By TYLER BARTON/Montana State News

For decades, technology for parachute deployment has remained relatively stagnant. However, thanks to the efforts of local backpack manufacturer Mystery Ranch, that has changed. In March, Mystery Ranch released a new line of high-altitude jump packs that significantly reduce the baggage on military parachutists.

Mystery Ranch employee Liz O’Brien said, “The design for jump packs hasn’t changed much since Vietnam. This is the first major shift since then.”

With the inclusion of several carefully placed loops, Mystery Ranch’s efficient new design supplants the need for additional equipment that ensures lines connecting the chute deploy properly.

The new design will make U.S. military parachutist operations smoother and will free up space for mission-critical items.

Though the U.S. military has contracted Mystery Ranch packs for over a decade, beginning with Navy SEAL prototypes in 2004, they produce a variety of backpack styles for many different situations, including mountaineering, climbing, hunting, everyday use, and even heat-resistant packs designed especially for firefighters.

With production centers in Bozeman and abroad, Mystery Ranch hand-stitches their backpacks using high quality materials. According to their website, “This is our mission: to build packs guaranteed to do their job, so you can do yours.”

Mystery Ranch is based in Bozeman, Montana, and was founded in 2000 by its owners Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker.

It is the successor to Dana Designs, which Gleason and Sippel-Baker founded in 1985, also in Bozeman, and was later sold to the K2 Corporation in 1995.

Following the sale, the owners expected an early retirement. However, they realized they still wanted to be in the business. After an epiphany where Dana’s daughter asked him to design her a new pack – and after the expiration of a non-competition agreement between Gleason and the K2 Corporation – Gleason and Sippel-Baker founded Mystery Ranch.

In 2004, Mystery Ranch was approached by the Navy SEALs for custom packs. This established a relationship between the company and the military, and significantly altered the company’s business model and design strategy.

Nowadays, Mystery Ranch typically uses a direct sales model, meaning they have the capacity to customize and create rapid prototypes for specialized buyers – such as the military, or firefighters. However, the consumer with an eye for quality is still able to purchase from their mountain, hunting, or everyday lines.

– edited by Emma Hamburg

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