The 75th Ranger Regiment is working with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s (OTC) Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to put some new rucksacks through their paces during airborne operations.
The Rangers are testing out three different rucksacks that are produced by Mystery Ranch Mountain Backpacks, a company based in Bozeman, Montana. Mystery Ranch has been in business since 2000 and has been a steady customer of Special Operations Command since 2004.
The Rangers from the 3rd Battalion are testing three different sized rucksacks produced by Mystery Ranch for suitability in airborne operations. They include an Assault Pack, Patrol Pack, and Recce Pack. All three are available off the shelf and were not modified.
Colonel Dykema added that the MysteryRanch rucks provide modularity to support various mission requirements not supported by the Army’s legacy All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) backpack. The manufacturer reinforced critical areas and added airborne attachment points to their traditional Mountain Ruck.
“Soldiers enjoy getting involved in training hard during operational testing,” Colonel Dykema said.
He added, “They have the opportunity to operate and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact the development of systems that future soldiers will use in support of combat missions.”
During this test, 47 Rangers conducted 45 static line parachute jumps at Fryar Drop Zone at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The ABNSOTD was on-hand to conduct and monitor the testing, film the testing and get feedback from the troops.
The military has been trying to update the rucksacks paratroopers use for some time. Last year, the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, began issuing 6,000 new rucksacks designed for airborne operations. These rucksacks borrowed different features from both the ALICE and Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment system that replaced the older ALICE systems about a decade ago.
The new airborne-specific rucksack, the MOLLE 4000, was tested at Natick Labs in Massachusetts. It is a mid-sized rucksack, specifically built for airborne units but is just as easily used by conventional troops. It has both sewn-on and removable pouches, a larger top flap, a stronger carrying strap, and a longer back pad. It is also easily rigged to a parachutist’s harness. That process used to take about five minutes. The new system can be rigged in about one minute.
More importantly, the newer rucksacks evenly distribute the weight on the soldier’s hips, rather than the old ALICE which put the onus of the weight distribution firmly on the soldier’s lower back and shoulders.
What makes the Mystery Ranch equipment different from many of the others is the fact that, unlike the military’s ALICE system where one size fits all (uncomfortably, one should add), Mystery Mountain measures six different parts of the user’s body to produce a rucksack that is going to fit better, be more comfortable, and put less wear and tear on the soldier’s joints.
The six points of measurement are:
- Shoulder width
- Neck width
- Torso length
- Shoulder length
- Hip circumference
- Hip to hip
The data collected from the hip-to-hip and waist circumference allow them to create a belt sizing line that quickly allows soldiers to get into a belt size that will ensure they can adjust the belt to fit for their specific waist size.
With the input collected from the shoulder width, neck width, torso length, and shoulder length, they refined the yoke shape and sizes to comfortably adjust to each soldier’s body type.
Mystery Ranch Mountain Backpacks produces a patented lumbar wrap as well as its own frames that allow users to carry a large amount of weight with even distribution over the user’s body. They were approached by the Navy SEALs to design rucksacks for special mission requirements. That opened the door for the company to carve out a niche among other Special Operations Forces in the military. They also produce rucksacks for wildfire-fighting forces, backpack hunting, and mountaineering, as well as the military.
You can find and order their products directly through the company’s website.