Review: D-Route by Mystery Ranch

Review: D-Route by Mystery Ranch

I try to keep my gear as universal and multi-mission as possible. But sometimes you just can’t beat the performance of a specialised solution, and that’s exactly the case with the Mystery Ranch D-Route pack. If you’re looking for a personal alpine skiing daypack – this one should be on top of your shortlist.

The D-Route is a relatively compact pack, slick and slim. It’s also flat enough to be carried on the back even when using a ski-lift. Made of 840D nylon with a heavy duty ‘Carbonite’ surface finish in the ski-mounting area – it’s as robust as a pack of this kind could be.

The back panel is thermo-formed of high density closed cells foam and covered with some sort of protective material. Since it’s been designed as a dedicated skiing pack there are no venting channels as it’s supposed to be worn on 2-3 layers of winter cloths anyway. It is quite soft in touch but still keeps the pack’s structure perfectly.

The shoulder straps are generously padded, and ergonomically shaped for optimal comfort and good pack stability. And indeed the D-Route stays like glued to the wearer’s back, especially when cinched down with the sternum strap and 1.5” wide stabilising hip-belt.

Additional webbing on the front of the shoulder straps allow you to attach extra gear like a comm pouch, IFAK or other stuff like that. I usually put my TourniQuick there with a SOF tourniquet, to keep it immediately accessible. Just in case – things happen.

It’s a classic top-loader, which makes perfect sense for a small and lightweight pack like the D-Route. The small top lid plus a snow protective lip with a draw-string makes closing simple and secure.

But the key feature of D-Route is a big loop on the back, which together with the top cinch strap allows for diagonal ski carry. I tried it many times when skiing in the Alps and Tatra mountains and you know what? It works wonderfully! Even for big and heavy all-mountain skis.

But as I said it’s a top-loader so accessing the inside could be problematic with mounted skis crossing the lid. A neat solution is the full-length side access via a watertight YKK zipper. It’s really well hidden, almost invisible, but always at the ready – a very handy feature, which I used multiple times.

The hardware is made of a strong polymer, all buckles and toggles are gloves friendly. For small items like a room key, wallet, compact multitool, etc. there’s a small zipper pocket hidden in the lid. The pack is also compatible with a hydration system… if using one in winter is your thing. All in all the construction is thoughtful, smart and optimised for skiing sports.

The volume of 16 litres is more than enough for personal essentials. When skiing in a resort on well maintained slopes all you need is an additional shell (in case the weather gets nasty), spare gloves, personal first aid kit, wallet, keys, a snack or two, ski-optimised tool and your favourite coffee in a mid-sized insulated bottle (plus maybe a small flask with 3oz of fine Scotch). With such a load your D-Route would be still 30-40% empty, so if you need a compact camera or some other stuff – no problem with that.

If you prefer skiing in rough terrain, off the trail – an avalanche kit should be your #1 item. Also a dedicated snow shovel and probe (since your transceiver should be always on your body). The rest is pretty much the same, so a hardshell, snacks, hot coffee, IFAK, snacks.

Additionally I’d take a headlamp as well, plus a map and a small compass or professional handheld GPS (your iPhone won’t cut it in -20C and a blizzard, believe me). Anything can happen, so be prepared. Loosing your route in heavy fog can be fatal in the mountains so you should always be sure of where you are. All that fits easily inside the D-Route.

But could it be used for other mountaineering sports? Absolutely! Of course such a specialised skiing pack has some limitations in other areas, so you won’t find an attachment system for ice tools or crampons.

Still I used it for some winter hiking and snowshoeing in lower mountains and in a local forest. If you don’t carry a lot of gear, and all you need would fit inside a 16 litres pack, so the D-Route could be a very good minimalistic winter daypack for non-climbing trails.

Plus it would work perfectly for walking through the narrow streets of a ski-resort or a nearby town. As long as climbing is not your target activity this could easily be your only daypack on a skiing vacation in Chamonix, Madonna di Campiglio or Big Sky in Montana (which is just an hour drive from the Mystery Ranch facility, btw).

So take your D-Route, pack some essentials, jump into your skiing boots and you’re ready to roll! Skiing is life!

Have fun on your next route!

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Mar 2, 2021

By Piotr Ma

Senior Contributor & Edge Specialist, more posts.