25 februari 2012

Gear: MLD Super Exodus backpack

This is a review of my Mountain Laurel Designs Super Exodus (2010) backpack, after a fair period of use.
MLD Exodus
You might think 'Super' Exodus? What makes it super? Well, if you go to MLD's website and look up the Exodus, you will no longer find that option, but back in 2010, Ron at MLD offered a 'Super' version of the packs he makes.
If you're familiar with MLD packs you'll probably notice a few things that are different with the Super. The main thing is that the Dyneema X fabric is used for the whole of the pack, and that includes the main outside pocket, the side pockets and the extension collar, which are normally made of mesh-fabric. Using the Dyneema X for the whole pack makes it considerably stronger and more abrasion resistant. It also gives the pack a very 'clean' look. I like it. Also different is a double layer of fabric on the bottom of the pack, larger ice-axe loops and the larger hipbelt wings. These things make it more suitable for use in an alpine environment, and that's exactly what I use it for a lot.
MLD Super Exodus

To be able to use pack also on the walk-in to a hut or bivy-site, it would have to be capable of carrying a decent load in reasonable comfort. But, the Exodus is a frameless pack, and those usually aren't known for that. So I modified the pack a bit. I used a lightweight frame from a pack I didn't use anymore, taped that to a piece of CCF and fixed it on the inside of the pack. An option on the pack is a removable hydration pouch, and for that 2 loops are sewn in to the pack. These turned out to be perfect to hold my MYOG-frame in place, it really helps in transferring weight to the hips. Loads of 15 kilo (33 lbs) are very manageable, in relative comfort. Those 15 kilo loads seem a lot if you're used to lightweight backpacking, but if you're out doing some mountaineering, the weight quickly adds up!
MYOG backpack frame
You have about 55 liter (3500 cuin) of space to pack those 15 kilo's worth of gear. The pack itself, including the frame, weighs 850 grams (30 oz). Again, that seems heavy if you're into (ultra) lightweight packpacking. For a mountaineering pack though, it's light! And remember, for that weight, you get a fully featured pack that's tough as nails! I've used it on a number of trips, both in the mountains and woods, use it anytime I go to gym, and it still looks as new.
Because of the extension collar on the top, and the 'compactor' loops on the bottom of the pack, it's very easy to be flexible with the pack-volume. At it's largest, the pack can hold about 55 liters inside, with a number of options to keep things on the outside of the pack. I had 2 compression straps added to each side of the pack for that reason. It's perfect for attaching snowshoes to. Even if the pack is full, there's still room for a climbing rope on top of the pack. And off course the ice-axe loops are used for keeping ice-axes on the outside of the pack. So at it's largest, it's a fairly big pack. But when compacted, you can get it down do about 30-35 liters.

To sum up: the MLD Super Exodus is light, strong and versatile. It's still almost as new, almost 2 years after I got it (and it's not been lying in a closet all that time). I hope to use it for a long time to come.

With innovation always going forward, MLD now offer the Exodus in a full suspension version, which should improve load-carrying ability, without the need for a MYOG frame.

Some pictures of the pack in use:
Snowshoeing with Spanish Highs Mountain Guides
Snowshoeing in Spain's Sierra Nevada, towards the Cebollar refuge
climbing down a gully
Moving down a gully with the Super Exodus on my back

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