Well, it’s as close to perfect as I’ve found so far. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24 “checks all the right boxes” for a full-fledged EDC backpack. It’s very tough, thoughtfully designed, light, well organized and versatile enough for the office or for a spur-of-the-moment backcountry weekend.
The Urban Assault 24 was already a stand-out performer in our recent in-depth look at 17 Super-Durable Backpacks. Since there was plenty of interest in it, I decided to do a complete Urban Assault 24 review for y’all.
This EDC backpack is actually larger upgraded version of the already popular Urban Assault 21. We’ll be taking a very detailed look at the Urban Assault 24 today to see what’s great and what could be improved.
Spoiler alert: there actually isn’t much to whine about.
Also Worth Checking Out: 17 Super Durable Backpacks That’ll Survive the Apocolypse and An Epic Guide to the Most Durable Duffel Bags on Earth.
I’d describe the Urban Assault 24 as a “sleeper.” It’s got “go muscle,” not “show muscle.”
Don’t be fooled by its understated looks. What lies beneath is all the grit and toughness of Mystery Ranch’s professional line of military rucksacks (namely their 2 Day Assault BVS.)
Urban Assault 24 Specs
The Urban Assault 24’s specs are quite impressive on paper. It’s clearly designed for the rigors of urban life while remaining a very capable day-hiker and weekender.
- Capacity: 24L (1465 cu-in)
- Rugged 500 Cordura Nylon
- Signature “3-Zip” opening
- Weatherproof Urethane coated YKK Zippers
- Direct-access Laptop and Tablet sleeves
- Dual external water bottle pockets
- Lid pocket
- Internal organizer for pens, smartphones, and chargers.
- 2 Easy-view internal mesh pockets
- 2 internal deep pockets
- Additional tablet/document sleeve.
- Lifetime Warranty
- Bonus: secret stash!
- Bonus: Hydration bladder compatible.
- Direct access to the bottom of the pack
- Very comfortable harness.
- Durable construction
- Ton’s of organization
- Excellent laptop protection
- High-quality weather-resistant zippers
- Secret stash
- Doesn’t stand up on its own
- 1000D Cordura would make it tougher (but 2x heavier).
- No drawstring for water bottle holder
- No elasticity in organizer pockets
- Only 4 color options (as of publishing)
The Urban Assault 24 is an upgraded version of the popular Urban Assault 21. Along with the signature 3-Zip design, it adds more capacity, a direct-access laptop sleave, oodles more organization and external water bottle holsters.
The Urban Assault 24 makes a light and nimble “go bag.” It sits high and snug and there is no need for a hip belt.
Plenty of thought has gone into the Urban Assault 24’s design. For instance, to remain stealthy, the Urban Assault uses paracord zipper pulls instead of noisy metal tags. Also, every zipper has a webbing loop sowed to the ends to serve as counter-grips to grab onto while zipping and unzipping.
Benefits of the 3-Zip Design
Mystery Ranch’s signature 3-Zip design is the best thing about this backpack. It allows instant full-length access to all the contents by “flaying” the whole pack wide open from top to bottom.
This makes packing easy, but more importantly, you can get right to the bottom of the fully-loaded pack without making a mess or unpacking.
- Added capacity(+3L)
- Direct-access laptop sleeve
- Improved internal organization
- 2 External water bottle pockets.
- Capability to carry a water reservoir
Mystery Ranch makes seriously durable gear.
I was Unsurprised to find no loose threads. All the seams were tight and neatly backstitched then bound again for further reinforcement.
The design itself is very serviceable too. Even the internal frame sheet can be removed for deep-cleaning or replacement.
Features of the Urban Assault 24
500D Cordura Fabric
“Cordura” is a nylon fabric brand originally developed by Dupont and widely respected as an industry-standard in ultra-durable nylon fabrics (source).
Cordura fabric is often used in things like mid to high-end protective motorcycle jackets because of its exceptional abrasion resistance. 500D Cordura is also the same rugged material Mystery Ranch uses in the “Mil-Spec” rucksacks they supply to active-duty military and law enforcement personnel.
What Does “500D” Mean Anyway?
The “D” in “500D stands for”Denier.” It’s a standard unit of measurement in the textile industry for measuring the weight of certain fabrics.
Useless fact of the day: 1 Denier is based on the weight of a 9km(5.59 mi) long strand of natural silk.
For reference sake, a pair of semi-opaque nylon pantyhose are ~40D nylon(source).
Truly durable backpacks are constructed with 500-1000D Cordura nylon or a similar weight ballistic nylon.
Harness & Comfort
Carrying some backpacks reminds me of what it might feel like to have a clumsy three-toed sloth clinging to my back. It would just hang there diggin its claws into my shoulders and swaying awkwardly with every move I made.
My point is: A good backpack should shut up and just do its job without you noticing that it was even there.
I found the Urban Assault 24 exceptionally comfortable for day hiking. The water beaded off the fabric in light rain and my camera always stayed bone dry.
Of course, its strongest suite is as an urban EDC. This was evident for my commutes. The pack is understated enough for the work environment and I especially like the layout of the internal organizer pockets.
I do have one complaint though. This backpack will not stand up on its own. The bottom of the pack is slanted so that if want to stand it up you need to lean it against something. That’s often inconvenient in especially in meeting rooms.
Overall, I find the Urban Assault 24 to be a very comfortable carry. The harness is very cushy. It’s made from densified urethane foam covered in a breathable aerospace fabric(also found the back panel)
The pack sits high and snug with no messy slack which minimizes sway. I like the tight nimble feel.
A nice little bonus is that the harness retains shape even when dismounted. So, when you go to put the pack on, the arms hold themselves out for you (like a butler holding your coat.) That’s really nice, especially when fully loaded.
Pulling on the top cinch straps allows you to adjust the height and fit of the harness system.
With 4 adjustable vertically positions, the sternum strap allows a customized fit for most body types. It is also removable.
A weatherproof YKK zipper on the lid gives access to the decent-sized mesh-backed lid pocket. It’s a great spot to stash sunglasses, keys, mobile phones, earbuds, or anything else you’ll need quickly.
Water Bottle Holsters
The two water bottle holsters are large enough to accommodate any standard Gatorade-sized water bottle, or you can stuff them with a few pairs of socks or an umbrella.
I kinda wish they had included a drawstring or elastic at the top of these pockets. I could see a looser-fitting water bottle being jostled out when running to catch the bus or when bending over to tie your shoes. Perhaps they can include this in the next refinement.
Laptop Pocket (+ 2 Cool Secrets)
Unlike the smaller Urban Assault 21, the 24 has a compartment with direct exterior access. That saves a whole lot of digging around when you’re on the move.
There are three parts to the laptop compartment.
Padded Laptop sleeve
The cushioned 15″ laptop sleeve floats above the base of the backpack to protect it from harsh impacts in case of accidental drops.
Sandwiched beside the laptop sleeve is a generously sized tablet sleeve(also floating.) I don’t personally travel with both a tablet, so I’d use the tablet sleeve for quick access to a favorite book during layovers in airport lounges.
Although it is slim it reaches the full depth of the bag. I’d suggest using a document folder to prevent bent document edges when you put the bag down.
Bonus: Hydration Bladder Compatible
Going hiking? Just use the laptop sleeve for a hydration bladder(without the laptop of course). Just feed the hose out through the zippered opening on the top of the bag.
Bonus: The Hidden Stash
Even if the Urban Assault 24 was completely emptied, flipped upside down and shaken you would never find this cool little stash. Although not purpose-built for a stash, I discovered this neat hiding spot while doing a close inspection of the laptop compartment for this Urban Assault 24 review.
How to find the secret stash: With the pack’s harness facing you, reach all the way to the bottom of the pack’s laptop compartment. At the bottom right side of the pack closest to you, you’ll feel a zipper head just under the base of the floating laptop sleeve. This is the closure that holds the pack’s plastic frame sheet. Stash put your cash or valuables in a pencil case then stuff it inside the compartment and zip it shut. Voila!
Traditional backpacks only open from the top, but Mystery Ranch backpacks can be opened from the top or “flayed” wide open using their signature “3-Zip” design.
I think the 3-Zip system is the single most compelling reasons to get one of their backpacks. Here’s why:
- You can organize and pack more easily
- You can see and access everything at all at once
- You can access the bottom of the pack without disturbing the top of the pack.
This is a flat zip-pocket about 8 inches deep and accessible from the top flap of the Urban Assault 24 even when it’s loaded. I find it’s a handy spot for travel documents or cash but you can use it for pretty much anything.
Just below the passport pocket are two large pen pockets which could hold more than one pen in each or fit a compact EDC flashlight. Along with that are two wide pockets for things like battery chargers, mobile phones or small notebooks.
Complaint: I wish the lips of these pockets had elastic in them to better secure smaller items from sliding around.
2 Mesh Side-Pockets
Mystery Ranch was thinking smart when they placed these small mesh pockets at the upper-left and right of the pack. This way, you don’t have to open the whole pack to see and access them. They are great for USB sticks, phone chargers, and other knickknacks like toiletries when you’re on the road.
If I could change one thing, I’d have made these pockets rectangular instead of semi-angled rectangles so you could fit bigger items in.
While Mystery Ranch says this pocket can be used for a tablet, I’d only do use it in a pinch(there is already another dedicated padded sleeve for a tablet). I find this space is much more suited as a dedicated document sleeve. The sleeve is is a bit too snug to slide a single sheet of paper into so I’d suggest using a folder in this sleeve.
Urban peeps could use these internal long pockets for things like laptop chargers, gym clothes, or wireless Bluetooth speakers. For weekend trips you could use these pockets for underwear, socks, a GoPro or a rain poncho...you get the idea.
What Could be Improved:
- design it with a flat bottom so it could stand up on its own
- add drawstrings to the water bottle holder
- Add elastic to the top of the internal organizer pockets
- upgrade the top carry handle to a padded grip
While researching thousands of durable products here at WellRigged.com one thing has become abundantly clear. Let me put it this way…
Durable, well-design products are painstakingly developed over time and multiple production cycles. They are refined through systematic testing and careful incremental improvements.
Toyota does this, and the Urban Assault 24 is an example of this process at work as well. It’s roots are in the 2 Day Assault BVS and a further refinement to Mystery Ranch’s bestselling Urban Assault 21. I think the Urban Assault 24 is a significant improvement over the 21.
I think that Mystery Ranch has produced one of the most practical, and durable Urban EDC backpacks on the market today.
Aside from some minor quibbles, the Urban Assault 24 has the hallmarks of a future classic. In fact, I predict It will be an industry icon someday if Mystery Ranch sticks to their guns.
At least I’ll always be able to say, “I was a fan of it before it ever went viral.”