Review: Mystery Ranch High Water Flip

A pack for getting wet & wild.

Way out in the vast Montana landscape, far from the nearest human settlements, lie tracts of uncommon abundance: treasure-troves of game hidden from the average hunter's eye. One of these secret gems, I visit every year. Deer feed among the waist-high grasses, pheasants croak in the brush, and turkeys roost on cottonwood branches. What conceals this bonanza is not only remoteness, but geography: it lies across a cold, fast river. Sure, an intrepid hunter may seek out a shallow ford and cross in waders, but he soon finds himself laden with a bulky load, or at least beholden to that same crossing for the return trip. Either way, he's at a disadvantage, as this place requires stealth and mobility—one must adapt to the landscape and the life upon it, letting it move the hunter as it may. Light, fast, and free is the only way to engage these natural riches. 

It took a few years to refine my technique, but eventually I learned to strip down naked and wade across, gun and clothing held overhead. A little discomfort is a small price to pay for the bounty that awaits beyond. But this year, heavy rains increased the flow and softened the streambed, carving out new and deeper channels, and I soon found myself in troubled waters—after a desperate swim, I crawled up the far bank, my bundle of gear and clothing drenched. Soggy and demoralized, I lost my edge amid the violent shivering, plodding gait, and merciless self-censure.

Which brings me to the High Water Flip from Mystery Ranch. One look at that thing and I knew I'd found the solution to my wonderland woes. Compact enough to maintain agility, waterproof enough to keep all my clothing and gear dry, this pack works equally well for both a light-and-fast hunt and a wet-and-wild river crossing.

First up is the size: with an extra layer, snacks, field-dressing kit, and a few odds & ends, the pack rides half-empty over my upland vest; I crank down the compression straps to keep it streamlined and snug to my back. At river's edge, I release the straps and stuff vest, pants, shirt, and shoes into the 1,400-cubic-inch main compartment, plus a few small essentials in the top pouch. The pack's now loaded, but not too full to seal with the impressively smooth and secure TRU-Zip waterproof zippers. On my back it goes; with gun held high, my other hand's free to doggy-paddle or side-stroke the deepest, fastest water between me and my abundant objective.

On the far shore, I unzip, re-clothe, and go, frolicking into that forested ribbon, green and serpentine, a wellspring of life amid the drab prairie plain. Two hours and two miles later, I cross again, this time with a slight change to my set-up: a pheasant strapped to one side of the pack, a tom turkey to the other, and a whitetail doe bobbing in the current, tugging at the loop of webbing around my free hand. Shangri-La provideth, and the High Water hath facilitated my carnivorous crusade. Huzzah!

Available at; $329.