Outdoor Gear Reviews

Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 Review by Trent Marsh

A good bag is worth the weight in gold of what you can carry in it. Sometimes even more. For a lot of hunts, you can get by with what you can get in your pockets. When you’re only a few hundred yards from your truck, cabin or house, your bag just doesn’t matter much.

Backcountry hunts for elk or mule deer hunts are not a place to ignore the value of a good bag.

As I approached my first archery elk hunt last September, I knew I needed to upgrade my pack from my typical whitetail rig to something more robust.

The Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 was the choice.


There’s no attribute I value more for my gear than versatility. While there are certainly items that are purpose-designed, I want gear that can serve in a variety of applications and conditions. A quick look at the Pop Up 40 shows that it can function as an oversized daypack, or if you’re getting skinny and going deep, you could make it work as a pack for a stake camp.

The Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 is the choose-your-own-adventure version of a backcountry pack. It doesn’t have a lot of small, obscure pockets with specific purposes that become unusable if you don’t hunt the way the pack is designed.

The pack has a single main compartment secured by a cinch strap and several compression straps to lock down any extra material when not full. There is also a pocket on the lid. Each side has an open-top pocket with elastic to hold water bottle, spotting scope, or bugle tube. 

As a flatlander, I’m not accustomed to packing out meat, I can drag or drive my animals to where I need to get. That wasn’t going to be the case in elk country. So a pack that could tackle packing out quarters was a must. The Pop Up 40 uses what Mystery Ranch calls the OVERLOAD feature. The external pack frame telescopes at the top so you can get the weight where you want it for your pack out. My hunt didn’t allow me to test the 80-pound rating on the frame, but I was rucking 60 pounds of sand in the weeks running up to the hunt, and it never wavered.

Another nice bonus of that frame is the ¼-20 threaded stud in the middle of it. Being able to leave the tripod in camp and use your pack frame to glass is a major bonus.

Be sure to take advantage of the customization of the Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40. The adjustable yoke ensures that the pack rides high enough to get the waist belt high on your hips. If you’re new to this kind of pack you probably have a fundamental misunderstanding of where the weight should be carried. It absolutely should not be on your shoulders. The pack should rest on your hips and be high on your back.

We can all remember those high school days, trudging home with chemistry textbooks and a dozen notepads. Just getting from our locker to the bus was enough to give us early-onset back problems. Why was that? Because school bags don’t have waist belts. All the weight is carried in the shoulder straps, and it wrecks you over short distances with light loads, let alone at 10,000 feet packing 80 pounds of elk meat on a 10-mile round trip.

Getting into shape for the hunt I was rucking a total pack weight over 60 pounds and doing three-to-five-mile trips two or three times a week. I was amazed at how comfortable it was moving that amount of weight with a pack that was designed for it. I can’t overstate how eye-opening that was for me going into the hunt, let alone during it.


I wouldn’t go as far as to say I forgot I was wearing it, but I can’t imagine a more comfortable setup than the Pop Up 40. I had everything I needed for an extended daypack setup, I had water, tools, spotter, everything in a basic elk hunting kit, and I made a habit of logging almost ten miles a day.

At no point was my pack the limiting factor.

I felt right at home on the mountain with the Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 on my back.

I chased some bugles and saw a few elk but well above average temperatures, a full moon, and three preceding weeks of pressure made the hunting difficult so I wasn’t able to test the OVERLOAD feature during the hunt.

For me, a pack has to hit three points. Is it comfortable? Does it pack the gear it needs to? Does it solve problems instead of creating them?

The Pop Up 40 checks all three boxes easily.


  • The adjustable yoke and waist belt makes sure you can get the pack to ride exactly where it needs to for comfort, safety, and functionality.
  • Plenty of storage for an extended daypack or for use as a minimalist backcountry pack.
  • Threaded yoke stud for spotter use.
  • Comfort, comfort, comfort!


  • If you like lots of pockets to segment things, you won’t find them here.
  • There are a lot of buckles, which is great for keeping things in place, but it can also be a lot to get into the main pack.
  • The lid pack rides pretty low and it can be difficult to keep it out of the way of the main pouch opening because it doesn’t clear the yoke the way it attaches.


I’m a big fan of products that do exactly what they say they will do. The Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 does exactly that. It’s a quality pack from a brand with a sterling reputation, and it does a great job of straddling the line between daypack and serious meat hauling tool.

Preference plays a part on some of the features. I like the more open, single pouch design. Some hunters are going to want homes and places and pouches for everything. Aside from that, unless you really just don’t care for the buckle style, it’s hard to find much to nitpick about it.

It’s a great pack that does exactly what it says it will.

Mystery Ranch Pop Up 40 KEY SPECS

Weight – 5.3 pounds

Volume – 2440 cubic inches

330D Lite plus CORDURA fabric

Available in Coyote, Foliage, or Optifade Subalpine

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