To begin, a note on the price of the Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55l: I opted for the less durable fabric option (which still proved abrasion-resistant) and didn’t personalise the pack with any additional pockets. Should you choose these additions, the price of the Exodus creeps up to $397.00 (£322). This pack has previously featured in our guide to the Best ultralight backpacks for 2023

Price: $245 | £199.15 (available from Mountain Laurel Designs)

Weight: 596g (size medium, inc. additional sternum strap, 10″ of black 1/8″ bungee cord, 2 mini cord clips and 3 cord locks) | Capacity: 55l | Materials: UltraGrid 200d RipStop | Closure: roll top | Back: frameless | Hipbelt: Large padded lightweight DX 210D Black Ripstop hip-belt wings (separate from shoulder strap so can be cut off) with 1″ webbing and optional removable hip pockets | Pockets: main compartment | Features: seam taped construction, curved side panels move load closer to upper back | Sizes: M – XL | Men’s version: unisex

I was sceptical about frameless packs but found the weight-saving measures and stabilising straps resulted in a comfortable carry. This is largely down to physics – carrying less weight on wide shoulder straps – with help from breathable padding on the back and hip belt.

The roll-top design is blissfully simple to use. The pack has the smallest capacity, but can be expanded or compressed for more or less gear with the external straps. The over the top adjustable Y strap also stabilises the load and even carrying 12kg with trekking poles and an ice axe on the lower loops, the Exodus felt balanced, light and liberating.

Despite being the lightest in this test by over 1kg, it feels durable thanks to double or triple-stitched seams and the 60 strategically placed bartacks – little stitches to reinforce construction in areas prone to stress – throughout. It is practically waterproof, but I still used dry bags to compartmentalise kit in the main body and keep important gear stashed in the side drawcord external pockets dry – although the mesh drainage panels here are effective, too.

Sizing is more limited, and this is not a pack with an adjustable back. The online size guide, plus some direct communication with Mountain Laurel Designs was helpful and accurate, and luckily, I’m over 5’6. For any hiker under this height, MLD say you should opt for the Prophet 48l for a better fit. This means dropping 7l of capacity which might be needed for winter backpacking. However, this does contribute towards weight saving that ultimately resulted in an incredibly easy and balanced carry.

The Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55l has been recommended by Francesca. To read the other pack reviews in this test head to The Great Outdoors’ best backpacking packs.

Francesca Donovan headshot

Tested by Francesca Donovan

Francesca tested these packs on a number of overnight backpacking routes with plenty of ascent and rough terrain in snow, rain and high winds, as well as unseasonably milder days in the Southern Uplands, Eryri (Snowdonia), the Lake District and the Peak District, throughout late winter and spring. She is 5’7 with wide hips and narrow shoulders. All weights were measured on her digital scales.