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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Mystery Ranch Broomstick pack > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

Mystery Ranch Broomstick Day Pack
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
May 25, 2009



Male, 62 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.91 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too.  Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect. 

Especially pertinent to this review - I'm an avid skier who does most of my backcountry winter traveling on skis, either touring or in search of powder stashes for some downhill telemark turns. 

Broomstick with shovel and probeWhat It Is.  The Broomstick is a skier's day pack that is, according to its maker, "designed for in-bounds yoyo hikes."  In skiing argot, to yo-yo is to ski and re-ascend a particular run or area repeatedly, going down and up like a yo-yo.  For some particularly appealing runs, even within a patrolled ski area, this may require boot packing – carrying skis and hiking uphill to reach the starting point. 

That's the Broomstick's stated purpose.  As explained below, I've found other uses for this ingenious pack. 

Manufacturer: Mystery Ranch,
Year Purchased: 2008
Listed weight: 14 oz (397 g)
Measured weight: 14.6 oz (414 g) without probe holder.  That weighs an additional 1.7 oz (48 g).
Measured dimensions: 10.9 in (28 cm) across the front pocket.  Length depends on the user's shovel (see "How it works" below.)
Listed volume: 100 cubic inches (1.63 liters)
Color: Mine is titanium (grey).  Also available in black.
MSRP: $75 US
Country of manufacture: "Made entirely in the U.S.A."

Minimalist isn't a word normally associated with Mystery Ranch, a company better known for expedition, military, and hunting packs, but it certainly applies to the Broomstick.  This pack is little more than a sling for carrying a shovel, avalanche probe, and, when necessary, skis.  The only inside storage capacity is a small zippered pocket (that's the volume listed above), just big enough for lunch, a first aid or ski repair kit, or a spare pair of goggles or sunglasses.  Mystery Ranch's website doesn't list materials, but the Broomstick appears to be made of heavy-duty Cordura-like fabric.

How it works.  A 5.1 inch (13 cm) wide strip runs along the bottom of the front side of the Broomstick, creating a pocket.  As can be seen in the photograph, into that pocket fits the cutting edge of a backpacker's snow shovel.  Two two-inch (5 cm) straps, one at the approximate mid-point and the other just below the shovel handle, have hook-and-loop connectors on one side.  These encircle the shovel shaft.  A small webbing strap with a quick-release buckle is then threaded through the shovel's D-handle or looped around its T-handle.  The shovel when added gives the Broomstick a backbone, or, to use Mystery Ranch's word, "structure."

The Broomstick's length is adjustable.  At the bottom its webbing threads through an adjuster clip, so I can shorten or lengthen the webbing so that the end of the shovel shaft immediately adjacent to the handle sits right at the top hook-and-loop strap on the Broomstick.  This clever and easy-to-use feature means that though the Broomstick comes in only one size it can carry shovels of different lengths without compromising a secure fit.  That's a significant improvement over many of my available alternatives, especially when a chosen pack has no shovel-specific pocket.  In that case I must often use compression straps whose placement bears no relationship to handle length and require serious jerry-rigging to ensure a well-lashed handle.  Jerry-rigging hasn't always succeeded, as I've lost a shovel shaft or two in a fall.  But not with the Broomstick.

If I'm carrying a separate avalanche probe (one of mine fits inside the shaft of a shovel), I place it inside the detachable probe sleeve, lay the sleeve alongside the shovel shaft, and wrap the hook-and-loop straps around both sleeve and shaft.  The top of the sleeve has another hook-and-loop patch that mates to the top strap for additional security.

Skis are easily added for a boot pack.  The Broomstick has a fixed webbing loop at top of the pocket and an adjustable one near the top of the pack.  I place my skis face-to-face and lash them together with a heavy rubber band or ski leash. (My telemark skis use bindings that have no ski brakes.  Alpine, all-terrain, and randonnče ski bindings usually have brakes that allow the skis to lock together without such a helper.)  Then I slide the skis through the lower loop until the bindings catch, set the skis diagonally across the pack, and fasten the buckle on the upper webbing loop around the skis, tightening the loop as necessary to hold the skis against the front of the pack.  I've found that the more comfortable position is with the ski tips pointing down. 

This diagonal carry is one of two frequently used designs to strap skis to a backpack, but here again Mystery Ranch has added a simple but really useful new wrinkle.  Both loops are large enough to accommodate even the fattest of the fat skis now available, something not always true on so-called ski packs.  I have successfully carried skis measuring 139 mm (5.5 in) at the tips and 116 mm (4.6 in) at the waist on the Broomstick.  This is an advertised feature; Mystery Ranch recognized the move toward wider skis generally and in particular for skis designed for the powder snow that we addicts are willing to hike to ski.  Bravo!

Another advertised feature, equally appreciated, is the Broomstick's narrow profile, which allows me to ride a ski lift without having to remove my pack.

The pocket has carried my lunch, my wallet, and my cell phone, though not all at the same time.  It's too small for that.  The zipper is on the back side of the pack so I must take the pack off to access the pocket.  Therefore the pocket usually houses something that I don't expect to need immediately.  At the end of a ski day it's a handy caddy for my avalanche beacon.  Yet another clever design feature: as the shovel blade sits between the pocket and anything I may fall against, I needn't worry about the contents (lunch!) being squashed in a fall or against a chair on the ski lift. 

Shoulder straps, a sternum strap, and a hip belt of one-inch (2.5 cm) webbing hold the Broomstick firmly in place.  Until I strap on my skis I rarely notice I'm wearing it.  All straps are adjustable, the sternum strap and hip belt even up to my girth, considerable to begin with and made even larger by three winter clothing layers.

Where I've been.  I've used the Broomstick on every day ski this winter on which I've expected a boot pack or the possibility of skiing out of bounds.  That's fourteen days: three at Alta, Utah (one in the backcountry), two (ski tours) in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming; one (inbounds) at Bridger Bowl, Montana; one (mostly inbounds) at Grand Targhee, Wyoming; and seven (six inbounds) at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  On four inbounds days and all but one out-of-bounds day I boot packed, using the Broomstick to carry skis; on the other days I used the pack only to carry shovel and probe.  Activities included Nordic-style kicking and gliding, downhill telemark skiing inbounds and in the backcountry, and ski touring.  My touring and backcountry skiing require uphill hikes, on skins or by boot pack, traversing, and side-stepping as well as making turns downhill through the powder. 

As the prior paragraph suggests, my experience has led me to conclude that the Broomstick's range extends well beyond inbounds skiing.  Almost any time there's avalanche risk I want to be carrying (and want my companions likewise to be carrying) avalanche gear.  I have learned to assume some avalanche risk anywhere in the Rockies except a golf course, so that means just about any day on skis.  If I don't have to carry camping gear – that is, on a day ski - the Broomstick is a very handy way to be prepared.  I can almost always carry anything that won't fit into the Broomstick in pockets on my ski parka or between clothing layers on my upper body.  Some such gear (camera and climbing skins, for example) must be kept warm so it's better off there anyway.  The only item that can be a problem is water, and I can stash a bottle inside my jacket or keep it in a cozy and holster.

The Broomstick's perfect partner.  I've found an easy way to add storage capacity without swapping the Broomstick for a larger day pack.  This winter I've been testing a RIBZ, a front pack (Test Report accessible elsewhere on this website).  When wearing both the RIBZ and the Broomstick I can carry all I need for even an all-day ski tour requiring an extra layer or two, including two meals and water.

What I think.  On its own or complementing the RIBZ my Broomstick has fit its niche – and some more - almost perfectly.  I especially like:

·                    Security.  This pack is designed expressly to hold a shovel and probe, and hold them it does, firmly and without getting in the way of arm movement or exposing anything to tree branches or other hazards. 

·                    The adjustable length.  Sheer genius!

·                    Pocket design.  Just the right size and contents protected by the shovel.

My only suggested addition would be a bigger hip belt with small attached pockets.  That's not needed with a RIBZ, so for me the Broomstick is just right.  Another winner from Mystery Ranch!

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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Mystery Ranch Broomstick pack > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

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