The Cerberus is based on the design of a pack Mystery Ranch made about a decade ago called The Spartan. It was a very small pack intended for military purposes. Only about 1000 were produced, but the bag took on a life of it’s own after production becoming a bit of a collectors item, with good examples usually selling for over $1000 USD.
When Carryology announced the Cerberus, I was extremely intrigued and pretty much decided immediately to buy one, despite the very high price tag. (around $350 USD)
Getting one however, was not easy. For reasons unknown, Mystery Ranch was not able to ship these to Canada, and explicitly blocked any orders that looked like they were originating there. (up to and including blocking forwarding services and IPs) Fortunately for the tech savy, I was able to get past this, and get an order shipped to family in the US. The launch was nice in that this time around, there were actually a lot of bags available. Most everyone who wanted to order was able to. I settled in for a good six week wait to get it across the border.
A couple days after people started receiving their bags, some trouble started.
A somewhat alarming number of posts started showing up on Facebook groups where owners were reporting problems with the hydration ports. Due to how the bags were sewn many could not be kept closed, leading to a distracting and ugly hole in the bag, and concerns about water heading straight towards the laptop. Carryology folks claimed no such problems on their samples, and played it down, MR offered to fix any bags that were sent in to them. It certainly didn’t affect all, but it seemed to be a lot.
Six weeks later I finally had my pack into Canada after a grisly customs bill on top of the already outlandish price. I was greeted with a huge, gaping hole on one side of the bag, and literally no way to pack it out that would keep it closed.
I’ll be blunt here, these ports were a bad idea implemented poorly. Carryology, despite playing it down, has stated they won’t use this design again in the future.
Because of my efforts to get one into Canada, my hands were tied. I ended up getting the bag sewn shut by a tailor, which worked well enough and largely solved the problem for about $12.
Now on to the rest of the bag.
The Cerberus has a terrific aesthetic, I love the way it looks from the moment I saw it, small, slim, lightly tactical. Most of the colorways were a little too loud for my taste but I got mine in black, which was just right.
The absolute best part of the pack is the harness. The Cerberus comes with Mystery Ranch’s fully adjustable Futura yoke, a very rare thing on such a small pack. It allows you to adjust where the pack sits on you torso, and once dialed in it’s the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn. Total overkill for a 16L pack, but I loved it.
The chest strap featured a fidlock magnetic buckle that I think I liked, but it has to be said it’s often a little painful to have metal buckles swinging around in this area.
The Cerberus featured nice organization as well, top quick access, front quick access, two side sleeves, a laptop sleeve (up to 15" seemed good for my slim laptop), a couple other stash pockets, and a stowable “beaver tail” beneath the bag that can be brought out and used to stuff clothing etc outside the pack.
But now I need to get real. Even after the Hydrationgate disappointment, this bag was very irritating to me. It’s too fiddly, awkward to use, and a little small for my needs particularly in the camera department.
The top quick access pocket feels poorly made, the full open flap is easy to lose things out of unless you use the mesh pockets inside it, which are again too fiddly. It’s also too small, needed a bit more depth, and the zippers around it felt awful to use, very sticky in the corners and I have major doubts about how they’d hold up over time.
The front quick access pocket is decently implemented, but once packed out it gets very hard to use.
The main compartment, again too hard to use. Fold up, undo two zippers, maybe detach the beaver tail if you’re using it, just to get at what’s inside. As expected it is extremely small in there, and having four interior pockets seems overkill in that case but in their defence they do lay pretty flat and out of the way when not in use.
I’m not crazy about the X-50 X-Pac material either, it’s very stiff, I’d have preferred more standard 500d Cordura, but Carryology likes to do these different fabrics on their collabs.
In short, amazing comfort, awesome aesthetic, but overall too fiddly for my taste, and I eventually sold after a few months for far less than I paid.
This was my first Carryology collaboration, and it might be my last. I learned the hard way that these limited run drops are expensive, they tend to be made out of weird materials I like far less than normal Cordura, and what you get may not be particularly well made. This is not the first time there’s been controversy, and you really don’t know what you’re going to get when you order. While I know a lot of thought and passion goes into their production, their designs are not tried and tested the way normal packs are, and for me that makes it not worth the elevated cost.