The Mystery Ranch NICE Frame was originally designed for shorter, military packs like the venerable ALICE pack. These packs are often designed to be wider rather than taller like civilian packs and so the NICE Frame is fairly short to accommodate the packs it was designed to support.
The problem with shorter pack frames is that their stays do not sit high enough over the shoulder for load lifter straps to work correctly. This meant that as a 6’ 1” tall person with a long torso, the NICE Frame that I own never really fit me well.
I lived with the short frame because I liked the capabilities that the NICE Frame offered but, more and more, I found myself reaching for other packs… that is until I saw the Oneiros Valley LLP.
The LLP, or Load Lifter Panel, is made from a mix of thin HDPE, webbing, various buckles, and either carbon fiber or fiberglass stays. The fiberglass stay version weighs 9.8 ounces and the carbon fiber stay version weighs just 7.9 ounces.
It is designed to strap securely to your NICE Frame without modification. It can provide up to 6” of additional frame height!
Observations from Use
Does it work? You bet it does.
I had no lift at all with the standard NICE Frame. The top of the frame was actually BELOW the crests of my shoulders which means the load lifter straps did next to nothing. Without lift, heavy loads were free to pull down and back, transferring a significant portion of the load’s weight to my shoulders rather than where it should be which is on the hips via the waist belt.
The LLP makes a startling difference. It feels like an entirely new frame. Once installed, I found that I had plenty of lift. Tightening the load lifter straps pulls the weigh back toward my back which causes it to sit down over the waist belt better, effectively transferring most of the weight to my hips. It is like magic. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference the LLP makes for me.
Installation was a bit challenging since I didn’t have instructions but I figured it out by looking at the pictures on the Oneiros Valley site. It wasn’t hard at all. I just didn’t know what I was doing at first. Now, they have thoughtfully released a video that shows the installation.
I would recommend doing some experimentation with the height that you set the LLP so you can find a happy medium that provides some lift but doesn’t block your head in the prone. One of the strengths of the LLP is that it is adjustable for height. That may not be a big deal for a hiker but for a hunter or soldier who may have to shoot from the prone, it is a huge deal. When you go prone, you have to lift your head to use the sights on your rifle which is impossible if your frame is too tall (hence one of the reasons why military packs are often shorter). A tall pack frame will physically block you from lifting your head. I imagine it is even worse if you are wearing a helmet.
If you are not wearing a helmet, you may be able to go prone with the LLP at full height since the stays are not tied together which means they can spread and flex around your head. You wouldn’t want to stay that way for long since the frame pushes back against your head and neck, but it is doable.
I don’t normally mention price on JTT unless it is an integral part of the product. I prefer to let you decide what a product’s value is. In this case however, it should be pointed out that the LLP costs only $35 which is very inexpensive compared to similar offerings. That is a lot easier to swallow on a frame that is already quite expensive on its own.
I should also note that if you, like me, plan on using this with the Mystery Ranch Crew Can, Load Sling, and/or Metcalf, you will also need the $5 Buckle Adapter.
While you are at it, pick up a set of the $5 OV Belt Guides too. They are easy to install and make it so you can pull forward to adjust your NICE Frame waist strap which is far easier and gives you some mechanical advantage when you need to really cinch it down. They are like magic too. Seriously, do it.
I think the functionality and adjustable height make the LLP a home run. The fact that it also happens to be the least expensive option is just the cherry on top. I had no lift with the NICE Frame before and now I have plenty. It is like a whole new pack frame and I won’t use my NICE Frame without an LLP now.
Check out the LLP at Oneiros Valley.