Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Review

Durable and innovative, the Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase (Expandable) is not only a solid daily driver, but works well for quick trips too.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable In Detroit
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable In Detroit

Our Verdict

8.2 /10

Form

90/100

Design

77/100

Value

80/100

Pros

  • Digging the front compartment’s “Rip Zip” style of opening
  • Excellent craftsmanship and quality materials
  • All three modes of carry work well

Cons

  • A lot of internal organization
  • Laptop sleeve won’t fit a 15’’ laptop with a case
  • Tactical aesthetic may not be professional enough for your work situation

Technical Details

1 %

Carry-On Compliance (Beta)

View 1/162 Airlines

  • Capacity

    22l

  • Weight (lb)

    2.6 lb (1.2 kg)

  • Denier

    500D

  • Dimensions

    12 in x 17 in x 12.5 in (30.5 x 43.2 x 31.8 cm)

    Expanded

  • Notable Materials

    CORDURA®, YKK Zippers, Fidlock Hardware, Duraflex

  • Manufacturing Country

    Vietnam

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Mystery Ranch Warranty

Full Review

Born beneath Montana’s big sky, the 3 Way Briefcase (Expandable) is classic Mystery Ranch. Impeccable craftsmanship. Tacticool aesthetic. And a clever overall design.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Shoulder Carry
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Shoulder Carry

Named after the three ways you can carry it (briefcase, messenger, and backpack), this bag has been surprisingly useful throughout our three weeks of testing. While it’s built to be a daily driver, its expandability means it works alright for quick trips too.

So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

Materials & Aesthetic

First and foremost, the Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase is a briefcase. And—not surprisingly—it looks like one. Albeit a slightly more tactical one. Depending on where you work, it may be a little too casual for your situation.

At the time of this review, the 3 Way Briefcase comes in four different colors that are pretty standard for Mystery Ranch: Coyote (brown), Gravel (gray), Galaxy (blue), and Black (you should be able to guess that one), which is what we’ve been testing.

Also standard for the brand—a large, centered Mystery Ranch logo that leaves no question as to whether or not you’re sporting a Mystery Ranch product. Some people are put off by such obvious branding, which we can definitely understand.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Materials
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Materials

To risk sounding like a broken record, the materials on this briefcase are also standard for Mystery Ranch. The main material is 500D CORDURA® Nylon, making it tough and durable.

The zippers are YKK AquaGuard®, which are strong, durable, and provide solid weather-resistance. The latter of which is a huge plus for a bag that’s built to hold expensive tech. So you’re free to have a Gene Kelly moment and burst out singing in the rain without worrying about drowning your laptop.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Zippers
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Zippers

Finishing off the materials, you’ll find Duraflex hardware and a Fidlock buckle. We’ve had good experiences with these brands in the past—they should treat you well.

External Components

We love it when companies accomplish what they’ve set out to do. And Mystery Ranch has nailed the 3 Way Briefcase—at least regarding the three modes of carry.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Briefcase Carry
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Briefcase Carry

The first way is by using the top handle and holding the bag like a briefcase. The handles are smooth and strong, making it a pleasant experience. Although it gets uncomfortable once you start to pack this bag out. You can also use these handles to maneuver the bag—grabbing it from the trunk of an Uber, tossing it in the overhead bin on a plane, swinging it around while you’re singing in the rain.

The second mode is carrying it as a messenger bag, which is the style we’ve been digging the most. To get into messenger mode, just attach the strap to the loops at the top of the briefcase and you’re good to go. You can toss it over one shoulder or across your chest. Either way is super comfortable and convenient.

The strap is wide and soft but has no padding. This hasn’t been that big of an issue in testing, but it gets more uncomfortable the heavier you load the bag or the longer you have to carry it. A mile-long walk from the bus stop to your co-working space—no big deal. A few hours exploring downtown—not ideal.

Enter backpack mode.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Backpack Carry
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Backpack Carry

When you’re not using the backpack straps, they stow beneath a back panel. We’re impressed with the design here. The backpack straps are well hidden and don’t detract from the overall look of the briefcase. You probably won’t notice they’re there until you need them. When that time comes, simply untuck the shoulder straps from the panel, clip them in, and voilà—backpack mode.

We don’t recommend carrying this thing as a backpack unless you need to (for the aforementioned weight and time issues). And that’s because of the orientation of the pockets, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Packable Back Panel
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Packable Back Panel

The shoulder straps themselves are great—nicely padded and layered with mesh for added breathability. They also have PALS-like webbing you can use to attach any gear you want to carry externally. The back panel is nothing to write home about—there are no air channels or breathable mesh—but works just fine.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Expanded
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Expanded

Finally, there’s the compression zipper that you can unzip to expand the Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase. It adds 5 liters to the bag’s capacity. As a daily driver, you likely won’t need this extra space. But we like that it’s an option because it allows you to turn this briefcase into a minimal travel bag.

Expanded, you can fit all you need for quick trips and weekends away.

Inside the Bag

Looking inside the Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase, you’ll find a fair amount of stuff going on. While it’s a little too much organization for our tastes, it’s also not overly done. The pockets lay flat when not in use, so you can ignore them if you prefer to use your own accessories pouches or if you like to walk on the wild side and throw things in compartments sans any organization.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Buckle
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Buckle

Let’s start with the front compartment. It has a “Rip Zip” style of opening. Simply unlock the nifty magnetic buckle and pull—the triangular-shaped zipper will rip open, allowing easy access to the pocket. It takes seconds and can be done with one hand. We’re really digging it!

Inside this compartment, you’ll find an organization panel with a zippered mesh pocket, an elasticated pocket, and three stylus/pen/marker pockets. The compartment itself has a decent amount of depth—you can toss a notebook, a Nintendo switch, a toiletry bag, etc, here.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Front Pocket
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Front Pocket

Now, this compartment will be flipped vertically whenever you switch to backpack mode. If not tucked into the organization panel—or if incorrectly tucked into the organization panel—your stuff may end up all jumbled. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but worth pointing out.

One other quirk about this compartment is that in between the buckle and triangular-shaped zipper, there’s a small gap. We’re not too worried about it, but it is possible that some of your smaller items—think AirPods—may slip out. We doubt this will happen, but it’s something to be aware of.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Laptop Compartment
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Laptop Compartment

On the opposite side of the briefcase is the laptop compartment. Against the back of it, you’ll find a padded sleeve. The folks at Mystery Ranch claim you can fit up to a 15’’ laptop here, which you can, but only if it doesn’t have a case on it. Since we prefer to keep our laptops protected with a case while traveling, we slide it into the compartment outside of the sleeve, which works great. That said, the sleeve is padded enough you should be able to trust it to protect your laptop sans case.

There are also two large divider pockets inside of this compartment to further organize your stuff.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Middle Pocket Tech Side
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Middle Pocket Tech Side

And that brings us to the main compartment. Even when not expanded, there’s plenty of room inside to keep business things—you know, miscellaneous papers, stock market reports, fake glasses that make you look smarter. It also has enough space for an extra shirt or pair of pants—if you’re a messy enough eater that you like to carry around an extra shirt for daily life, or short business trips.

There’s a divider through the center of the compartment and three organization pockets, one of which has a soft felt lining.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Middle Clothes Side
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable Middle Clothes Side

When expanded, you’ll get an extra 5 liters of capacity in the main compartment. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s handy if you need room for even more clothes—great for weekends away.

Again, we don’t need so many pockets for our travel and lifestyles. But they aren’t that annoying as they stay out of your way when not in use.

Durability & Testing

We’ve been testing the Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase (Expandable) for approximately three weeks in Detroit, Michigan. And we’ve been digging it. It’s been a great daily driver—holding all we need for a productive day at the co-working space. Plus, we’re pleasantly surprised by all three modes of carry. It’s definitely a briefcase first but works well as a backpack whenever we need it to.

Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable In Detroit
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable In Detroit

We’re not surprised by how well the 3 Way Briefcase has been holding up. It’s from Mystery Ranch after all—a brand known for its solid quality and craftsmanship. This briefcase has been built to last.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Great EDC bag for carrying your laptop, tech accessories, and other gear
  • This bag is very versatile with its expandable compartment and three ways to carry
  • Lots of good organization all over this bag
1 Month of Use

Condition: Excellent

Looks great! Not surprising coming from Mystery Ranch.

Overall

The Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase (Expandable) is a briefcase, messenger bag, and backpack wrapped into one clever package. It works well in all three modes of carry, though it’s obviously designed to be a briefcase first. We’re really digging the Rip Zip style of opening on the front compartment! It has a lot of internal organization—too much for our tastes—but some people may like it. Overall, it’s a solid daily driver that will also work as a travel bag for short getaways.

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By Nathan Coverdale
Created January 6, 2020 • Updated January 6, 2020