REVIEW – Mystery Ranch Overload Alpha

ITEM: Overload Alpha



A specialist patrol pack of 54L, but possesses an expandable cargo area between the frame and rucksack that is designed to carry awkward objects, such as mortar tubes, ammunition boxes and long rifles.

The unique design of this pack allows it to be used in two modes: a conventionally configured top-loading patrol pack, and expanded out to a cargo carrying mode.



The Overload Alpha has been graciously supplied by Military Gear, one of the Australian suppliers of Mystery Ranch.


Due to the vagaries of real life, the Overload Alpha has not been fully field tested.






Height – 23in (58.5cm)

Width – 13in (33cm)

Depth – 9in (23cm)

Volume – 3300 cubic inches (54L) in main rucksack compartment, but is expandable depending upon the load.

Weight – 8lbs 13oz (3.99 kg)


ATS Raid on the left, Overload Alpha on the right:





500 Denier cordura for the main body

Webbing tape

plastic buckles











This pack uses the Mystery Ranch NICE Frame. It’s a hybrid internal and external frame.  Experience has shown the NICE system is very comfortable against the body.


For a full assessment of the NICE frame, please refer to my review HERE.



The rucksack is based upon the Mystery Ranch Wolf Alpha (reviewed HERE). It is of top loading construction with an interesting variation to account for it’s specialist load capability. Let’s look closer.


Unlike other rucksacks in the Mystery Ranch line, the Overload is attached to the NICE frame by what could be described as a beaver-tail.

This beaver-tail is quite well secured to the NICE Frame, and is adjustable for length to account for the depth of the cargo carried. The attention to detail from Mystery Ranch is apparent, as per usual.



At the apex of the beaver tail are two accessories to allow carriage of unusual items. One is a bucket to secure the end of a rifle butt, and the other is a bucket to secure a mortar tube, up to 60mm in size.

Both of these load buckets are user removable should they not be required.

Mortar tube bucket:



Rifle butt bucket:



There are a series of cargo straps to properly secure the cargo load to the rucksack. In addition, the back of the rucksack/cargo area has some stiffeners and a non-slip abrasive resistant panel. This protects both the cargo load, and the rucksack load from each other.



The load can be secured, and then the rucksack can be re-attached to the NICE Frame.


There are also two elasticated sleeves that can be used to stow long objects, such as tripod components, aiming stakes and other random items.




The Overload lid is a little different to other packs in the Mystery Ranch range, being of a simple flap of material. It has a field of loop velcro material for the attachment of IFF/morale patches.



This simple flap lid can be rolled away and a Mystery Ranch detachable daypack lid can be used instead.



It strikes me that a hi-viz panel could be sewn onto this simple flap, for those moments when recognition from others are needed.


The rucksack component of the Overload is a little bit smaller than comparable packs in the Mystery Ranch line-up, to account for the fact that this rucksack could be further away from the centre of gravity of the wearer due to the load carried in the cargo area.

The main compartment is secured with a dual draw-string storm collar to seal the pack up against the elements and allow extra capacity to be packed in.



There is also a dual headed zipper for access into the main rucksack compartment for hydration hoses or radio handsets.



The external surface of the rucksack has the Mystery Ranch signature external dorsal pouches on the back portion, with a zip allowing access into the main compartment between these two external pouches.



On the sides are PALS rows in order to attach modular pouches to customise the load. There are also two handles the sides of the pack to assist the carriage/lifting/handling of the pack in other scenarios than just simple wearing of the pack.


On each side of the rucksack, there are also two load compression straps to better control the load within the rucksack and the external shelf load. These compression straps also allow long items such as aiming stakes or M72 SRAAW’s to be stowed on the outside of the pack.

Down the bottom of the side panels are elasticated pockets that will carry Nalgene water bottles or aid in securing those long items lashed under the compression straps.



On the bottom surface of the rucksack are some daisy chain to allow equipment to be lashed on.



Inside the rucksack is a panel of PALS to allow such storage solutions as pouches, or the Mystery Ranch radio wrap.




Overload in patrol pack mode:



IMG_0769 id mod




Overload in cargo carrying mode, with ammunition liner:







Overload in rifle carrying mode:














I’ve been impressed with the Overload as a specialist pack for those really awkward loads, such as mortar tubes, sniper weapon systems, and other traditionally difficult to carry loads. It’s a pretty flexible design that still allows the pack to be used as a normal patrol pack.


When carrying really awkward objects, the load is kept as close to the center of gravity as possible, keeping the load as secure and as safe as possible.


I’m not going to pretend I have any real experience about carrying such things, but I certainly can appreciate the ability of this pack to accommodate such items easily, and safely for the wearer. Fortunately, I was able to speak to some actual end-users who were able to provide some very good feedback.


I’m led to believe that the Overload has recently been introduced into the Australian Army to sniper cells/platoons to carry their specialist equipment and weapons. I was very fortunate in being able to demonstrate the pack to a particular sniper cell in one of the Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment (one would say THE premier Battalion in the Regiment). It was great to have a chat with those blokes, since the last time I worked with that Battalion when I was serving, I nearly got into a punch-up. These diggers are now carrying a mandated 60 kilogram combat load. Such a load is crushing, and liable to cause some serious long term injury.


For my visit, the lads brought all their toys, kit and kaboodle that they need to carry, in order to ascertain whether the Overload would be suitable for their usage. These sub-units are now equipped with the SR-98 sniper rifle (Accuracy International Artic Warfare in 7.62mmNATO), and AW-50 Anti-Material Rifle.

Initially, the rifle butt bucket on the lower end of the beaver tail was used to stow the rifle, but was found to be less than ideal for moving without impediment, because the rifle butt hung too low – interfering with the legs, moving through close country and being able to squat down.

The ability to stow their SR-98 rifles into the cargo area, with the butt folded was seen as a good thing for them. In this configuration, the barrel was only a short distance above the sniper’s head, and nothing hanging below the main body of the pack. Positive comment was made about the capability to navigate close country and confined spaces in this configuration – especially since members of the platoon had just completed an embarkation exercise with Royal Australian Navy troop carrying assets. Such a mode of carriage also protected the Schmidt and Bender optics on the rifle, which was another concern for those end-users.


This sub-unit also dragged out their AW50F Anti-Material Rifles to try out with this pack. These weapon systems are the .50BMG variant of the Artic Warfare, and due to size and weight, are preferred to be manpacked items until the final engagement sequence, rather than carried in the hands. The Overload showed promise to the sniper teams to allow a rapid and easy deployment method for this weapon system.


At the last Land Warfare Conference, held in Melbourne last year (trip report HERE), I was able to speak with several young officers of the Corps of Royal Australian Artillery who were looking for load carrying solutions for their role of Forward Observers. They liked the idea of the dedicated radio pack the Comms2 (review seen HERE), but thought that pack was a little bit too specialised for them, and didn’t provide enough cargo capacity for everyday living items such as rations, water, cold weather clothing and shelter. These young officers and their FO party liked the idea of the Overload to carry their manpack radios and still be capable of independent living in the field, whilst providing easy access to their radio sets and personal equipment.


For my own use, due to the vagaries of real life, I have only been able to test the Overload on training walks and conduct basic tests that I would check my equipment before heading into the wilds.


My thought is that the Overload should be more user friendly and carry a more useable load than it’s sibling the CrewCab (reviewed HERE), depending upon the actual load and items to be carried.


Pros –

For those who really prefer a top loading pack with extra cargo carrying capability, the Overload is an excellent option.


Due to the expandable cargo area/beaver tail device, the Overload allows a user to have a normal looking and functioning patrol pack should they not be saddled with their awkward load.

Even with the cargo area being fully utilised, there is a very good chance that the wearer shouldn’t stand out too much from others in the crowd if that is an operational requirement. This camouflage works both ways, it could hide the wearer from those Morale-Vampires who always seem to be on the prowl for unusual kit being carried, and who simply exist to make the wearers life more miserable than it has to be.


Cons –

Like most things in life, the Overload has some small faults or funnies that need to be considered.

The main one for me, is that care should be taken to ensure a correctly balanced load is packed for use. Because of the unusual layout of this pack, I would suggest more care than usual is made by the end-user to ensure that the really heavy items are placed as close to the back of the wearer as possible to ensure best load carriage.

It would be entirely too easy to incorrectly load this pack, and cause some discomfort or even injury.


Another issue that jumps out at me, is strap management. Due to the design, and the necessity to secure the load within the cargo area/beaver tail, and secure the rucksack to the frame, there is a heap of extra straps hanging all over the place.  Applying a bit of time and care means this shouldn’t be a real problem.




Another high quality offering from Mystery Ranch that has some applications for those unfortunate enough to be saddled with unusual loads.

It would be worthy of considering this pack with such loads as long rifles, mortar tubes or anything else that may be long and unwieldy.

Posted in Military, Military Gear, Mystery Ranch, Packs & Webbing, Specialist by with 2 comments.

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