Make that backpack your own... and put it on a diet

Gutting backpack weight

Backcountry hunters seem to continuously tinker or tweak their various set ups. Creating a piece of gear that is unique to you instills a sense of pride whether it’s a set of custom colored bowstrings or arrow fletchings or a rifle that has been dipped to match your favorite camo—we all understand how the tiny details are incredibly satisfying. When it comes to backpack hunting, shaving off every ounce you can makes a major difference. Cutting edges of maps or the tops off of Mountain House meals might seem a little crazy to some hunters, but not to those who hunt the backcountry and live out of our backpacks. Your pack is no different; many of us have been tweaking our packs for years to fit exactly what we need without adding any extra weight. Some packs these modifications will do more for, others you can still modify to best suit your specific situation.

The most comfortable packs are typically the heaviest or so it can seem. This is why I am excited to run with a specific piece of gear this year: the Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack. Mystery Ranch is notorious for being both extremely comfortable and nearly indestructible. The Marshall has a layout that fits well with my style of hunting and, with a few tweaks, will fit it perfectly. In the following article, I’ll show you how I have made it “my Marshall” and, along the way, most likely illuminate a few of my own OCDs.

Changing zipper pulls

Stock p-cord pulls on Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack
Stock zipper pull cords.
Old zipper pull p-cord weight
Old zipper pull p-cord weight of 18.2 grains.

The first change that I made to the pack was to cut the zipper pulls off. They were a little long so I shortened them and made them out of 1.8mm cord.

New zipper pull p-cord weight
New zipper pull p-cord weight of 8.8 grains.

I used orange with a reflective thread in it, which has the little added bonus of being visual when you are looking for your pack in the dark after an evening stalk. Orange will also be my bowstring color this year—have to please those OCDs.

Drawcord change

Drawcord on Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack
New 1.8mm p-cord on the snowcollar drawcords.

I also switched out the drawcords at the top of the pack: one on the snow collar and one on the main pack closer. I did this mainly to make the pack unique to me, but it also cut some weight, albeit less than an ounce.

Removing the fanny pack belt

Removing fanny pack belt on Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack

The next modification that I made was cutting out the fanny pack belt from the lid. I can tell you that I have never used a pack lid in this function and they always seem to get cut from my packs. This might be a nice function for some, but it doesn’t work for me.

Cutting out the fanny pack belt

I used a Havalon Piranta Edge knife although scissors might have been better.

Burning the frayed ends of the straps

Use caution when you start cutting and burn the severed ends to keep them from fraying.

Removing fabric on top lid of Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack

There's also another section of fabric to remove on the top lid.

Continued below.

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Main compartment cutting

Removing sleeping bag divider in Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack

Moving on into the main compartment: There is a dividing shelf that separates the bottom compartment from the top.

Removing main backpack compartment buckles

It is sewn in on the one side and uses buckles to attach to the other side. Because I prefer one big compartment, I cut out this shelf.

Removing sleeping bag compression strap

In the same compartment there is also a compression strap that is used to hold items like a sleeping bag in place. I don’t plan to use it so I cut it out, too.

Additional areas to cut weight

Cutting backpack straps to lose weight

Cutting backpack straps to lose weight

Removing backpack daisy chain to save weight

There are several other areas in this pack where you could easily reduce weight. For instance, the daisy chain that runs down the back might get the knife along with the excess strapping on a few of the compression straps; however, for now, I’m happy with my current modifications that improve functionality and decrease weight. So, if you wanted to dive even further on modifying this pack, I could easily reduce the overall weight by at least a pound (which I might still do in the future).

Weight savings of a Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack

Total weight
Zipper pulls18.2 gr.8.8 gr.9.4 gr. per zipper79.2 gr.
Snow collar cord132.6 gr.108.6 gr.12 gr. per cord24 gr.
Fanny pack435.8 gr.
402.0 gr.
99.2 gr.
0--937 gr.
Sleeping bag
513.8 gr.
245.8 gr.
239.8 gr.
223.6 gr.
0--1,223 gr.
Total in ounces5.17 oz

Cubic inches per ounce of pack weight

Right off the bat it might not seem like taking 5.17 ounces of weight off the Mystery Ranch Marshall backpack is that much. But, this turns a 6,408 ci pack that used to weigh 7 lb. 2 oz., into a 6 lb. 12 oz pack. To take it a step further the pack weighs 108 ounces and the amount of cubic inches per ounce is 59.33 or 0.0168 ounces per cubic inch. A quick look at a similar backpack, the Stone Glacier Sky 5900 weighs 5 lbs. 8 oz. and is 5,900 cubic inches. Or 88 ounces and the amount of cubic inches per ounce is 67.05 or 0.0149 ounces per cubic inch.

One word of caution: making modifications this extreme will definitely void most warranties for many pack manufacturers.

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