Gear Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus FS Backpack

A roomy and comfortable ultralight bag.

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Getting down to this rarefied weight class usually requires some degree of sacrifice in terms of comfort or capacity, or both. Not so with the Exodus, which testers praised for having “tons of room” and “a supercushy ride.” The innovative suspension takes a hybrid approach to support: An inflatable air mattress (included) slips into a sleeve to create the pack’s backpanel, and a U-shaped, pencil-thin, carbon-fiber* frame adds rigidity and load transfer. The system, along with a well-padded shoulder harness and hipbelt, let testers comfortably carry 35 pounds while averaging about 10 miles per day.

And unlike the more compact UL packs here, which testers found frustratingly small on longer trips, the roomy Exodus easily held enough gear for five days. Features are spare: a large mesh front pocket, compression straps, and two side pockets (water bottles stored there are difficult to reach). The drawstring-closure packbag, made of 210-denier Dyneema-and-nylon fabric, endured three months of abuse—including blood-drawing bushwhacks through cat’s claw thickets.

Two gripes: The pack lacks a bladder sleeve or interior hanger. (We partially deflated the back pad to stash a bladder into the pad sleeve, which compromised comfort.) And the pad suspension system is hot against the back in temps warmer than 70°F. Optional storage pockets are available.

*Carbon fiber: The extreme ultralighter’s frame material of choice, it provides the most rigidity and structure for the least amount of weight. It doesn’t flex, though, so treat it kindly.