It all began with a single, mysterious pack. One of fifty made. A Japan exclusive. A pack so rare and elusive that it collectively became our unicorn.
Six years later, destiny would strike, and we’d work with our heroes to bring it back to life. Make it better. More attainable. At least for a few minutes… before it was gone, again.
But we proved something back then; unicorns could evolve. Get better.
So we ventured back to Montana, home to one of the world’s greatest pack makers – Mystery Ranch – to work on the second coming.
The Unicorn 2.0.
Specially designed in four colorways to speak to each pillar of The Ranch’s stable:
Military, Outdoor, Fire and Rescue, and Everyday Carry.
Field tested in the mountains of Montana, New York, Chicago, and Melbourne to form and reform this mythical beast.
Designed to be carried from trail to tarmac, an icon upgraded, wild and untamed, a myth now reality, once again.
To appreciate this new edition, we must first understand the lineage. After The Unicorn V1, we went on to create our second and third collaborations: the No Escape (AKA “Dragon”) and Spartanology (AKA “Cerberus”). These were inspired by you. That’s right! You all in our community of Carryologists.
You wanted a BEAMS Day Assault? Unicorn, check. You wanted a Scape Artist? Dragon, check. You wanted a Spartan? Cerberus, check. Sure, there are literally hundreds of suggestions sent over to both of our teams. But there was one specific one that kept coming back up again and again. It also happened to be the one that resonated with us the most – an improved and updated Unicorn. And that’s exactly what we set out to achieve.
We prepared some designs, then made the pitch to the Montana titans. Mystery Ranch was all in.
Weeks later, three Carryology members (Laurence Fry, David Samwell, and I) are seated in cramped economy class airplane seats, flying through a flurry of snow destined for Bozeman, Montana to visit our friends up at The Ranch.
We were armed with a long list of user-submitted wishes (some more realistic than others) and were keen to implement a good portion of them into the new pack with their expert design team. A design team as talented as we’ve ever worked with.
Our goals were to:
Maintain the Unicorn DNA, but make it more agile, more versatile, more special.
Create a pack perfect for every day.
Create a pack that would be more than a sequel.
Together, we created a final direction, leading to 2D concepts to review. Then their sample team created prototype subassemblies in their skunkworks lab.
Lots of back and forth. Traveling up to Montana and back. Video calls. Early prototypes. Refinement. More prototypes. Killing off unnecessary features and dialing in fabrics, colors, hardware, and overall direction. The slow and long but critical process of product design. Forever until perfect.
Access / Organization / Lines
If you really want to distill down the most iconic and beloved parts of the Unicorn 1.0, what makes a “Unicorn” a Unicorn, it boils down to two things:
First, Mystery Ranch’s iconic signature access, the 3-Zip. Visually, this one is impossible to miss. Functionally, it’s unlike anything else. The 3-Zip was born from an industry legend, Mr. Dana Gleason himself (AKA “The Big Guy”) out of creativity, necessity, and annoyance. 3 zippers. 2 functions. It’s a top loader, allowing you to simply grab the top panel, just rip it open, and viola, you’re looking down into the contents of your pack from above.
But a top-loader isn’t always ideal, which is why panel-loader designs are generally most beloved in the carry world. Well, now, you just grab the center zipper puller and rip that down, flaying open your pack for full access to all your items. Yep, it’s also a panel-loader. “You just use it, you don’t think about it.” Top-loader + Panel-loader = 3-Zip. Awesome.
The second part? The addition of those beautifully sexy perfect Unicorn side pockets, which interplay with the 3-Zip’s existing lines, running in curvaceous parallel and symmetry. These pockets are directly inspired by the BEAMS Day Assault pack and they have organization inside to keep your small EDC items neat and tidy, as well as ready to grab at a moment’s notice.
On top of that, they make for super quick-access water bottle pockets, while keeping your bottle tidily zipped up and secure when you’re moving.
The 3-Zip and the Unicorn side pockets are both functional feature sets (first and foremost) as well as creating a killer visual iconic silhouette. The combo of the two is truly the DNA of the Unicorn 1.0… and it’s all back here again with the Unicorn 2.0.
First and foremost. We wanted color this time around. Unicorn 1.0 was only available in Black. But sometimes the world needs something brighter, more expressive.
And not just one option. There would be more. Four in total. We created dozens and dozens of color option ideas, including the wacky “Harajuku Eggplant”. A favorite of mine, but that color is not for everyone. So where would we find inspiration?
We stepped back and decided to take inspiration from The Ranch itself.
The well-known branches of Mystery Ranch users and products: Military, Outdoor, Fire/Rescue, and Everyday/Travel.
As this was an evolution of the Unicorn 1.0 which was a homage to the BEAMS Day Assault, we wanted to give props where props were due. So we chose MultiCam® and Coyote. A proper nod to the original that started it all.
To represent adventures outside, we chose our second favorite exterior pack color aside from Black, a rich Olive Green. While inspired by nature, this handsome color effortlessly blends into any environment with class.
Eye-piercingly bright orange, as these heroes need to be seen in their dangerous line of work. Orange also happens to be Mystery Ranch’s brand color and Carryology’s brand color. Kind of a get-three-birds-stoned-at-once situation for this colorway.
A mysterious, murdered out, absolutely perfect, Black on Black. Because yes.
Unicorn 1.0 was a combination of Dimension Polyant X-Pac and Cordura nylon fabrics. For this, we had to go up a notch.
For the main pack fabric, we went 100% Dimension Polyant X-Pac. And we’re offering it in a variety of styles: RVX25, VX21, X42, X51. Each colorway has a different unique combination all its own.
MultiCam/Coyote: X33 + VX21
Olive Green: X42
Black: VX21 + X51
Since you’re reading this, you probably know all about X-Pac. But for those who aren’t aware, we love X-Pac for packs and there’s a ton of reasons why you will love it too. It’s legitimately waterproof. Not water-resistant. Waterproof. As water will not pass through the material itself. It’s extremely strong and durable and doesn’t stretch out. Essentially it’s Cordura nylon on steroids. Cordura fabric on the front face side with a waterproof lamination on the back side to give it waterproof properties and then the X-PLY reinforcement for extreme strength. Win.
The Unicorn was/is many users’ favorite pack of all time. It’s my number one favorite pack ever, no joke. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. The single request we received the most? Undoubtedly, by a large margin, it was to adjust the size.
The Unicorn, while in my humblest opinion so close to perfect, is admittedly just a bit too tall. Sure, it’s great for longer backcountry adventures and extended travel. But for EDC and light travel, the original intention behind its creation, it needed to go back under the knife for refining.
Mystery Ranch’s designers and pattern makers crafted the paneling so it keeps the same svelte Unicorn proportions but ever so slightly shaved down the height. Now, in our (wildly) biased opinion it’s perfect. Just 1.25″ shorter, 0.25″ less depth, and 0.25″ less wide.
This creates an overall more comfortable pack to wear, allowing the pack to transition through tight urban spaces effortlessly, and still provides plenty of usable volume for outdoor pursuits and even for 1-7 days of travel.
Unicorn 1.0 (24 Liters – 22.00″x10.50″x10.00″).
Unicorn 2.0 (22 Liters – 20.75″x10.25″x9.75″).
Okay, so we sliced off the tiniest bit of volume and sizing where it was necessary to improve the overall experience. And then… we added volume where Unicorn 1.0 didn’t have it before. But how can you add volume while also shaving down the size?
One of the original ideas for the Unicorn 1.0 was to add on a Stick-It. Sometimes called a “beaver tail”, it just wasn’t possible to implement at the time. The idea wasn’t fully baked. But we learned how to nail down the first-ever stowable Mystery Ranch Stick-It design via our 2nd and 3rd collaboration packs. We’ve seen end users utilize this as designed, to carry large bulky items on the exterior of the pack. They also have created mods to attach additional Velcro real estate to this panel’s daisy chain webbing loops to display their patches and ranger eye collections.
This stowable Stick-It design allows for nearly an additional 2-10 liters of carry (depending on how you measure and the size/shape of the object(s) you’re carrying, of course). No matter how you cut it, this design gives you more options.
The Stick-It attaches via the Hypalon loops in the hidden envelope pockets at the top corners via aerospace aluminum G-hooks. And the single best part about it? If you’re not using it, just tuck it away into its own dedicated zippered pocket until whenever you may need it.
The Unicorn 1.0 had a suspended laptop sleeve against the interior rear wall of the pack (with 3 rows of MOLLE/PALS webbing across for modular pouches and accessories) and the Unicorn 2.0 follows suit with the same solution, but with some added capability.
Side access to the rescue. We added a quick-access vertical zippered access to get your laptop in and out in a hurry (like when the TSA agent is barking orders at you). Now just swing your pack around one shoulder, unzip, and your laptop is there at your fingertips. We also included a toggle inside the laptop compartment for hydration bladder compatibility.
Now, when adventure calls, access to water is essential. So we leaned on Mystery Ranch and their expertise from designing packs for the most demanding users on earth. A new design that we haven’t implemented on the last three projects. Located on the opposite side of the laptop on the upper rear near the Futura harness shoulder straps, it uses a zipper garage and waterproof zipper. Clean. Simple. Effective.
In our opinion, Mystery Ranch’s Futura Harness might just be the very best suspension in the carry game when it comes to comfort, stability, and load bearing for a wide variety of activities. And just like our three previous collaborations, we asked The Ranch to include it on the Unicorn 2.0. This system allows adjustability between all types of heights and all types of body types. Having this legendary system as a card to pull to improve the value of this pack is dream level. And as a little cherry on top, we added a laser-engraved magnetic Fidlock V-BUCKLE at the sternum strap for one-handed quick removal and closure. Harness… sorted.
We absolutely loved the tuck-away hip belt on the Unicorn 1.0. But in order to save weight and make the Unicorn 2.0 more EDC-friendly, we opted to kill the waist belt. Not only does this save weight, it reduces complexity and the “bump” in the lower back, and simply allows the Futura Harness to do what it does best. But for those who want just a bit more stability, a webbing belt is attached via locking G-hooks. Lightweight, simple, and effective.
Just like the story-telling and execution of the last three Mystery Ranch x Carryology collaboration patches, we wanted this one to be equally as well thought out.
True to its DNA, the inspiration was again the iconic knight riding a mythological unicorn, a creature which doesn’t exist. The knight’s shield, made from unobtanium. And on his shield, an image of the Holy Grail, which he seeks to find.
We brought this list of items to our incredibly talented friend, a carry design legend and owner of SAMPLE, Mr. Dan Matsuda. This illustration is how Dan envisioned the evolution of the Unicorn 2.0. And of course, Dan absolutely crushed this design. Each pack comes with its own Matsuda-designed Velcro-backed woven patch to display on your pack, on your patch wall, or to attach to a slowly moving pet at home. Only available with the purchase of a pack, not available individually.
Hypalon Lash Points
All lash points and loops utilize durable Hypalon. Grippy for gloved, wet, or cold hands. These can be used as an attachment point for a Heroclip or carabiner. Or, use them simply as their most basic function, as a counter pull to make using the access zippers smooth and effortless.
We’re sure some of you will be taking the Unicorn 2.0 into less-than-ideal environments. So we wanted to make sure your gear is protected from the elements. We opted for #10 YKK AquaGuard zippers for all the exterior zippers, giving you the upper hand against the storm. And to give you a grip on these zippers when things get wet – heat shrink tubing on paracord zipper pullers. Simple. Strong. Sorted.
Yep, you know it. Bright interior pocketing to help you locate small items inside the pack when you’re digging around for stuff in the dark. But this time when leaned towards 'accents' over full orange, and mixed up the color combinations.
Note, since the orange colorway already has enough inferno bright fabric, we opted for a black fabric for contrast.
One final request was to make the exterior branding more subtle. So we killed off the large embroidered orange stitching and added a small collaboration woven label at the top. This label is the exact same size as the Dragon and the Cerberus, which is actually a few millimeters smaller than the standard woven label that Mystery Ranch uses. Minimal and classy.
And lastly a fun tidbit. In the beginning, this project was coined “Pegasus” – “Unicorn 2.0” would be just a little too obvious if it got leaked at any point during the process. So it was a secret codename for a codename.
In fact, for those with an eagle eye, the printed hang tags on these packs are marked “Pegasus” as a fun little easter egg to the program’s beginnings.
Introducing the fourth Mystery Ranch and Carryology collaboration. Stronger, better, faster, more agile, more access, more features, more refined, and more awesome.
The Unicorn 2.0 charges on…