Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus Backpack Review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus Backpack Review

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    Addie Bedford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana
    Skip Booth
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast


    Another great review! I'm really looking forward to your state of the market on frameless packs.

    I'm curious what you impressions where regarding the hip belt pockets? I recently purchased an Exodus from a fellow BPL member and I was extremely pleased with the pack design. That being said, I just can't get the hip belt pockets to work correctly. They seem to have a tendency to either bunch up if they are attached to the shoulder straps or slide/fall off the hip belt if not anchored to the shoulder straps. I'm curious what your experience was here?

    I also missed the integrated internal pad sleeve from my ULA Conduit, especially since I'm a hammock camper and like to just use a small pad to offer some padding from my gear and my back. That's not a show stopper for me but more of a convenience issue. In comparing packs though I find that the assumption that we all carry a torso/full pad not necessarily a valid assumption. Maybe something to consider in your roundup?


    Warren Greer


    Locale: SoCal

    Will, I enjoyed the review of the MLD frameless pack. I'm a ways off from really being using something this minimum, mostly because of having to carry a bear canister. But nevertheless, did enjoy reading about this pack. And can't wait for your State of the State on Backpacks. Hopefully that report will address the lightest ways to comfortably carry a bear can. BTW, noticed you were in your favorite windshirt.

    Dave Heiss
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I'm a huge fan of the existing MLD Ark/Exodus pack design. I particularly like that it's an ultralight pack that's built to last. Yes there are other frameless packs that are lighter, and if that particular attribute is an overriding concern, then choices are plentiful.

    There are other packs that offer removable frame stays, but that's a deceptive benefit because the (resupply) conditions where you say they'd be useful are the same conditions where a frameless pack will likely be full and taut and delivering the best percentage of weight to the hipbelt.

    I believe the Ark/Exodus packs offer the highest quality combination of bomber materials, brilliantly simple design, and a useful but not excessive feature set. I love mine, and I wouldn't change a thing.

    Ryan Linn


    Locale: Maine!

    I do love my Exodus. From your pictures I can see that the one thing I would have changed in the design from mine (a 2008 model) has been changed– more bellow to the mesh pockets, since I can barely fit a 20 oz gatorade bottle in the side pockets with mine.

    The Exodus is my first and only frameless pack, so it's interesting to me that you say it's so much larger than it needs to be. I agree that you can fit a lot of stuff in there. I'll have to test out some smaller packs later on, but I'm definitely pleased with what I've got. In some ways I keep waiting for this pack to die so I can justify getting a newer, smaller, lighter pack (maybe a Prophet, maybe something else), but after nearly 3000 miles my Exodus is in the same condition it was after my first trip with it. It just won't die. So I'd say the durability makes for a good value.

    Robert Carver
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast TN

    I absolutely love the whole MLD pack line. I use my Exodus for winter loads. Prophet for early spring and late fall loads. The Burn for the rest of the year.

    I like the fact that they are all made the same way. The only thing I would change, would to be add straps to hold a pad in place against the inside back panel. I should have had Ron add this when I placed my order.

    All in all. Ron has a great pack line up in my opinion and I hope he does not make any radical changes to it.

    Jonathan Ryan
    BPL Member


    Locale: White Mtns

    These are def some great packs. I am still using my 4-5 year old MLD Super Zip which is the same basic design. I too found the extra volume to be abit annoying. I have recently resolved this by converting the pack to a rolltop closure. Def does the trick. I also added two bungee straps to the inside similar to the ULA Conduit/CDT to hold my sleeping pad down.

    Nathan Lare
    BPL Member



    Thanks for the review. As a point of reference, could you please post the gear list you used for your testing? I think this would help to determine is this pack is a good "fit" for people who are considering a new pack.

    Also, do you have a projection for when your report on frameless packs will be published?

    Mike W
    BPL Member


    Locale: British Columbia

    Steven Berg
    BPL Member



    There's a small webbing loop on the pack where the hip-belt attach, and another on the pocket that should be attached using a z-clip. Are you attaching the pocket to that or to the shoulder strap? Once I got that sorted out, my pocket doesn't seem to bunch or fall off.

    Jack H.


    Locale: Sacramento, CA

    My Exodus' shoulder straps have flattened out.

    I'd be bummed with most of the recommendations. I find the volume to be perfect for thru hiking. And I prefer frameless packs to framed ones. Its a review of frameless packs right?

    Jack H.


    Locale: Sacramento, CA

    Instead of folding your pad, let it unroll. It'll give your pack the structure that you desire.

    I find maximum comfortable carry to be about 25 lbs (I've carried up to 42lbs in it).

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    This may be heresy to some but the Exodus with a REMOVABLE curved stay and a longer side pocket would be ideal for me. It would be easy for MLD to add it plus pad straps against the back ala GG Gorilla – and making the stay removable allows you the flexibility of not using it when you don't need it.

    The GG Gorilla is a great pack but I'd like extra volume for when I need it. Some will then suggest the Mariposa Plus, but the Mariposa carries the load farther from the back than the Gorilla, and the materials are far less durable. Give me an MLD Exodus with removable curved stay and pad straps or a higher volume GG Gorilla. Pretty please MLD and GG?

    As for volume, I want the flexibility of the extra volume as long as I can compress the pack easily when I don't need it.

    Ross P Hemphill


    Locale: PNW

    66 liters is 7 greater than 59, not 9 as stated.

    Ross P Hemphill


    Locale: PNW

    I'm with E J (mountainwalker) here.. I find it odd that many of the ultralight packs continue to have no stays or other structure, even when high-volume, or as an option. I understand that one might have a bulky, low density load (winter puffiness), but is that really the most common scenario? With typical food/water/toy loads for longer or winter trips, I'd think that the structure is usually well worth the spent weight, particularly if off-trail.

    Rick Horne
    BPL Member


    Locale: NorCal - South Bay - Campbell


    Thomas Trebisky


    Locale: Southern Arizona

    I have one of these and have used it for several week long trips. I have no complaints whatsoever. I think the people who would add stays and beams and braces are crazy and/or smoking crack. The only thing I might consider if I were to order another of these, would be to ask if I could get the pack without a waist belt, it has always seemed superfluous for loads of 30 pounds and under, to me that is (of course). A great little pack and I am glad to have a bit more durability at the price of a bit more weight! Glad to see it reviewed. I have thought of getting the next larger pack (the Ark) to have enough volume for a more bulky synthetic quilt or bag.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Thomas, apparently there are a large number of people who are crazy and/or smoking crack. Seriously though, I share your enthusiasm for the Exodus – my comments and those of the reviewer and others are not a complaint about the excellent pack design, but rather a request for an additional feature/capability that would great enhance its use range and comfort.

    I and other potential customers are not asking for a permanent stay, but rather a removable stay – the weight penalty for a few loops to hold a removable stay and two pad loops against the back is negligible (the pad loops are an option that MLD does). Also see feedback from the many users of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla – I have never heard a Gorilla user complain about having the option of a removable curved 3.4 oz stay, and have only heard raves about the comfort and load carrying it adds. Having tried it recently, I fully agree – though I'd prefer volume closer to that of the Exodus as long as there's good compression.

    In addition, the more supportive Ark hip belt is offered as an option on the Exodus for a reason. A well-designed stay and hip belt helps take weight off the shoulders – important for anyone carrying a heavier load or needing to protect/rest their back. Your back takes a lot of stress backpacking or running – anything you can do to share the load is going to be helpful over the long run. Your back might be able to take it now, but this may come at the expense of later…I know one local highly experienced very fit lightweight backpacker who recently sold his Ark after many months trying to make it work only because of the lack of a stay.

    I have asked experienced users of this pack for the max comfortable load capability and the answer has always come back max 20lbs. There are plenty of situations where you will start a trip with more than 20lbs, or remain at above 20 lbs especially if you are carrying supplies for others. A removable stay will help quite a bit in those situations.

    Ron and MLD, hope you guys are listening. I and quite a few other people I know would snap this pack up with a curved removable stay and pad loops.

    Diplomatic Mike


    Locale: Under a bush in Scotland

    I love my MLD packs. Super strong Dyneema, and no gimmicks.
    Start adding stays and other stuff, and i'll look elsewhere. Plenty mainstream manufacturers do that kind of gear.
    Don't listen to those evil voices Ron. :)

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Ron, there's no need to choose one or the other. Offer them as options and you'll greatly expand the user base and sales, without harming one group or the other.

    Mike, there's no need to threaten Ron for innovating solutions that meet the needs of a much wider group of users. Why would you walk if Ron offered a stay and pad holding straps as an option that you don't have to order???

    Ron, if Mike walks, there'll be hundreds more lining up to take his place.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Burn and Prophet users – are the actual volumes also higher than the listed volumes, and if so, by how much? That's a good thing for my purposes – I'm just trying to figure out if the Prophet would have the volume I'm looking for.

    If the Prophet is higher volume than listed like the Exodus, perhaps the Prophet is more like 3500 cu. in. than its listed 2900 cu. in.?

    Ron Bell
    BPL Member


    Locale: USA

    Thanks Will for the Great Review !

    (Note: Will reviewed the 2009/2010 Exodus he received in Jan/Feb of 2010. We have since improved and tweaked a quite a few details to make it an even better pack!)

    ****Update: August 2011: The Exodus is now slightly smaller in volume and a full suspension version is now available.****

    We addressed all of Will's points and assume it would be A Highly Reccomended Rating now based on those small changes.

    Here is some more info to help users think about the Exodus volume and other questions.

    As Will noted, we offer four different size packs in the series- all with almost exactly the same features- only the 2200ci Burn has a couple of small changes from the larger three.

    The 4400ci Ark, 3500ci Exodus and 2900ci Prophet are all pretty much the same design and share a robust feature package.

    My sense from the article and from feedback from Will is that he would have given the Prophet a Highly Recommended rating because it does share all the same features of the Exodus at a smaller size- for him the Exodus was a little too much volume.

    Many people and companies measure pack volume different – there is a an industry spec standard using small balls – but no exact way to say where/when the min and max usable amount in the extension collar starts/stops or how far to expand the exterior pockets, etc. – So there is some interpretation there and perhaps thats is the main area of difference in vulume perspective for this type of pack.

    There is easy way to measure the MLD packs since they are fairly box shaped – W X D X H.

    The Exodus in a LG is 12" Wide X 7.5" Deep X about 26" – 27" Tall = about 2400ci. That includes only a little of the extension collar. Our Extension collars are very tall if needed.

    Exodus Specs:

    • Total Maximum Volume: 3100ci main pack / 3500ci with filled extension collar
    • Minimum Volume: 1800ci with compression and bottom volume reduction system engaged.
    • Main Pack: 2400ci
    • Main Outside Pocket: 400ci
    • Side Pockets: 150ci + 150ci
    • Extension Collar: 500ci

    For size comparison- I measured two common packs the same way as I measured the Exodus main compartment.
    – The Exodus main pack bag is about 100ci larger than the Golite Jam2 (the Exodus a much taller ext collar)
    – The Exodus is about 400ci smaller than the Golite Pinnacle (the Exodus ext collar is a little taller.)

    FAQ: Would you be better off with an Exodus or a Prophet?
    A: If you could have only one, perhaps the Exodus is the way to go. I use it in the colder weather when I carry a slightly thicker or multiple sleep pads and lightweight but bulkier synthetic filled clothes and quilts/bags. The volume fills up fast with synthetic insulation but can always be compressed down with the three volume reduction features. The Exodus is large enough for most bear canisters that won't fit in smaller packs.
    A: The Prophet is the way to go if you really have your LW gear dialed for med to low volume, you are mainly going to use it in for weather above maybe freezing or are primarily in dryer climates using more compressible down insulation or only use a smaller sleep pad.

    Ken Helwig
    BPL Member


    Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA

    Well based on the review and the need for a larger volume pack for my JMT hike this summer, I purchased this pack today. Excited!!!! I needed a pack that was light and had this kind of volume. This will be my weeklong pack when I need to pack a cannister

    Ross P Hemphill


    Locale: PNW

    What I don't get is "pack structure hate." mountainwalker has said it all more clearly… Of course, I don't enjoy carrying rigid pieces (particularly single-use) any more than the rest of us. Seems to me a question of balance. (Isn't everything?)

    What I'll say: isn't "ultralight" truly more about "ultraefficient" or "ultraappropriate" than actual weight? I think that for significant loads (found with long trips, techy winter trips, limited-water-supply desert trips, rough off-trail travel, etc) effective and very lightweight load transfer and stability structures make the load FEEL so much "lighter" (more comfortable/less painful).

    Ron, I think mountainwalker is right concerning customer base. Just make it optional. I imagine you don't like stays, though.

    OK, now I'm dropping it. For this thread. In closing I'll provide a link to the other BPL (UK, newspeak) featuring a Golite Jam modification which adds 161g: Ultralight ALICE. BTW, have you seen Roger's awesome packs? TTFN!

    Cyrus Dietz


    Locale: Midwest

    It seams to me that know one would consider this pack if if Weighed what it would outfitted the way you are all talking. UL is a compromise as much as it is a nexus.

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