MLD Prophet Backpack Review – Frameless Quality! | Average Hiker

Zpacks Hexamid in the Prophet backpack

MLD Prophet Backpack – Review

The MLD Prophet Backpack by Mountain Laurel Designs is a solid ultralight, frameless backpack. This is a well-made backpack that offers many useful features and pays attention to details.

I have purchased a lot of gear from MLD over the years – Grace Tarp, Bivy, Rain Mitts, etc., but this is my first backpack. Like my other gear from MLD, this is a well-made, thoughtful piece of ultralight gear.

My Thoughts on Frameless Backpacks

I’m not really an ultralight backpacker on long-distance hikes, mostly because I have contingency items, but I do go pretty light on shorter backpacking trips and during the summer.

Some manufacturers will tell you their frameless backpacks will comfortably carry weights of up to 30lbs. I have never comfortably carried a frameless pack over 18 lbs and the MLD Prophet is no exception.

Making Your Frameless Pack More Comfortable

There are things you can do to extend a frameless backpack’s ability to carry heavier weights.

  • Use a foam pad or folded inflatable pad to offer back support
  • Pack it well with the heavier items balanced near the top
  • Use packing compartments like PODS from Hyperlite. These make a big difference. I’ll note that MLD also carries PODS now. I just have not used them.

There are several factors that drop my weight into the ultralight range.

  • Knowing the weather over a few days
  • Summer temperatures requiring fewer layers
  • Smaller food and water carries
  • Lower elevations

The summer season is definitely my ultralight season, and I love to skip down the trail with what equates to a Daypack, but on the long trails, I err on the side of caution and safety, carrying more backup items, so my base weight is usually in the 11-13 pound range.

MLD Prophet – Spec Summary

  • Size: Medium
  • Total Weight: 17 ounces
  • Internal Volume: 2000 cu. in. (32L)
  • External Volume (Mesh & Side Pockets): 600 cu. in. (10L)
  • Extension Collar: 400 cu. in. (6L)
  • Material: DDX 210d RipStop Fabric: 210D Coated Nylon Ripstop with a 210D Pure UHMWPE Reinforcement Grid, Plus a Second Diagonal Reinforcement Grid of Nylon for added Abrasion Resistance
  • EXTERNAL DIMENSIONS: 12″ Wide x 7″ Thick x 30″ High|| 30 cm Wide x 18 cm Thick x 75 cm High
  • Max Carry Capacity: 25 Pounds
  • Add-Ons: 1x Shoulder Pocket, 2x Hipbelt Pockets

Backpack Requirements

Below are my requirements when purchasing a backpack.

  • Light Weight – To combat fatigue and injury on long hikes, I keep my backpack’s weight around 2 pounds or less.
  • Durability – A tough pack is important. My pack has been run over, fallen down mountains, stepped on by horses, and is often used as a seat.
  • Size – The backpacks I use are 35L-58L, depending on the season. I sleep cold, so I carry a warmer sleeping bag or quilt. I also cook and carry fuel and a stove.
  • Water Resistant – I use a compactor bag (although recently I have begun using Dry Bags) and not a pack cover. I like water-resistant fabrics and taped seams in my backpacks.
  • Mesh Pouch – A large mesh pocket on the rear of my backpack is a “must-have.” I use it for my tarp/tent and put wet items in it to dry.
  • Frame – I don’t need a frame pack in the summer, but I use one for three Season hiking where my pack weight is 20-25 pounds.
  • Water Bottle Pockets – I need water bottle pockets since I don’t use hydration sleeves.

MLD Competitors

There are now many competitors in the frameless backpack category, and I have used two of the packs below. The MLD Prophets and ULA CDT are my favorites because of their comfort and durability. They are all good backpacks though, and different packs work for different people.

BrandWtSzFabricFrameMax Wt.
Zpack Nero12.6 oz38LDyneemaNone20 lbs.
ULA CDT25 oz54L400 RobicNone18 lbs.
GG G4-2021.7 oz42L70D RobicNone30 lbs.
Waymark25 oz40LXPacNone30 lbs.

MLD Prophet – First Glance

Full View of the MLD Prophet Backpack

The MLD Prophet was shipped in a tiny little box, and I marveled at the backpack’s light weight as I pulled it from the box.

This backpack was light!

I had also ordered two hipbelt pockets and a chest pocket. Examing these and the backpack, I admired the quality and durability. All items were the well-made pieces of gear I had come to expect from MLD.

Prophet – Fit

Frameless

The Prophet is a classic frameless backpack. The pack has plenty of room in the main compartment if you want to insert either a foam pad or fold up an inflatable pad for support.

I’ve rolled up foam pads to give frameless backpacks structure in the past but now use Hyperlite PODS to provide more rigidity if I use a frameless backpack.

The MLD Prophet backpack fit me well, well positioned in the center of my back and fitting snug up against my shoulders with it’s slightly curved side panels. This was a comfortable backpack.

Shoulder Straps & Hipbelt

For a 17 ounce frameless backpack, the MLD has a well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are 3″ wide and 1/2″ thick and use EVA50 foam. They are as comfortable as some of my full-size packs.

The hipbelt is also well-padded with a durable and easy-to-snap buckle. I like the slide style of the buckle and the large wings on the hip belt keep it from pinching on my hips like other frameless packs I have used.

On my second trip out with the backpack, I carried about 18 pounds. This included food and water. By about mile six, my chest and shoulders were singing!

The pack fit me well and was comfortable, but the shoulder straps were a little wider than I preferred, and with no sternum strap, the backpack’s weight pulled out and back on my chest.

I ended up having to stop more often than usual on a 15-mile day to drop the pack and let my chest muscles rest.

I knew I should have attached the sternum strap, which would have solved the issue.

Additional Pack Straps

MLD Prophet Top Strap

There are plenty of additional straps on the MLD Prophet backpack to provide you with options and flexibility.

  • Daisy Chains – There are chains down both shoulder straps so that you can adjust your sternum strap and for other attachments.
  • Ice Ax loops – The loops are small but sturdy.
  • Side compression straps – These are integrated with the roll-top straps and compress across the middle of the sides when you roll down the top sleeve of the backpack.
  • V-Top Compression Strap – Used to compress the top of the pack.
  • Attachment Loops – These tiny loops are placed down both sides of the backpack, providing plenty of places to strap down gear.

Prophet Review – Storage

Mesh pocket on back of MLD Prophet Pack

The MLD Propet is a roomy backpack, and the extended sleeve allows you to add more gear for extended hikes.

How I Packed My MLD Prophet Backpack

  • Main Compartment (Lined with Compactor Bag): Stuff sack with 10 Degree Feathered Friends Lark, Two Small Pods with clothes, toiletries, first aid, electronics and food. Cooking kit, sleeping pad, and rain gear
  • Two Side Pockets: Two Smart Water Bottles
  • Back Mesh Pocket: Hexamid Tarp-tent
  • Hipbelt Pockets: Snacks, Chapstick
  • Shoulder Pocket: Phone, InReach Mini

Prophet Backpack Storage

The main storage compartment is large and has two nylon loops on the back at the top. These are good for hanging a hydration sleeve if you use one.

The large sleeve provides a lot of extra capacity for storage if you overpack the backpack. There are snaps along the top, making the sleeve easier to roll (although I prefer velcro) and clips at the corners of the sleeve attach to side compression straps if you roll it down.

The side pockets are tall and deep. I carried two large Smartwater bottles that fit in them with no problem. Although, I did not have to worry about the bottles falling out, to be safe; I secured them with the bungee cord across the top of the pockets.

The side pockets are tall and deep so I’m not able to reach around behind me to grab my water bottles, but this does not really matter since the pack is so light. I just swing it off one shoulder and grab a bottle.

Shoulder Pocket

I purchased two hip belt pockets and one shoulder strap pocket with this backpack.

The shoulder pocket is made of DX 210D Ripstop. This is water resistant and not waterproof so I did not use the pocket on a hike. I keep my phone in this pocket and need it to be as waterproof as possible.

Other than the water concern, the shoulder strap pocket was a good size and my iphone fit in it with no problem. I don’t believe they offer a DCF option, but you can always contact MLD.

I currently use a Hyperlite Shoulder pocket (see below). I’ve yet to have them leak in some pretty serious rain. They also have a mesh sleeve on the outside where I put my InReach Mini. I do still put my phone in a Ziploc in serious rain.

Hip Belt Pockets

The hip belt pockets are a good size and made from the same material as the shoulder strap pocket. I don’t keep electronics in them though, so this is not a problem.

The pockets are very well made and use two sturdy elastic straps to slide over the hip belt. This also makes them compatible with other backpack hip belts.

MLD Prophet Review – Materials

The material used for the Prophet is DDX 210d Ripstop Fabric: 210D Coated Nylon Ripstop. The material is durable, and the coated nylon makes it water resistant.

Seams are not sealed on the interior of the backpack like they are on the DCF version, but they are still tight and I did get caught in one storm, with no leaks around the seams. I use a compactor bag with all of my backpacks if I’m on a long hike.

On a recent hike on the BMT my backpack got submerged in the creek. Everything was in a rolled up compactor bag and Hyperlite PODS, except for my food that was in an Outdoor Research Dry Bag.

I am now a convert and carry Outdoor Research Dry Bags instead of PODS or a compactor bag for what I REALLY want to keep dry.

Nothing stayed dry except for the Outdoor Research Dry Bag. This was in the winter, late in the day, so it was not a good situation. You can read more about it on this post.

A Few More Prophet Features

The fabric on the shoulder straps is interesting. I noticed the small squares were diagonal, and discovered that this is intentional. They provide some flex and comfort in the straps.

If you use a hydration pack, you can hang it inside the body of the pack on the provided loops. At the back of the pack below the sleeve is the slot to run the hydration tube.

The points of weakness on the backpack all use industrial bar tacks to reinforce the packs already durable fabric. You will find these liberally placed throughout the backpack.

All three of the main pockets (side and large mesh pocket) have mesh corners at the bottom for drainage.

Details like these are what make this an impressive ultralight backpack.

MLD Prophet – Final Thoughts

This really is a good backpack, and Ron Bell clearly has a passion for the gear he produces. You can check out his video on the Prophet for more details.

Pros:

  • Comfort: The backpack is comfortable but use the sternum strap if carrying heavier weights.
  • Durability – This pack uses quality materials and is very well-made.
  • Weather Resistance – Weather resistant with a treated interior, but not as waterproof as the DCF option.
  • Capacity – A roomy frameless backpack
  • Features – Small features like all of the attachment points, drainage mesh, bar tacking, etc., make this a well-made, quality backpack.

Cons:

  • Side Compression Straps: I would rather have separate side compression straps in case I don’t want to cinch down the backpack
  • Sleeve Snaps: I prefer Velcro along the top of the sleeve. This provides a tighter role.

Q&A

Is the MLD Prophet Backpack Waterproof?

This pack is water resistant but not waterproof. MLD offers a DCF version of this backpack that is also taped and although not waterproof like a dry bag, it is very close to waterproof.

Does Mountain Laurel Designs Ever Have Sales?

MLD gear is custom made so gear is made to order.

How Long to Receive my Gear from MLD?

Gear is made to order by MLD, and can take up to 12 weeks or longer to ship. MLD typically provides an estimate at the time of order or on the website.

Average Hiker purchased this backpack and does not write sponsored posts or receive compensation for reviews. When you purchase through links on this website, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you find these reviews helpful, please consider purchasing through the links on this site. Thank you

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Ellie Thomas

I've hiked thousands of miles and still love the unknown of the journeys. Trails hiked include the AT, PCT, CDT, CT, AZT, NET, BMT White Mountains, and numerous blue-blazed trails around the country.