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Reader Reviews

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Mountain Laurel Designs Zip

in Backpacks - Frameless

Average Rating
4.90 / 5 (10 reviews)

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douglas girling
( dgirling )

Mountain Laurel Designs Zip on 07/13/2007 06:42:12 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

The MLD Zip pack is an outstanding piece of equipment. Beautifully made and brilliantly designed. Pack weight 9.8 ounces, the specs are readily available on the MLDgear web site.
My base weight is about 7.5 lbs and much of my hiking includes running. I also use it as my rescue / medical pack for occasional SAR missions, which puts base weight at 15 lbs. The pack fits (me ) extremely well with a nice balance of weight between hips and shoulders. The padded shoulder straps are very comfortable. I appreciate the slightly larger size which enables me to keep my sleeping bag unstuffed – this helps fill the pack out nicely keeping the load very stable for running. The external pockets are tall and hold a lot of gear, but cannot be reached while wearing the pack. Besides the fabulous comfort the big plus for me is the durability of the pack – a lot more rugged than some of the other ultra light packs. Many of the trails in the Adirondacks are pretty rough and have a fair amount of blowdown. The pack shrugs off branches and abrasions with aplomb (even while running). The mesh outer pockets are much tougher than most of the stuff on my much heavier packs. So, no ultralight paranoia needed when using this pack.
My only nitpicking criticism of the pack is that the sternum strap is made from a very slippery material and consequently comes loose very easily (the hip belt and shoulder straps though do not slip at all) many people don’t use a sternum strap so this may not even be an issue.
Ultimately for me this is the perfect ultralight pack, I know it’s a few ounces heavier than the prophet, if you include the weight of the hip belt and sternum strap on the prophet things get even closer, but you probably won’t find this kind of toughness on the prophet (or any other ultralight pack that I know of) An extra 2 ounces of weight on my back takes a large load off my mind.
Congratulations Ron. A brilliant bit of kit.

Addendum - Ron sent me a replacement sternum strap, made of a different material. This one works perfectly. The pack has seen pretty heavy use for the past 3 months now - including a lot of scrambling and climbing. It is holding up fantastically.

Edited by dgirling on 08/28/2007 20:01:18 MDT.

kevin davidson
( kdesign )

Mythical State of Jefferson
Best of Class on 07/22/2007 21:53:40 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

In the Sub one pound category of packs made specifically for backpacking, this is probably the finest blend of form and function---a "practical" SUL Pack that is still composed of lightweight materials but can be expected to last thru a number of long distance trips, large enough to hold more than a weekend's supply of equipment and comestibles (including bulky items such as synthetic insulated clothing) and to do this comfortably with the best harness this side of almost any pack, double if not triple it's 10 oz. weight.

Volume, including back and side mesh pockets is functionally 40 L (about 2500 cu. in.), putting it somewhere in between a G6 or a Miniposa and similar to the ULA Amp----probably the Zip Pack's most admirable rival.

It's tall and narrow profile plus it's well padded, contoured shoulder straps, sternum strap and the optional (but recommmended) waist belt hip wings make for a very comfortable and stable carry----even with close to 20 lbs. I should know---I just took this on an overnight fastpack in which I fully put this pack through it's paces with a purposefully overweight load and not a little trail running (I'm in training).

It lacks hydration bladder compatibility (probably not something I would use w/ this pack, anyway) and doesn't have an outside pad pocket, a la GG, but the main packbag will easily take a NightLight Torso Pad and allows the pack and suspension system to ride closer to my center of gravity for better stability off the trail.

I think the "slick" sternum strap issue of the last reviewer has been addressed---Ron of MLD is always tweaking the design of his gear and is responsive to input.

The pack can be rigged to compress it's load in myriad ways, thanks to it's many well distributed gear loops. I think the best method for me involves not using the usual shockcord but instead using about 10' of spectracord (about a quarter oz.) which can serve double duty for additional tarp tie outs.

Any improvements? Possibly one---- I might prefer a wider, less padded shoulder strap---closer to the one originally found on the Prophet pack---but the verdict is still out. Ok, 2 things----make it so I can use my hydration bladder in the main compartment. Picky, picky, picky.

In short, this is a well designed, superbly built pack, made simple and light--- and rugged enough to use off trail, repeatedly.

Link here for full specs---

Edited by kdesign on 07/22/2007 22:55:49 MDT.

Michael Fogarty
( mfog1 )

Excellent Workmanship! on 08/22/2007 17:32:56 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I just recently received my Zip pack, delivered as promised, within 8 weeks.

First off the workmanship is probably the best I've seen, easily on par with ULA. The Green Sil-nylon is thicker than most Sil-nylon's, and appears to be very durable

I had a problem with the fit though, not being able to quite get the fit that I would like.

So, I contacted MLD /(Ron), and he said, I might want to try a large size Zip. Which he said he would make and have back to me within a weeks time. Can't beat this, for sure!

I also asked, that he make the shoulder straps a 1/2" wider as well.

I received my Large Zip with the wider shoulder straps on 9-4-07 within the week turnaround promised.

I first noticed that the wider shoulder straps seemed more comfortable and "dug-in" less into my shoulders.

The larger pack also fit my 19" torso better than the medium fit.
The only thing I might wish for would be that the shoulder straps to be spaced slightly wider, so they wouldn't come into contact with my neck.

Once the straps become softened,or broke-in, this may not even be an issue?

The MLD Zip is a "GREAT PACK!!!" and I'll post more on it after I've given the large size Zip, a light work-over, coming up in September!

Edited by mfog1 on 09/05/2007 16:49:15 MDT.

Brian UL

New England
Its what I hoped ! on 08/29/2007 16:08:37 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This pack carries like, and has the same amount of features as packs 2 or more times its weight! I have to remind myself that the Zip only weighs a hair over 10 oz.(w/optional hipbelt).
Its light enough that I can easily take it on a day hike without feeling like its overkill. The volume is just right for me.
The 2 oz sil-nylon has stood up real well and is certanly more durable than than the 1+ once we are all most familiar with.
This has become my favorite pack!
Ron never disapoints.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 09/17/2007 12:28:41 MDT.

Michael Chamoun
( snowchief )

Best sub 10oz pack and GREAT customer service on 12/26/2007 18:33:36 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Ron was kind enough to overnight this pack to me the day before my Colorado Trail adventure because of shipping problems with the previous one. I thru-hiked the CT with it this summer and it is definitely one of the best packs out there if not the best under 10 ounces. First it's as durable as any UL pack out there and there was never an issue with that even though the pack was constantly being tested in the CO Rockies with the 20 days of rain and abuse. I got the pack without the added hip belt and chest strap and was able to carry my last 11 days of food somewhat comfortably (only had 6lb base weight though). I do recommend that one get the added hip belt. My pack was pretty full, volume wise, so I didn't need the shock cord. The back pocket was a perfect fit for my Gossamer Gear torso nite lite and the side pockets had plenty of space to carry the days essentials. Some of the personal dislikes I had with the pack were the height of the side pockets. They were a little on the high side meaning I couldn't reach back easily and get my food or whatever I needed without taking off my pack. My preference was that they should be lowered a couple of inches to accommodate less able arms.
Ron has been brilliant in this respect: you can custom ANYTHING you want for a small fee!!! My "problem" (because people might not agree with me) is in the process of being altered. There is no other UL gear designer that is more patient and understanding. He WANTS to work with you to get you the best pack you think is best. In all honesty I can't see myself using any other pack that has the same weight savings, durability, and comfort. Thank you Ron!


Just got back from a quick trip at the Grand Canyon. I've discovered new ways to use the pack. First, Ron adjusted the length of the side pockets making it easier to reach back and grab bars etc. I am using my GG nite-light as a back support and it is a PERFECT fit. I now put my platy's in the back pocket and if I need more compression I use the hooks on the inside of the back pocket to hook on the little loops on the edges of the backpack. Not sure if that was the intention but it worked. I had 4L of H20 in the back and it didn't shift the weight back as I had expected. It is the PERFECT pack......for me. BTW, it's 10.5 oz.

Edited by snowchief on 03/26/2008 20:01:26 MDT.

Derek Cox
( derekcox )

Superb Pack on 02/24/2008 20:45:27 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Much tougher pack for just a few ounces more. Tough Mesh on back and sides is great for holding a myriad of items. Shoulder straps are comfortable and it carries a load very well. Great craftsmanship and attention to detail. Just an awesome pack.

jon goldsmith
( jegsmith )
Great pack on 07/09/2008 21:57:09 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Just came back from a 3 day 2 night trip in the devils path region of the catskills. It was my first overnight trip with the zip and it performed flawlessly. I used a 3/4 ridgerest in the tube configuration as the suspension without any issues. when stuffed full the pack rides quite well on the back; weight seems to always be split 70/30 between the hips and the shoulder straps, which is just fine for me. The bungee cords and mesh pockets are indispensible. They really make this pack seem a lot larger than it really is. I dont think i will have any issue squeezing out 5 nights in the zip from spring to fall in the northeast.

Adrian B
( adrianb )

Auckland, New Zealand
Best In Show on 12/03/2008 00:18:12 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

(The MLD Zip is the precursor to the current 2009 Exodus - changes aren't huge, and all appear to be improvements).

I've used the Zip for perhaps 1000km over several months - it's an easy 5.

I switched to the Zip from the Golite Jam2 because I wanted something lighter & a bit more flexible. Overall it's a similar type of bag to the Jam2 - frameless, a large rear pocket and two smaller side pockets. I was expecting it to be slightly smaller in the main compartment than the Jam2, but I think it's actually slightly bigger. Although I liked my Jam2, I've found the Zip a much better bag in many ways: it's lighter, more comfortable, and has many more features.

The size is good: enough room for a 5 day solo winter trip (down gear, tent), but light enough that it's barely worth trying to find a lighter bag for a summer overnighter. I roll a torso length NightLight pad into a cylinder inside the pack and pack my gear inside this (hat tip to Andrew Skurka's site for that). I think my max load was 22lbs for any real length of time, which was comfortable all day - obviously this is a personal thing, but I think the bag would still have been comfortable with a higher load.

The rear mesh pocket is massively useful, much more so than the zipped rear pocket on the Jam (I can fit more, I can see what's in there, and I can get stuff in & out much easier). Because of this I rarely need to open the main pack pocket during the day, even with big weather changes. The mesh might seem a weak point, but it's not - it's darn tough. I don't bother with compression straps over the top of the mesh pocket, but you can put them on if you want. Nothing has ever fallen out of it (despite much falling by me).

The attachment options right over the bag (shoulder straps, hip wings, in & outside of the rear mesh pocket, up and down the back) make the bag incredibly versatile - you can tie on hip/chest pockets, compression bungees (including over or under the rear pocket), pole hoops, clip on a thermometer/stopwatch, camera. Or nothing at all if you'd rather. Very very cool.

I consider it pretty much bulletproof - even with the silnylon back (versus the full dyneema Jam2 & current MLD packs) the pack shows no signs of wear, even after bashing through many rough trails.

One minor niggle which has been addressed in the newer version: the top strap is a bit thin and can sometimes fold over in it's clip.

Right now the only bag I'd consider replacing this with would be the newer version.

Shop GoLite, Show products at GearBuyer
Jonathan Ryan
( Jkrew81 - M )

White Mtns
Super Zip on 12/23/2008 05:54:27 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

As other users have stated this is a great pack. For 90% of my hiking this is my goto pack. From DIAD hikes up to several days out this is a great size pack with loads of utility and great functionality. I opted to go for the Super Zip as the added durability seemed worth it. In the end I am glad I made this choice as I am becoming less of a gram counter in the effort to make my gear last longer.

-Amazing shoulder strap's
-Mesh pockets are sturdy and hold a good amount of gear
-Pack material has held up flawlessly over the last year.
-Golite Jam-like compactor system on the bottom def increases pack usability

-Side pockets hard to reach on the fly
-Webbing on the pack is kinda slippery and does not always hold tight (looks like this has been corrected in the more recent version)
-Wish it came with an option for permanent hip belt pockets rather than the strap on ones

Additional Notes: I decided to add on the shoulder mounted water bottle holsters which have been awesome. Not only does it make getting a drink on the move much easier but it also takes 2 Gatorade bottles worth of fluid weight off my back which is very noticable on long days.

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Richard DeLong
( Legkohod )

Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Good pack, small straps on 09/28/2010 07:09:25 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

DISCLAIMER: this is a pack that came out in 2007-2008 and was seen as a sturdy and robust pack for the SUL spirit of the times. This model has sinced been replaced by more robust packs that probably correct the issues I have with the Zip. My review is after over 2 years of hindsight, and these comments would apply to many or most SUL packs, not just to the Zip. Times change!


I know this pack has been given a long string of fives, but it has some imperfections, particularly shoulder straps that are not wide enough to comfortably handle 20 lbs packweight over a multi-month thru-hike.

I also found that the top strap kept getting tangled up, so I cut off the two pieces that were connected to the shoulder straps, sewed on a single grosgrain strip, and have had no tangling problems since.

This is a good pack with a decent lifetime of 150-200 days. It may require some sewing and repair, and the shoulder straps seem to be the weakest spot.

Edited by Legkohod on 09/30/2010 07:16:58 MDT.

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