Dana Gleason, Principal/Designer at Bozeman, Montana/based MYSTERY RANCH, spoke about his company’s expanding load-bearing products, and their underlying materials and technology, with MONCh US correspondent Marty Kauchak.
MONCh: We’ve followed for years the ‘good intentions’ of conventional and special operations forces to reduce the loads borne by their men and women in the field – these efforts do not appear to have been entirely successful – thus, the increasing demand for your products.
Dana Gleason: Yes, many operators are carrying 50kg [110lbs], 60kg loads. All of the packs we build are designed from function and fit, to design and comfort, that are easy to use, and we help reduce injuries a very great deal. We again come to SOFIC out of 30 years in the outdoor industry. We know what is possible in terms of making loads more comfortable for operational troops. Soldiers want their packs to work easily and well – and if they adjust for sizing it can make a huge difference.
MONCh: Mystery Ranch appears to focus on incremental change, using patented, proven enhancements derived from collaboration military services and industry, rather than a constant flow of high-visibility, new product roll-outs.
Dana Gleason: Yes, that is why, in part, we developed, on a patented basis, the ‘Futura adjustment system’ that allows the pack to be adjusted right on the soldier’s back in about 20-30 seconds. Today’s service man or woman on a mission has a lot on their mind – there is not a lot of tolerance for tweaking around with the backpack, even if it will make it more comfortable. As far back as 2005/6, we started to look more closely at load-bearing with armour on. While I have never been in the military, many of our work force members have – helping us to learn a lot and better ask questions, instead of knowing what our brothers needed.
MONCh: Your Rapid Access Trauma System (RATS) pack appears to be one effort that ‘plays well’ with body armour.
Dana Gleason: Yes, and it has a Bolstered Ventilation and Stability System, made of EVA foam and is removable, that you will see on virtually all of our military packs. These are built so that if you wearing this over a plate carrier, this props down on the side and prevents the pack from wobbling around.
MONCh: Mystery Ranch packs are in use at US Special Operations Command and US Marine Corps and US Army. Where else will we find your products?
Dana Gleason: Quite a few European militaries – we work very well in Great Britain and France, Canadian SOF-affiliated use our products. And we have issued packs in Australia.
MONCh: The Australia contract may have helped open the door for other military and even industrial partnerships in Asia Pacific.
Dana Gleason: Yes, that started to allow us to learn the ins and outs of Asian manufacturing, in addition to Berry Compliant US manufacturing. That has grown and grown to this day – where we’re building about 50% of our products in the US. We have helped YKK’s zipper line evolve and meet military specifications. We have also helped bring new developments in fabric (coatings that add to material strength, and others) to the US military’s attention. Today about 50% of our products are tactical/firefighting-based (our mission business) and the other one-half is sold is stores as outdoors gear.
MONCh: And your other major military packs beyond RATS?
Dana Gleason: We have the Body Armor and Load Carriage programme for USSOCOM. That is three different packs all based on the same external frame. The numbers for BALC are getting up into the 10,000s. And another product, KOMODO DRAGON, is built with three zippers to get into the pack – not snapping buckles and such. It built so as you open it, all of your stuff doesn’t fall out. There are detail pockets and many other accessories.
We also do design work on a contract basis – the air borne pack out of NATICK [NATICK Soldier Systems Center, Massachusetts] for instance, that the US Marines wanted to adopt for one their rucks. On a contractual basis, not a sole source supply basis, we did the final design work on the Marine’s ruck, reducing 40% off the weight and really increasing waterproofing and other attributes.
MONCh: You are also paying attention to emerging, evolving requirements for cold weather/extreme cold weather operations.
Dana Gleason: Yes, we are working, co-developing, with our friends in the Canadian Forces in the high Arctic for a pack. One of the things that has been getting a lot of attention has been using sleds to carry a larger part of your load in addition to your pack. We’ll have products going into units at least six or twelve months before we ‘go public’.
MONCh: Thank for a very much for this informative interview!