Gear Review: Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45 and Beartooth 80
By Brad Brooks
In the hunting world there are a lot of fancy backpacks these days, but the new Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45 and Beartooth 80 packs are great additions to the backcountry hunting pack world with some features that set them apart. The design changes are subtle but significant with some new features that will make them particularly appealing to anyone looking for one do-it-all pack.
The Sawtooth 45 and the Beartooth 80 are similar packs in two different sizes, but both are made with gear organization in mind. The Sawtooth is ideal for day hunting up to weekend backpack trips, and the Beartooth is a great pack for longer backcountry trips. For hunters familiar with the Mystery Ranch line of packs, the Sawtooth and Beartooth are completely different than anything else in their hunting pack lineup largely due to the new zipper and bag configuration.
All New Guide Light MT Frame System
The new frame system in both the Sawtooth 45 and Beartooth 80 is subtle, but should provide for a more customized and comfortable fit while also cutting weight off of the Guide Light Frame. The new frame has smaller carbon fiber supports stays that reduce weight and ad flexibility, and the adjustability of the yoke was changed to accommodate a larger range of torso lengths.
The other promising feature of the new frame system is the hip belt, which has a larger lumbar pad and a more flexible 5 piece hip belt which is designed to wrap around your waist better and provide a more comfortable ride with heavy loads. Additionally, the new hip belts also feature MOLLE webbing on the side for accessory attachments.
Importantly, both packs still feature Mystery Ranch's Overload function, which allows you to carry as much meat as you can handle between the bag and the frame during the packout. The only difference with the new frame system is a change to new buckles that make transforming the packs into overload function slightly quicker and easier.
We have not had a chance to abuse the new frame system in the field, but it looks and feels a lot like the same frame system Mystery Ranch has relied on for years. The changes are an upgrade from the Guide Light Frame, but most people likely won't recognize much of any change in the functionality of the pack or frame as the changes are subtle.
The Sawtooth 45 has everything you would want in a daypack with enough space for lightweight weekend backpack hunting trips. The most notable feature of the Sawtooth 45 is the 270 degree zippered access, which allows you to access the entire contents of your bag when you need to dump everything out, or find that energy bar buried in the bottom of your pack. The zipper system on the Sawtooth 45 is handy for quickly getting at gear in the field, whether you have a spotting scope tucked on the side, a jacket on top or gloves inside the main compartment. Check out the video above to see how it works in action.
I've always been a fan of the simplicity of Mystery Ranch packs, but the new pockets on the Sawooth 45 add just enough gear organization for the small items that you need to keep easily accessible. There are two internal mesh pockets, as well as two stretch woven pockets on the side to keep items secure or separate from the rest of your gear. And to top it off there is a single top lid pocket. All the pockets you could want, but nothing superfluous.
Compression Straps and Weapon Attachment
While the Sawtooth 45 bag size is perfect for day hunting or up to a couple nights in the backcountry, the positioning of the compression straps still allows for the pack to synch down well without it looking like you're carrying a roll of loose fabric on your back. Even with the zipper configuration, the straps still clamp down and allow you to secure a load.
One thing Mystery Ranch kept with the new bag design is flexibility with how and where to attach your bow or rifle. For rifles, you have the option of both sides or the face of your pack for attachment, and for your bow, you can attach it right-side up or down based on whether you want your bow to extend above or below your pack. And allowing the buckles to pass through the two exterior water bottle pockets was a smart move as it still allows you to have the functionality of dual side-zippered compression straps without the straps interfering with the exterior pockets.
The Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45 is an impressive pack from top to bottom. I like a clean, simple pack with just a enough pockets for me to put a few essentials like a headlamp, knife and a few other small items, but also easy and quick access to a jacket and spotting scope. Mystery Ranch nailed the design on this pack with both the size and the gear organization. Combine that with the Overload function and the weapon attachment and compression strap flexibility and this pack punches well above its' size. The 270 degree zippered access coupled with the pockets and compression straps make the Sawtooth 45 a killer pack that I imagine will be one of the most popular in the line-up.
The Beartooth fills a size gap for those that want a pack larger than the Mystery Ranch Metcalf, but not as big as the Mystery Ranch Marshall. The Beartooth 80 is perfect for multi day backpack hunting and can handle up to a week's worth of gear, or slightly more if you pack light. For a larger pack, the Beartooth also compacts down remarkable well with the compression straps to make for a usable daypack that doesn't feel like a loose sail floating around on your back as you hike around during the day.
There are several changes that make the Beartooth 80 an entirely different pack for Mystery Ranch.
Gear Organization and Access
Much like the Sawtooth 45, the Beartooth 80 has a lot of options for gear organization. First, the dual top lid. Much like the lid on the Metcalf, the top lid is perfect for smaller items you need access to throughout the day, but can be removed if you don't need the extra space. In addition to the lid, there are two large internal mesh pockets for gloves and other small items you want separated from the rest of your gear.
Then there is the 270 degree zippered access, which makes access to items like jackets and spotting scopes easy. This new design feature provides a lot of flexibility, which is helpful with a bigger sized bag when you need to grab something deep inside the bag. Maybe I'm the only one that has this problem, but being able to find gear when you need it without pulling everything out is handy.
When you start filling some larger packs, attaching your bow or rifle can make the pack look and feel a little unruly. At first glance, the asymmetrical alignment of the three side buckles on the Beartooth 80 look out of place. But the position of the buckles is designed to allow quick and easy rifle attachment by sliding the but of your rifle into the pocket of the pack. Attaching a bow to the face of the pack is also quick and easy, and depending on whether you prefer to invert your bow or attach it right-side up, you have plenty of straps to safely secure it.
Just like the Sawooth 45, I really like the new Beartooth 80. It is great addition to the Mystery Ranch family that is sure to become a crowd favorite for those looking for a little more space in their pack for backpack hunting trips. The pack size is on the larger end, but it doesn't feel overly large when it is full, and the width is narrow enough that I can still draw and shoot my bow with the pack on. This pack was clearly purpose built for backpack hunters that are looking for a little more gear organization and a slightly larger bag. If backpack hunting, or more space in your pack is something you are interested in, you won't be disappointed in the Beartooth 80.