REVIEW – Mystery Ranch NICE Wolf Alpha

ITEM:     NICE Wolf Alpha

MANUFACTURER:            Mystery Ranch

DESCRIPTION:

The Wolf Alpha is Mystery Ranch’s offering in a classic top loading design. The design is ideal for day trips where cold weather clothing may be needed, but can be used for trips up to 5 days.

LINK:

http://www.mysteryranch.com/s.nl/it.A/id.15309/.f

Check out Mystery Ranch’s photo’s, they’re much better than mine. But that’s what you get for using a professional photographer, rather than a knuckle-dragger like me.

 

REVIEW NOTES:

This pack was kindly supplied by Mystery Ranch for review through their Australian dealer Military Gear, in conjunction with Crossfire. I will be returning this item when completed, since I have no need for this kit.

I have received no financial compensation for the review of this item. I have done the review (like many with supplied equipment) with the proviso that I will be painfully honest in my assessment of this item.

Unlike most of my reviews, the Wolf Alpha pack has not been fully field tested due to me recovering from illness. As such, I haven’t been able to load it up and take it for a stomp to see how it treats me under harness.

 

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MATERIALS:

500D cordura for the main pack body.

Lockable fastex buckles

Webbing and mesh in various places

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

Capacity – 69L (4200 cubic inches)

Weight – 3.9kg with NICE frame

Dimensions – 58cm x 33cm x 23cm (23” x 13” x 9”)

 

LAYOUT:

FRAME –

This pack uses the Mystery Ranch NICE Frame. It’s a mixture of internal and external frame. It’s a flexible frame system that acts in a similar manner to DEI plastic MOLLE frames, in that the load is transferred and absorbed by the flexible frame, rather than be transferred straight to the wearer like a rigid frame such as that found on the venerable ALICE pack.

Test wearing has shown the NICE system feels quite comfortable against the body.

A full review of the NICE frame can be found HERE.

 

HARNESS –

The contoured straps are similar to the DG-6 in that they have a 3-dimensional structure with a plastic stiffener in them that interacts at the shoulder to maximise comfortable load transference and prevent the load from turning the strap into a piece of string under a high load.

The harness has a sternum strap, and top tensioners like that found on most good quality hiking packs. Also fitted are elastic and Velcro loops to manage hydration bladder hoses.

The substantial and very comfortable hip belt is like others of the range from a design and usability point of view. There is PALS rows fitted to the hip belt, allowing pouches to be fitted to the belt for the wearer’s preferences. The fully adjustable hip loading belt also has a clever way to adjust the running end to allow a reduction of flapping belt to reduce snag hazards in vehicles and close terrain which is impressive to see.

The harness is lined with a mesh material to reduce heat retention and such problems as chafing.

 

RUCKSACK –

The Wolf Alpha is a traditional top-loading rucksack with a twist.

The pack lid is a detachable item that can be used as a small daypack. It could conceivably be used as an Escape and Evasion bag for those moments when immediate survival items are needed. It is secured to the pack frame via lockable fastex clips at top and bottom and has a harness system tucked away in a pocket for immediate use.

A nice design point on the fastex closure for top and bottom of the lid is the ability to undo the top portion for access to any radio controls, without having to muck around as much with the pack. A nice feature.

The top zip pocket of this lid has an access port for a hose, so this would suggest that it’s intended for storing a hydration bladder. One could easily carry a 3L bladder within it. The positioning of the pack lid is such that if a hydration bladder is fitted, that it’s in the most optimal balance point.

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The bottom has some daisy-chain/PALS rows that allow items to be lashed to the pack bottom, and has two lockable fastex clip cargo straps to do this.

 

 

The sides of the ruck have PALS rows to attach pouches and tailor the load carried.

Below these PALS rows are pockets for Nalgene bottles or the stowage of long, awkward items with the aid of the compression straps.

There is also two handles on the sides of the pack to assist the carriage/lifting/handling of the pack in other scenarios than just simple wearing of the pack.

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The back of the ruck has two long vertical pouches secured via zip. In between these two dorsal pouches is a vertical zip to allow access to the internal contents of the pack.

 

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The top of the rucksack has a dual draw-string storm collar to seal the pack up against the elements and allow extra capacity to be packed in.

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Also at the storm collar is a velcro access panel to any manpack radios that may be carried. We all know I prefer a draw-string for sealing up my pack, rather than the roll-top I have on my DG-3.

Inside the ruck is the exposed stays of the frame, and internal straps to relieve stress on the various zips. There’s also an internal pocket to stow a manpack radio.

Due to the clip-on nature of the pack bag onto the NICE frame, the Wolf Alpha can be used in two modes. The low capacity mode where the pack bag is clipped onto the NICE frame as seen in my photo’s, and a high capacity mode, where the pack bag is clipped on allowing a Wolf Pup water proof sack to be attached to the bottom of the frame. This allows the pack to have a separate sleeping bag compartment if need be.

 

PERSONAL ASSESSMENT:

The Wolf Alpha provides a useful load for several days travel if need be. I loaded it up with my usual load for several days in the wilds.

Spare clothing, like thermal underwear and raincoat, shelter, stove and kitchen items were put into the pack. There’s plenty of space for food and other sundries.

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The access zip in the back of the pack is a nice touch. Although my well-known fetish of disliking zips on my bush gear made me twitch slightly, the concept for being able to access equipment without going through the top of the pack is growing on me.

I quite liked the pack for being able to sit well within the shoulders. For me, this makes the pack well suited to my style of minimalist, “ultra-light” tendencies. My thoughts was that this pack would be ideal for travel through the urban jungle, of which I do a fair bit nowadays, and be just as comfortable for an extended stay in the wilds.

 

PROS –

Very high design and construction standards.

Frame and harness combo is a very comfortable one.

The access zip allows better access into the load contents compared to a traditional top loader.

It’s a good pack for those who desire a streamlined pack that sits within the shoulders. I think it could be ideal for such tight terrain as jungle and thick scrub.

 

CONS –

My usual bleat against the Mystery Ranch range about the lack of quick release buckle on the harness. Although this has now been fixed for the Australian market.

I have some concern about the strain placed upon the access zip on the back of the pack. Although it would seem that if care is used when packing the ruck to not “bulge” the middle, it should be fine.

Exchange rates between the Australian dollar and the Greenback is good now, but subject to fluctuation.

 

SUMMARY:

I like this pack so much, I’ll be acquiring one myself. I will be speaking with Dana from Mystery Ranch about getting one of these with a few modifications and additions in line with my tastes and fetishes.

I’m thinking this will be a worthy replacement for my DG-6 as my “anti-social” pack, as a sign of just how much I like this one.


Posted in Long Range, Mystery Ranch, Overnight, Packs & Webbing by with 7 comments.

Comments

  • Mic Stavar says:

    Gday,
    I am looking at purchasing the MR NICE Wolf Alpha from Military Gear for hunting/hiking use. Does the BVS assist when no armor is worn or will the standard NICE frame do the job? Will be used for 3-5 day hunts and hikes in steep terrain.
    Regards,
    Mic

    • Mic Stavar says:

      P.S. I play around in South East Qld so no huge arctic loads carried if it make a difference.
      Mic

      • 22F says:

        G’day Mate,

        Personally, if I wasn’t wearing body armour, I wouldn’t bother with the BVS feature at all. The NICE frame is stable and comfortable enough as it is.

  • Dunepipe says:

    Hi Mate

    Looking at a new field pack for an Infantry Chocco officer.

    I really like the look of the wolf, but concerned about size if i’m packing a 500/extra stores and cold weather gear for Vic. Also limited pouches on the outside of the pack for easy access.

    What’s your opinion? The other option is a more Alice style pack with the benefit of being able to have access to more on the outside of the pack potentially with a NICE frame

    Dunepipe

    • 22F says:

      G’day Dunepipe,

      Great to see you’ve made it over here mate.
      My suggestion, would be the new DG-6 (compatible with AUSNICE frame) that’s recently been released.

      I have one I’ve been playing with, just haven’t had the time to write that review up yet.
      The DG-6 is a little bit bigger than the Wolf Alpha, and better setup for military usage. You’ll easily be able to fit a decent sleeping bag, and radio into is, whilst being having your kit more easily accessible.

      There’s also four external pouches for day-to-day small items on the outside, with ability to add more on the sides.

      I hope to have the new DG-6 review up soon, but real life keeps getting in the way at the moment.

      Hope this helps.
      Mick

  • Liam says:

    HI,
    Got a chance to buy a MR wolf pack.
    Would be using it for short back pack hunting. I head inland not up into the mountains.
    Also thinking maybe of using it for hiking til I get a proper pack.
    I’m a light packer as well.

    Sorry to bump an old thread.

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