I packed the bag so it was ‘full,’ with judicious use of the compression straps, weighing in just a smidgen shy of 10kg. Straight away I found just about every strap on the bag to be much too long, so I picked up a few ITW web-dominators and these seem to be doing the trick.

I’m enjoying the tri-zip opening. I’ve never been a big fan of top-loaders because they limit access to all my kit; Clamshell packs, on the other hand, can lose their shape when open. The Sweet Pea does neither! My rain jacket was near the top of the pack which meant grabbing it was super quick and painless, whereas when I stopped for lunch I could grab the drybag at the bottom (for a seat) first. There is a belt, which isn’t the most padded you’ll ever see but does a great job of holding the load steady around the waist. When it was fitted I found that I could run, jump, and clamber without the pack moving around and throwing me off balance.

The real star of the show, however, has to be that Futura frame: when set up properly it’s very comfortable indeed. The best way I can explain this is that I walked almost the same route back in early November, dressed about the same and carrying the exact same load in my Rush 72, a much larger pack. Back in November walked for about 4 hours, ate my lunch, and got the bus home, feeling like I deserved it. Today I walked much further, and then back again! My feet know they’ve been on a walk, but my back, shoulders, hips all feel fresh! This pack isn’t perfect (I do wish I had a loop field for patches), but it is very good.

On the outside of the pack are a couple of daisy chains, one has a red Adventure Light Tag-it. I like Adventure Lights, they’re tougher and brighter than any Nite Ize equivalent I’ve ever used. Nite Ize S-biners, on the other hand, are great, and one is stuck onto the opposite daisychain. I also found the daisy chain to be a great place for my Fortius Arms Keybiner, since I could reach back and grab it without taking my pack off. The lid pocket and the main body of the pack both provide quick access, but if I ever needed instant or on-the-go access to something, clipping it to these strips of webbing would be the way to go.

In the side pockets (which I can confirm are also easy to grab when wearing the pack) went my Dutch Army water bottle (in steel cup) and whatever hat I wasn’t wearing at the time.

On top of everything in the main pack I placed my Triple 7 Gear pouch that I actually won through the Pack Config giveaway some months ago. I didn’t use this for a while as I already had a great maxpedition organiser, but a few things have changed in my carry and I realised what a great drop-in EDC option this is when using multiple packs. It contains just a few edc and ‘what-if’ items, including my Gerber Dime, Petzl Tikka, and a few metres of Gorilla-tape wrapped around an unused card.

Editor: Unfortunately the only place to the Sweet Pea now is on either eBay (link below). You may also be able to pick up one second hand on The Perfect Pack Facebook group.