Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW

A well-designed, low volume 4.4-ounce pack for dayhikes or SuperUltraLight overnights.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-12-27 03:00:00-07

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW

Introduction

The Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 backpack has a volume of 1525 cubic inches and weighs just 4.4 ounces. We tested an early version of the Prophet 25. Since our testing the volume of the Prophet 25 has been increased slightly and it has been renamed the Prophet 30. Materials and features on the Prophet 30 are the same as discussed in this review with upgrades to the production model Prophet 30 as noted.

What’s Good

  • Very light at 4.4 ounces without options
  • Versatile with removable waistbelt and bungee system, and optional chest pack and shoulder strap water bottle mounts
  • Top Y-cinch strap is secure and compresses loads well
  • Front pocket is useful and holds items securely
  • Good size for SuperUltraLight backpacking or dayhikes

What’s Not So Good

  • The sternum strap is too short (but this is fixed in production models)
  • The outer pocket mesh is fragile (changed in production models)
  • Shoulder straps are lightly padded and narrow, making the pack uncomfortable for "heavier" loads

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Mountain Laurel Designs

  Year/Model

Prophet 25

  Style

Frameless, top loading, drawcord closure with Y-strap

  Volume

1525 ci (25 L) size L

  Weight

4.4 oz (124.7 g) measured minimum weight; 4.25 oz (120.5 g) manufacturer’s specification; weight of optional accessories: waistbelt adds 0.7 oz (19.9 g), chest pocket adds 0.7 oz (19.9 g)

  Fabrics

Body is Spinntex Pro 0.97 oz/yd2 (33 g/m2) spinnaker fabric; outside pocket is 1.0 oz/yd2 (34 g/m2) no-see-um netting; back and bottom are 1.7oz/yd2 (58 g/m2) silnylon; shoulder straps are 1.17 oz/yd2 (40 g/m2) Spinntex Pro with 3D Mesh backed 3/8 in Evazote foam padding

  Features

Mesh front pocket, sternum strap, removable bungee system, and hipbelt. Optional chest pack and shoulder water bottle attachments

  Volume To Weight Ratio

347 ci/oz size L (based on 1525 ci and a measured weight of 4.4 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity*

12 lb (5.5 kg) estimated maximum comfortable load an average person can carry all day in this pack

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

43.6 (based on 12 lb and Backpacking Light measured weight of 0.275 lb)

  MSRP

$105

Performance

The Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 is a frameless pack that can be used as a lightweight daypack or as a compact overnight pack for SuperUltraLighters. Without a frame, it relies on a “virtual frame” achieved by using a stiff sleeping pad as a frame inside the pack or filling the pack to capacity (easily done for an overnight trip). The suspension consists of lightly padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap, and an optional ¾-inch unpadded nylon waistbelt.

With a volume of just 1525 cubic inches (25 liters), the Prophet 25 is a small pack. However, the extension collar can provide up to 11 inches of extra capacity, and the outside pocket provides additional capacity. The bungee system can be configured in a variety of ways, to create more load carrying options. The optional chest pocket provides additional space, if needed. I loved the size, finding it perfect for SuperUltraLight (SUL) weekend summer trips; however, the Prophet 25 is strictly for minimalist backpackers and day hikers.

With padded shoulder straps only 2 inches wide and thin 3/8-inch Evazote padding, the Prophet 25 is not comfortable for many hikers with loads above 12 pounds. However, I found it capable of carrying loads up to 15 pounds for brief periods, such as when carrying extra water into camp. For SUL trips, where a full pack can easily weigh less than 10 pounds at the beginning of a trip and less than 5 at the end, the Mountain Laurel Designs pack is really in its niche.

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW - 1
The Prophet 25 uses 3D mesh backed 3/8-inch Evazote foam for shoulder straps. They were comfortable with a shirt off but were a bit narrow to comfortably carry loads above 12 pounds. Silnylon (1.7 oz/yd2) is used on the backpanel for comfort because it’s less slippery than spinnaker fabric when wet.

The Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 is a simple but well thought out pack. The main body is narrow, adding agility on the trail, and expands and compacts to load size easily with the extended collar. The Y-compression strap is secure and compresses loads evenly. It snaps to the outside pocket to secure the pocket, and easily unsnaps to provide access.

The outside pocket is low for better weight distribution, and gives plenty of room for fuel, two small water bottles, lunch food, and a wind shirt. Elastic is sewn into the top hem for additional security. Even when holding the pack upside down and shaking it, I was unable to make items fall out, adding to peace of mind on the trail.

The pack’s fabrics are highly water resistant. Combined with the roll-top closure, the pack kept contents dry during several 30-minute sprinkles. Heavier and more water resistant fabric against the back kept contents dry from my sweat, despite 14 hours of hiking on warm summer days.

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW - 2
A Y-compression strap secures the roll-top closure. A wrap around mesh pocket holds items low and has an elastic opening to prevent items from falling out.

The sternum strap is not adjustable horizontally and is not removable. The strap hit me too low and I rarely used it. A single ice axe loop is included.

A simple ¾-inch waistbelt is included with the pack and is removable. It helps with heavier loads or to control pack movement when running. A bungee system is also included and can be set up in a variety of configurations (or removed). Along with the top strap, this system effectively reduces pack volume. It also provides a good place to carry gear outside the pack, for example a larger foam pad. An optional chest pocket was included with our pack but it seemed a little large for the attachment points and didn’t fit snugly. However, it did offer easy access to small items and sat away from the chest, which helped with ventilation on hot summer days.

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW - 3
The Prophet 25 includes a waistbelt, chest pocket, and bungee system, all of which are removable.

Spinnaker cloth is not as durable as silnylon, especially when it comes to abrasion, and it needs to be treated gently. This is not a pack you sit on or throw around. That said, I did not baby this pack during multiple nights of testing. I dropped it, kicked it, overloaded it, and hiked through overgrown alder thickets to test its durability. It survived and it is still in good shape. The Spinntex Pro 0.97 oz/yd2 spinnaker cloth is surprisingly durable and shows no wear. The back and bottom of the pack use a heavier 1.7 oz/yd2 silicone nylon that is more abrasion resistant (for sitting with the pack on), less slippery (for sweaty backs), and more water resistant (for keeping items inside dry). Heavier pack cloth and 1.7 oz/yd2 silnylon are used in stress areas like shoulder strap and waistbelt attachments. The material selection is a good compromise between light weight and durability. The pack is sewn using very few seams, minimizing seam failure and leakage and further increasing durability.

The only durability issue I found was in the 1.0 oz/yd2 bug netting used in the outside pockets. While strong enough when the pocket was crammed to capacity, sharp-edged items like a full Platypus bottle easily tore the fabric when being shoved into a full pack. Mountain Laurel Designs has addressed this issue by using heavier 1.6 oz/yd2 netting in production packs.

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW - 4
The 1.0 oz/yd2 bug netting used in the outside pocket was easily torn by the sharp edge of a full Platypus water bottle. Heavier 1.6 oz/yd2 netting will be used in production models, which should make it more durable.

Purchase price for the production Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 30 is $105, making it an excellent value for those looking for a high quality SUL pack. It is a well thought-out design and built to last, even with a manufacturer stated weight of 4.25 ounces (volume 2130 ci). The prototype Prophet 25 we tested held loads securely, expanded its utility with a variety of options and configurations, and was comfortable with lighter loads. If you are looking for a compact pack for SUL trips that can double as a daypack, the Prophet 30 will be hard to beat.

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW - 5
The sternum strap was tight for me and unusable for my larger friends. A longer strap will be provided in production models.

What’s Unique

This is the lightest pack that offers a wraparound mesh outside pocket, making it easy to retrieve small items or water bottles. It also has a host of options that add to its versatility. Further, its Y-cinch strap is easy to use and secure.

Recommendations for Improvement

The issues of a too-short sternum strap and fragile outside pocket fabric are addressed in production models. A sternum strap that could adjust horizontally or be removed would also be nice. Wider shoulder straps would distribute weight better and increase the pack’s comfortable load carrying capacity.


Citation

"Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 Backpack REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/mountain_laurel_designs_prophet_25_backpack_review.html, 2005-12-27 03:00:00-07.

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