First Impressions: MLD Burn

Some readers, aware of my fevered anticipation of Laufbursche opening their online shop doors, might be surprised to discover that I purchased a 

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn

pack, instead of the still-very-desirable huckePACK. All I can say to defend my actions is that the gear bug got me, and with upcoming trips up North and to the Badlands, I wanted a new, super light pack, and didn't want to wait for Laufbursche. I'd been trying to decide between the Burn and the huckePACK for some time, and while the huckePACK has some details I like, none of them were so essential that they ruled out the Burn. Both are in the same ball park for weight and load-bearing ability. Both are fine packs. But the Burn had one advantage: it was there.

It arrived from Ron Bell's secret factory in the mountains last week, so here are my first impressions.

As with all MLD gear, it is extremely well thought out, designed, and constructed. Mine is a basic stock version - I ordered no modifications apart from two hip pockets, because I like somewhere to keep my snacks, camera, and GPS if I use it. The Burn arrives with shock cord to attach as you like it to the outside (again, I copied the standard configuration from MLD's website), a sternum strap, and lots of little clips the purpose of which will be explained later. All-in-all, on my highly professional and no-doubt accurate IKEA kitchen scales, it comes in at around 405g.

As I'm tall, I ordered the large, and, although it's hard to say for sure without it being fully loaded, it feels comfortable.

The hip belt is riding a little high, but I expect that will drop down once I fill it with more gear (for these photos I just stuffed my quilt in it).

The padded shoulder straps are comfortable, and the sternum strap is easily removable to allow repositioning.

It also features a whistle which you can use to annoy dogs. Or in the eventuality that you get lost, but that doesn't happen, right?

Inside, the pack is completely empty - there are no unnecessary compartments to add weight. The pack does have a couple of webbing loops inside from which you can hang a hydration pocket, which is available from MLD. I usually just put any water bladders on top, so I didn't order one, but I'm pretty sure it would be easy to make something yourself, should the need arise.

There's also a hydration hole on the left shoulder, large enough for some pretty hardcore plumbing, I'd say.

The pockets on the front and sides are large and strong, with elasticated drawstrings at the top to secure bulky items. The front pocket seems to be ideally sized for a DuoMid.

The clips that come with the pack are used to attach the shock cord. The great thing about them is that they can be easily removed (but won't, of course, just fall off), allowing you to stuff the pockets full, clip the shock cord, and tighten away. It's a neat and flexible design.

A simple triangular configuration on either side allows for secure attachment of trekking poles or a Tenkara rod (hmmm, there's an idea...). It's also possible to attache a loop of cord to the loops at the base of the pack, and attach an ice axe. I'd love to have an ice axe, but I have absolutely no need for one (yet).

Another nice little detail is the loop on the front pocket which can be attached to the cinch cord for added security.

I suspect there might even be another purpose for that which I've not figured out yet.

The pockets took a little fiddling with to figure out the nest attachment method.

The pockets have small webbing loops on the back, and larger elasticated loops. I checked the MLD site and found out the appropriate way to secure them.

The trick is to slide them all the way up the hip webbing, and slip the shoulder strap cord through the first loop. The idea is that the pockets then don't slip along the hip belt. In practise however, this is not enough, and Ron has thoughtfully added webbing loops on the pockets and pack which can be clipped together with a clip that I thought would come with the pockets, but didn't.

A MYOG solution was called for.

I hunted around for one of Minna's hairpins, and, after initially cursing that I usually found them lying around everywhere, but when I needed one etc... then I found some hiding in the bathroom.

The hairpin perfectly clips onto the two loops, and, handily, performs the dual task (hey, this is a UL principle!) of securing one of the zip pulls so that it no longer jingles. I'm a little worried about the ends of the hairpin getting caught in the pockets and ripping them, so maybe some bending or some duct tape are in order.

Added bonus: silver duct tape matches Dyneema X perfectly!

The great thing about the pockets is that they are detachable, so I can use them with my Vapor Trail. MLD also provide a little spectra guy cord if you want to replace the metal zip pulls (which do tend to make a bit of a racket when walking).

I might, in fact, make that small change. I was a little surprised at the final weight of the pack with all the bits and pieces attached. 405g is quite a lot more than the advertised 276g of the basic pack. Can two pockets, a sternum strap, and some bungee cord really amount to 129g? According to the website, the pockets and sternum strap should weigh 1.95oz, or 55g. I suppose it's possible that the plastic clips and bungee add another 74g.

Still, it's not a big deal. With some little adjustments, I can get it comfortably below 400g, which, to put it in perspective, makes it almost 1kg lighter than my Vapor Trail plus the REI hip pockets.

So, I'm very happy at the moment. I'll be taking it out for a few nights soon to give it, and some other new gear, a thorough testing, but right now, I've sliced a large chunk off my base weight. Using the 343 system (where bag, pack and shelter must be under 3kg), I'm now coming in around 2kg with the DuoMid, and even less with the SpinnTwinn. My journey to the light side is almost complete.

As for the

Laufbursche huckPACK

, there still might be room in my gear closet for one. Perhaps a slightly larger version, to replace a Vapor Trail? After all, who wouldn't want some gear from a company whose logo looks like it walked off the set of Blade Runner?